UK: Church of England church closures accelerate
More than 260 churches belonging to the Church of England have ceased to be used for regular worship in the past decade, according to new figures.
By Vikki Miller and Jonathan Wynne-Jones
July 26, 2008
The figures, released by the Government in response to a Parliamentary question, show that 29 Anglican churches closed last year, the highest figure since 2004.
Earlier this year, this newspaper disclosed that churches of all denominations were closing at a rate of two a week.
The number of churches is forecast to fall from 48,500 now to 39,200 by 2030. Church leaders have warned that the crisis threatens to devastate parishes and deprive communities of important focal points.
Responding to these concerns, The Sunday Telegraph's Save Britain's Churches campaign is calling for measures to keep churches at the heart of community life, including funding for repairs and grants to help them adapt to community use.
More than 8,000 people have backed the campaign, including the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the actress Prunella Scales and Sir John Mortimer, the writer.
Eric Pickles, the shadow communities and local government secretary, warned that this was a "sign of the breakdown of the social fabric of our nation". He added: "I fear such closures have been fuelled by the Labour Government and Left-wing councils actively discriminating against Christian organisations and faith groups."
Andrew Edwards, the chief executive of the National Churches Trust, said that churches should open themselves up to community use, but they should retain an element of public worship and "remain doing what they were built to do".
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