Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Anglican Communion and the Ordination of Women

Recently I did some research on the Anglican Communion. The number 70,000,000 has been widely used for years as an estimate of its worldwide membership. I wanted to find out for myself some of the particulars of each of the 38 provinces, including where they stand on the ordination of women. What I discovered was surprising to me, although I will readily concede that I’m wrong if someone can provide me with better information.

A year ago, when I began my research, I went to the website of every Anglican province that has one, and added the membership figures. These websites showed that membership in the Anglican Communion stood at approximately 60,000,000 although there are seven provinces, all in the Third World, whose membership numbers are not available. Some of these are almost certainly quite small, but two or three may number in the low millions; an optimistic estimate might bring worldwide membership to something approaching the oft-quoted 70,000,000.

However, this number assumes that the Church of England has 25,000,000 members. I have read several independent reports that realistic estimates indicate that active membership may actually be about 2,000,000. If this is so, a more reasonable estimate of the membership of the Anglican Communion is closer to the low forty millions.

I learned that the largest province is Nigeria, with 15,000,000 or more. Africa overall has approximately 23, 000,000 Anglicans. Mexico and Central and South America have approximately 1,000,000 Anglicans. The South Pacific has approximately 500,000 Anglicans. Asia and the Middle East have about 1,500,000 Anglicans apart from the rich Asian provinces of Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea, which have only about 90,400 Anglicans altogether.

The rich western provinces have a little more than 10,000,000 Anglicans unless one wishes to count the 23,000,000 inactive members of the Church of England—which I don’t.

The Ordination of Women

For the following statistics, I will assume that membership in the Church of England is the active 2,000,000 rather than the 25,000,000 that is reported. If that is so, then about 72% of the world’s Anglicans live in the Third World, and only 18% live in rich “First World” nations.

Five provinces, comprising 43.1% of the total, do not ordain women at all; four other provinces, comprising only a small percentage (in two of the provinces the Anglican membership is unavailable), ordain women only to the diaconate; ten more provinces, with nearly 11,840,000 members comprising about 32% of the Anglican Communion, ordain women to the diaconate and priesthood; nine other provinces comprising 11.9% of the total permit women to be ordained as bishops but as yet have not done so; only three provinces (the United States, Canada, and New Zealand), comprising about 9.7% of the total, have ordained women bishops. Australia has just elected its first female bishop, and I expect that she will be ordained soon. In two other provinces and a number of extra-provincial territories the status of women’s ordination is unknown.

In summary, a little more than 43% of the Anglican Communion does not ordain women to sacerdotal orders; 32% ordain women only to the priesthood; 22.5% permit ordination of women as bishops; and the status of women’s ordination in about 2.5% of the Anglican Communion is unknown.


The young fogey said...

Thanks for the numbers, Father.

The Archer of the Forest said...

That is interesting, especially in terms of numbers. I have been convinced for years that if church average sunday attendence numbers were audited like businesses get audited by CPAs, there would be a lot of clergy in jail.