Thinking Anglicans

Ministry Statistics 2017

Updated Tuesday to add Church Times report

The Church of England has today issued its Ministry Statistics 2017 and a report on vocations. There is an accompanying press release, Growing numbers of young people train as priests, which starts:

Growing numbers of young people are seeking ordination to the priesthood, as the Church of England makes progress towards achieving a key target of recruiting more candidates for ordained ministry, according to new figures published today.

The number of people aged under 32 years old recommended for training for ordination this year rose by nearly a third, or 32%, to 169, compared to 128 in 2016, a report on vocations from the Church of England shows. This means nearly one in three, or 29%, of those entering training for the priesthood this year are expected to be under 32 years old.

The overall number of people recommended for ordination training is up 7% on last year, from 541 to 580. This follows a 14% increase the year before, putting the Church on course to achieving a key target of recruiting 50% more candidates for ordination by 2020.

The figures have been published alongside Ministry Statistics for 2017 showing just over 20,000 active clergy in the Church of England, with women making up nearly a third, or 30% of the total. But the number of clergy in paid positions in 2017 fell by 50 from 7,790 to 7,740 compared to 2016.

Nearly a quarter, or 23% of paid clergy in senior posts, such as Bishops, Cathedral Deans or Archdeacons were women in 2017, compared to 12% in 2012.

Meanwhile the vocations report shows that women are set to be the majority entering ordination training for the second year running, with 54% of this year’s recommended candidates being female.

Press reports

Harriet Sherwood The Observer Young people hear the call to rejuvenate ageing priesthood

Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Rising numbers of women opt for priesthood as a second career

Madeleine Davies Church Times Ministry vocations rise again, though overall figures remain sobering

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Angusian
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Angusian

Hurrah! Finally the tide is turning and the recognition of vocations among young ordinands is being recognized. The policy of deferring training until bright, enthusiastic candidates have had ‘ more experience’ has led to a church ministered to by an increasing number of older men and women who, for the most part, assume their professional experience and competence can be transferred directly to ministry. While in some cases this has been successful, the church has been short changed by a selection policy which has not taken risks or been aware of changing patterns of career development and has failed to… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

Figure 9 of the report deserves careful attention. It shows a remarkable age/gender interaction. There is a strong preponderance of men among younger ordinands; on the other hand women dominate in the 40 to 60 age range. This suggests that it will be a very long time until we get gender equality, because the women ordinands will have shorter careers. Also if a younger male ordinand in training looks around for his age peer group, it will be predominantly male. Unlike in most other professions nowadays. A good target would be to seek to recruit equal numbers of men and… Read more »

Anon
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Anon

The gender/age interaction is a key issue that persists but just often gets ignored. For that reason, I have mixed feelings about this press release. It’s good news that there is a rise in the number of younger ordinands. But in my own experience as a ‘young vocation’ (female, under 32 years) I experienced first-hand the issue that underlies why there are so few younger women. I was told that there was no support for maternity leave during training. Even though I didn’t / don’t have children, on the basis of being a ‘young woman’ I was discouraged from training… Read more »

David Emmott
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David Emmott

‘There was also some less-than-subtle pressure to offer myself as a full-time self-supporting / non-stipendiary minister because I have a ‘husband with a job’. I just let out an unprintable expletive! That is totally unacceptable and yet another thing that makes me wonder why anybody living in the 21st century would want to bother with such an archaic institution.

Anon 2
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Anon 2

Yes absolutely right, anon. I’m afraid the C of E as a whole – from parish, to diocese, to national – has a long way to go before it properly supports women clergy who are hoping to raise a family. Actually it can be pretty tough when the clergyparent is a male as well, but I expect it’s much, much tougher for women. As well as the institutional issues you mention, when you get in the parishes you often find that the local ‘power brokers’ are active retired….faithful servants, often delightful, but 2 generations older than you, who’ve oftem forgotten… Read more »

Concerned
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Concerned

This will probably be unpopular… The marvellous thing about statistics is that they can be used to tell whatever story you want. Whilst the headline story focusses on the increased number of ordinands under 32 accepted for training, the full Ministry Statistics figures tell a slightly different story. If (young) age is supposed to be a magical panacea that will fix the Church of England, why no comment that the average age for starting training in 2017 (41.6) was almost exactly the same, in fact slightly higher, than the average age (41.5) for starting training in 2013? The obsession with… Read more »

Anon
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Anon

I don’t think employment (at least, in many workplaces) is good preparation for respecting those in authority. Many organisations now work with flat hierarchical or matrix structures, with more transparency and openness etc. Certainly in professional roles, the expectation is that there is some sort of two-way dialogue rather than straightforward deference to authority. If anything, more experience of other organisations (across sectors) makes it more challenging to adapt. Maybe this is partly why there is this shift… if you catch people young enough, they’ll never know any different and be easier to influence/control?

Andrea Middleton
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Andrea Middleton

Well said….

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

Concerned: It’s a lazy jibe to suggest that “statistics can be used to tell whatever story you want”. In fact your own post contradicts that. You’ve gone back to the full report and read it in detail. I have no knowledge of the internal way this particular report was published but my previous experience suggests that the report itself was compiled by the highly professional Research and Statistics Department at Church House, but the press release was written by the comms department. The latter has form in misunderstanding statistics (if you are generous) or misrepresenting them (if you are not)—an… Read more »

RosalindR
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RosalindR

Anon’s experience is reflected in this recently published report (but which did not get the same publicity as these statistics) which is a piece of reserach following on from LIz Gravelling’s report. In the context of the signficant age/gender imbalance in ordinands, it is worth reading, particularly3.2,3.7 and 4.3
https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-08/Larger%20Churches%20TRIG%20report.pdf

This is Liz Graveling’s report. https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-10/clergy_leading_large_churches.pdf

TRIG (Transformations Implmentaton and Research Group) has some good reports but hidden deep on the c of E website!!

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

Many thanks for that most interesting reference. I went back to the Westminster Faith Debates data and found that in the under 32 cohort, among those identifying as Anglicans, 64% are female. (In older age groups the figure is around 54%.) Combining this with the statistics we are discussing shows that a young Anglican man is three times as likely to go forward for ordination than a young Anglican woman.

Anon 2
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Anon 2

Thanks, Rosalind – very helpful reports that draw out a lot of issues, not least what a fraught area the whole area of balancing family and ministry responsibilities can be. I can well see why women prefer to stay in lay church-based roles for longer – more chances for part-time work, fewer problems with maternity leave (at least in principle), and, candidly, lay roles are covered more by employment law, unlike the dark areas of clergy T & Cs.

Anon
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Anon

Thank you for the links!

Paul Waddington
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Paul Waddington

The press release seems to enthuse about the increase in the number of younger candidates and the increased proportion of female candidates. Yes, younger candidates should be welcomed, but why the euphoria about women? Many question the validity of women priests, and, given their unacceptability in some parishes, there must be doubt whether women priests are as useful to the CofE as their male counterparts.

Anon
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Anon

‘Many question the validity of women priests…’ Only 4.4% of parishes have passed resolution(s) (see Table 25). If it’s anything like in my local area, the congregations of resolutions parishes hold mixed views. In some cases, the majority of the congregation accept the validity of women’s orders and would be happy to have a priest who is a woman but the resolutions are in place to hold the community together under an uneasy settlement. (For balance, I acknowledge that I’m aware of non-resolutions parishes where there may be a very small minority of the congregation who struggle to accept the… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

The clear position of the Church of England has agreed is that there should be no discrimination between men and women at any level, except in the case of “resolution” parishes for which there is particular provision. [I might say that I’ve been personally impressed at the way “resolution” clergy are often strongly supportive of their female colleagues in other parishes. That has included clergy who subsequently joined the Ordinariate.] Whether or not we like the “dual integrity” system, it is clearly intended to maintain the maximum mutual respect between those who hold the view Mr Waddington expresses [in the… Read more »

Will Richards
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Will Richards

The elephant in the room here, of course, is the en passant acknowledgement by the Ministry Division that incumbency is one path among many for those ordained in the Church of England, coupled to the recognition that is incumbency is becoming more demanding. Here is the rub. A rise in the number of younger people being recommended for training will not necessarily cash-out as each serving parishes for 30+ years, which will create another set of recruitment challenges. These figures need to be seen alongside those that indicate the rate at which clergy are leaving parochial ministry, either for ‘sector’… Read more »

PaulWaddington
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PaulWaddington

The most curious feature of the Ministry Statistics is contained in Table 19, but not referred to in the text. Apparently about 70 have left stipendary ministry for reasons unknown. Not for undisclosed reasons, but for unknown reasons. They have not retired, died or taken up some other form of ministry, as these categories are accounted for separately. Can anyone speculate where these people have disappeared to?

Anon 2
Guest
Anon 2

The info comes from the Church Commissioners so it will be clergy who have come off the payroll but haven’t moved somewhere else in the ‘system’ or left any obvious ‘forwarding details’ in any exit process. Basically it looks like a catch-all for people who’ve found other jobs/roles and left any active C of E ministry. For those changing career one obvious destination is teaching, but funeral directing can be quite popular I’ve heard. Also other organisational leadership roles, charity sector, going back to previous careers etc. Some clergy, especially women I imagine, might take a break to look after… Read more »