The Archbishop of York David Hope has said violent assaults on clergy and burglaries from churches are making some vicars too frightened to take up posts in inner city areas.
The archbishop maintained that every effort was being made to reassure worried clergy with panic alarms, CCTV cameras and specialist advice on personal security.
But, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the stress and trauma caused had made it "extraordinarily difficult" to attract clergy with families to the positions.
His comments come after the recent publication of research which shows that vicars now stand more chance of being threatened or assaulted than police officers.
Dr Hope - the second most senior cleric in the Church of England - said many clergy enter the profession with brave intentions but have little idea of what may lie in store for them.
By the time they are ordained numerous stories of vicious attacks on vicars and even nuns persuade many to seek less dangerous dioceses.
The effect of this rush for safer parishes leaves some of the worst affected areas with few if any applicants.