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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
2 Sep 2023

The Church of England has been “dealt a death knell” as parishes close at a record rate, a Telegraph investigation has revealed.

Almost 300 have disappeared in the past five years alone, analysis of church data reveals, the fastest rate since records began in 1960.

The startling figures come as a bombshell dossier accused bishops and senior clergy of “putting a gun to people’s heads” to drive through controversial plans to cut costs, merge parishes and cut vicars.

The claims come against the backdrop of declining congregation numbers, leaving many clergy afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

The latest figures provide the first ever statistical analysis illustrating their concerns and have sparked accusations that the historic parish system as “the bedrock of the Church of England” is “now under attack from those who are supposed to be protecting it”.

The Telegraph’s analysis of the most recently available Church of England statistics shows that between 2016 and 2021, 278 individual parishes disappeared and were either reorganised or merged as the figures dropped from 12,510 to 12,232. This works out as an average of 56 less parishes every year and marks the fastest rate of parish closures in 70 years.

By comparison, in 1960, there were 14,491 parishes, in 1987 there were 13,287 parishes and by 1991 the figure continued to drop to just 13,099 parishes. Meanwhile, between 2000 and 2006 the average number of parishes dropped by 41 a year, between 2006 and 2011 this rose to 55 a year, but between 2011 and 2016 only two parishes disappeared in total.