Saturday, 18 April 2015

Alister McGrath criticises Resourcing Ministerial Education

The Church Times has published an article by Alister McGrath which is headlined It’s the theology, stupid. The strapline is clearer about the content of the article: What do we want from our clergy.

His view is clear:

…TO BE asked to minister without an informing vision of God (which is what theology is really all about), however, is like being told to make bricks without straw. What keeps people going in ministry, and what, in my experience, congregations are longing for, is an exciting and empowering vision of God, articulated in a theology that is integrated with worship, prayer, and social action.

Ministry has both vertical and horizontal dimensions, standing at the intersection of God and the world. Both those dimensions need to be sustained. RME’s exclusively pragmatic approach to ministerial training risks the loss of its core motivation and inspiration for Christian ministry.

This hostility towards theological scholarship seems to reflect a lack of understanding of what theology is, and why it matters. The training that we offer our ministers must do far more than simply acquaint them with the institutional ethos of the Church of England. It must energise them through engagement with the realities of the Christian gospel…

Do read the whole article.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 April 2015 at 9:30am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I don' think this is much of a critique of RME. His comments may apply to Green and he seems unaware that the two reports are being treated differently. RME is to be debated in synod and is open to amendment.

Posted by: Charles Read on Saturday, 18 April 2015 at 5:59pm BST

It is interesting to follow the claims and counter claims about the sidelining of theology in the published plans for Resourcing Ministerial Education while writing year end reports for those in training for ordained ministry.

The pro forma has been changed this year. The categories have mostly just been reshuffled. Reporting is now required under these clusters:
Christian tradition, faith, spirituality and life
Mission, evangelism and discipleship
Worship and ministry within the Church of England
Personality, character and relationships
Leadership, collaboration and community
Calling to ordained ministry in the Church of England

Only one category has been entirely removed from the reporting process:
‘Quality of mind and theological learning’.

Anyone know why? What signal does this give? We are surrounded by ever more precise measures of training goals and criterion. But in assessing readiness for ordained ministry in church and world there is now apparently no need to seek evidence of a consecrated mind; to comment on learning achievements and the impact of theological study on their understanding of their faith and calling; to reflect on their capacity for theological and biblical discernment and the discipline of continued study; no guidance for those entrusted with their continued formation in ministry.

I have been very tempted to add at the end of each form:
ps – they did some theology too.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Thursday, 23 April 2015 at 9:21am BST

I too am busy writing reports and thought the same as David. When you look at the notes for each heading, the theological learning is now embedded (or subsumed, depends on how you look at it...) under
Christian tradition, faith, spirituality and life

While I do not think this is connected with RME, which does not of itself marginalize theology, I too find it worrying. We (in ERMC) have been writing about candidates' ability to theologically reflect - as well as what theology they have learned to use here and what they have reflected on.

The report which does embody this lack of theology is Green - the mini-MBA contains no theology, because apparently such persons as go on it have already learned enough...!

Posted by: Charles Read on Thursday, 23 April 2015 at 7:39pm BST

Hi Charles. That first cluster of subjects is unwieldy enough as it is don't you think? But these are precisely chosen core categories for assessment for ministry - and Theology is not one of them. First signs are that the students themselves (and they are really thoughtful and Godly folk), are struggling to express their relationship to theology in this pro forma in anything other than most practical terms - theology is spoken of in terms of its perceived, practical 'relevance'. But then if we have only got 10 years, 'life long learning' itself is a bit of a luxury I suppose.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 24 April 2015 at 9:02am BST

'Quality of mind' was always one of the criteria for selection, well before final reports recommending ordination were written. Does this now mean that it has been removed from the selection criteria - or that ordinands are expected to leave their brains elsewhere when they commence training? This really is quite worrying and helps to explain why increasing numbers of the ordained are struggling to give a coherent account of the broad sweep of the history of Christianity, for example, or to explain the development of theological traditions and how they might be employed in responding to wider societal issues. I am just thankful that Westcott House has just appointed a new Principal who will continue to be a strong advocate for intellectual rigour in the formation of ordinands.

Posted by: Will Richards on Friday, 24 April 2015 at 2:00pm BST

Yes, I agree. Having the headings
Worship and ministry within the Church of England
Calling to ordained ministry in the Church of England
is confusing. What comments go in where?

I thought the old headings were better - and as you say kept theology more prominent. I do wish they would stop changing things in church.

Posted by: Charles Read on Friday, 24 April 2015 at 2:59pm BST

If you read Pete Broadbent's reported comments in the Church Times today, speaking at the Fulcrum conference, you can understand why 'quality of mind' has been dropped. Any attempt to reflect critically on future priorities for ministry and mission from the tradition, employing undoctored empirical evidence, and in a spirit of Anglican consensuality (or collaboration, to use that 'in' word which has dominated ministry training for so long) is deemed to be opposing change for the sake of vested interests; while General Synod is "very out of date. . . It's based on a 1980s or 1970s representative-democracy thing, which really doesn't work."

If that is a demonstration of the quality of an episcopal mind, no wonder there is no need to assess the quality of diaconal and presbyteral minds at the point of ordination. It will, presumably, mean that RME, The Green Report, and all the other things Pete Broadbent is championing, can be implemented without all those tiresome theologians questioning, critiquing, and highlighting the abuse of episcopal power (sorry, 'leadership').

Posted by: James A on Friday, 24 April 2015 at 4:02pm BST

Quality of mind is still very much one of the selection criteria, Will,(speaking as a BAP adviser). I don't know why it isn't in the formation criteria, but at the point of selection it is definitely still firmly on the agenda.

Posted by: Anne on Friday, 24 April 2015 at 5:29pm BST

See Pete Broadbent's comment on this report, on another thread near here.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 April 2015 at 6:58pm BST
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