The Church of England is facing the loss of as many as one in ten paid clergy in the next five years and internal documents seen by The Times admit that the traditional model of a vicar in every parish is over.
The credit crunch and a pension funding crisis have left dioceses facing massive restructuring programmes. Church statistics show that between 2000 and 2013 stipendiary or paid clergy numbers will have fallen by nearly a quarter.
According to figures on the Church of England website, there will be an 8.3 per cent decrease in paid clergy in the next four years, from 8,400 this year to 7,700 in to 2013. This represents a 22.5 per cent decrease since 2000. If this trend continues in just over 50 years there will be no full-time paid clergy left in Britain’s 13,000 parishes serving 16,000 churches.
Jobs will instead be filled by unpaid part-timers, giving rise to fears about the quality of parish ministry. Combined with a big reduction in churchgoing, the figures will add weight to the campaign for disestablishment.
A December 2007 report by Christian Research showed that Roman Catholicism had become the best-attended services of Christian denominations in England.