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Scottish Church Census, 2002




Brierley, P. (2020, May 12). Scottish Church Census, 2002.


The second Scottish Church Census was carried out on May 11-12, 2002. Comparable studies have been conducted in Scotland in 1984 and 1994 and in England in 1979, 1989, 1998 and 2005. All were organized and led by Dr Peter Brierley, executive director of the organization Christian Research prior to his retirement in 2007.

The aim of the study was to ascertain the number and frequency of people attending church of all denominations in Scotland in 2002. Several denominational changes had taken place in Scotland since the last census in 1994 (SN 4395) and 1984 (SN 2554). Political changes, with the formation of the Scottish Parliament, had brought about boundary changes for many councils, by which church attendance was previously analyzed. A combination of denomination, political and population changes had necessitated a revision of church attendance. In particular the study was to evaluate if the age structure of churchgoers had altered over the past decade and to establish if the trend in decline in the number of young people attending Sunday worship in England was true of Scotland.

The ARDA has added two additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 2160
Variables: 118
Weight Variable: None

Data Collection

May 11-12, 2002

Original Survey (Instrument)

Scottish Church Census 2002

Collection Procedures

An initial mailing to all the 4,144 churches on the Christian Research database took place in February to let churches know the census would take place on May 11-12. 2002, which also enabled organizers to check if they had the correct addresses. There also was an early press release explaining the process, and all senior denominational leaders were informed of the study.

A second mailing, including the census form itself, took place shortly prior to the collection date. Most responses were collected directly from congregational leaders, but congregations were given optional forms to pass out to attenders on the date of the census to assist in accurate collection of attendance information. The overall response rate was 52 percent, although response rates varied by denomination from a high of 64 percent (Church of Scotland) to a low of 28 percent (independent churches).

Sampling Procedures

The census covered all Christian denominations and independent Christian churches accepting the Trinitarian doctrine (that God exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one being). It thus included seven broad groupings of churches: Church of Scotland, other Presbyterian churches, Episcopal, Baptist, independent, Roman Catholic and other smaller Protestant denominations. Excluded groups include non-Trinitarian groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Christadelphians and Unitarians, as well as non-Christian groups such as Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

Principal Investigators

Dr Peter Brierley
Christian Research (formerly MARC Europe)

Related Publications

Brierley, Peter William. 2002. Turning the Tide: the Challenge Ahead: Report of the 2002 Scottish Church Census. London: Christian Research.

Brierley, Peter William. 2003. UKCH Religious Trends no. 4. London: Christian Research.

County and Denomination Codes

For additional information on interpreting county and denomination codes, see PDF documentation.

Lay Leaders

The original survey instrument included two different wording for questions regarding lay leaders (variable names beginning with LAY), one set for Protestant churches and one for Catholic churches. The two have been combined in the data, but can be analyzed separately by combining with the variable DENOM (5=Catholic, all others are Protestant).

1994 Scottish Church Census data

To allow comparison, a limited number of variables are included, where it was possible to match congregations, from the 1994 Scottish Church Census. Data from the 1994 census is noted as such in the codebook. Full information from the 1994 collection is included in the UK data archive for registered users, although documentation is very limited.

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