CAPTION: The Bishop of Exeter celebrates with eight newly confirmed Christians at Holy Cross Church, Crediton, on 26 November

2021 Census Shows 46% of Devon Population Identifies as Christian

Posted: 29th November, 2022

More than 560,000 people within the Exeter Diocese area declared themselves as Christian in the 2021 census, 46% of the population.

Nationally the number of people declaring themselves as Christian in a census has fallen below 50% (to 46.2%) for the first time.

The Devon figure is slightly higher than the national average for everywhere except Plymouth (42.5%) and Exeter (40%).

45% of people within Devon declared themselves as having no religion at all, the fourth highest percentage out of 40 English dioceses.

The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Rev’d Jackie Searle, said “The census chimes with what we experience – that more people are identifying as non-religious, and this is not a surprise.

The Bishop of Crediton on the BBC News Channel talking about the census results

“In the past ticking ‘Christian’ may have been for some the default position, and that has been shifting over the past decades.”

Bishop Jackie said that the census results did not mean that people in Devon are no longer interested what Christianity offers: “Other surveys consistently show that that many people, whether identifying as Christian or not, still seek spiritual truth, wisdom in making decisions, and values to live by,” She said.

“There is a strong sense in the UK of the importance of values to shape our personal and public life, such as respect for all people, living with integrity and honesty, justice and fairness, and care for those most in need.

“These values could be summed in the words of Jesus: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.”

A Mixed Picture

The picture across Devon is mixed. Across the Diocese of Exeter deaneries, Ivybridge, Aylesbeare, Woodleigh, South Molton, Tavistock, Honiton, Torrington and Holsworthy all record 50% of the population or more declaring to be Christian.

Holsworthy has the highest rate at 53%.

Christianity deanery (which covers the city of Exeter), Plymouth City and Totnes deaneries, have the lowest proportion of people declaring to be Christian (40%, 43% and 43% respectively.)

Christianity and Plymouth City also have the largest proportion of people who do not identify with any religion (49%).

Torbay records 49% as Christian and 43% with no religion.

“Christianity is an invitation”

Exeter is the most religiously diverse place in Devon, with 4.1% of its population declaring themselves to be of a religion other than Christianity.

Bishop Jackie added: “The Church of England is not complacent about its place in society and much of the work we currently do is about engaging with people where they are and not expecting them to just come to us, for example with our Devon Pilgrim and Devon Church Weddings projects, initiatives like Lego Church in Okehampton or the Begin Well Antenatal courses running in some churches.”

She also said that the Christian faith is an invitation: “It is an offer the Church will continue to make, along with serving our communities and putting our faith into practice.

“Now is a great time of year for people to explore what Christianity has to offer, with carol services, nativity plays and church-run Christmas events taking place across the South West.

“You can find out what is happening in your local area here.

“Many churches are also offering regular warm spaces to help people through the energy crisis.”