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Where have all the men gone?

6 September 2004

The Sunday Times yesterday reported that the number of women due to be ordained next year will be higher than the number of men for the first time. The conjectured figures being 124 to 123.

The article does not cite its sources not clarify the figures used but this presumably represents the number of expected tipendiary/Non-Stipendiary Clergy ordinations in 2005. I believe that in the other two categories used (Permanent Non-Stipendiary and Ordained Local Ministry - both of which tend to attract older people) the number of women has been higher than men for the last few years.

The figures appear to suggest that in 2005 there will be 124 men ordained to stipendiary/non-stipendiary ministry. This compares to an average of 267 men per year being ordained as 'full-time stipendiary clergy' over the years 1991-1993. Therefore, over the decade or so since the legislation to ordain women was passed the number of men going into full-time ministry has more than halved.

The paper goes on to report: "As the number of women priests has increased, so has the proportion of women attending church. Church researchers say that the 45% to 55% male to female split in parish congregations 10 years ago has now shifted to a 37% to 63% split in favour of women."

If these figures are reliable then, using the statistics in Religious Trends 4 published by Christian Research, in 1990 on an average Sunday the average CofE church had 31 men, 39 women and 14 children in the different Sunday services The projected figure for 2005 will be 22 men, 37 women and 10 children.

On the basis of the figures in RT4 the number of children has dropped by around 28% over these 15 years, but using the combined figures the number of men has fallen even more, by closer to 30%.

Why are men leaving the Church of England so rapidly and why are so few men now coming forward for ordained ministry? Here we leave statistics and enter conjecture and anecdote. However, it seems clear to me that part of the reason that some men have left and othes not joined is that the God-given pattern of male headship, is being broken in our churches. Whether consciously or unconsciously I believe many men feel this deep down even if they do not understand it; that is how God made us.

Moreover, although a lot of attention has been given to the decline in the number of children in our churches it seems reasonable to suggest that if we get back the men we will get back at least some of the children because those men who are also fathers will want to take seriously the responsibilities laid on them as head of the household.

The Sunday Times article can be found at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-1247466,00.html

Christian Research is at http://www.christian-research.org.uk/

David Phillips General Secretary, Church Society


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