Census results came out for England and Wales last week. They make fascinating reading for anyone interested in London Christian statistics.

Here’s a summary of some of the salient figures:

  • Christianity was down across England & Wales from 71.7% of the population in 2001 to 59.3% in 2011.
  • There was a corresponding increase in the number of people nationally who declared they had no religion from 14.8% to 25.1%.
  • Norwich was the city with the highest proportion of people who claimed they had no religion at 42.5%.
  • The areas with the highest percentages of Christians were parts of Merseyside and Newcastle, where the numbers reached just over 80%.
  • London has the least number of Christians of any region at 48% of the population.
  • London has the most diverse religious make up of any region in England & Wales.
  • London has boroughs with some of the highest percentages of Muslims (Tower Hamlets 34.5% and Newham 32%), Hindus (Harrow 25.3% and Brent 17.8%), Sikhs (Hounslow 9% and Ealing 7.9%), Jews (Barnet 15.2%) and Buddhists (Greenwich 1.7%, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster both at 1.5%, and Hounslow 1.4%). All these figures are amongst the highest figures for the respective religions from around the country.
  • London has the lowest level of people declaring they have no religion, at just 5%.
  • London has the lowest fall of Christianity from 2001 to 2011 compared to other regions, of 9.8%.
  • London has the largest increase of Muslims (3.9% increase) and Hindus (1% increase) compared to 2001.
  • Tower Hamlets was the only local authority in England & Wales where Christianity was not the largest religion (34.5% Muslim compared to 27.1% Christian).

So what does all of this really mean?

  • The number of people actually attending church is now increasing. So the headline decrease in the Christian population really shows that an older generation who identify themselves as Christian but are not active church-goers is gradually dying out.
  • London, despite having the lowest Christian figures, is the most religious place in the country. This is mainly fuelled by immigration. We have many Christian immigrants coming to London, but they are outstripped by Muslim and Hindu immigrants.
  • The missional challenge for London’s churches and Christians is therefore not so much sharing the Good News of Jesus with atheists (only 5% of the city), but with people of different religious backgrounds. Across Greater London, we need to learn to be good neighbours to our Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Buddhist friends.
  • For some ideas on that, have a read of Brian McLaren’s new book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross The Road?

Let’s pray for people across our city to have a revelation of Jesus. And let’s pray for Christians and the Church to learn how to have a strong AND benevolent Christian identity, one that shows hospitality rather than hostility to people of other religions.

Mark Williamson also blogs regularly at One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.