Lord Carey has warned that Christianity is "a generation away from extinction" (Reuters)
Lord Carey has warned that Christianity is "a generation away from extinction" (Reuters)

Christianity is just "one generation away from extinction" in Britain unless the Church does more to attract young people, a former Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

Lord Carey said that church leaders should be "ashamed" for failing to invest in young people, with many priests across the county already suffering from a lack of confidence and a "feeling of defeat" as numbers dwindle at their congregations.

Carey's views were shared by The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who told Church of England's General Synod that unless they are able to attract new worshipers, everything else the church does is like "re-arranging furniture when the house is on fire".

Sentamu added that the Church must "evangelise or fossilise" or risk the numbers of worshippers falling further.

Speaking at the Holy Trinity Church in Shrewsbury as part of the Shropshire Churches Conference 2013, Carey, who stepped down from Lambeth Palace in 2002, warned what would happen unless the Church does more to attract young people.

He said: "We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We are one generation away from extinction - if we do not invest in young people there is going to be no one in the future.

"As I look at the church today the most urgent and worrying gap is in young people's work. So many churches have no ministry to young people and that means they have no interest in the future.

"We have to give cogent reasons to young people why the Christian faith is relevant to them. For most of us, our hearts were touched when we were young and that precious touch we should not hold from our young people."

He added: "The viewpoint could be expressed in a variety of non-verbal ways: the shrug of indifference, the rolled eyes of embarrassment, the yawn of boredom.

"So many people do not see the average church as a place where great things happen. To sit in a cold church looking at the back of other peoples' heads is surely not the best place to meet exciting people and to hear prophetic words."

Carey's warming echo Baroness Warsi's recent fears that Christianity will soon be "driven to extinction" in the Middle East.

Warsi, the government's minister for faith and communities, claimed that Christians were being driven out of countries where the religion first took root, such as Iraq and Syria, by being targeted for "collective punishment" for the actions of Western powers.

"There are parts of the world today where to be a Christian is to put your life in danger. From continent to continent, Christians are facing discrimination, ostracism, torture, even murder, simply for the faith they follow," she said.

She added: "Tragically, what's happening is they are being seen as newcomers, being portrayed as an 'other' within that society, even though they have existed there for many, many centuries."