Figures obtained by ITV Wales reveal the main Christian denominations in Wales are suffering “an alarming decline” in membership leaving some fearing Christianity “will disappear”.
An edition of current affairs programme Y Byd ar Bedwar, to be broadcast tonight, will look at the situation facing Christianity in Wales and paints a bleak picture for the main traditional Christian denominations.
All the main denominations contacted by the programme’s journalists had experienced a decline of at least 50% in their membership since 1990.
The Church in Wales remains the largest denomination.
The Welsh Independents are the largest Nonconformist denomination with over 22,000 members
The Church in Wales remains the largest denomination, and currently has 45,759 members on its electoral roll. This compares with 98,878 in 1990 - a drop of 54%.
The Presbyterians have seen the biggest percentage fall in members since the beginning of the nineties. Their membership has fallen from over 60,000 in 1990 to just 19,818 today.
Welsh-language folk singer and campaigner, Dafydd Iwan, is a lay preacher and spends most Sundays travelling to Nonconformist Chapels to deliver Sermons. Reacting to the programme’s findings he expressed his concern:
It’s not surprising but it is alarming to see these figures in black and white.
The Church in Wales are currently implementing a plan named ‘2020 Vision’. Tdhis plan is intended as a growth strategy to re-energise the Church before its centenary in 2020. Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Rev Andy John is a member of the 2020 Vision strategy implementation group. He told the programme changes are afoot to make the Church "more appealing."
We’re not interested in quick fix entertainment. What we are interested in is providing things that truly will be purposeful and worthwhile. You have to build that and that takes time and it also takes resources, to train people appropriately and get the right provision for the right community. We’re not going to do that overnight.
Pointing to more community work in the form of food banks and the development of so-called ‘cafe-churches’ in north Wales, he remains optimistic about the future of the Church;
“As the traditional Church becomes perhaps less, we’ll see new forms of Church emerge and we have to ensure that they flourish in the future.”
General Secretary of the Welsh Union of Independents, the Rev Dr Geraint Tudur said efforts are made by denominations to work together, but argued that can remain difficult practically in local areas.
He said attempts are being made to modernise the Church with new computer app ‘Guardians of Ancora’ which aims to educate children about the Bible and a series of podcasts and online courses produced by the Union of Independents to appeal to a new and younger audience.
I think we’ve realised that we’re reaching the end of a chapter in the history of Christianity in Wales. But we’re also seeing the beginning of a new chapter and a very exciting chapter. The question we now have to ask ourselves is ‘how is God now leading us from a period that’s coming to a close into a new era in the story of Christianity in Wales’?
Y Byd ar Bedwar will be broadcast on S4C at 9.30pm. English-language subtitles are available.