The Church of England could be virtually extinct in 20 years as elderly members die, an Anglican leader has warned. The average age of worshippers has risen to 61 as the Church has failed to attract younger followers, its National Assembly was told. Church leaders now face a 'time bomb' as numbers 'fall through the floor' over the next decade.
Bleak projections for the future came during exchanges at the General Synod in York yesterday.The Rev Dr Patrick Richmond, from Norwich, told members of the Churchís national assembly that they were facing a 'perfect storm' of ageing congregations and falling clergy numbers.
He said: 'The perfect storm we can see forming on the far horizon is the ageing congregations we have heard about - average age is 61 now, with many congregations above that.'
The Church was accused of 'impeccably' managing itself into failure.
Rev Dr Richmond said: 'These congregations will be led by fewer and fewer stipendiary clergy ... 2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of just natural wastage, that is people dying.
'Another 10 years on, some extrapolations put the Church of England as no longer functionally extant at all.'
Andreas Whittam Smith, the first Church Estates Commissioner, said the demographic 'time bomb of 2020' for Anglicans was a 'crisis'.
'One problem may be that decline is so slow and imperceptible that we donít really see it coming clearly enough,' he said.
'We know about it in theory but we donít really know about it in practice. I wish that all of us would have a sense of real crisis about this.'
The stark warnings came after an internal report called for a national recruitment drive to attract new members.
Earlier this week, a Church of England bishop said that Christians should learn from Muslims how to exist as a 'minority' culture in British cities dominated by immigrants.
The Rt Rev Nick Baines, the Bishop of Bradford, spoke of parishes that were 95 per cent Muslim.
'This is a fantastic opportunity,' he said at the Synod, according to the Daily Telegraph.
'It is a challenge, yes, but itís an opportunity to rethink what it means to be a Christian community. We often ask Muslims to learn what it is to be a Muslim as a minority culture.
'Maybe we could benefit from learning some of the same lessons in some of our cities.'