By John Martin

In the 1980s young people in their twenties signalling they had a call to ordained ministry in the Church of England were routinely told to go away to gain experience in the wider world. The trouble was most of them never came back, and now the Church of England appears to be paying for this policy.

There is a significant age gap among C of E clergy; a quarter of its ministers are over 60 and are due to retire within the next five years. New figures published by the church show that only 13 percent of its ministers are under the age of 40.

Julian Hubbard, the C of E’s director of ministry, said the church experienced a welcome increase in recruitment between 2012 and 2015, but this is not enough to make up for the acute effect of clergy retirements in the next decade.

Commenting on BBC radio, vicar Rose Wilkin-Hudson welcomed the situation, saying it would end the domination of white middle class men in ministry. However, C of E clergy remain overwhelmingly white and male. Efforts to boost recruitment among black and minority people is moving forward slowly. The proportion rose from 3 percent to 3.4 percent between 2011-2015.

Recruitment of women has levelled out, too. It grew by just three percentage points from 24 percent in 2012 to 27 percent in 2015. 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 345 last year.

Peter Ould, a trained statistician and non-stipendiary minister based in Canterbury, said, “If we continue attracting the same number of ordinands over the next twenty years, we will still be almost 1,000 clergy down.”

Also in the Church of England:

Greening God’s Acre

Churchyards in England cover an area equivalent to “a small national park” and together they act as “a huge nature reserve,” blogs David Shreeve the C of E’s national environment adviser. On June 12 the C of E launches Cherishing Churchyards Week.

The project has just published a book featuring almost 40 churchyards to help better understand the relationship with nature in churchyards today.

“Churchyards, like churches, need care and maintenance, but they bring huge benefits and deserve all the cherishing we can give them,” he adds.

Photo: flickr/berknot