A census-style survey of more than two million churchgoers in four countries will provide Christians with an unprecedented snapshot of the faith, and a "mission resource" to help church leaders plan for the future, according to the chair of the survey's international steering committee and president-elect of the Uniting Church in Australia, Dean Drayton.

The International Church Life Survey is being distributed in New Zealand, England, the United States, and Australia. The core survey consists of about 50 questions seeking basic information such as age, background and denomination. Critical questions include attitudes to women's role in the church, sexuality, indigenous issues, and understanding of the role of the Bible.

Church members are asked how far they live from their congregation, whether they believe they are growing in their faith, how they have shared their faith with others and how they relate to their church community. Individual congregations and denominations may add questions of their own to the core survey.

The survey was distributed on Sunday, April 29, to about half-a-million respondents in the U.S., and to similar numbers in England. About 850,000 Australians will receive the forms on Sunday, May 20. Between 250,000 and 300,000 New Zealanders will receive their surveys at about the same time.

A total of 17,300 congregations from more than 18 denominations will take part.

The survey is being run by an international committee, which has met three times since 1997 in Australia, the U.S. and England. The Australian survey is being handled by the Uniting Church, Anglicare, and the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference. In New Zealand the Christian Research Association will administer the project, and in England ...

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