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Ordination Numbers

Volume 644: debated on Thursday 12 July 2018

1. To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress the Church of England has made on its target to increase ordinations by 2020; and what proportion of recent new ordinands are women. (906397)

I would first like to congratulate all those ordained deacon or priest last month. Within the hon. Lady’s diocese of York, four women and three men were ordained priest, alongside eight women and two men who were ordained deacon. Nationally, the Church of England is on target to increase the number of people who are recommended for training in 2020 by 50%.

I thank the right hon. Lady for that answer—it is good to hear that the stained glass ceiling is being well and truly smashed. However, is it not about time that, in the evolution of the established Church of England, the special arrangements that were put in place for those who do not accept the equality and ministry of women were abandoned?

The Church has come to an accommodation on that issue. I think that the gradual increase in the number of women who are coming into ministry, and people’s experience of being ministered to by a female priest, is in itself changing social attitudes in a holistic way. I expect to see more and more women coming into post, and therefore more and more people getting used to seeing them there.

There are no barriers to women becoming ordinands in the Church of England. As I have just explained, there has been a sharp increase in the number of women coming into ministry, and the overall number of ordinands entering training has increased by 14% over the past two years. The number of women under the age of 32 entering training has actually increased by 27%, which shows that it is an increasingly attractive vocation for younger women who look forward to a career in the Church as a female priest.

I hear what the right hon. Lady says, but will she also consider the impact of the number of churches that new ordinands have to look after? It is a real worry, given the pressure we are putting on these poor people, particularly if they are not full time, in order to carry out their ministry.

It is obviously a pressure for male and female priests, who might find themselves in charge of eight or 10 very small, rural ministries. The Church has looked at how sustainable that is, and the status of some churches has been changed to that of festival churches, which are open only on the high days and holy days of Christmas and Easter, to try to ensure that the workload is sustainable. It is something the Church Commissioners have very much in mind, alongside training more ordinands.