By Hilary White

LONDON, November 15, 2007 ( – For the first time, the Church of England reports that more women than men were ordained in 2006. Last year 244 women and 234 men were ordained in the Church of England, but the majority of paid pastoral positions have gone to men with women taking mostly voluntary posts. The total number of ordained ministers in the Church of England is now estimated to be 20,354, including clergy, readers and Church Army officers.

The Daily Telegraph reports Sunday attendance in the feminized, mostly ultra liberal Church dipped for the first time below one million out of a total population of almost 51 million. The slight drop in attendance follows two years in which numbers increased or remained steady. About 1.7 million people attend a Church of England church each month, while around 1.2 million attend services each week, and just under one million each Sunday.

Acceptance of women into the priesthood, which The General Synod approved in 1992, has not halted the decline in Church membership and has likely accelerated the trend. The move has been identified by many as a break with the historic stream of Christianity as significant as the separation of the English Church from its Catholic origins.

The General Synod is currently debating whether women clergy should now even be elevated to the episcopate as they are in other Anglican national branches. While the number of women applying for the ministry continues to grow, the number of men seeking ordination is decreasing. A recent report indicates that the number of men serving as ministers may drop in half by 2025.

American Baptist writer Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and board member of Focus on the Family, wrote that the “feminization of the church” is the equivalent of the liberalization of the church. He points to the fact that in the US Episcopal Church, the number of women enrolled in Master of Divinity programs now represents almost a third of total enrolment with the mainline Protestants groups following suit. “In many liberal seminaries, women students now vastly outnumber men.”

Mohler added, “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. It also 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.”

Some writers are pointing to the weakening of the Church of England as a warning sign for British sovereignty and independence. As the officially established church, the Church of England plays a significant role in Britain’s political and social make-up and has an impact on its distinctiveness from its European neighbours.

Joel Hilliker, writing in the Trumpet, says that the religious erosion of Britain has eroded British national identity. “Secularism has Britain by the throat,” he writes.

“The percentage of practicing Christians there is in the single digits. The Church of England has lost moral authority, loosening its standards on issues such as the ordination of women as priests, premarital cohabitation and homosexuality.”

With the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), an organisation with 400,000 members formally requesting “full, corporate and sacramental union” with the Roman Catholic Church, and many Anglicans seeking union with Rome individually, the Protestant Hilliker writes, “What is left in this nation is a spiritual vacuum — a vacuum that provides the Church of Rome the perfect opportunity to move in. For as Britain has become more liberal, Roman Catholicism has grown more conservative, increasingly presenting itself as a rock of stability in an uncertain world.”

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