By 2035, there will be about 1.96 million active Muslims in Britain, compared with 1.63 million church-going Christians, according to calculations by Christian Research, a think-tank. The figures are published in the latest in a series of reports entitled Religious Trends.
The think-tank has warned that 4,000 churches could close by 2020 if congregations continue to shrink at current rates. Christian Research describes its aim as encouraging “change in Christian culture so that by 2010 more churches are growing”.
The Church of England moved to discredit the research last night, criticising its methodology and saying the results were “flawed and dangerously misleading”. A C of E spokesman said: “These sorts of statistics, based on dubious presumptions, do no one of any faith any favours. Faith communities are not in competition and simplistic research like this is misleading and unhelpful.”
The research does not compare like with like, according to the spokesman. The number of practising Muslims, for instance, is based on the number of people who said they were active in the 2001 census. If the same process were applied to Christians it would give a figure of 20 million active churchgoers, according to Church House, the headquarters of the C of E.