The number of women applying for ordination in the Church of England has risen dramatically to the highest number since they were allowed to become priests 13 years ago.
While the number of people going forward for ordination has risen to one of the highest figures of the last 20 years, the increase is largely due to a 14 per cent increase in the number of women applying to become priests.
In 2003, 265 men went forward for ordination compared to 240 women, but in 2004 the number of women ordinands was virtually the same as the number of men: with 284 men compared to 280 women. The increase in the number of women applying was double that of men.
These figures will strengthen the case of those who have campaigned for an end to the “glass ceiling” for female clergy by allowing them to become bishops.
The overall total of 564 men and women being recommended to train as future clergy in the Church of England in 2004 is the highest number in six years. The figure represents an increase of more than 10 percent over the 505 recommended in 2003. It has only twice been exceeded in the last 20 years: in 1986 and 1998.
There were 51 selection conferences last year, attended by 727 candidates testing their vocations. This year is expected to see 52 selection conferences with more than 740 candidates.
The increase in 2004 was among candidates in the 50-plus age bracket, where recommendations rose from 150 in 2003 to 210.
A church spokesman attributed the encouraging figures to a more pro-active approach by dioceses to recruiting people for the priesthood.
The Ministry Division is starting a young vocations initiative. This will include teams of clergy and ordinands in their 20s giving presentations in parishes or Higher and Further Education chaplaincies.