Monday, December 31, 2012

Church of England should consider opening doors to Muslims and Hindus

The Archbishop of Canterbury says public opinion isn't everythingThe Church of England should consider opening its doors to congregations from other faiths including Muslims and Hindus, the head of the Countryside Alliance has said. Sir Barney White-Spunner said he was concerned that churches in villages and towns were falling into disrepair and not being used enough. 

He said he was “hugely excited” about opening up churches to other Christian denominations and, in the longer term, other faiths. 
He also proposes making churches into community centres which host local markets, nurseries and even police contact points.

Sir Barney, a Roman Catholic, said: “Personally I think it would be hugely exciting, it would restore life and vigour to these incredibly important buildings. The poor old Church of England is faced with an enormous bill to maintain these wonderful structures. I happen to be a Roman Catholic. I would love to see Church of England, Catholic and other Christian denominations sharing. If you look in an English village or a small English town the church tends to be the dominant building. I happen to be Roman Catholic, and quite a lot of our churches are rather unattractive, some not inaccurately described as post-war Nissan huts. The future is in sharing.” 
He added that in his personal view, other faiths could also use churches. He said: “I personally think that in the long run you can extend it further to other faiths. Britain is changing, as the census has shown.”
According to the most recent census, the number of Christians in England and Wales has fallen by more than 4million since 2001, while the number of non-believers more than doubled to one in four of the population.
While the number of Christians has fallen from 37m to 33m, almost all other major faiths in Britain have seen a rise in their following. The number of Muslims has risen almost doubled to 2.7m, while the number of Hindus has risen from 144,000 to 148,000.
The Church of England said that while it would allow its buildings to be used by worshippers from other Christian denominations, it could not allow them to be used for worshipping other faiths.
Steve Jenkins, head of media for the Church of England, said: “It wouldn’t be a Church of England church if it was open to other faiths. They want their own buildings anyway, they don’t want to share with us.
“We do, however, want people to use them for more diverse things. Most communities have churches at their heart and we want them to stay that way.”
He added that despite the decline in Christianity detailed in the census, more than 1.7million people worship in Church of England buildings every month.
The Church of England spends more than £100million every year on the upkeep of its buildings. 

“The Church of England’s churches are in better condition than they have been for hundreds of years,” he said.
According to the census, the Northeast and the Northwest remain strongholds for Christianity, but in London up to three in four people are now Muslim. 

 In Bradford, Luton, Slough and Birmingham more than a fifth of people are Muslim.
The biggest decline in Christianity was in Kingston Upon Hull, where the number of believers fell by 16 per cent.
The highest numbers of non-believers was in Norwich, Brighton and Caerphilly in Wales, where more than four in ten people said they had no religion.
Separate polling by the British Humanist Association has found that around 53 per cent had described themselves as Christian.
Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, insisted in his last Christmas sermon that Christianity has not "had its day" even if fewer people believe than a decade ago.