According to a report due for release this autumn, there will be as many female priests as male by 2025. The study, entitled Religious Trends, concludes that without the rapid growth in the number of women being ordained - as many women will be becoming priests as men by the end of the decade - some parishes would be forced to close.
Some dioceses, many of them in rural locations, already report a higher number of women being ordained than men.
The report estimates that by 2016 one in every three priests will be a woman. This year, 47 per cent of new priests have been female. In the Bath and Wells diocese, 13 out of the 16 priests ordained have been women. In Wakefield, it is 10 out of 14.
The Rev Charlie Allen, 27, a vicar in the village of Portchester, Hampshire, said that her decision to be ordained had been met with some surprise, but that being a woman priest had become much easier.
"It is not the obvious job that parents expect their daughters to do," she said.
"The traditional stereotype of the middle-aged male priest is part of the Church's historical legacy, so when I started five years ago people would be surprised to see a young female priest. That is no longer the case. It has ceased to be a great unknown or something for people to fear or be worried about."
Miss Allen, the parish's first female incumbent, said some people still saw women priests as "slightly unusual", but predicted that in 10 years sex would no longer be an issue.
According to the study by Christian Research, an independent organisation that analyses Church statistics, between 1990 and 2015 the number of women priests will have doubled to 2,200 while the number of male clergy will have almost halved to just over 4,500.
The Ven Chris Lowson, director of ministry for the Archbishops' Council, the Church's executive body, said: "For the Church to be healthy and reflect its congregations it needs to be balanced. For most of its history it has been an inhospitable place for women's ministry so it has taken a while for the role models to have an impact. They are now catching up and are taking their place. If the Church hadn't ordained women we'd be in substantial difficulty now."
Despite the rapid growth in the number of women clergy, concerns that females are failing to make the higher echelons of the Church remain.
Since women were allowed to become priests in 1992, just two of the Church's 43 cathedrals have appointed a female dean. The Church is also struggling to find a way of permitting women to become bishops without antagonising traditionalists and evangelicals. Around 400 clergy left the Church of England after the decision to allow the ordination of women, with many converting to Catholicism.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
CoE - Women Clergy to be in the Majority?
From the Telegraph: