More women than men have started training for Church of England priesthood

More British women than men are starting training as priests for the first time in 16 years, the Church of England said.

Of the 544 people in this autumn's intake - which is the biggest since 2007 - some 274 ordinands are women while 270 are men, according to data from the Church of England's Ministry Division.

It is the first time men have been outnumbered since 2001, when 238 entered training for ordained ministry compared to 243 women.

The figure also represents the highest number of women beginning their journey to priesthood in a decade.

Julian Hubbard, director of the Church of England's Ministry Division, said: "The number of women entering training is greater and numerically rising faster than at any point in the last 10 years."

The number of women in this year's intake is up by one fifth (19%) from 231 last year and is the highest since 2007 when 275 started training, the figures show.

But women remain underrepresented among clergy, making up less than a third (29%) of the total number of active members - despite a record 5,690 marked as serving in the Church of England last year.

Mr Hubbard said the increase in numbers of those hoping to serve as clergy "reflects a great deal of hard work".

He added: "We are mindful, however, that significant work still remains to be done to improve the age profile, gender and ethnicity of our clergy to better reflect the make-up of our congregations and the wider population."

The Church of England is aiming to double the number of candidates for ordination by 2020 as part of its Renewal and Reform programme.

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