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More women deaconed than men in C of E — but ethnic diversity decreases

17 June 2020

Diocese of Rochester

Deacons before their ordination in Rochester Cathedral, in September

Deacons before their ordination in Rochester Cathedral, in September

FOR the first time since 1985, when women were first ordained to the diaconate, more women than men are being ordained in the Church of England. But the Church is a long way off from reaching its ethnic-diversity goals, new figures suggest.

The latest mission statistics, published on Wednesday, show that more than half (51 per cent) of the 570 people who were ordained deacons in 2019 were women (290); this was compared with 47 per cent of the 500 people who were ordained in 2018 (235 women). Of the 550 people who began ordination training in 2019, more than half (54 per cent) were women — similar to the past two years.

The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, who was consecrated as the first female bishop in 2015, said: “Women are now a widely visible presence among clergy in the Church of England — praise God. However, there are still other under-represented groups whose vocations to ordination are being missed.”

While gender diversity among ordinands has gradually increased in recent years, the number of black, Asian, or minority-ethnic (BAME) ordinands who are beginning training has decreased — from 7.9 per cent in 2018 to 7.8 per cent in 2019 (News, Comment 12 June).

People who identified as BAME made up just 3.8 per cent (263) of the 6910 stipendiary clergy listed in 2019, compared with 3.9 per cent (273) of the 6990 listed the previous year. In 2019, just under 70 per cent (4780) of stipendiary clergy were male, compared with just over 70 per cent (4920) in 2018.

Stipendiary clergy make up more than one third (35 per cent) of the almost 20,000 people in ordained ministry in the Church of England in 2019. Most are working full time (91 per cent), of whom 43 per cent are men working in urban settings. The average age of stipendiary clergy was 53.

The remaining pool is made up of 2870 self-supporting or non-stipendiary ministers (NSMs), including ordained local ministers; about 1020 chaplains; about 1010 clergy other posts, such as university lecturers or diocesan officers; and 7370 (largely retired) clergy who have permission to officiate (PTO).

Most clergy with PTO in 2019 were male (5440; 74 per cent) with an average age of 74. The average age of NSMs was 63.

In a similar situation to 2018, about 310 stipendiary clergy retired last year (4.1 per cent), of whom more than one third (37 per cent) were licensed in another ministry by the end of the year; the remaining retirees were expected to take up new ministries by the end of this year. The average age of retirement was 66.

The average age of ordinands was 42 — 45 for men, 38 for women. About one quarter (24 per cent) were younger than 32.

There were 7830 Readers in active ministry in 2019, of whom 4620 were licensed lay ministers, and 3210 had been given PTO. A further 260 entered training that year. Most Readers in 2019, including the 590 in training, were White British; almost two-thirds (57 per cent) were female.

Just 4.3 per cent of all Readers and seven per cent of those in training identified themselves as BAME. Of these, Black or Black British accounted for the largest proportions (3.2 per cent of all Readers; 4.4 per cent of all those in training). Only half the dioceses, however, were able to provide this data.

A statement from the Director of the Ministry Division, the Rt Revd Dr Chris Goldsmith, responding to the latest report, suggested that more work was needed to increase diversity.

“In recent years there has been an increasing diversity among our clergy, but we will not be content until those in public ministry truly reflect the whole church and the communities which they serve.

“For example, the proportion of clergy who are female has increased overall but the growth continues to be slow. Also, although the number of female Bishops has increased, that progress is not yet equally reflected in the number of women in other senior posts within the church such as Archdeacons and Cathedral Deans.”

It continues: “We are not yet seeing sufficient gathering momentum in the number of BAME and younger ordinands and we will continue to focus on all these areas of diversity.”

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