Proportion of trainee C of E priests from BME background doubles

The proportion of people from a black and minority ethnic background training to become Church of England priests doubled between 2016 and 2018.

Eight per cent of new ordinands – trainee priests – were from a BME background last year, compared with 4% in 2016, according to data published by the C of E on Monday. The change reflects concerted efforts to increase diversity among the clergy.

Among qualified, paid clergy, 3.9% were from BME backgrounds in 2018 – a proportion markedly below the BME population of England and Wales, which was about 13% in the 2011 census and is expected to have risen since.

The church has taken steps in recent years to increase the proportion and status of BME clergy after accusations of institutional racism.

In 2015, the C of E decided to fast-track BME clergy into senior positions, offering training and mentoring to potential leaders. At the time, the only black bishop was John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, who is due to retire next year.

The C of E appointed Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed as its first national minority ethnic vocations officer, to encourage applications for the priesthood, in 2016.

Later that year, the church appointed its first black bishop in 20 years, Woyin Karowei Dorgu, for Woolwich in south-east London. In 2017, Guli Francis-Dehqani, who was born in Iran, was appointed bishop of Loughborough with specific responsibility to support BME clergy, lay workers and congregations in the diocese of Leicester.

In June, the C of E appointed Rose Hudson-Wilkin as bishop of Dover – its first black female bishop.

The data also showed more women (54%) than men began training for the priesthood in 2018 for the second year running. Three in 10 active C of E clergy are women and gender parity is forecast for 2023.

The number of senior posts, such as dean or bishop, held by women was 25%.

More than one-third of those ordained last year were non-stipendiary – unpaid – clergy. The average age of clergy last year was 52, or 62 for non-stipendiary roles. The average age of those ordained in 2018 was 45.

Main image copyright: Yui Mok/PA

Written by: Harriet Sherwood

First published 02.09.19: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/02/church-of-england-proportion-trainee-priests-bme-background-doubles

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