Numbers of people entering training for ministry in the Church of England have reached the highest level in a decade, and women now make up more than half the total, according to the church’s Ministry Division.

As a new term begins, 544 men and women are training for ordained ministry, an increase of 14 percent on last year. Among them are 274 women, the biggest class of female ordinands for a decade.

Another positive sign is growth in the number of younger ordinands, in the under-32 age group. They account for 28 percent of the total.

Clergy in paid positions fell by 4 percent during the same period, from 8,120 in 2013 to 7,790 in 2016. The proportion of clergy in paid positions from black and minority ethnic communities remained largely unchanged in 2016, at 3.5 percent.

The growth in numbers reflects attempts by the Church of England to boost the number of candidates for ordination by 50 percent by 2020 as part its Renewal and Reform program. It aims to recruit more women and young people and boost the ethnic diversity of candidates for ordination.

“We are mindful, however, that significant work still remains to be done to improve the age profile, gender and ethnicity of our clergy to better reflect the makeup of our congregations and the wider population,” said Julian Hubbard, director of the Church of England’s Ministry Division.

John Martin

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