Survey indicates 1.5 million Scots identify with the Church of Scotland

By agency reporter
August 31, 2015

The latest Scottish Annual Household Survey has suggested 27.8 per cent of Scots feel they belong to the Church of Scotland, a drop of 0.6 per cent on the previous year.

The figures, drawn from a sample of 9,800 people, also indicate 47 per cent of Scots now consider themselves as having no religion at all. .While the number identifying with the Church has dropped significantly over the last six years, the rate of decline appears to be slowing. If the data is correct, it indicates almost 1,500,000 people state an affinity to the Church.

Responding to the results, Rev Colin Sinclair, who is convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council said: "These latest figures represent the challenges facing many established organisations in Scotland, not least the churches. Fewer Scots are identifying with the Church, even at a time [when] the Church of Scotland is helping provide care and support for increasing numbers of people across the country, of all faiths and none.

"We are encouraged that so many Scots still consider themselves part of the Church. This is still a large part of the population, living out their faith in every part of Scotland, which represents a pretty potent force for good."

When the Scottish Household Survey began asking people to declare their religious affiliation in 2009, 35 per cent of people identified with the Church of Scotland. The pace of social change has seen the number drop significantly, and while the trend of decline is slowing it is too early to tell whether this figure has bottomed out. I

n the latest figures, as well as the 27.8 per cent identifying with the Church, 14.4 per cent described themselves as Roman Catholic, 7.7 per cent as belonging to other Christian denominations, and 1.4 per cent indicated they were Muslim. The number stating they have no religion has increased from 40 per cent to 47 per cent over the last six years.

Colin Sinclair, who is minister at Edinburgh's Palmerston Place church, says the increasing number of Scots feeling they have no religious connection presents a challenge but also an opportunity. "We used to think mission started at the far end of the Mediterranean, but we are increasingly realising mission is right on our doorstep and that is an exciting and inspiring thought.

"So many people who engage with our the projects and services in their local communities do not know they are part of the Church's work and we need to raise awareness of our presence."

Giving his response to the survey, the Principal Clerk, the Very Rev John Chalmers, said the mission of the Church is about more than numbers and it can take heart from the demonstrable difference it continues to make in Scottish society.

"The Church of Scotland continues to serve those in need, regardless of whether or not they are recorded as members. We have always been and always will be a Church which prays for those who do not pray themselves and which keeps the faith alive for those times when individuals and the nation needs it.

"Our Church represents the best interpretation of what Jesus meant when he called his people to be the salt of the earth and the yeast in the dough – these are examples of small of things that make a big difference and while we do have plans to grow our membership we continue to believe that our current membership makes an incalculable difference to the well-being of our common life."

* Read the Scottish Household Survey here: www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/08/3720/2#f21

* Church of Scotland http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/home

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