The Church of England is considering desperate plans to drop its legal requirements to hold weekly Sunday services in a bid to deal with the problem of declining congregations.
The controversial proposals come after a shocking two-year report found a decline in church-goers – but a rise in Islam and other faiths – was the reason for the steep decline in Christianity.
Numbers attending church services has fallen by 12 per cent in the past decade to less than half of the levels in the 1960s, with shocking figures showing Sunday service attendance falling to 760,000.
A task group will now look at plans to modernise the church.
The Right Reverend Pete Broadbent said: “In rural parishes, no vicar can actually get around all their parishes so technically, they’re breaking the law. All we’re doing is putting the law in line with what already happens.”
Most rural vicars have multiple benefices, with some in charge of up to 10 churches.
Currently, clergy have to maintain regular services even if a handful of worshippers turn up.
Earlier this year, the Church of England synod was told that the church expects its numbers to continue to decline for the next 30 years.
Eighteen people for every 1,000 regularly attending services is expected to fall to 10 for every 1,000.
The group is considering changing church decrees B11 and B14 to “relax the requirements for regular worship in parish churches in sparsely populated benefices.”
Canon B11 says: “Morning and evening prayer shall be said or sung in every parish church at least on all Sundays and other principal feast days, and also on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
“Each service shall be said or sung distinctly, reverently and in an audible voice.”