by Tim Ross, Religious Affairs Editor
For the first time, the Church published figures showing which parishes have formally rejected women priests. The details come as some traditionalists prepare to quit the Anglican family to take up the Pope’s offer of converting to Roman Catholicism in protest at Church moves to ordain women bishops in England for the first time.
About 1,000 out of 13,000 CofE parishes have formally registered their objection to women priests working in their own churches. And some 363 parishes - 23 per cent more than 10 years ago - are now so unhappy at the Church reforms that they are refusing to remain under the pastoral care of their local bishops who have ordained women as priests.
Instead, these parishes have applied to come under the pastoral care of the group of traditionalists who refuse to ordain women, known as the "flying bishops". They travel beyond their immediate areas offering ministry to traditionalist parishes. The increase could be the result of a new generation of more liberal bishops who support women’s ordination taking over as more traditionalists retire.
The number of parishes objecting to women priests in their own churches has fallen slightly, in part as a result of a decline in the number of parishes overall, with amalgamations during the past decade. Some parishes will have voted again on the issue and decided to adopt a more liberal position. The number of women clergy in the Church of England increased by 53 to 1,649 between 2008 and 2009, while the number of men fell, from 6,750 to 6,579.
The Church also released figures for income, which showed that despite the credit crunch, parishioners’ tax-efficient donations continued to increase in 2008.
The total income of parishes exceeded £900 million for the first time at £925 million. Dr John Preston, the Church’s National Stewardship and Resources Officer, said: “Whilst recent figures for giving to the wider charity sector have shown a dip, giving to parishes in 2008 saw a further increase to record levels, a sign of the high level of commitment that so many have to supporting the mission and ministry of their local parish church.”