C of E in ageing clergy crisis with 25% of ministers aged over 60
The Church of England is facing a growing crisis of ageing* clergy, with a quarter of its ministers aged over 60.
Although the number of people being ordained has increased in the past four years, new figures published by the church show that only 13% of its ministers are under the age of 40.
“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 10 years,” said Julian Hubbard, the C of E’s director of ministry. “With 25% of stipendiary clergy aged 60 or over, at present rates of ordination this trend will have a material and growing impact on the number of those available to serve in ordained roles across the dioceses.”
The figures also show that the C of E clergy continue to be overwhelmingly white and male. Despite efforts to increase the representation of black and ethnic minority people in the church, the proportion only rose from 3% to 3.4% in the four years up to 2015.
The proportion of female clergy has increased by only three percentage points over the period, from 24% in 2012 to 27% in 2015. The number of women in senior positions is less than one in five.
“The statistics on the age and ethnicity of clergy show that we still have some way to go to ensure that the whole cohort fully reflects the demographics of the wider community,” said Hubbard.
The shortage of ministers has required some paid clergy to take on additional roles, with 29% taking on the duties of at least one other job, and sometimes multiple other jobs. The figure was likely to be an underestimate, the church said. It is concerned about the increasing load on paid clergy and is placing more emphasis on greater involvement and responsibility for lay leaders within parishes and dioceses.
Mike Eastwood, director of the church’s Renewal and Reform programme, said its aim was “not a top-down project to fix the church, but a narrative of local hope in God shared throughout the church. As part of Renewal and Reform, we are currently consulting on how we better release the gifts of all Christian leaders in church and wider society, whether ordained or not.”
Overall there were 20,440 ordained clergy in the C of E last year, compared to 20,650 in 2012. The total number of paid clergy fell from 8,006 in 2012 to 7,661 last year.
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