Churchgoing is down; women and giving are up

15 November 2007

by Pat Ashworth

THREE MILESTONES were recorded in Church of England statistics, released on Tuesday. Average weekly giving rose above £5 a week in 2005; average Sunday attendance fell below one million in the same year; and more women than men were ordained in 2006.

Direct giving to parish churches by electoral-roll members averaged £5.08 a week, while subscribers to tax-efficient schemes gave an average of £8.26 a week.

Sheffield has the highest weekly average per subscriber, at £12.88, closely followed by London (£12.70), Southwark (£12.36), and Guildford (£12.22). Rochester at £10.49 and Birmingham at £10.15 are the only other dioceses to attain double figures. Areas with large rural populations come lowest in the table: Hereford at £4.71, Lincoln at £5.12, Truro at £5.63, and Carlisle at £5.03.

Churchgoers continued to give generously to charitable causes compared with the population at large, said John Preston, the Church’s National Stewardship and Resources Officer. “Average giving to the Church is about three per cent of average incomes, still somewhere short of the five per cent of disposable income recommended by the General Synod since 1978.”

Parochial church councils had a total income of £792 million in 2005, and a total expenditure of £779 million. The figures here show a steady rise: total income stood at £557 million in 1998; £625 million in 2000; £675 million in 2002; and £759 million in 2004. More than £50 million of the total expenditure in 2005 was devoted to charitable giving.

As for vocations, the number of clergy being trained and the numbers being ordained have also gone up. In 2005 594 future clergy were recommended for ordination training, the greatest number for more than a decade. The figure was 408 in 1994.

Of the 478 new clergy ordained in 2006, 244 were women and 234 men, though the majority of the women were ordained to non-stipendiary ministry. Ninety-five women and 128 men were ordained to full-time, stipendiary ministry. Women remained under-represented in senior posts.

The ratio of stipendiary men to women still varies enormously between dioceses. Chichester had 300 men and 16 women in 2006, and Blackburn 209 men and 22 women. Southwell had 35 women clergy out of 125; in Durham, the figure was 37 out of 166; and in Southwark, 71 out of 282.

Attendance figures for this period, included in this week’s package, were released earlier in the year (News, 26 January). They showed a fall of two per cent for Sunday worship — from 1,010,000 in 2004 to 988,000 in 2005. The picture was acknowledged to be mixed, since 15 dioceses saw annual increases in their attendance figures, as well as a dramatic increase in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attendance.

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