Church of England to extend ministers' term beyond age 70 amid recruitment crisis

The Church of England is considering allowing senior ministers to work beyond the age of 70 in a bid to address concerns about the crisis in clergy recruitment.

(REUTERS / Finbarr O'Reilly)Members of the Church of England General Synod attend the opening at Church House in London February 6, 2012.

In June 2016, The Guardian reported about the growing crisis in clergy recruitment that the Church of England is facing. A fourth of its ministers are beyond 60 years old and there is a projected shortage in clergy in the next 10 years.

"While the number of stipendiary ordinations showed a welcome increase between 2012 and 2015, this is not sufficient to redress the gathering effect of clergy retirements predicted over the next 10 years," CofE director of ministry Julian Hubbard said at the time. "With 25% of stipendiary clergy aged 60 or over, at present rates of ordination this trend will have a material and growing impact on the number of those available to serve in ordained roles across the dioceses."

In line with this issue, the Church of England synod was set to vote on Tuesday on rules that would allow ministers over age 70 to continue working. Under the proposed changes, bishops and deans will obtain permission from an archbishop who would assess their ability to perform their tasks at their later years, The Telegraph reports.

In addition, the proposed rules would allow senior ministers to continue working until age 75. Junior ministers, on the other hand, would be allowed to continue working for a longer time.

In 2012, the number of paid ministers was 8,006, but that number dropped to 7,661 in 2015. Moreover, 555 ministers left their positions in 2015 and only 457 joined the clergy.

According to Rev. Dr. David Hilborn, the principal of St. John's Nottingham college, the recruitment crisis stems from the church policy which urges youngest clergy applicants to "go away and get some life experience." He said it is better to learn leadership skills while the ministers are still young so that they would already be "very experienced" in that field by the time they reach their 40s.