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How many are actually leaving the Church?

A deeper look at the numbers

Last year The Atheist Society launched a campaign targeted at the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Denmark (ELCD). The message was clear: Leave the church! And so, many people did. Statistics Denmark, the central authority on Danish statistics, attested that almost 25000 people terminated their membership of the ELCD in 2016 which was the year in which the Atheist Society campaign was in the media.

And since the percentage of ELCD membership keeps dropping, many commentators speak of a deep crisis in the ELCD. Numbers from Statistics Denmark reveal that the percentage has dropped from 84,3 procent in 2002 to 75,9 procent in 2017.

But as sociologist Peter Luchau points out, it depends how you read the numbers.

“Statistics Denmark counts the decrease in relation to the total population, and because a growing number of immigrants who do not belong to the ELCD have come to Denmark, the percentage of Danes who are members of ELCD, will automatically decrease. Even if not a single person had terminated his or her membership of the ELCD, the total share of ELCD members would still have decreased,” says Luchau to the Funen Times.

“If you only include ethnic Danes in the statistics, 85,9 percent of the Danish population are members of ELCD. So, you can’t really claim that the ELCD is in crisis,” says Luchau.