Dr David Voas, a senior researcher at the universityâ€™s School of Social Sciences said: â€œNearly half of all priests ordained in recent years have been women. Close to a quarter of male parish priests are 60 or older, and their average age is 54. Without women, the pulpits would become as de-populated as the pews in the years to come.â€
But despite the crucial role they are playing as clergy, it seems that the church’s ‘glass ceiling’ is proving very robust.
â€œMost of the men who became priests in 2005 went into paid, â€˜stipendiaryâ€™ ministry, while most of the women are in voluntary posts â€“ â€˜non-stipendiary or â€˜ordained local ministersâ€™.â€ And Dr Voas points out that the Anglican Church is not alone in giving women the least desirable jobs.
He said: â€œWell over half of women ministers in all denominations serve in rural areas, with very few found in the flagship city centre churches. The larger the church, the more likely it is that a man will be put in charge.â€
The English Church Census found no women at all leading churches in the largest category - those with 300 or more attending on a typical Sunday. â€œHoly Trinity Brompton - home of the Alpha course - is an example: it has eight clergy, all of them male.â€ Churches are traditional institutions, and tradition gives women a raw deal, according to Dr Voas.