FALLING numbers of stipendiary clergy in the Church of England, reported in the latest statistics, show the urgent need for more ordinations, the Director of Ministry for the Archbishops’ Council, the Ven. Julian Hubbard, has said.
The statistics, released yesterday, reveal that, while the total number of ordained ministers has remained at around 20,500 from 2012 to the end of last year, the number of stipendiary bishops, priests, and deacons fell from 8006 in 2012 to 7661.
The number of stipendiary women clergy has risen slightly every year, but has not offset the decline in numbers of men.
Archdeacon Hubbard said: "The overall picture confirms what is widely known about the challenges we face. While the number of stipendiary ordinations showed a welcome increase between 2012 and 2015, this is not sufficient to redress the gathering effect of clergy retirements predicted over the next ten years."
A quarter of stipendiary clergy are in their sixties or above, and, as they retired, dioceses would feel the pinch, as there were not enough new ordinands coming through yet, Archdeacon Hubbard said. But the "ambitious plans" in the Renewal and Reform programme, to increase ordinations by a half by 2020, showed that the Church was prepared to meet this challenge.
In 2012, women constituted 24 per cent of the stipendiary clergy; by 2015, this figure had risen to 27 per cent.
Among all ordained ministers, the gender divide was only slightly smaller, at 28 per cent women; for those with permission or a licence to officiate it was larger, as 80 per cent of such clergy were men.
Among non-stipendiary (self-supporting) ministers (including ordained local ministers), however, there have been more women than men in every year since 2012. While the number of stipendiary clergy has fallen gradually, the number of NSMs and OLMs has remained steady over the past four years.
These are the first figures released since stipends began to be paid through a new payroll system in 2012, which initially made extracting data more difficult.
While the proportion of female stipendiaries is growing slowly, there has been a more notable increase of women among the archdeacons, deans, and bishops. In 2012, 12 per cent of them were women, but in 2015 they formed 19 per cent, partly because of the passage of the women-bishops legislation in 2014.
The average ages of stipendiary clergy are gradually rising, as the broader UK population ages. In 2012, more clergy were 55 than any other specific age, but by 2015 the commonest age was 58.
Only 13 per cent of parish priests were aged under 40, although this varied widely by diocese: in some areas, only four per cent of parochial clergy were under 40. One diocese, unnamed in the statistics, recorded that 41 per cent of its stipendiary parish clergy were over 60. The age profile for male and female stipendiary clergy is broadly similar.
The proportion of stipendiary clergy from a black or minority-ethnic background rose slightly from three per cent in 2012 to 3.4 per cent last year. But among senior ministers, this figure falls to 2.2 per cent.
The number of ordinations to stipendiary posts has grown since 2012. Last year, the figure was 315, an increase of 21 per cent since 2012. The trend for non-stipendiary posts has been in decline, however: 183 were ordained NSM in 2005, down from 233 three years earlier.
Female stipendiary clergy were on average five years older at ordination than men (42 compared with 37).
The number of lay ministers in 2015 has also been published. As of 31 December, there were 9000 people in active lay ministry, 51 per cent of whom were men.