The C of E is seeking to increase the number of candidates selected for ordained ministry from around 500 each year to 750. And they are targeting a “substantial increase” in the number of both young, and black and minority ethnic (Bame) ordinands. They say that the increase is both “necessary and achievable.”
The Province’s General Synod called on the Church to work towards a 50 per cent increase in candidates for ordination by 2020 at its meeting in February 2015. The C of E says that the increase “is needed to stabilise and increase the numbers ministering in parishes, chaplaincies and new forms of church.”
“The aspiration to increase the number of new clergy by 50 per cent is part of a wider vision to release and develop the gifts of the whole people of God,” the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, chair of the C of E’s Ordained Vocations Working Group, said. “It’s encouraging to see most of the dioceses really rising to this challenge, as they reshape their vocations teams and put new and more proactive vocations strategies in place.
“We are picking up a fresh commitment to ‘pray to the Lord of the Harvest’, along with early reports of an increase in the number of enquiries from potential candidates.”
Summarising a statistical review published today to help dioceses develop their own plans, a C of E spokesperson said that “while similar numbers of men and women are being recommended for ordination training each year, women are testing their vocations at a later age and tend to retire sooner than the men. Currently, women recommended for training are, on average, significantly older than the men recommended. The majority of younger paid clergy are men, while, among older clergy, more are women. The Church is encouraging women to test their vocations younger.”
Work to increase the number of ordinands follow projections that show a steady decline in the total pool of clergy if the current trends in ordinations and retirements continue. “Clergy delaying retirement by a year would help slow the rate of decline in numbers but cannot prevent it,” the C of E said. “Reaching the aspiration of a 50 per cent increase in ordinations would provide a stable pool of around 7,600 full-time equivalent. If the rise is only a temporary peak and ordinations fall again to current levels gradually after 2023 then the pattern of decline will return.”
In addition to increasing the number of new ordinands, the C of E is also trying to increase the proportion of younger ordinands so that half of those recommended for stipendiary ministry are under the age of 32 – and they want that group to have a 50/50 gender balance. They are also seeking to increase the percentage of Bame ordinands to 15 per cent, to mirror the percentage in the general population.
“Progress in these areas will be monitored and reported annually, along with a review of the Church of England’s deployment needs,” the C of E said.