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Church of Scotland's Membership Dropped by Half Since 2000

Church of Scotland's Membership Dropped by Half Since 2000

The Church of Scotland’s membership has fallen to half its numbers since 2000, a new report from the Assembly Trustees says.

According to The Christian Post, the report – created for the Church’s General Assembly later this month – said the membership of the Church of Scotland in 2021 was 283,600. In the 1950s, that number was about 1.3 million; in 2000, that number was more than 600,000.

Meanwhile, the number of ministers has also dropped to 60 percent of what it was in 2000.

“This is no fault of one group of people or any decision-making body, but a trend that has not been reversed; we have lost members and Ministers of Word and Sacrament but not adjusted the number of charges,” the report says.

“One in three charges are in vacancy whilst across Scotland the size of almost every congregation is shrinking. Ministers are retiring and people are not coming forward (as has been the case for years) in the numbers needed to replace them. The good news of Jesus Christ, whilst being shared amongst some is not reaching the majority of the people of Scotland.”

The report also found that most current members of the Church of Scotland are over 50, with speculation that many will retire in the next 10 years.

“The average age of those attending church is 62 years old — so the trends of decline are not likely to change without us taking positive action and addressing the demographic profile,” the report added.

“We have well over 1,000 church buildings to cater for this number of people which is simply untenable and unsustainable.”

The pandemic directly impacted those numbers, where church attendance was about 88,000 before the pandemic closed in-person worship services temporarily. In 2021, that number fell to 60,000.

Today, the report says that about 45,000 people worship online and some 8,000 worship in “other ways.”

“This is a critical time as we make the essential changes needed to lay a sustainable foundation for the future,” the Rev. David Cameron said. “The reforms we embark on together are to reconfigure and reshape the church for mission and service around fewer buildings and fewer charges.”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Christin Lola

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.