Thinking Anglicans

Ministry Statistics 2016

The Church of England has released its Ministry Statistics 2016, and an accompanying press release which is copied below. There is also a fact sheet on the number of ordinands entering training this year.

Number of women in ordained ministry at record high
27 September 2017

The number of people entering training to become priests in the Church of England is at the highest level for a decade with women making up more than half the total, according to new figures released today.

A total of 544 men and women are starting training for ordained ministry this autumn (known as ordinands), an increase of 14% on last year and the highest figure for 10 years, according to statistics from the Ministry Division of the Church of England.

Women make up more than half of those entering training, or 274 ordinands, the biggest intake of female ordinands for a decade, and an increase of 19% compared to last year. At the same time, the number of younger ordinands, in the under 32 age group, rose by nearly two fifths, and now accounts for 28% of the total.

The figures, covering the period from 2008 to 2017, are published alongside Ministry Statistics for 2016 showing the number of women serving in ordained ministry in the Church of England rose by 7% from 5,310 in 2013, to a record high of 5,690 last year.

However women still make up less than a third, or 29%, of the total number of active clergy. The annual statistics also show a fall of just over 2% in the number of serving clergy from 20,020 in 2013 to 19,550 in 2016, reflecting an increase in the numbers of clergy reaching retirement age.

The number of clergy in paid positions fell by 4% during the same period, from 8,120 in 2013 to 7,790 in 2016. The proportion of clergy in paid positions from black and minority ethnic communities remained largely unchanged in 2016, at 3.5%.

The figures have been released as the Church of England steps up efforts to increase the number of candidates for ordination by 50% by 2020 as part of the Renewal and Reform programme, with an emphasis on increasing the number of women and the youthfulness and ethnic diversity of candidates for ordination.

Director of the Church of England’s Ministry Division, Julian Hubbard, said: “The increase in numbers of those called to serve as clergy reflects a great deal of hard work, especially in the dioceses and local churches, but also the persistent and dedicated prayers of many in the churches both during the post-Easter prayer campaign for vocations and throughout the year. We are thankful for God’s generosity and goodness shown in the gifts we have been given.

“We are mindful, however, that significant work still remains to be done to improve the age profile, gender and ethnicity of our clergy to better reflect the makeup of our congregations and the wider population. We continue to seek prayers and support for this to be achieved.”

Mike Eastwood, Director of the Renewal and Reform programme, said:
“The overwhelming majority of the work of Renewal and Reform is about encouraging and inspiring the church at parish and diocesan level in its work of evangelism, mission and fostering vocations to lay and ordained ministry and leadership.

“We hope that these figures published today will inspire us all and remind us of what still needs to be done towards fulfilling our goal of providing a hopeful future for the Church of England in which we can once again become a growing church for all people in all places.”


Ministry Statistics 2016, and commentary can be found here.

Figures for ordinands can be found here


  • Charles Read says:

    So four bishops looking after less than 4% of parishes…

  • Neil Patterson says:

    There are 111 bishops, according to the stats so that seems not unreasonable.

  • I presume, Charles, that you are referring to Extended Episcopal Ministry as reported on page 22 of the main PDF report.

    The stats there are loaded with caveats, but it would be good if more accurate figures could be obtained. I hope further efforts to do so will be made. I suspect the total of 447 parishes is an underestimate of parishes that have sought and obtained EEM, and there are of course numerous parishes that have not done so because their diocesan was, or is, a non-ordainer of women as priests.

    Two of the seven bishops listed on that page (Wakefield, Burnley) are of course normal suffragan/area bishops who have very substantial responsibilities beyond those parishes seeking EEM from them. I’m less clear about the other diocesan responsibilities of Fulham.

    The original three PEVs each have a substantial number of parishes to care for, spread over a very large geographical area, and I don’t see how that task could possibly be undertaken by fewer PEVs. The more recently appointed Bishop of Maidstone’s number will no doubt increase as time goes by.

  • Will Richards says:

    With opinions like Charles Read’s doing the rounds, mutual flourishing the place of minorities in the C of E has a great future.

  • Charles Read says:

    Will, you don’t know what my opinion is, but it includes this: we have made generous provision for those who feel unable to receive the ministry of ordained women.

  • paul says:

    would be interesting to see the breakdown of age profile by gender and see whether the historic trend of younger men/older women has changed

  • FrDavidH says:

    It was predicted long ago that the ministry would eventually become a female profession like nursing, where it will become more difficult to attract men. Perhaps these statistics show the beginning of this prediction.

  • Cathy says:

    Paul, the data is there on page 8 of the report. It does not look like the historical position has changed – still younger men and older women. Maybe due to a lack of role models (still so very few senior women in the C of E)

    I hope, FrDavidH, you’re not implying that is a bad thing? It’s just the pendulum swinging back.
    The current trend is towards more men in nursing.

  • Simon Dawson says:

    “It was predicted long ago that the ministry would eventually become a female profession like nursing, where it will become more difficult to attract men” – FrDavidH

    And will it become/Is it already very much like nursing, in that a significant number of those men who are attracted into the profession/vocation are gay?

  • FrDavidH says:

    I think an eventual gender imbalance would be very bad thing, Cathy. The number of male nurses stands at around 11 per cent. If this were replicated in the ministry of the future, it would be very sad.

  • Paul Waddington says:

    It was not clear to me from the mass of statistics how far the CofE has got towards its target of increasing the number of ordinands by 50%. Does anyone know?

  • Role models for girls, Cathy? And what about role models for boys? Primary school teachers mostly women. More women going into parish ministry. But no matter, for soon church and parish and ministry will be but vague memories of the elderly. One could say that the all male priesthood didn’t attract many boys, so clergy gender doesn’t much matter. Life abundant is more easily to be had these days in this culture from social and sports and hobby groups than from churchy stuff. The gym I go to is “church” for many of us. There’s support, companionship, common purpose, mutuality, and no harping on about sin.

  • Perry Butler says:

    I wonder what the gender balance is in the Nordic Churches which have ordained women for much longer than the Church of England.Can anyone help? Might be useful as a pointer to future trends.

  • FrDavidH says:

    Nine years ago this article in The Local (Sweden) showed a similar trend to women’s ordination in today’s CofE.

  • It would be good if we men could take responsibility for our own contemporary social and vocational challenges without speaking negatively about/blaming women for what is happening.

  • Mark Bennet says:

    It seems to me that women have been partially filling gaps which would otherwise have been catastrophic on current models of ministry and have enabled the church (including traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals, but the rest of us too) to duck some existential challenges. Some in our church feel these things – “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold” – I think it will take a movement of the Spirit rather than human endeavour, or co-option of the Spirit to human programmes or human imagination to shape the future of the church in England.

  • FrDavidH says:

    I tend towards the view taken by Fr Monkhouse that gym membership is more meaningful to many than the CofE. I also can’t understand why gay men would still be attracted to an organisation that discriminates against them (as Simon Dawson, above) suggests. I suspect that, just as the majority of congregations are mainly women, the ministry will become a female vocation. A Church run by women FOR women.

  • Mr Runcorn, I agree. I do my best to encourage men to become primary school teachers. And nurses. And doctors (men are now outnumbered in many medical schools by women). And medical academics. I tend these days to be silent about encouraging them towards ordination.

  • Mark Bennet says:

    FrDavidH The majority of churchgoers in the Church of England have been women for a long time, I think – well before women could be ordained. There have always been majority male enclaves (and since people experience the church through the lens of the part they attend, and tend to extrapolate the whole from their own experience, this gives some people distorted views of the whole church). Since the stats show that ordinations over the last few years have been essentially 40% women to 60% men, I am not sure that your fears are grounded in accurate analysis of data.

  • FrDavidH says:

    The Church of Sweden – headed by a partnered gay woman – has been ordaining female priests for over 50 years. The majority of parish priests are now women. I believe this trend will eventually appear in the CofE despite what may be extrapolated from statistics.

  • Perry Butler says:

    Dear FrDavidH..the Archbishop of Uppsala is a woman, but she is married to a man. I think you are thinking about the Bishop of Stockholm.

  • FrDavidH says:

    Yes Perry. Thank you for the correction.

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