Church of England to spend £63m on first central vicar training fund

The Church of England is planning to spend £63 million on training new priests in the first central fund of its kind.

At next month’s five-day synod session, members will hear plans to alleviate pressure on dioceses over the next three years as the Church pledges centralised money for training the swelling numbers of trainee clergy, known as ordinands and curates.

It follows a 23 per cent increase in people training for ordination in the past two years, after the C of E announced plans to drive recruitment and add 50 per cent to the 2016 figures by next year.

In 2016, 476 individuals set out on training for the priesthood, followed by 587 in 2018.

Of the 542 candidates who entered training in 2017, more than half (274) were women, a pattern that continued into last year, when 319 women began their training.

Talking ahead of the General Synod in York, David Walker, the bishop of Manchester, said that his diocese had benefited from the influx of women who want to be ordained.

Minority ethnic candidates for the priesthood are on the rise in Manchester too, as a result of “more diverse pathways” for those training for the ministry.

Bishop of Manchester, David Walker 
Bishop of Manchester, David Walker. Image copyright: PA

“The growth will help us deal with the demographic challenge of many existing clergy coming to retirement. It won’t necessarily mean a net increase in the number of stipendiary clergy, but it will stem the decline.

“The money will help see that those people get really good training and allow the dioceses to deploy them to parishes before they become full time incumbent in their own right,”

Dr Walker said.

The funds allocated for ordinand training – which often takes place in a college-based residential setting – are a portion of the £155 million of additional investment proposed for the next three years by the C of E.

If approved next week, up to £20 million will also go towards a social impact investment programme to help tackle poverty. £10 million has been reserved for developing the financial sustainability of cathedrals too.

The First Church Estates Commissioner, responsible for the Church’s investment portfolio, Loretta Minghella said: “Today’s announcement takes the growth of the Church into its next phase.

“The Church Commissioners intend, subject to approval, to help meet the costs of delivering the Church-wide goal of increasing ordinands by 50 per cent and to assist dioceses meet the costs of the consequent increase in curates.”

Written by: Laura FitzPatrick

First published 21.06.19:

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