Religion in England
Christianity is the most widely practiced and professed religion in England. The Anglican Church of England is the established church of England, with a special constitutional position in the United Kingdom. Some other forms of English Christianity include Methodism, Roman Catholicism, Pentecostalism, and Orthodoxy. After Christianity, religions with the most adherents are Islam, Hinduism, Pagan movements, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith. There are also organisations which promote irreligion, atheist humanism, secularism and Satanism.
In the past, various other religions (usually pagan) have been important in the area, particularly Celtic polytheism, Gallo-Roman religion and Mithraism amongst the Brythonics, and later Anglo-Saxon paganism and Norse paganism with the Anglo-Saxon settlement and formation of England. Modern religions native to England include Wicca and Druidry, whilst the ethnic religion of the English is Germanic Heathenism.
Many of England's most notable buildings and monuments are religious in nature, including Stonehenge, the Angel of the North, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral. The festivals of Christmas and Easter are widely celebrated in the country.
- 1 Statistics
- 2 Abrahamic religions
- 3 Indian religions
- 4 Neopaganism
- 5 Other religions
- 6 Historic faiths
- 7 Notable places of worship
- 8 Irreligion
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
Note that Christians were not counted by denomination in the 2011 census in England and Wales, although they were in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The largest Christian denomination is the Church of England, which is also the state church; the second largest is Roman Catholicism.
|Religion not stated||3,776,515||7.7||3,804,104||7.2|
The Bahá'í Faith started with the earliest mentions of the predecessor of the Bahá'í Faith, the Báb, in The Times on 1 November 1845, only a little over a year after the Báb first stated his mission. Today there are Bahá'í communities across the country from Carlisle to Cornwall.
|Christian denominations in the UK|
Christianity was first introduced through the Romans (English mythology links the introduction of Christianity to England to the Glastonbury legend of Joseph of Arimathea; see also the legend of Saint Lucius). Archaeological evidence for Christian communities begins to appear in the 3rd and 4th centuries. The Romano-British population after the withdrawal of the Roman legions was mostly Christian.
Christianity was re-introduced into England through missionaries from Scotland and from Continental Europe; the era of St Augustine (the first Archbishop of Canterbury) and the Celtic Christian missionaries in the north (notably St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert). The Synod of Whitby in 664 ultimately led to the English church being fully part of Roman Catholicism. Early English Christian documents surviving from this time include the 7th-century illuminated Lindisfarne Gospels and the historical accounts written by the Venerable Bede.
Norman nobles and bishops had influence before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and Norman influences affected late Anglo-Saxon architecture. Edward the Confessor was brought up in Normandy, and in 1042 brought masons to work on Westminster Abbey, the first Romanesque building in England. The cruciform churches of Norman architecture often had deep chancels and a square crossing tower which has remained a feature of English ecclesiastical architecture. Hundreds of parish churches were built and the first great English cathedrals. England has many early cathedrals, most notably York Minster (1080), Durham Cathedral (1093) and Salisbury Cathedral (1220). After a fire damaged Canterbury Cathedral in 1174 Norman masons introduced the new Gothic architecture. Around 1191 Wells Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral brought in the English Gothic style.
In 1536, the Church in England split from Rome over the issue of the divorce (technically, the marriage annulment) of King Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon. The split led to the emergence of a separate ecclesiastical authority. Later the influence of the Reformation resulted in the Church of England adopting its distinctive reformed Catholic position known as Anglicanism. For more detail of this period see the following articles:
- Timeline of the English Reformation
- Act of Supremacy (1534): declared that Henry VIII was 'the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England' and required the nobility to swear an oath recognising Henry's supremacy.
- Six Articles (1539): although the organisation of the church in England was reformed, the articles reaffirmed Catholic doctrine.
- Book of Common Prayer and Book of Common Order
- Prayer Book Rebellion
- Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation
- Marian Persecutions and Marian exiles: during the re-establishment of Roman Catholicism in England under Mary I, some Protestants were persecuted and some upheld their faith in exile.
- Elizabethan Religious Settlement: under Elizabeth I political and religious stability was maintained by means of a compromise in both doctrine and practice between the Anglicanism of Henry VIII and that of Edward VI
- Act of Supremacy 1559: restored religious affairs in England to the state at the death of Edward VI, and imposed the Oath of Supremacy on those holding office.
- Thirty-Nine Articles (1563): the defining statements of Anglican doctrine were made a legal requirement in England in 1571 and were imposed by the Test Act of 1673 (until 1824)
- Regnans in Excelsis
- Priest hole: wealthy Roman Catholics constructed hiding places in their houses for priests.
- James I of England and religious issues
- The Vicar of Bray: the changes of political and religious régime required office holders to show flexibility in their declared convictions, as satirised in the popular song The Vicar of Bray.
- Westminster Assembly (1643): appointed by the Long Parliament to restructure the Church of England, drew up the Westminster Confession of Faith (which became, and remains, the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.)
- 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: written by Calvinistic Baptists in England to give a formal expression of the Reformed and Protestant Christian faith with an obvious Baptist perspective.
- Royal Declaration of Indulgence (1672): Charles II attempted to extend religious liberty to Protestant nonconformists in his realms.
- Declaration of Indulgence (1687–1688): James II attempted to establish freedom of religion in England.
- Seven Bishops: bishops of the Church of England who petitioned James II against the Declaration of Indulgence were imprisoned.
- Popish Plot (1678–1681): a conspiracy to discredit Catholics in England accused Catholics of plotting.
- Exclusion Bill: sought to exclude the Charles II's brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the throne of England because he was Catholic.
- Penal law: a specific series of laws that sought to uphold the establishment of the Church of England against Protestant nonconformists and Roman Catholics, by imposing various forfeitures, civil penalties, and civil disabilities upon these dissenters.
- Test Act: required a religious test of officials to ensure conformity with the established church.
- Act of Uniformity 1662: required the use of all the rites and ceremonies in the Book of Common Prayer in Church of England services, and episcopal ordination for all ministers.
- Conventicle Act 1664: forbade religious assemblies of more than five people outside the auspices of the Church of England.
- Five Mile Act 1665: forbade clergymen from living within five miles (8 km) of a parish from which they had been banned
- Nonjuring schism: the Anglican Church split in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, over whether William of Orange could legally be recognized as King of England.
Today, the Church of England is the established church in England. It regards itself as in continuity with the pre-Reformation state Catholic church, (something the Roman Catholic Church does not accept), but has been a distinct Anglican church since the settlement under Elizabeth I (with some disruption during the 17th-century Commonwealth period). British Monarch is formally Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but its spiritual leader is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is regarded by convention as the head of the worldwide communion of Anglican Churches (see Anglican Communion). In practice the Church of England is governed by the General Synod, under the authority of Parliament. The Church of England's mission to spread the Gospel has seen the establishment of many churches in the Anglican Communion throughout the world particularly in the Commonwealth of Nations.
There is another Anglican Church in England - the Free Church of England - which separated from the Church of England in the 19th century, out of concern that the Established Church was re-introducing Roman Catholic dogmas and practices. The Church of England recognises the Orders of the Free Church of England as valid. The Free Church of England is in communion with the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United States and Canada.
The English church was heavily influenced by Rome from the arrival of St Augustine of Canterbury who arrived in AD 588, until the final break with Roman control at the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558.
The early years of the UK were difficult for English adherents of the Roman Catholic Church, although the persecution was not violent as they had experienced in the recent past, for instance under the Popery Act 1698, that affected adherents in England and Wales. The civil rights of adherents to Roman Catholicism were severely curtailed, and there was no longer, as once in Stuart times, any Catholic presence at court, in public life, in the military or professions. Many of the Catholic nobles and gentry who had preserved on their lands among their tenants small pockets of Catholicism had followed James II into exile. And while others eventually conformed to Anglicanism, meaning that only very few such Catholic communities survived in tact, a number of recusants survived whose descendants are now quite prominent in British Catholicism.
In the late 18th and early 19th century most restrictions on Catholic participation in public life were relaxed under acts such as the Papists Act 1778, Roman Catholic Relief Act 1791 and Catholic Relief Act 1829. This process of Catholic Emancipation met violent opposition in the Gordon Riots of 1780 in London. In the 1840s and 1850s, especially during the Great Irish Famine, while the bulk of the large outflow of emigration from Ireland was headed to the United States, thousands of Irish subjects, still part of the UK until the Republic of Ireland came into being, also moved to England, establishing communities in cities and towns up and down the country such as London and Liverpool, thus giving Catholicism a huge numerical boost. In 1850, the Catholic Church in England and Wales re-established a hierarchy.
Recently, the rights of Catholics were restored even further with the allowing of the spouses of Royals to be Catholic. Daniel O'Connell was the first Catholic member of Parliament. Since then, there have been several Catholic Members of Parliament. According to an Ipsos Mori poll in 2009, there were about 5.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, 9.6% of the population.
A strong tradition of Methodism developed from the 18th century onwards. The Methodist revival was started in England by a group of men including John Wesley and his younger brother Charles as a movement within the Church of England, but developed as a separate denomination after John Wesley's death.
Pentecostal churches are continuing to grow and, in terms of church attendance, are now third after the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. There are three main denomination of Pentecostal churches;
- Assemblies of God in Great Britain are part of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.
- Apostolic Church.
- Elim Pentecostal Church.
The is also a growing number of independent, charismatic churches that encourage Pentecostal practices at part of their worship, such as Kingsgate Community Church in Peterborough which started with 9 people in 1988 and now has a congregation in excess of 1,500.
There are various Russian Orthodox groups in England. In 1962, Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh founded and was for many years bishop, archbishop then metropolitan bishop of the diocese of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Sourozh, the Russian Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate's diocese for Great Britain and Ireland. It is the most numerous Russian Orthodox group in the country. There are also the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia churches as well as some churches and communities belonging to the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe's Episcopal Vicariate in the UK.
Most Greek Orthodox Church parishes fall under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, based in London and led by Gregorios, the Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain. Created in 1932, it is the diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople that covers England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as Malta. A Greek Orthodox community already existed at the time the UK was formed, worshipping in the Imperial Russian Embassy in London. However, it was another 130 years until an autonomous community was set up in Finsbury Park in London, in 1837. The first new church was built in 1850, on London Street in the City. In 1882, St Sophia Cathedral was constructed in London, in order to cope with the growing influx of Orthodox immigrants. By the outbreak of World War I, there were large Orthodox communities in London, Manchester and Liverpool, each focused on its own church. World War II and its aftermath also saw a large expansion amongst the Orthodox Communities.
Today, there are seven churches bearing the title of Cathedral in London as well as in Birmingham (the Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrew) and Leicester. In addition to these, there are eighty-one churches and other places where worship is regularly offered, twenty-five places (including University Chaplaincies) where the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on a less regular basis, four chapels (including that of the Archdiocese), and two monasteries. As is traditional within the Orthodox Church, the bishops have a considerable degree of autonomy within the Archdiocese.
As well as the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches, there are also the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church all in London as well as a non-canonical Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Manchester.
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All Coptic Orthodox parishes fall under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria Pope of Alexandria. The Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom is divided into three main parishes: Ireland, Scotland and North England; the Midlands and its affiliated areas; and South Wales. In addition, there is one Patriarchal Exarchate at Stevenage, Hertfordshire. Most British converts belong to the British Orthodox Church, which is canonically part of the Coptic Orthodox Church. There is also the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in London. There is also the Armenian Apostolic Church in London.
Saint George is recognised as the patron saint of England, although prior to Edward III, St Edmund was recognised as England's patron saint, and the flag of England consists of the cross of St George. However, Saint Alban is venerated by some as England's first Christian martyr.
According to the 2011 Census, 2.7 million Muslims live in England where they form 5.0% of the population.
Although Islam is generally thought of as being a recent arrival to the country, there has been contact with Muslims for many centuries. An early example would be the decision of Offa, the eighth-century King of Mercia (one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms existing at that time), to have coins minted with an Islamic inscription on them—copies of coins issued by the near-contemporary Muslim ruler Al-Mansur. It is thought that they were minted to facilitate trade with the expanding Islamic empire in Spain.
Muslim scholarship was well-known among the learned in England by 1386, when Chaucer was writing. In the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, there is among the pilgrims wending their way to Canterbury, a 'Doctour of Phisyk' whose learning included Razi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina, Arabic ابن سينا) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd, Arabic ابن رشد). Ibn Sina's canon of medicine was a standard text for medical students well into the 17th century.
Today Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in England with 38% of Muslims living in London, where they make up 12.4% of the population. There are also large numbers of Muslims in Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, Luton, Slough, Leicester and the mill towns of Northern England.
Notable mosques include the East London Mosque, London Central Mosque, Al-Rahma mosque, Jamea Masjid, Birmingham Central Mosque, Finsbury Park Mosque, Al Mahdi Mosque, London Markaz and Markazi mosque and the Baitul Futuh Mosque of the Ahmadiyya which acts as its national headquarters.
Until the 20th century, Judaism was the only noticeable non-Christian religion having first appeared in historical records during the Norman Conquest of 1066. In fact, from 1290 to 1656, Judaism did not officially exist in England due to an outright expulsion in 1290 and official restrictions that were not lifted until 1656 (though historical records show that some Jews did come back to England during the early part of the 17th century prior to the lifting of the restriction). Now, the presence of the Jewish culture and Jews in England today is one of the largest in the world.
Early Hindus in England were mostly students during the 19th century. There have been three waves of migration of Hindus to England since then.
Before India's Independence in 1947, Hindu migration was minuscule and largely temporary. The second wave of Hindu migration occurred in the 1970s after the expulsion of Gujarati Hindus from Uganda. Initially, Hindu immigration was limited to Punjabi and Gujarati Hindus, but, by 2000, small Hindu communities of every ethnicity could be found in England. England is also host to a large immigrant community of Sri Lankan Hindus who are mostly Tamils. The last wave of migration of Hindus has been taking place since the 1990s with refugees from Sri Lanka and professionals from India. However,there is becoming an increasing number of English Western Hindus in England,who have either converted from another faith or been an English Hindu from birth.
The first Sikh Gurdwara (temple) was not established until 1911, at Putney in London.
The first Sikh migration came in the 1950s. It was mostly of men from the Punjab seeking work in industries like foundries and textiles. These new arrivals mostly settled in London, Birmingham and West Yorkshire. Thousands of Sikhs from East Africa soon followed, this mass immigration was caused by Idi Amin's persecution of ethnic groups in Uganda, thousands forced to flee the region in fear of losing their lives.
The earliest Buddhist influence on England came through the UK's imperial connections with South East Asia, and as a result the early connections were with the Theravada traditions of Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. The tradition of study resulted in the foundation of the Pali Text Society, which undertook the task of translating the Pali Canon of Buddhist texts into English.
In 1924 London's Buddhist Society was founded, and in 1926 the Theravadin London Buddhist Vihara. The rate of growth was slow but steady through the century, and the 1950s saw the development of interest in Zen Buddhism.
At the 2011 census 75,281 people in England identified as Pagan, doubling compared to the figures of the 2001 census. Paganism in England is dominated by Wicca, founded in England itself, the modern movement of Druidry, and forms of Heathenry.
Germanic Heathenism in England is primarily represented by two of its forms: Odinism, an international Germanic movement characterized by a centralised organisation, and Anglo-Saxon Heathenry or Fyrnsidu, a movement represented by independent kindreds characterised by a focus on local folklore as the source for the reconstruction of the ethnic religion of the English people. Both the movements draw inspiration from the Anglo-Saxon identity and culture of England.
The Odinic Rite (OR) was founded in 1973 under the influence of Else Christensen's Odinist Study Group. In 1988 the Odinic Rite became the first polytheistic religious organisation to be granted "Registered Charity" status in the United Kingdom. British Odinists are very active in the media, they also run the Odinist Press Service.
Various independent Anglo-Saxon kindreds exist such as the Wuffacynn of Suffolk and Northern Essex, the Fealu Hlæw Þeod based in Hathersage and Peak District and the Þunorrad Þeod covering the Kingdom of Mercia. The Heathen Alliance is a network for various Heathen groups throughout the United Kingdom.
During the Iron Age, Celtic polytheism was the predominant religion in the area now known as England. Neo-Druidism grew out of the Celtic revival in 18th-century Romanticism. The 2011 census states there are 4,189 Druids in England and Wales. A 2012 analysis by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids estimates that there are between 6 to 11,000 Druids in Britain.
Other religions include:
- New Age
- Traditional African religion
- Brahma Kumari
Gallo-Roman religion formed when the Roman Empire invaded and occupied the Brythonic peoples. Elements of the native Brythonic Celtic religion such as the druids, the Celtic priestly caste who were believed to originate in Britain, were outlawed by Claudius, and in 61 they vainly defended their sacred groves from destruction by the Romans on the island of Mona (Anglesey). However, under Roman rule the Britons continued to worship native Celtic deities, such as Ancasta, but often conflated with their Roman equivalents, like Mars Rigonemetos at Nettleham. The founding of a temple to Claudius at Camulodunum was one of the impositions that led to the revolt of Boudica.
In the Dark Ages, immigrants from the European continent arrived, bringing Anglo-Saxon paganism, a subset of Germanic paganism with them. Later, after most of the Anglo-Saxon peoples had converted to Christianity, Vikings from Scandinavia arrived, bringing with them Norse paganism.
Notable places of worship
The varied religious and ethnic history of England has left a wide range of religious buildings - churches, cathedrals, chapels, chapels of ease, synagogues, mosques and temples. Besides its spiritual importance, the religious architecture includes buildings of importance to the tourism industry and local pride. As a result of the Reformation, the ancient cathedrals remained in the possession of the then-established churches, while most Roman Catholic churches date from Victorian times or are of more recent construction (curiously, in Liverpool the ultra-modern design Roman Catholic cathedral was actually completed before the more traditional design of the Anglican cathedral, whose construction took most of the twentieth century). Notable places of worship include:
- Bevis Marks Synagogue - Jewish
- Birmingham Central Mosque - Islamic
- Brompton Oratory - Roman Catholic
- Canterbury Cathedral - Church of England
- Finsbury Park Mosque - Islamic
- Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha - Sikh
- Jamea Masjid - Islamic
- Metropolitan Tabernacle - Baptist
- Neasden Temple - Hindu
- Salisbury Cathedral- C of E
- Serbian Orthodox Church of St Lazar, Bournville - Serbian Orthodox
- St Chad's Cathedral - Roman Catholic
- St Paul's Cathedral - Church of England
- Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue - Jewish
- Victoria Park Mosque - Islamic
- Westminster Abbey - Church of England
- Westminster Cathedral - Roman Catholic
- Westminster Central Hall - Methodist
- York Minster - Church of England
24.7% of people in England declared no religion in 2011, compared with 14.6% in 2001. These figures are slightly lower than the combined figures for England and Wales as Wales has a higher level of irreligion than England. Norwich had the highest such proportion at 42.5%, followed closely by Brighton and Hove at 42.4%.
- Wembley’s Conference of Living Religions 1924
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- Religion in Birmingham
- Religion in London
- Reassessing what we collect website History of minority religions in London with objects and images
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