Census results revealing that England is no longer a Christian-majority country have sparked calls for an end to the role of the Church in parliament and schools, while Leicester and Birmingham have become the first UK cities to “minority majorities”.
For the first time in a census, less than half the population of England and Wales – 27.5million people – described themselves as ‘Christian’, down 5.5million than in 2011. This sparked calls for urgent reform of laws requiring Christian teaching and worship. in Church of England schools and bishops to sit in the House of Lords.
In England and Wales, the Muslim population has increased from 2.7 million people in 2011 to 3.9 million in 2021. While 46.2% of people say they are Christian, 37.2% say they have no no religion, which is equivalent to 22 million people. If current trends continue, more people will have no religion other than Christianity within a decade.
Many of Christianity’s biggest downfalls have occurred in parts of northern England, where just a decade ago seven in 10 people called themselves Christians, but now only half do.
Data from the Office for National Statistics’ 2021 census on ethnicity, religion and language released on Tuesday also revealed that:
59.1% of Leicester residents and 51.4% of Birmingham residents now belong to minority ethnic groups.
81.7% of the population of England and Wales is now white, including non-British, up from 86% in 2011.
The ethnic minority population has increased from 14% in 2011 to 18.3%. Of these, 9.3% of the population is British Asian, compared to 7.5%, 4% is Black, Black British, Black Welsh, West Indian and African, compared to 3.3%, and 5% is of ethnic mixed and others.
Romanian is the fastest growing language, with 472,000 people now describing Romance as their primary language. Polish is the most common primary language besides English or Welsh.
The fastest growing religious identity is shamanism.
ONS Deputy Census Director Jon Wroth-Smith said the figures showed “the increasingly multicultural society we live in”, but added that despite increasing ethnic diversity, “nine out of 10 people in England and Wales still identify with a British national identity, with almost eight in ten doing so in London”.
The decennial census results heralded a new era of “super-diversity” in some places. Fourteen local authorities recorded more than half of their usual residents as identifying with an ethnic group other than white, with the highest proportion in the London boroughs of Newham, Brent and Redbridge.
Outside London, the highest proportion of non-whites was in Slough in Berkshire, followed by Leicester, Luton and Birmingham. One in 10 households in England and Wales now contains people of two or more ethnicities, and in England and Wales the mixed-race population has increased by half a million people to 1.7 million, although the rate of increase was slower than in the previous decade. .
The plunging numbers for Christianity come after King Charles assumed the titles of Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. They seem likely to pose a challenge to the way he frames his monarchy, although he has previously said he will serve people “regardless of your background and beliefs”.
Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said the Church knows it must struggle to halt the decline, saying it “challenges us, not just to believe that God will build his kingdom on earth, but also to play our part”. share in making Christ known”.
Lynne Cullens, Bishop of Barking, insisted the church should not feel “defeated”. “We’re like the Nike tick,” she said. “You have to go down before you go up. We will evolve into a church more responsive to the worship needs of communities as they are today.
But lay people and others now want an end to the Church of England’s position as an established church that compels King Charles to take an oath to preserve the Church of England, guarantees bishops and archbishops of the Church of England 26 seats in the House of Lords and means public schools can be required to hold Christian worship.
Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London, said the findings make the argument for keeping Church of England leaders in the House of Lords “harder to justify” and “raise the question of the dissolution of the Church of England”.
“Some would say there shouldn’t be an established church that only represents a minority of the population,” he said. “Others will respond that archbishops and bishops seek to represent all faiths, bringing a different perspective to the Lords and that the system works.”
National Secular Society chief executive Stephen Evans said the current status quo was “absurd and unsustainable”, while Professor Linda Woodhead, head of theology and religious studies department at King’s College London, said said: “The fact that Christianity is no longer the majority religion means that politics is out of step with society.
Dr Scot Peterson, a scholar of religion and state at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, said: ‘It’s been hard to argue for having an established church since the turn of the 20th century, but it’s becoming now a figment of the imagination. The King being the head of the Church of England made sense in 1650, but not in 2022.”
The places with the highest proportion of people saying they had no religion were Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf, all in South Wales, and Brighton and Hove and Norwich in England. They were among 11 areas where more than half the population is non-religious, including Bristol, Hastings in East Sussex and Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, most of which had relatively small ethnic minority populations.
The places with the lowest number of non-believers were Harrow, Redbridge and Slough, where nearly two-thirds of the population are from ethnic minorities.