This week, as Dr George Carey leaves the Archbishopric of Canterbury, a report on the Church of England says that it is “in decline and may die if it fails to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.” Despite its conclusions the report is called Hope for the Church. It was commissioned by the evangelism organisation Springboard, which was set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and written by the Rev Bob Jackson, a former government economic advisor and a parish priest for 20 years, who warns that his report should not be read by Anglicans “of a nervous disposition”.

The Rev Jackson's principal finding is that the Church of England is “in meltdown” with thousands of churches facing closure and many dioceses disappearing by 2030. By then, at the present rate of decline, attendance will be 500'000, less than two thirds of those currently going to church. The report identifies Hull as the worst area in England with 0.7 per cent of the population attending - under half the national average. However, the good news is that in the 1990s attendance at one church in five grew; the report suggests that successful parishes should share their experience with others. For instance, there is an urgent missionary task to bring children into church; for every one hundred in 1930 there are now only nine and, as the report says, “Few adults without a Sunday school background become worshippers in later life”.

No doubt this report has already been placed in Dr Rowan Williams's in–tray, marked “Urgent”.