Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, anyone?

I can’t help noticing an intriguing disparity in interest in two stories reported over the past few days at Thinking Anglicans.

On Thursday they noted the release of 2010 church attendance statistics for the Church of England, which note a continued declining trend; Sunday attendance was down 2% in that period, while ‘weekly attendance’ (i.e. total attendance at all services held within a given week) was down slightly less. David Keen, who has been following these things carefully, notes that average attendance in the Church of England has declined 10% in the ten year period 2000-2010, and asks the perfectly reasonable question, ‘At what point is this a wake up call, or will we just hit the the ‘snooze’ button again until next years stats?’

This story has been up for two days at Thinking Anglicans and there is one – only one – comment.

Today, Thinking Anglicans posted a story about a Church of England report on ‘C of E relations with ACNA’ – that is, the Anglican Church in North America, a group which has broken away from the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada over a number of issues, but mainly homosexuality. Some conservative people in the Church of England want their church to recognise the ACNA as a full member of the Anglican Communion, and the report deals with this issue.

This story has been up for less than twenty-four hours and already has nineteen comments (most of them rather belligerent).

I’m just saying, that’s all…

As a footnote, I’m interested that the C of E approaches attendance statistics differently than we do in the Diocese of Edmonton. When we say ‘average attendance’, we actually mean ‘average of the whole year’ – including both the high seasons at Easter and Christmas and the low months during the summer. They, however, base their statistics on a four-week period in October. I wonder what effect this difference in methodology has on the statistics?

We’re now at 42 comments on the ACNA story and 2 on the Church Attendance story…

6 thoughts on “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, anyone?

  1. Not the first time we’ve seen this disparity. Strikes me there are a couple of interrelated reasons for it.

    Most people who comment online (however reasonable their comments may sometimes appear) are essentially controversialists. We may prefer the scraps stay civilized, but we are there to scrap. The standing of ACNA vis-a-vis the Anglican Communion is an issue on which virtually every Anglican blogosphere commentator knows where they stand and stands there passionately.

    The matter of declining attendance in our churches is significantly more complex. Despite the mysterious confidence of some (“if only there were more -insert personal hobbyhorse- then attendance would be growing”), this issue doesn’t lend itself to easy nostra.

    In other words, commenting on ACNA and the Communion is easy. Commenting on declining church attendance is hard.

    As to the differing statistical methodologies, I’d say either is a valid approach. A four week snapshot as per the CofE approach is statictically valid, as is our year-long average. I suppose the advantage of their approach (besides avoiding the distortions of Easter, summer and Christmas) is that a four week average is easier to collect and calculate.

    The key, of course, is to be consistent about the statistics used. It would be problematical, for example, to compare your or my year long average with Father Bloggins’s October average from Exeter.

  2. I think this is a false analysis.

    Thinking Anglicans was always an information resource and historically comments often added information or insight into developing stories.

    I have read all the information referred to in both of these stories. Many TA readers go there for this service and we are grateful to Simon for it. While published opinion pieces are also referenced only on religious holidays are we treated to mini-sermons – otherwise there are no op-eds.

    Important information often passes without comment – but, as I say, my experience is that people do study the information referenced.

    The fact that I have only commented on one of these stories has nothing to do with how important I think they are or how much thought they inspire, I think it would be a mistake to imply that that is the case.

  3. Tim Chesterton

    I think this is a false analysis.

    Martin, are you referring to my original piece or Malcolm’s comment?

  4. Martin, neither my comment nor (I think) Tim’s original piece imply any judgement about Thinking Anglicans as a news aggregator. Personally, I quite like TA and, since Tim posts there and posts about it, I presume he does too. What we are commenting on is the phenomenon of people chosing to comment on certain stories and not others.

  5. Nixon is LOrd

    Religion shrinking away is now classified with “Dog Bites Man” stories. Mainline Protestantism has been, and been treated by media, as a vaguely wholesome pastime for old ladies of both sexes since the 1970s.

  6. Tim Chesterton

    Well, N.I.L., I’m not especially concerned with how the media treat us. Our church in Edmonton is featured in no media story, but last year we had a 5% increase in our average weekly attendance, and the increase is almost entirely young families with preschool children – not exactly ‘old ladies of both sexes’. I doubt if this increase will attract much attention in the media, but their lack of attention is not harming us.

    Once again, how about introducing yourself and telling us about yourself?

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