26 June 1999
This year sees a further increase in the numbers of new clergy being ordained by the Church of England. Some 396 new deacons will be ordained around the country this summer (Petertide), up from 363 in 1998. The total for the year, including ordinations at Michaelmas and other times, already estimated at 464, looks set to be the highest since the '80s.
The 9% increase in Petertide ordinations contributes to a rise of more than a quarter since 1997. The ordinations will include 255 new male and 141 new female deacons and represent a swing towards stipendiary ministry, which 287 new deacons are expected to enter this year. The average age of new clergy also shows another fall, with the greatest increases in the 20- 29 and 30-39 age groups.
Clergy in the Church of England generally serve as deacons for one year before being ordained priest. They can then consecrate the bread and wine at the Holy Communion, pronounce absolution and give a blessing in the name of Christ. Some 362 deacons will be 'priested' this Petertide, an 8% increase on last year's 335.
The increase in ordinations follows the increasing trend in vocations in the Church of England. From a low point of 364 people recommended to train for the ministry in 1993, the number has increased year-on-year to 582 in 1998; a 60% rise in five years and exceeded only three times since 1964. Consequently, numbers training for the ministry in colleges and on courses have increased from 1,277 in 1997-98, to 1,381 this year and are expected to exceed 1,500 by the end of next year. These are people recommended through a rigorous selection process that, in recent years, has become more rigorous at the preliminary and diocesan stages.
"This year's ordination figures show a very positive trend and reflect the growing confidence throughout the Church. Due to the peak levels of ordinations in the early '60s, it will be some time before the numbers of new stipendiary clergy exceed those retiring; but the gap is closing steadily," said the Venerable Gordon Kuhrt, Director of Ministry for the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England.
Further information from:
Steve Jenkins (press) tel (0171) 898-1000 ext 1457/1464
Jonathan Jennings (broadcasting) ext 1456