But one thing which is not mentioned in the press reports is the question of clergy and the numbers in stipendiary ministry. As I have argued elsewhere, I am not sure there are many examples in history where churches sustain growth without stipendiary ministry. This is not because I believe in clericalism, but simply because setting people aside for ministry is essential to create the support and investment which sees individuals and congregations flourish and grow. It is the principle which was at work in Corinth, when Paul was able to devote himself fully to his apostolic ministry when he received the gift from the Macdeonian Christians in Acts 18.5.
This means that the decision some years ago to raise the average age of those entering training by 10 years over about 10 years was catastrophic for ministry and church growth in the long term, because it has led to the prospect of a whole cohort of clergy retiring at the same time, and a rapid drop in the number of stipendiary clergy in post. It is perhaps the single most devastating self-inflicted wound of the C of E. But it also means that dioceses which are encouraging vocations and generating ordinands are likely to be ones with the best chance of turning around decline and seeing numerical growth.
When I was responsible for admissions in the theological college I was part of, I did an analysis of where ordinands were coming from, so we could partner with them. But I also did some analysis that I have not seen elsewhere, but which seems pertinent. Dioceses vary in size, so you would expect larger dioceses to have more people in training for ministry. But the really interesting question is, which dioceses are generating more ordinands for their size? This is relatively easy to find out, since figures on Usual Sunday Attendance (USA) and the number of ordinands in training per diocese are available from different sources. They tell a striking story:
The Diocese of London had twice as many ordinands per church attender as the second most ”˜productive’ diocese.