‘Christianity is still the greatest hope’ – a response to disappointing Census 2021 from the C of E

Published in November 2022 by the Office of National Statistics, the Census 2021 statistics show a significant drop over the past decade in the number of people in the UK identifying as Christian. This represents a major challenge of the Body of Christ in this nation. However this does not change the fact that Christian faith remains the greatest hope, with a commitment to be there for others.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, reflects on the Census 2021 results dealing with religion, sharing how the Church should respond, whether C of E or another denomination.

Census 2021 throws down a challenge

The Christian Church exists to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, serve our neighbour and bring hope to a troubled world. That’s what we’ve done for 2,000 years – in times of war and peace; hardship and plenty; revival and decline and it’s what we must do now more than ever.

It’s not a great surprise that Census 2021 shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christian than in the past, but it still throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth but also to play our part in making Christ known.

Census 2021 indicates that we have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by.

This winter – perhaps more so than for a long time – people right across the country, some in desperate need, will be turning to their local church, not only for spiritual hope but practical help. 

We will be there for them, in many cases, providing food and warmth. And at Christmas millions of people will still come to our services.

At the same time, we will be looking beyond Census 2021 and our immediate surroundings, remembering we are part of a global faith, the largest movement on Earth and its greatest hope for a peaceful, sustainable future.

About Stephen Cottrell

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell was appointed in 2020. He is the author of more than 20 books including Dear England: Finding Hope, Taking Heart and Changing the World. A founding member of the Church of England’s College of Evangelists, he has also chaired a group of bishops with an interest in the media and is one of the authors of the Church of England’s Pilgrim course, a major teaching and discipleship resource.

The Census 2021 religion results are disappointing however the Christian Media can play a role in reversing these statistics. The Church of England offers a far-reaching online resource, A Church Near You, inviting people to connect with other believers in their community. This is part of our Church Livestreams category in our CBC UK Directory.