Monday, 9 February 2015

Financial issues around Resourcing Ministerial Education

The Bishop of Sheffield has issued this clarification of the financial issues around Resourcing Ministerial Education.

General Synod begins tomorrow and we are just a day or so away from the initial debate on Resourcing Ministerial Education.

My attention has been drawn to a couple of posts and circulars about RME which attempt to argue that the proposals, if agreed, signal “an end to residential training”.

This is very wide of the mark indeed. I look forward to answering the points raised fully in the Synod debate but it may help Synod members and others to have a few points of clarification in advance.

The RME Report is very clear that we are looking to see a very significant increase in the numbers of ordinands in training and that we see the importance of all current forms of training pathways (including residential training) as part of the mixed economy.

The Report is also very clear that this uplift in the numbers in training cannot be achieved without a significant increase in the total resource allocated (we have worked with a figure of a 50% increase in funding or £10 million per annum to correspond with the potential 50% increase in ordinands).

The overall background to the Report is therefore about growth and confidence in the sector not about erosion. Nor is the RME report about doing more with less resource but about increasing resource commensurate with the number of ordinands.

The anxiety which leads to some predicting (prematurely) the demise of residential training rests on some of the detailed proposals, particularly Proposals 6 and 7.

The Report signals clearly that all of these proposals will be subject to further detailed work and consultation with dioceses and TEI’s in the coming months. General Synod is not being asked to approve these proposals but to approve the general vision and direction of the Report.

Proposal 6 assigns a standard grant to each ordinand and proposes giving the diocese a larger role in decisions about training pathways. At present, the decision about pathways is entirely separate from the consequences in terms of costs. Under the RME proposals the diocese’s decision will be made within a framework in which Bishop’s Guidelines, the options available in training institutions and the candidate’s own vocation and preferences will all have a part. A diocese will be able to invest money not spent on one candidate’s training on another’s training and therefore able to fund candidates on both residential and non-residential pathways (as at present) providing we set the standard grant at the right level. Dioceses will have training budgets which have to be invested in the training of candidates – in others words there will be mitigating factors which will prevent this simply becoming a cost-cutting exercise.

Proposal 7 proposes discontinuing the pooling of maintenance grants for candidates families in training. Please note that we are not proposing discontinuing maintenance grants for families – simply the pooling of these costs (which currently amount to £5 million per annum or 25% of the total pooled IME budget of £20 million). This is a very large investment overall and again, one of the purposes of the proposal is to connect a decision about investment in a candidate’s support with the consequences of that decision. Dioceses will continue to have the discretion to invest the amount they currently invest in candidate support in the support of married students and their families. However dioceses may want to explore with students other means of support for candidates where this is a priority.

There is much still to be determined about how the funding will flow. This will be the subject of further consultation in the coming weeks.

However, we first need to establish through the Synod debates this week whether the General Synod will support the overall vision and acknowledge that additional funding will be needed to make it possible. Only when these prior questions have been answered will it be possible to explore in detail how the arrangements in Proposals 1-12 would work and the effect on institutions.

My own hope would be that as a result of the RME proposals we would see the number of ordinands rise overall and the number of candidates in residential training remain at at least its present level in terms of numbers. I therefore believe that residential training has a secure and long term future as a key part of the mixed economy of training the Church of England offers

+Steven Sheffield

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 9 February 2015 at 7:37pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

On married ordinands in training - first the current proposal looks too much at the sending diocese. I trained as a married ordinand and have served in three dioceses - I was sponsored by a fourth, where I have never served. Second, married ordinands with children in residential training inevitably move three times while their children are young (to college, from college, from curacy) with no real security of tenure, with all the challenge that makes for school arrangements. To reduce the likelihood of support (which is very thin at the moment - significantly less than a stipend, for example) really does make a huge difference. Third, to reduce the number of married students with children in residential training would, I believe, adversely affect the culture of residential training establishments: "formation" would too easily happen in a context which didn't contain families. The proposals in their current form have far-reaching unintended consequences (as did the previous ones to send young people away for experience before recommending them for training, which is one of the complex of reasons I had a family when I started training).

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Monday, 9 February 2015 at 9:41pm GMT

I'm very grateful that you posted this, as I wouldn't have heard about it otherwise.

Posted by: Robin Ward on Monday, 9 February 2015 at 10:21pm GMT

Robin, so TEI principals weren't copied in by the Chair of the Ministry Council? Quelle surprise...

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 February 2015 at 10:45pm GMT

Is St Johns Nottingham ceasing residential training?
I read something on Ian Paul's blog .....

And how is Wycliffe doing after Turnbull?
How did that ever happen ............... some really promising people were disastrously damaged, particularly women.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 9 February 2015 at 10:53pm GMT

Has St Stephen's House heard of the internet? This is real time stuff! No doubt a copy of the release could be sent snail mail!

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Monday, 9 February 2015 at 11:10pm GMT

How ridiculous a move it was all those years ago, to close down Lincoln Theological College with its vast amount of married accommodation. Founded by the great Edward White Benson - a city built on a hill. Now the powers that be are wondering why that in the next 10 years 40% of the stipendiary clergy will be retiring and so the panic has set in at the self created chaos and all that is offered to fill the forthcoming void is "Reimagining Ministry", which sounds to me like a bit of a fairy tale.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 6:23am GMT

For once I find myself agreeing with Fr David!
Lincoln 1978-80......

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 1:20pm GMT

Will any of these proposals include greater allowance for self-funding? When Chair of AOCM in mid 2000s I suggested Hind Report working parties give this greater formal approval. The bishops seemed nervous that allowing self-funding would mean ordinands exerting greater choice over how and where to train, and the last thing bishops want is to lose control! I self-funded the last of my 4 years at college, as did perhaps a third of my contemporaries.

Posted by: NJ on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 1:37pm GMT

The Church of England is the only province (actually two) within the Anglican Communion that meets the training costs of its ordinands centrally. It is not a sustainable strategy, unless congregations increase significantly and stewardship is improved. There are lots of reasons why it is a good strategy on paper, but it needs to be sustainable. During my comparatively recent time on the Council of Wycliffe Hall, the college was having to meet a considerable shortfall in the cost of training sponsored ordinands, even when numbers were better. MinDiv would simply argue that the block grant system is fair and that residential colleges that cannot recover the full costs of training ordinands must have too large a faculty. We are close to the point of asking ordinands to bring some money in their back pockets, either from their sending parishes, perhaps their dioceses, their families or themselves. For those who cannot do that, they will not be regarded as second class citizens, and bursaries (or other subvention) will be found. The bottom line is that times are changing. And by the way, forget meeting the costs of ordinands over the age of 50 from central funds. If dioceses want to do that, fine.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 11:19pm GMT

Referring back to the comment by Martin Reynolds two days ago, yes, St John's Nottingham is to cease residential training. The college issued this statement back in November:

http://www.stjohns-nottm.ac.uk/assets/PDFs-FORMS-for-download/College/Announcement/News-from-St-Johns-College.pdf

Posted by: Peter Owen on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 at 4:47pm GMT

In answer to Anthony Archer, the model has to change.

If we want our training institutions to be of high quality we have to fund them to employ sufficient staff, with time to do the research and reading which informs good teaching. Salami slicing reduces quality, and also the size of the internal resource in the church for training. The staff who pass through theological colleges also generate wide networks of relationship and influence which can be hugely strategic - were principals and vice principals of theological colleges and courses on the Green radar? Where is the discourse about retaining a critical mass of scholarship in Theology, Biblical Studies, Liturgy and Pastoral Care?

If we believe what we say in discerning the call of God in the lives of individuals and in the stipendiary principle, and we wanted to show a commitment to those who enter training, I have long thought that we should be funding a stipend and housing during training - which sounds expensive, but it is the logic of the rhetoric, and it would provide a powerful signal of how that training period is valued. Unpaid/poorly paid internships in other spheres come rightfully under criticism. Arbitrary barriers of age or access to financial support (unless divinely inspired) are more arbitrary and problematic than anything in the Green report. If we want a different model, we should change the way we talk about vocations, and be completely explicit that our decisions are financially driven.

How is a young ordinand coming out of university with a student loan going to afford retirement housing in due course unless they inherit wealth or have a spouse who earns a great deal more than they do? If our decisions as a church become more financial, and transactional, the whole relationship changes, and such questions come more acutely into view. We need more ordinands not fewer.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 at 9:47pm GMT

I well remember 44 years ago thumbing through the ACCM booklet giving details of the many Theological Colleges offering residential training. In those days we were spoilt for choice. It would seem that the modern day equivalent would present a very thin and getting ever thinner pamphlet to would be ordinands. Often the route to a pointy hat would be open to those who had proved themselves as Principals or Wardens of Theological Colleges, men with fine scholastic and academic credentials who brought a sense of gravitas to the Bench of Bishops. With the closure of so many Theological Colleges in the last 50 years or so that route to the episcopacy has virtually dried up with the notable exception of the appointment of the new Bishop of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 12 February 2015 at 8:04am GMT

How are more ordinands (50% more) going to be encouraged to come forward if it looks like less support will be available (even if that is not going to be the case in reality).

Getting 50% more ordinands is going to be a tough ask anyway, isn't it?

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 12 February 2015 at 11:41am GMT

Having a theological college principalship on your CV is still pretty useful, but one of the challenges of where the CofE currently finds itself is that few diocesan reps on the CNC want anyone other than someone who has demonstrable experience of leading churches into growth. The following diocesans or recent diocesans have led colleges or courses, but they also had much else in their locker besides: Truro (NTMTC); Oxford (Cranmer); Sheffield (Cranmer); St Eds & Ips (Westcott); and Coventry (Ridley). One of the things that exercised ++Rowan was that it has become harder to appoint scholar theologians to the House of Bishops, along the lines of +Sykes (RIP), +Wright and +Selby. Whether that is a challenge to how the House does its theology others may care to comment on.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Thursday, 12 February 2015 at 5:13pm GMT

Can't the House of Bishops co-opt theologians when they need theological input and advice? Can't each bishop have a sort of " periti" to help if needed...? The number of academic theologians who would wish to leave academic life is probably small but I imagine they would be happy to share their expertise if asked. Are they asked much I wonder?

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 12 February 2015 at 7:00pm GMT

I was thinking of Principals as key leaders in the church in their own right, and leaders of substantial and complex organisations, holding budgets - all the things Green was looking at preparing people for.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 12 February 2015 at 10:32pm GMT

There is pretty good machinery for advising the House of Bishops. They have theological consultants in many areas; there is the Faith and Order Advisory Group and the Doctrine Commission (currently in abeyance - strange that ++Rowan did not revive it). But it is not quite the same as having some of that scholarship actually in the midst. The theological colleges are hugely important and I agree we need them to be well led and with an informed and relevant take on what kind of leadership the Church needs. Of course they are not in and of themselves complex organisations, nor do they have large budgets. Nevertheless they are and should be influential. I have sat on the Councils of two of them and it is hugely encouraging to see what some of their alumni are now doing in ministry.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Friday, 13 February 2015 at 10:31am GMT

We really should stop beating about the bush here and say that these proposals do nothing to instil confidence in the wider Church that we will have (a) more clergy of quality; (b) that there is any pro-active strategy to nurture 'theological educators' and others who will bring intellectual rigour generally, and theological rigour specifically, to both parish ministry and senior leadership (viz Green Report - again!) and (c) that there will be a fundamental questioning of the (now two-decade-old) policy of a disproportionate amount women candidates being trained on local schemes without access to a university theology faculty, where the quality of staff do not match those on residential courses, and where there is too much emphasis on the 'practicalities' as opposed to the foundational rooting which underpins our approach to them. In other words, this is the final nail in the coffin of the scholar-pastor which has been the fundamental character of Anglican clergy. 2057 here we come... Will the last one left in Cranmer Hall please switch the lights out!

Posted by: Tom Marshall on Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 12:12pm GMT
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