Comments: Church of England Ministry Statistics 2012-2015

"The statistics on the age and ethnicity of clergy show that we still have some way to go to ensure that the whole cohort fully reflects the demographics of the wider community."

How can you 'fully reflect' the demographics of the wider community, if you marginalise lesbian and gay individuals and couples?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 10:05am BST

As this month I reach the age of 64 the Beatles song comes to mind - "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty four?" One quick and easy way to solve the impending problem would be to rescind the compulsory retiring age of 70 for clergy. Problem solved at a stroke. My predecessor in my previous parish was 90, much loved and still batting for the Lord. I look at the gentlemen at B&Q and the "girls" on the checkout tills at Sainsbury's and many of them give the appearance of being well into their seventies. So why not continue to employ those clergy who have reached their Biblical span of "three score years and ten" - how about that for "Reimagining Ministry".

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 12:09pm BST

Just a thought about the small percentage of black priests in the CofE. What is the percentage of black pastors in the pentecostal and evangelical type of church? Judging by some of those fantastic gospel choirs I've seen I wonder if the preference is to these churches rather than the more staid CofE

Posted by Henry Dee at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 2:23pm BST

We often discuss equality and diversity, usually without the benefit of hard evidence. Here we have it and it is damning.

Despite the gender imbalance which needs to be corrected over time, significantly less than 50% of new stipendiary ordinations are female. This is reversed for non-stipendiary positions. In short, men are favoured for paid positions; women are favoured for unpaid ordinations.

That's the least of it though. At least the diversity of the Church in relation to gender and race is important enough to publicise. Disabled and LGBT people are not even on the radar.

There is talk of a shortage of clergy. In my 20s I desired ordination but didn't have a call. Since I think I might have a call but as an LGBT person I am not strong enough to put myself in an environment which institutionally looks down on me.About 5 years ago I applied for a clerical position and it took me a full week to research whether I would have protection against discrimination.

If the Church is remotely serious about diversity it needs to look way beyond race and gender and commit not to rely on any of the exceptions for organised religion in the Equality Act 2010. Until then, many talented people will find other ways to serve the Lord.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 4:36pm BST

It's always struck me as odd that the General Synod decided some years ago that all clergy must retire at 70. It seems either a disingenuous way of using retired clergy 'House for Duty' etc and not paying them, or a mistake when many could easily work on for years - the Roman Catholics don't retire until 75.

Of course all sorts of arguments are put forward by bishops about 'clearing away dead wood' and so on but the secular world no longer has compulsory retirement due to age. Thus far the C of E has managed to dodge statutory requirements of this sort by claiming that clergy are all 'office holders' and not employees. I wonder how long that definition will survive before it is challenged seriously in court?

In any case with only 13% of clergy under 40, retired or not the Church will be running on the ministrations and good will of older priests for some time.

Posted by Nicholas Henderson at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 7:07pm BST

One of the problems in the Church of England is ageism - and I mean the kind directed against young people. I was 27 when I was ordained and there have been times when I've been treated like a child by some people - belittled, described variously as a "baby" or a "twelve-year-old" and had my ability to do my job called into question. If the Church has a vocations problem, it needs to seriously address its attitude to young clergy.

Posted by Nick Nawrockyi at Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 9:36pm BST

I was ordained at 27 as well. What you said, Nick, sounds ever so true. Twenty years later, I try to be very careful not to lecture younger clergy about the spiritual needs of their own generation.

Posted by Lorenzo at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 8:06am BST

"the Roman Catholics don't retire until 75"

Not quite accurate.

R.C. priests are not eligible for a pension until they are seventy-five, so unless they have private means cannot retire until they reach that age. They are not, however, obliged to do so.

In essence, the age seventy-five for R.C, priests is permissive, whereas for Church of England priests seventy is mandatory.

Posted by Dafydd at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 10:41am BST

Maybe the answer to the age thing is to stop stipends at, say 65, but allow people to stay in non-stipendiary ministry. It is a vocation not a job. The stipend can then be used to get a second priest in the parish. Win-win all round.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 5:10pm BST

Following on from my earlier post about black priests. Why not recruit from Africa? The Anglican church is strong there and to take ordinands or ordained from there would revitalise us. I would think that quite a few would take the opportunity to do missionary work here ..quite the reverse. The shrine of our lady at ladyewell now has 2 African rc priests so it does work. Another point is why should we expect that priests would want to continue past 70 when bishops don't even have to reach that age before they retire. We don't have to go past 66 at the moment so who are we to tell

Posted by henry dee at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 5:24pm BST

Has anyone actually tested whether the compulsory retirement age for clergy in the C of E has the force of law? It is illegal to retire people on the grounds of age in other forms of work. People work for as long as they choose unless their competency is shown to have diminished to the point where they can no longer do their job.

I know that the bishops' compulsory retirement age is set in law, but I am not sure that the clergy's is, unless some canon lawyer knows differently.

What happens in the world of work is that many people reduce their hours as they get older and pass 60 or 65, work part-time and taper off their working life until they are ready to stop. Do clergy really need to come to a juddering halt at 70 if they are fit and their congregations and parishes still want them?

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Friday, 3 June 2016 at 11:02pm BST

"Maybe the answer to the age thing is to stop stipends at, say 65, but allow people to stay in non-stipendiary ministry. It is a vocation not a job. The stipend can then be used to get a second priest in the parish. Win-win all round." - Kate

Kate, this is already more than a possibility in ACANZP (New Zealand). However, such a priest (non-stipendiary)can not be expected to 'manage' a larger parish, that usually takes the ministry of a full-time stipendiary priest.

Older clergy, like myself, at 86, can be trusted, for instance, to help facilitate the Daily Masses, but not be responsible for the full parish administration. I believe you already have 'House for Duty" clergy, who are willing to take on that responsibility.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 1:58am BST

I set out my understanding of the law on the retirement age for clergy here:

As stated there the Ecclesiastical Offices (Age Limit) Measure 1975 does not just apply to bishops.

Posted by Peter Owen at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 9:07am BST

"Maybe the answer to the age thing is to stop stipends at, say 65, but allow people to stay in non-stipendiary ministry. It is a vocation not a job. The stipend can then be used to get a second priest in the parish. Win-win all round." - Kate
One of the problems as I see it is that the vocation of a priest is seen by the wider church not as something to be nurtured and thankful for, but as something to be exploited. Clergy are expected to work all hours with little respect for themselves their own needs or those of their families and friends, often with devastating effect on their mental health.
If clergy were treated with more respect and support rather than as an asset to be exploited then maybe there wouldn't be a clergy shortage. This is one of the reasons I left parish ministry. I know there are countless others who have done the same or gone off long term sick or taken early retirement. Clergy are human beings who need professional boundaries and lives of their own too! And I know of retired clergy who have given up in this part of the world because of the way they are treated.

Posted by sjh at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 10:01am BST

Father Ron, I think stipends are being misused. They should only be paid to allow someone to minister who otherwise would have no means of financial support. So once a priest qualifies for state pension for example, then they should be disbarred from receiving a stipend.

The question on at what age a priest should cease to manage a parish should be an entirely separate question based on capability.

Peter, presumably the law could be changed but so far as I can see the measure you linked neither addresses the retirement age of priest nor addresses whether or not a stipend should continue to be paid, just whether the office should continue.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 11:20am BST

sjh, you write as though it is a job. It isn't. It is vocational service.

I don't agree that the emphasis should be on keeping priests in post. I think the Buddhist approach is much better and we should aim for a substantial proportion of church members to spend two or three years as priests. It would mean simplifying the bureaucracy and training so that people could take up the role with just a couple of weeks' training. With the support of a community of former priests to turn to for advice, more shouldn't be needed.

We need to knock priests off their pedestals and make being a priest simply being for a time primus inter pares of a congregation.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 5:52pm BST

The statutory retirement legislation has not been tested in court to my knowledge. Part of the reason for this is the concern for decent pensions and the contractual right to retire at 65. Spending a hundred thousand pounds or so to test something which undermines the need for a dignified old age is not something that anyone is in a hurry to do. On the other hand there is a long term plan to test this in court in 2036 - if the statutory retirement age has not been removed by then in response to the projected declining numbers of stipendiary clergy.

Posted by Adrian Judd at Saturday, 4 June 2016 at 8:41pm BST

These statistics show how the current episcopal selection in the C of E is fairer for women, than it is for Anglicans in the USA , Ireland , New Zealand, Scotland and took 20 years before they had a woman bishop in the Church of Ireland and then because of an impasse.

Posted by robert ian williams at Sunday, 5 June 2016 at 11:11pm BST
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