Fascinating Figures: Baptists and the 2011 Census
By David Parker
Initial figures for the 2011 Census released on 21 June 2012 show that the percentage of the population in Queensland claiming to be Baptist has made a big jump up to 2.01% - from 1.87% in 2006 (which recorded a slump from previous periods). The actual figure is 41,413 males and 45,858 females, a total of 87,271. This makes Queensland the second largest state in terms of numbers of Baptists after Victoria, and also second in density after Northern Territory (2.6%). The figure for Australia as a whole is 1.64%, a total of 352,499. The gender balance for Australia is 97 men to 100 women; Queensland is just above this at 98. The age distribution of Baptists follows the state population almost exactly where there are almost 30,000 under 25 years of age, 46,000 from 25 to 65, and 11,000 seniors, including 1300 over 85. The median age is of all Queenslanders is 36.
The Queensland Baptists website states that more than 35,000 people meet each week for worship which is less than 50% of the census figure. Unlike some other religious movements, there is only one category for Baptists in the census but there are Baptist churches not affiliated with Queensland Baptists which would help to account for difference, but it still means there are a lot of nominal Baptists. The figures supplied by the Baptist Union of Australia indicate there are 62,719 members nationally, which is only 18% of the census figure; it is probably less than that for Queensland (for comparison, membership figures need to be supplemented by children of Baptist families). Whether the count is by worship attendance or membership, there is a big differential, which presents a challenge for evangelism and discipleship.
Although the average density of Baptists in the Queensland is 2.01%, the figure varies quite markedly in different areas. For example, in the Banana Shire it is 2.62%, Longreach 2.53%, Mt Isa 2.40%, Fraser Coast 2.26%, and Bundaberg 2.20%. Brisbane and Gladstone are on 2.08% while in Townsville it is 1.38%, Cairns, 1.27%, Toowoomba, 1.59% and the Gold Coast, 1.44%.
The relative size of Christian churches has not changed much – Roman Catholics are the largest, followed by the Anglicans, the Uniting Church, and Presbyterian and Reformed churches in Queensland and nationally. In Australia the Eastern Orthodox come next with a non-specified “Christian” group following. Baptist are seventh, edging out the Lutherans who used to be larger, and the Pentecostals (all grouped together). The order is the same for Queensland except that Easter Orthodox are down the scale, smaller than Pentecostals.
However, as the press reported widely at the time of the release of the figures, the “no religion” category is now larger than the Anglicans, the “not stated” group comes next after the Anglicans. Taken together, these two groups comprise 31% of the Australian and also of the Queensland population. There are a few more Buddhists in Queensland than Pentecostals, while Islam and Hinduism are each about half the number of Buddhism. Hinduism is the fast growing non-Christian religion.
Queensland’s total population is 4,332,739, of whom 155,824 or 4% are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders and 888,636 (21%) were born overseas (some of the most common places being South Africa, India, Philippines, China and Germany, as well as the traditional UK and New Zealand).
Overall, in the five years since the last Census, Baptist growth in Queensland (116.7%) has exceeded population growth (110%) and in so doing, has performed better than others, including the Anglican, Catholics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and Lutherans; some have declined against the general population (Brethren, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army and Uniting Church). However, the strong percentage growth of non-Christian religions and the Mormons is a factor to consider, as is the rapid increase in “no religion” category.
These initial figures are helpful in providing some overall indications of trends, but the National Church Life Survey which was taken at about the same time as the census, should give a lot more insights into the internal dynamics of our churches, and help to answer the “why” as well as the “what”. A fuller picture will also emerge as more census figures are released.