The Church of England ordained more women than men in the past year, reporting a total of 423 ordinations last year, 213 women and 210 men. That statistical development might seem insignificant considering new female priests outnumbered new male priest by only three, but the significant fact is that women outnumbered men as new priests for the first time, and it won’t be the last.
As a matter of fact, The Sunday Telegraph reported months ago the number of female priests would match that of men by 2025. The Church of England allowed for the ordination of women 15 years ago. Since then, the number of women preparing for the priesthood has steadily increased while the number of men entering the ministry has steadily decreased. A recent report indicates the number of men serving as priests may be cut in half by 2025.
These are not unrelated developments. The feminization of liberal Christianity grows more and more complete each year. In the United States, the number of women enrolled in M.Div. programs currently represents almost a third of total enrollment. Among mainline Protestants, the situation is much like that of the Church of England; in many liberal seminaries, female students vastly outnumber males.
The decision to ordain women as priests rocked the Church of England back in 1992. Now, the decision to allow women to serve as bishops seems inevitable. Once women serve as priests, service as bishop certainly seems to follow. However, the decision to allow women bishops would put the Church of England on a collision course with the more conservative churches of the Anglical Communion.
The feminization of the ministry is one of the most significant trends of this generation. Acceptance of women in the pastoral role reverses centuries of Christian conviction and practice and leads to a redefinition of the church and its ministry. Once women begin to fill and represent roles of pastoral leadership, men withdraw. This is true, not only in the pulpit, but in the pews. The evacuation of male worshippers from liberal churches is a noticeable phenomenon.