Ministry Statistics published September 2017

The Church of England has published statistics relating to those in authorised (mostly ordained) ministry this week. Headlines have focused on the increases in numbers of ordinands starting training this year, and in particular the increase in women being accepted for training, and the higher proportion of young ordinands.

WATCH welcomes both of these statements, but has some questions to ask.

We have been told:

  1. The number of women entering training has increased by 19% (2016, 231 women began training; in 2017 the number was 274). ie 43 more women began training in 2017.
  2. The overall number of ordinands beginning training in 2017 is 544 (an increase of 14% on 2016)

and women slightly outnumber men this year (274 women; 270 men)

  1. A higher proportion of this increased number of ordinands is in the youngest age band (under 32). This year, 42 ordinands are in this group.

Questions WATCH would like to ask:

  1. What proportion of women ordinands is in the two younger age bands (under 32, and 32-39)? One of the significant findings from other statistics is that ordained women are in a minority of both stipendiary and non-stipendiary clergy until over the age of 45, so the significant change would be an increase in the proportion of younger female ordinands.
  2. What proportion of women and men have been accepted for training for stipendiary ministry or posts of similar responsibility?
  3. Has the proportion of younger ordinands who are women increased (not just the raw number)? It needs to increase year on year if the imbalance of women and men is to change.

We also wonder why the age bands for counting ordinands entering training are different from the age bands used for those being ordained. It makes direct comparisons impossible.

We are pleased to note that the number of women being recommended for ordination training this year is above the replacement rate for women, so that the number of clergy who are women can be expected to increase. The number of male clergy is decreasing, particularly stipendiary. But unless this year is a step change for women, rather than a blip, the proportion of women being ordained over recent years has been consistently about 40% - which increases their numbers, but does not bring us to half. As women are in a significant minority of ordinands until they are 45 or over, a simple increase in numbers will not change this imbalance.

Figures for those ordained in 2016 have also been released. It is worth noting that in 2016 the number of women (stipendiary and non-stipendiary) being ordained was still fewer than in 2012, the highest figure in the recent tables we have.

There is no change in the pattern of the age of those being ordained. Women ordained to stipendiary roles are significantly outnumbered by men until they reach the age of 45, when they outnumber men in each age-group until the age of 60.

In particular, it is worth noting that while 6 men were ordained in the under 25 age group in 2016, no women were ordained from this age group, and in the 25-29 age group, more than half were male. Among ordinations to SSM posts, women and men were ordained in similar (low) numbers up to the age of 50, and then women remained in a majority in most age groups aged over 50 yrs., 50 % more women than men were ordained.

Women are ordained in roughly equal numbers to stipendiary and SSM title posts, while more than twice as many men are ordained to stipendiary posts than to SSM posts. These differences are at least as significant as the raw numbers of how many men and women have been ordained.