Race to save a muchloved British endangered species the local vicar
The Church of England will see the number of traditional clergy drop by 15 per cent in just 20 years unless it dramatically increases ordinations over the next decade, new figures show.While falling numbers in the pews have attracted headlines in recent years, senior clerics are also concerned about a separate looming decline – in the pulpit.Bishops fear a fall in the number of priests could make the task of reversing declining congregations by winning new converts more difficult than ever.Because a large swathe of the current clergy is approaching retirement, the Church calculates that the number of candidates for ordination will have to increase by a half throughout the 2020s to stabilise the situation.The ruling General Synod has also heard of a need to recruit more young people, women and members of ethnic minorities to make the priesthood more representative of wider society. There are currently around 500 people training for ordained ministry at any given time, a figure which would have to rise to rise to 750.Now a review of ministry figures over almost 70 years has been published, including projections of clergy numbers with and without the new vocations drive.At present, there are around 20,440 ordained clergy in the Church of England, including 7,730 traditional-style paid parish priests, or just under 7,400 if the figures are adapted to take account of those working part-time. Increase in ministry numbers is necessary and achievable, report shows https://t.co/3YUA4ahJSO— Church of England (@c_of_e) September 20, 2016 The study shows that if ordinations increase as hoped there would be 7,610 stipendiary priests by 2035 but only 6,300 if the current ordination rate is maintained, a 15 per cent drop.But a feasibility study shows that the increase is possible and plans are already being out in place.The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Andrew Watson, who chair the Church’s Ordained Vocations Working Group, said: “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.“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.” The Church wants a younger, less male and more ethnically mixed priesthoodCredit:Alamy Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.