Monday, December 14, 2009

The thin pew line: drop in parish clergy not matched by dioceses.

There are regular mutterings about whether the CofE is too top-heavy, and whether the decline in paid clergy in the parishes has been matched by similar economies at Diocesan level. It seems the mutterings might have some basis in fact, based on the latest CofE stats.

Figures for 2008
total stipendiary clergy = 8346
of which
parish clergy = 7645
dignitaries* = 359
other diocesan clergy = 342

parochial clergy as % of total = 91.60
non-parochial clergy % = 8.4

Figures for 2001

total stipendiary clergy = 9352
of which
parish clergy = 8652 (according to p5, or 8538, according to page 3!)
dignitaries = 370
other diocesan clergy = 330

parochial clergy as % of total = 92.51
non-parochial clergy % = 7.49

Though the number of 'dignitaries' has fallen, the decline is by roughly 3%, compared to a nearly 12% fall in parish clergy. Meanwhile the number of clergy in diocesan posts (e.g. missioners, training officers etc.) has actually risen.

If we had the same proportions in 2008 as in 2001, there would be 625 clergy in 'dignitary'/non-parochial posts, not the 701 reported. In national terms, an extra 75 or so clergy in parish ministry rather than in central posts is a drop in the ocean, but it also bears out the instincts of the folk in the parishes who sense a certain amount of overstaffing at the centre.

I'm not sure what the national staff of the CofE is, and whether this follows the same trend.

For the record, the number of chaplains in 2001 was 1109 (page 6), the 2008 figure is 1142.

*i.e. bishops, archdeacons, deans and Cathedral clergy.

and for a really creative take on what being on the front line could involve, have a look at this on Jonny Bakers blog. A local church in London where the vicar manages the farmers market on Sunday and the congregation run the coffee stall. Great stuff.

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