Thinking Anglicans

"Increase in ministry numbers is necessary and achievable"

Updated to add press reports

The Church of England has released two related reports on clergy numbers today, one looking back at the actual numbers from 1949 to 2014, and one looking at projections of numbers up to 2035. There is this cover note to the two reports:

Cover note: Ordained Vocations Statistics report and Ministry Statistics in focus: Stipendiary clergy projections

and a press release.

Increase in ministry numbers is necessary and achievable, report shows

Dioceses have responded to the call to work towards a 50% increase in candidates for ordination with new posts and new procedures. A review of numbers in ordained ministry over the last 67 years shows that the 50% increase in candidates for ministry by 2020 agreed by the General Synod in February, 2015, is needed to stabilise and increase the numbers ministering in parishes, chaplaincies and new forms of church.

The Church of England is seeking to increase by half the numbers training for ordained ministry and to sustain those numbers for a decade: an increase from about 500 to 750 by 2020. At the same time, the Church is also seeking greater diversity among those training for ministry. This will better reflect the communities where the Church is working, in terms of age, gender and ethnic and social background. The 50% increase is an aspiration and not a limit if more candidates come forward and dioceses require more new clergy…

The full press release is copied below the fold.

The cover note includes links to the two reports, but for convenience here they are.

Ordained Vocations Statistics 1949-2014

Ministry Statistics in focus: Stipendiary clergy projections 2015-2035

The cover note also includes links to a report for each of the 42 dioceses. In each case it comprises the Ordained Vocations Statistics report with diocesan data at the end.

Press reports

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church of England seeks more black and minority ethnic clergy

Gavin Drake Anglican Communion News Service Church of England needs 50 per cent increase in ordinands

Hannah Tooley Premier Church pledges to increase numbers of vicar training places by half

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today CofE desperate for more young women and ethnic minorities to hear the call of God

John Bingham The Telegraph Race to save a much-loved British endangered species (the local vicar)

Increase in ministry numbers is necessary and achievable, report shows
20 September 2016

Dioceses have responded to the call to work towards a 50% increase in candidates for ordination with new posts and new procedures. A review of numbers in ordained ministry over the last 67 years shows that the 50% increase in candidates for ministry by 2020 agreed by the General Synod in February, 2015, is needed to stabilise and increase the numbers ministering in parishes, chaplaincies and new forms of church.

The Church of England is seeking to increase by half the numbers training for ordained ministry and to sustain those numbers for a decade: an increase from about 500 to 750 by 2020. At the same time, the Church is also seeking greater diversity among those training for ministry. This will better reflect the communities where the Church is working, in terms of age, gender and ethnic and social background. The 50% increase is an aspiration and not a limit if more candidates come forward and dioceses require more new clergy.

The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Andrew Watson, chair of the Ordained Vocations Working Group said, “The aspiration to increase the number of new clergy by 50% is part of a wider vision to release and develop the gifts of the whole people of God.

“It’s encouraging to see most of the dioceses really rising to this challenge, as they reshape their vocations teams and put new and more proactive vocations strategies in place. We are picking up a fresh commitment to ‘pray to the Lord of the Harvest’, along with early reports of an increase in the number of enquiries from potential candidates.”

Encouraging more young men and, especially, young women, as well as more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) worshippers to consider ordination will help the Church of England hit its aspiration of an extra 50% new clergy each year, according to a report on ordained vocations statistics published today. The Church is not just looking for an increase in numbers but also a growth in diversity. Dioceses have said that ministry in the future needs to embody the diversity in the Church and the nation to realise the hopeful future at the heart of Renewal and Reform.

The statistical review to help dioceses plan for the future shows that, while similar numbers of men and women are being recommended for ordination training each year, women are testing their vocations at a later age and tend to retire sooner than the men. Currently, women recommended for training are, on average, significantly older than the men recommended. The majority of younger paid clergy are men, while, among older clergy, more are women. The Church is encouraging women to test their vocations younger.

Hitting the extra 50% aspiration is not just a matter of recommending more people for training. The Church is looking for more people with the right gifts who have a vocation to ordained ministry. It is calling on all worshippers to consider what God is calling them to in the expectation that additional people will step forward to a variety of lay and ordained vocations.

The figures also show that the proportion of BAME candidates recommended for training is lower than the BAME proportion in the population. As part of the push for more candidates for ordination, the Church will be aiming for a greater diversity among its clergy, in terms of ethnic and social background, to reflect the communities where it looks to grow God’s church.

An accompanying projections report shows the effect of changes that will flow from increased numbers. The age profile of the clergy would become much flatter as numbers increase, reducing the risk associated with large numbers approaching retirement.

The projections (Figure 10 and Table 4) illustrate a steady decline in the total pool of clergy if the current trends in ordinations and retirements continue (status quo scenario). Clergy delaying retirement by a year (retirements 1 year later scenario) would help slow the rate of decline in numbers but cannot prevent it. Reaching the aspiration of a 50% increase in ordinations (ordinations 50% increase levels sustained scenario), would provide a stable pool of around 7,600 FTE clergy. If the rise is only a temporary peak and ordinations fall again to current levels gradually after 2023 then the pattern of decline will return (ordinations rise and fall scenario).

Alongside these reports, each diocese will receive a parallel report of its own statistics. Dioceses will then use these to plan their own strategy for increasing vocations to the priesthood, in the full knowledge of where they are doing well and where they are doing less well. As dioceses develop their own plans, the national aims will develop accordingly.

Currently, around 500 candidates for ordained ministry are recommended for training each year. By 2020, it is hoped to increase this number to around 750, including a substantial increase in the numbers of young candidates and in the diversity of their backgrounds.

As well as the overall numerical increase the Church is seeking to:

Increase the proportion of younger ordinands so that half of those recommended for stipendiary ministry are under 32

Increase the proportion of women among the ordinands under 32 to about half of the total

Increase the percentage of ordinands who identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic towards the same proportion as in the general population in England (15%).

Progress in these areas will be monitored and reported annually, along with a review of the Church of England’s deployment needs.

Other priority areas will be developed in response to the needs of the dioceses and national deployment. There are four current areas for such additional priorities. They are:

An increase in the number of pioneer ministers

An increase in lay ministers to serve alongside ordained ministers

The encouragement of the vocations of all people, including how people live out their faith in daily life

The encouragement of vocations in religious life.

Notes

The Ordained Vocations Statistics Report and the Ministry Statistics in focus projections report can be read in full via the links in the cover note here.

Read the blog here.

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David RuncornFather DavidBrian RalphTim ChestertonKate Recent comment authors
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DBD
Guest

Well, then they may start with the half-a-dozen of my friends who felt called to both marriage and ministry and were forced to choose.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Yes, DBD. And what modern woman would allow her girls to go to a church, or a diocese with a bishop, that won’t ordain women?

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

“At the same time, the Church is also seeking greater diversity among those training for ministry. This will better reflect the communities where the Church is working, in terms of age, gender and ethnic and social background.”

Arun : “Do you think anyone’ll notice I didn’t mention the gays or people with disabilities?”

Justin : “I think you got away with it.”

Revd Ellen M Barrett
Guest
Revd Ellen M Barrett

One would hope that the ‘big push’ to swell the numbers of clergy would not further lower the apparent quality of their education in such matters as Scripture and its various schools of interpretation, theology, church history, and liturgics. My experience of recent ordinands shows many of them to be woefully ignorant of all of the above and a reluctance to learn. My sincere apologies to all recent ordinands who did value and attend to these things.

Anne
Guest
Anne

I have resisted commenting until now. I find this push for more ordained people very sad. How about offering training to lay people? And even allowing them to use their God given gifts? As a lay woman I feel marginalised and ignored. I take your point, Ellen Barrett about the absurdity of the current position and the choice some of us have to make between marriage and ordained ministry and the lack of opportunity for those of us who are differently abled. I was part of a congregation when the incumbent tried to improve access with a ramp. He was… Read more »

Fr John E. Harris-White
Guest
Fr John E. Harris-White

Am I missing something, or isn’t it God who calls us to the Priesthood, not a sales person or committee. What happened to those days of prayer for vocations to the priesthood, and the religious life. Is that like the sacraments of Holy Unction, and Restoration of a Penitent now old hat, and disregarded.
Tomorrow I thank God for the 53rd anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I thank God for those who have prayed for me, and others that lead us to say yes to God. Be it unto me according to Thy will.

american piskie
Guest
american piskie

I have to say that I think that the Holy Father in Rome is more realistic, and that in a few words gets to the heart of the matter: “He […] said bishops must not get caught up in a game of numbers with vocations, but focus more on quality and forming mature priests, who are not slaves to their personal vices and weaknesses.”

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

Whilst I have some sympathy with the objective of maintaining clergy numbers at a certain level, I have profound misgivings about a 50% increase, especially if the bulk of this number is to be stipendiary. The Church simply cannot afford it if current projections of declining attendance are realised, and I simply do not believe assertions that more clergy will result in higher rates of attendance. Only [deluded] higher clergy suffering a certain rigidity of thought and their lay little-sir-echoes could possibly believe otherwise. Ellen Barrett has rightly noted the importance of quality over quantity. It has been my experience… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

The 50% increase is in the number of ordinands per year, not in the total number of clergy.so from about 500 to about 750.

Kate
Guest
Kate

A fantastic set of comments but I would add there’s no need for someone ordained to lead sacraments either.

June B Butler
Guest
June B Butler

Laurence Cunningham said it well. The announcement of new procedures to attract more candidates to ordination are laughable in view of the fact that ordained clergy who are married to partners of the same sex are not permitted to serve in ministry by certain bishops. Also, one friend who was recently ordained to the priesthood in the C of E had numerous obstacles and delays placed in his path, enough to discourage a less determined candidate. I think of another friend, not yet ordained, faced with the same types of obstacles and delays for reasons mysterious to me, because both… Read more »

David Keen
Guest
David Keen

One detail in the stats is that at present, ordinations outnumber retirements and deaths, yet clergy numbers are falling. Why? because ‘other leavers’ (leaving parish ministry to go to chaplaincies, other non-parochial roles, or leaving ministry altogether), outnumber both, at roughly 300 a year. Half of this number rejoin parish ministry every year, but worryingly 90-100 clergy drop off the radar completely.

If we did a better job at support and retention of clergy, this might have a big impact on the projections.

Helen King
Guest
Helen King

On lay ministry, we still await the R&R report in November – https://www.churchofengland.org/renewal-reform/renewing-discipleship-ministry/lay-ministry.aspx

Leon
Guest
Leon

So, very simply there are 250 people a year who currently make a rational decision not to get ordained and who need to be persuaded to make a different decision (actually more than that as the number of people who want to get ordained but fail to get selected will presumably increase too) Broadly, these 250 people might be grouped into 2 categories; those who would be suitable for ordination now (both in their own eyes and the eyes of the church) but incorrectly believe they won’t be, and those that wouldn’t be suitable now. To give some clarity to… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Kate, your anti-clerical prejudice is showing itself – yet again. This is the Church of England not congregationalism. Laity have their proper and honourable place – but ordination is necessary for sacramental grace to be invoked. However, marketung the vocation to priesthood as a ‘numbers game’, seems quite the wrong way to encourage priestly vocations.

Malcolm Dixon
Guest
Malcolm Dixon

Whilst acknowledging the correction from Simon, I share Froghole’s concern over the affordability of this scheme. It may be deemed to be necessary and achievable but that isn’t enough. As Froghole says, there is clearly the underlying assumption that having more clergy (than we would have had without this scheme) will automatically result in greater attendances and financial contributions, but the evidence for this is limited and highly questionable. If this assumption does not in fact come to pass, this scheme will saddle our ageing and declining congregations with an even greater burden. Several dioceses, including my own, are already… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Kate, your anti-clerical prejudice is showing itself – yet again. This is the Church of England not congregationalism. Laity have their proper and honourable place – but ordination is necessary for sacramental grace to be invoked.” And the Biblical basis for that is? Because Christ didn’t say, “find yourself a priest and do this in remembrance of me” but simply, “do this in remembrance of me”. Just because something is the teaching of the church doesn’t make it inalienably true, otherwise there would be no discussion on same sex marriage. Indeed the Bible suggests that any occasion on which we… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Just want to speak up in support of Kate’s view here. With regard to my friend Father Ron’s comments, it is often noted on this site that Christ said nothing about homosexuality. Indeed. He also said nothing about the question of who presides at the Eucharist.

Brian Ralph
Guest
Brian Ralph

I have a close friend, indeed we have been friends since university days in the 1960’s. He is a member of the Uniting Church of Australia (formed from Methodist, Congregational and some Presbyterians). In his retirement he has become a lay minister in his church and is allowed to preside at Communion services. I am happy for him but such a service would be meaningless to me. I would prefer to join him for a cup of coffee or a full glass of wine and something more substantial than a piece of bread or thin wafer. Although brought up in… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

With this proposed increase in ordinands of 50% – does that mean we shall soon be seeing the reopening of one of the many Theological Colleges that have been closed in recent decades?

David Runcorn
Guest

Tim and Kate. Actually there is no one pattern of any kind of ministry in the NT is there? Nor is there much of a clue as to what services looked like in NT churches, what they included and who led them. So I am not sure Kate has any more grounds for her own radical vision of Christian ministry than she does for denying what she sees in the church today and plainly does not like.