More churches closing than opening survey finds

London, England - More churches are closing than opening, a new survey has found.

The figures are initial findings from the English Church Census, a large scale survey undertaken by the independent Christian Research organisation which tracks changes over the last seven years.

The Methodist Church suffered a net loss of about 300 churches, and the Church of England fell by more than 100 during this period.

It follows figures released by the Church of England at the beginning of the year, that showed little sign that its long-term decline was being reversed.

The headline figures however mask underlying changes which saw more than 1,000 new Christian churches also created.

All the major denominations opened new churches but the biggest growth was among the black Pentecostal churches.

About half of the new congregations were created by the Pentecostal churches, with help from other ethnic minorities such as the Chinese and the Croatians.

New initiatives such as "Fresh Expressions" and other alternative churches, accounted for a fifth of new congregations.

The remaining new churches were scattered among the mainstream denominations.

But the survey found that more churches had closed than had opened, with the Methodists shutting the most.

Statisticians warn that it is difficult to calculate how many extra worshippers the new churches had generated as new congregations sometimes included existing churchgoers.

They added that the majority of the new congregations used existing buildings rather than constructing new ones.

Peter Brierley, the executive director of Christian Research, said "the losses in the older denominations are faster than the gains in the newer ones".

The Pentecostal Churches, whose congregations are largely drawn from African communities in London, started nearly 500 churches since 1998, the research showed.

Christian Research has previously suggested that churches may be heading for extinction by 2040 – with just two per cent of the population attending Sunday services and the average age of congregations rising to 64.