UK

Justin Welby Says Britain Is NOT A Christian Country, Based On Empty Pews

24/04/2014 13:32 BST | Updated 24/04/2014 14:59 BST
Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby arrives at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent for the Easter Day service.

As the national debate about faith in the UK continues, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said Britain is “certainly not” a Christian country in terms of those who actually show up at church.

The number of people actively attending church contradicts with David Cameron’s claims that Britain is a Christian country, Justin Welby said in a blog post.

But despite falling church attendance in the UK, the archbishop acknowledged that it was a “historical fact” that British society and culture was “shaped by and founded on” Christianity.

The debate was sparked after the Prime Minister wrote an article in the Church Times saying Britain ought to be unashamedly “evangelical” about Christianity.

The article provoked a response from more than 50 leading public figures, organised by the British Humanist Association, warning Mr Cameron risked sowing "alienation and division" in society.

But Welby, who described the reaction as "baffling and at the same time quite encouraging", said it was good the Prime Minister's claims had sparked debate.

He claimed that Christianity thrived amid “hatred and opposition” rater than “comfortable indifference”.

In a post on twitter, he added: “It's good that people care.”

He wrote: "The Prime Minister and other members of the Government have not said anything very controversial.

"Judging by the reaction, anyone would think that the people concerned had at the same time suggested the return of the Inquisition (complete with comfy chairs for Monty Python fans), compulsory church going and universal tithes.

He added: "It is clear that, in the general sense of being founded in Christian faith, this is a Christian country.

"It is certainly not in terms of regular churchgoing, although altogether, across different denominations, some millions attend church services each week.

"Others of different backgrounds have also positively shaped our common heritage.

"But the language of what we are, what we care for and how we act is earthed in Christianity, and would remain so for many years even if the number of believers dropped out of sight (which they won't, in my opinion)."