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Most major New Zealand Christian denominations have fewer members than they did in 1996, according to the 2001 Census.

Apart from the Catholic and Adventist churches, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Brethren, Salvation Army, Pentecostal, Churches of Christ and Uniting/Union churches all declined in numbers, marginally or significantly, since the 1996 census.

The total number of Christians, including “other” Christian, Asian Christian, Jehovah’s Witness and Latter-day Saints is approximately two million, down by almost 100,000 since 1996. Jehovah’s Witness and Latter-day Saints comprise 57,738 of the total.

Those who coded “no-religion” were approximately one million, up 160,000 since 1996 and 350,000 since 1991.

239,244 objected to stating their religion.

Since 1996, the total number of Catholics increased by approximately 13,000, but is still down by about 12,600 when compared to 1991 figures.

There was a drop of 25,500 Catholics in the 1996 census.

Females in the Catholic church show the biggest growth since 1996, although there were a similar number of females in 1991.

Catholic males have not surpassed 1991 statistics of 238,644.

In 2001, the total number of Catholics is 486,012, still short of 1991 figures.

Adventist churches were the only other denomination to increase from 1996, up slightly by approximately 170, but still losing 807 members since 1991.

Anglicans make up the biggest share of Christians with 584,793 adherents, down from 1991 by 147,255.

Religious affiliation is the self-identified association of a person with a religion, denomination or sub-denominational religious group.

There were changes in some categories since the 1996 census, with Evangelical, a separate item in 1996, now paired with Born Again and Fundamentalist streams.

In 1996, Fundamentalist responses were coded in a category called Christian “not further defined”.

In 2001, Christian (nfd) is stand-alone. Not further defined is used in responses containing insufficient detail to be classified to the most detailed level of a classification. 192,165 people responded as Christian (ndf) in 2001.

Pentecostal numbers fell by 2094. However, this may be due to Pentecostal becoming a separate category in 2001. Born again responses had previously been coded with Pentecostal, which was not the case in 2001.

There is also an increase in non-Christian religions, probably due to increasing immigration since 1996. Hindu, Islamic and Spiritualist religions all rose over 50%, with Islam increasing by 74%. Buddhism rose by 48%.

One in fifteen people are of Asian ethnicity, the growth rate doubling between 1991 and 2001.

There has been a large increase in New Zealand residents born in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and 100% increase in those from China since 1996.

Detailed census results were first made available on February 28, 2002.

Source: Statistics New Zealand

[First published Challenge Weekly, 2002]

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