Buffy the Vampire Slayer slaying church attendance among women, study claims
The old-fashioned attitudes and hierarchies of churches are causing a steep decline in the number of female worshippers, according to an academic study.
The report claims more than 50,000 women a year have deserted their congregations over the past two decades because they feel the church is not relevant to their lives.
It says that instead young women are becoming attracted to the pagan religion Wicca, where females play a central role, which has grown in popularity after being featured positively in films, TV shows and books.
The study comes amid ongoing controversy over the role of women in all Christian denominations. Last month its governing body voted to allow women to become bishops for the first time, having admitted them to the priesthood in 1994, but traditionalist bishops have warned that hundreds of clergy and parishes will leave if the move goes ahead as planned.
The report’s author, Dr Kristin Aune, a sociologist at the University of Derby, said: “In short, women are abandoning the church.
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“Because of its focus on female empowerment, young women are attracted by Wicca, popularised by the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“Young women tend to express egalitarian values and dislike the traditionalism and hierarchies they imagine are integral to the church.
“Women’s ordination, as priests and now bishops, has dominated debate and headlines – but while looking at women in the pulpit we have taken our eyes off the pews, where a shift with more consequences for the church’s survival is underway.”
Her research, published in a new book called Women and Religion in the West, cites an English Church Census which found more than a million women worshippers have left churches since 1989.
Over the past decade, it claims, women have been leaving churches at twice the rate of men.
In addition, the census is said to show that teenage boys now outnumber girls in the pews for the first time.
Dr Aune says the church must adapt to the needs of modern women if it is to stop them leaving in their droves.
She believes many women have been put off going to church in recent years because of the influence of feminism, which challenged the traditional Christian view of women’s roles and raised their aspirations.
Her report claims they feel forced out of the church because of its “silence” about sexual desire and activity, and because of its hostility to single-parent families and unmarried couples which are now a reality for many women.
But it also says changes in women’s working lives, with many more now pursuing careers as well as raising children, mean they have less time to attend church.