Reformation – all that effort for nuttin’…

23 12 2007

Latimer’s candle has finally been put out. Apparently.

According to PA, ‘Catholic churchgoers now outnumber Anglicans for the first time since the Reformation partly due to the massive migration from Catholic countries, according to research.’

Not entirely bowled over by all this. The PA report is bollocks for a start. That shocking research of the first par makes it as far as the fourth par before it gets downgraded to an estimate based on previous year’s research. Are these conclusive numbers or not? And if they’re not why is this a story?

So, checked out the somewhat amateurish Christian Research website to get a flavour of the 2005 report. Alas, it’s restricted access to just a few extremely sketchy sample pages. But it all directs people towards the online shop – is this report feeding a primarily commercial venture? The website also indicates that the Religious Trends pamphlets are mostly out of print. If this is definitive benchmarking, why is it out of print?

Why is this research agency so opaque on up-to-date information about itself?

Their new Executive Director comes from a retail and leisure background, and they’ve launched a bizarre ‘mystery worshipper’ initiative. They seem to want to source revenue from measuring congregations and planting a form of clap-o-meter under the pulpit.

Staff at Bobballs are sceptical. But that won’t stop the Tory press talking about immigration. More evidence we’re outnumbered in our own country, what?

Staff at Burkes Corner are better equipped to deal with theological and evangelical issues. But to Bobballs, this all looks suspiciously like Statisticsballs. Great headlines and good PR for Christian Research, but how useful/valuable/robust is the research/methodology that will undoubtedly colour so many opinions?

[Staff at Bobballs are also glad to have got through all of this without going near the Act of Settlement.]

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2 responses

23 12 2007
Brian Crowe

Tempted to let this pass, but … I won’t. Theologian Alister McGrath is good on this story in today’s Sunday Telegraph, particularly re: establishment. Ultimately, it comes down to how we define religiosity – Sunday-by-Sunday church attendance or something less rigorous?

English Anglicans report more baptisms, more church weddings, increased attendance at weekday services and significant increases at Christmas services. In other words, patterns of religious expression are changing – and Sunday attendance is perhaps not an accurate measure.

What gives the story a bit of punch, of course, is Tony’s decision to convert.

24 12 2007
Bob

Agreed. Measuring religion like you would premiership football crowds is a dodgy path to go down. Statistics like this tie in nicely with a media that enjoys the irreligious and often mistakes same as straight down the line, honest secularism.

Producing ‘findings’ that run entirely adjacent to whatever’s current in the media is good PR but dubious science. So would love to see the full report and make a proper judgment on this.

Fair play to Tony. He understood the media and kept his head down till he left office. Think Nick Clegg on the other hand made a catastrophic error of simply saying he doesn’t believe in God. People like to know leadership figures are informed by values. For all our Great British rationalism, you communicate values quicker through a living Church as your reference point than you do by dragging people across 19th century liberal thinking (er, Burkes Corner is kinda trying to do both, right?).

Just think this is way things are going. Scabrous scruff ground of some smug epistemology, or do you wanna see a bit of plush Christian meadow in your political landscape. Onwards Christian soldiers what?

[Staff at Bobballs are intoxicated by the seasonal message. They will be back on track with some tired cynicism in the New Year.]

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