Comments: two more college inspection reports

I saw a table a couple of years ago setting out the almae matres of the anglican bishops, which seemed unless the stats were wrong to show Cuddesdon favoured to an almost unbelievable extent. I do not know whether the Runcie factor was the cause, but how does this square with the Michael Hampson 'Last Rites' picture of Cuddesdon as somewhere where (except in Biblical studies) the self-contradictory position seemed to be taken in lectures that there are no answers only more questions. Or with the fact that it is so rare for Cuddesdon (as opposed to Wycliffe) students to take the B.A./M.A. degree in theology.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 22 May 2009 at 6:13pm BST

Oak Hill = boys club.

"there were 57 ordinands in training, including one woman"

"the number of women ordinands remains far less than the 15% minimum required by the House of Bishops’ Guidelines"

The staff is also "predominantly male"

Posted by badman at Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 11:56am BST

Good to note though, given the stats quoted above, that the inspectors at Oak Hill "saw no evidence of any lack of awareness of the need to afford equality of opportunity to all." (Para. 37)

Posted by Reader at Saturday, 23 May 2009 at 11:23pm BST

Christopher Shell

The nature of the course people take as preparation for ordination depends on previous experience, education and age - and not just on what a particular college offers.

It is not every understanding of ministry which suggests that academic excellence is an essential prerequisite (you'd be hard pressed to find this stated as a principle or generally exemplified in the Bible, for example).

Since it is possible that factors like age and understanding of ministry are correlated with the colleges students choose to attend, the comparison of colleges by the courses ordinands choose to take requires more analysis before any robust conclusion can be drawn.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Sunday, 24 May 2009 at 10:40am BST

"The inspectors noticed no apparent provision in the programme of worship, however, for students to experience other than their own preferred and
familiar worship styles. This we found regrettable, given the need already mentioned in para 41 for the College to look to giving to its
ordinands a fuller view and appreciation of the breadth of tradition and practice across the Church of England into which they are preparing to
be ordained." - Extract from Oak Hill Report -

What seemed to me to be singularly lacking in the worship provision at Oak Hill was any regular celebration of the Eucharist on weekdays - except for one day a week. One might question whether this is enough for the students who one day will be expected to major on the Eucharist as the besic ingredient for Sunday worship in their Anglican parishes.

To be able to witness different styles of the Eucharistic presentation would surely prompt a lively understanding of this most basic of worship traditions. Or is it that the Eucharist has a very lowly place in the order of things at Oak Hill? Enthusiastic 'Common Worship' may have its place in a sudent community, but it is not enough surely for future ministers in the Church, whose theology is based on the redemptive action which the Eucharist signifies?

The question might be asked: How does training at Oak Hill differ from other, non-Anglican, schools of theology, when the Eucharist seems to be given only a nominal place amongst other, less formal, acts of worship?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 24 May 2009 at 12:12pm BST

"One might question whether this is enough for the students who one day will be expected to major on the Eucharist as the besic ingredient for Sunday worship in their Anglican parishes."

Oh, will they? I am reminded of a quote from someone in Nigeria, I believe it might have been Bp. Popoola, though I stand to be correctd, on how Anglicans there preferred the "longer" Mattins (though Matins was always shorter where I came from) with more opportunity for praise, I believe was the touted benefit, than the Eucharist. So, they might not end up in parishes where they would be celebrating a Eucharist every Sunday. They might end up in a parish rather like that of the Cathedral in Sydney Australia, where to Eucharist is relegated to a couple of early mornings a month, people receive in individual cups, the presence of Christ is taught as being found in the fellowship of the worshippers, and where the main service of a Sunday morning bears more resemblance to the activities of our Pentecostal brethren than it does to anything usual for Anglicans. Common Prayer is not common, and hasn't been for some time. That is a big part of our problem, we don't know who we are any more. Every group is claiming that ITS way is "orthodox" or whatever, and the loudest among us, who currently are the Pseudofundamentalists, are calling the shots. So, we are in grave danger of being redefined not as a broad Church where the majority can find an expression that speaks to them of God, but rather as a reactionary near fundamentalist body that not only forgets, but actively rejects its Catholic past in favour of the judgementalism and self justification of modern Fundamentalist Protestantism.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 25 May 2009 at 4:28pm BST

Hi Mark-

Of course: that's not the point. There are 2 points: (1) bishops would rightly be expected to be drawn -on average- from the more rather than less educated; (2) the whole vagueness and questions-good-answers-bad approach spoken of by 'Last Rites' is self-contradictory.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 1:15pm BST

"bishops would rightly be expected to be drawn -on average- from the more rather than less educated;"

Why would you expect God to select from a more educated group when He is calling a bishop?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 8:35pm BST

Hi Ford-
Because bishops should be drawn from those who are above average in a large number of categories. The more categories you are above average in, the better choice you are. There is no preferential treatment given to intellect here. What applies to intellect also applies to every other category. Namely: it's better to be above average than below average. By definition, in fact.

For example, when Rowan Williams was chosen, strengths to this appointment were pointed out: namely that he was a leader among his peers in terms of both spirituality/character and intellect. Likewise John Sentamu, Pope Benedict and so on. By your argument, would it be better to choose someone who was average or mediocre in categories such as these?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 27 May 2009 at 9:10am BST

'By your argument, would it be better to choose someone who was average or mediocre in categories such as these?"

No, Christopher. By my argument, it would be best for the local ecclesia to prayerfully seek the will of God in selecting their bishop. Now, there are many ways one can do that, and certainly assessing a person's education is part of it. Your statements would seem to suggest you consider the selection of a bishop as nothing more than selecting a manager or something, as though God really doesn't have much of a role in it at all. If this isn't the case, I apologize, please explain your ideas further. But I'm an Anglican, and for me a bishop is far more than just some supervisor of the company's local branch office. As I understand it, you are of the belief that the traditional concept of bishop is a distortion invented by humans, a "tradition of men", so to speak, not Biblically supported, therefor not valid. Correct me if I'm wrong on that point. I respect that you believe differently. But I am far more traditional than that, I'm afraid. I believe God led us to the traditional concept of what a bishop is, and that He did so after He had done inspiring the Scriptures. You are free to disagree. But, seen from where I sit, it just seems to me that God would have a fairly good understanding of a person's qualifications before He called them to the episcopate. For me, at least, our job is to discern God's will, not hire a new CEO.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 28 May 2009 at 3:14pm BST

re: Hampson on Cuddesdon.

Time will tell if Cuddesdon students continue to crowd the ranks of the episcopate, but the present teaching regime no longer corresponds to the picture that Hampson gives 'that Christianity could be whatever you wanted it to be ... We knew all about what we didn't believe and virtually nothing about what we did believe...' (pp.99-100)

Given the polemical tenor of the book, the possibility that Hampson is employing hyperbole should not be ruled without the bounds of possibility.

It may also be the case that Cuddesdon has correctly judged the developing character of the Church of England, and that credally orthodox Christians who are nevertheless open to developing their theology through reflection on pastoral practice are just the kind of bishops that will be required for the next generation!

Posted by Siggi Pålsson at Thursday, 28 May 2009 at 9:04pm BST

CEO? When did I mention the business model of leadership? Christlike servant leadership is of course something very different. Which is why one would expect bishops to be above (not below) average in the servant-heart department.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 30 May 2009 at 1:22pm BST

"one would expect bishops to be above (not below) average in the servant-heart department."

My point, Christopher, was that I would expect God to know that when He calls someone to ordained ministry in the Church. It is for us to decide if the call someone perceives is actually from God. You seem to think it is for us to decide, not on the nature of the perceived vocation, but whether or not the person who perceives that call measures up to OUR ideas of what an ordained minister should be. We get to vet God's candidates to see who WE think fits the bill? If that isn't your idea, explain. Basically, who gets to choose the acceptibility of a candidate for ordination, us or God?

Posted by Frd Elms at Saturday, 30 May 2009 at 4:25pm BST

I think you have a false dichotomy there, since not only is it not possible for us infallibly to know what God's opinion is on the matter, but also it is the job of those human beings who go through the human processes that confirm or deny any application to be coworkers with God.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 1 June 2009 at 12:48pm BST

So, Christopher, what exactly IS the role of God in the selection of ordained ministers? Does He even have a role? How CAN we "confirm or deny any application to be coworkers with God"? What are our criteria? Is it only about OUR ideas of what constitues the "right" education, or what WE judge to be morally appropriate behaviour? Do we insist on adherence to the letter of the Law? Where do you find God in these things? Solely in Scripture, or is God also to be found elsewhere? I'm not suggesting that all the places we find God are equal, I'm just trying to see how you conceive of the role of God in the Church and our relationship to Him. I ask because in reflecting on the discussions and arguments we have had over the last three years, it appears to me that for you, God is pretty abstract, to be found in Law and written documents. God appears to be more a concept to be discussed and held as a validating force in the background, approached in a scientific manner in the way one would approach any other created phenomenon. You seem resistent to the idea that God is actually working in any other way than giving you a Law to follow. This is just the impression I get. Please clarify. I'm in a cutting Christian mood today, I guess, likely to get sarcastic but still sincerely trying to characterize our differences and, perhaps, similarities. I've been nasty about this in the past, with the resuklt that my only source of information is observation of your arguments.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 1 June 2009 at 3:08pm BST

Interesting isn't it, on the question of academic suitability in candidates for ordination, that Christ chose a few simple fishermen to be amongst his closest assicates in ministry? This is not to say that a 'good mind' is no use in ministry, but rather that a 'good heart' might be even better.

"Where are your wise men now, where are your philosophers?" - Saint Paul.

"I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for choosing the simple.." - Jesus

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 2 June 2009 at 12:01pm BST

Hi Fr Ron-

Exactly. They were well above average, as religious leaders go, in being non-establishment, good-hearted, etc..

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 3 June 2009 at 1:34pm BST

"They were well above average, as religious leaders go, in being non-establishment, good-hearted, etc.."

So, again, who decides the average above which ministerial candidates should be? God, or us? Clearly, in the case of the Apostles, God had the choice. And "above average"? Let's see, a tax collector (establishment), someone who would eventually betray Him, a pragmitist who flew off the handle regularly and who would deny Him when the crunch came(neither of which seem all that good hearted), and, if we count Paul, someone who had diligently persecuted the Church and who might well have been responsible for the martyrdom of James. That's just for starters. So, what average can they be said to be above? For me, they look like an average crowd of guys, much like you'd find on any wharf in any fishing community. That, to me, is the point of their Call. They all seemed to be pretty hidebound and just didn't seem to get it, until the event we commemorated last Sunday, when everything changed.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 3 June 2009 at 8:03pm BST

Sounds like they were above average in being average - rather like those newspaper stories when it is proclaimed that Mr Average (i.e. the only truly average person - insofar as that makes sense and is not a contradiction in terms) is a bloke called Mike from Worksop.

In other words, they fitted the bill for what Jesus wanted in a way a Pharisee never could. They certainly fit the universal/classless nature of what Jesus was about.

I don't go with some versions of the 'vocation' thing, as *all* Christians are in some way 'called' - and so are those who never become Christians and therefore debar themselves from being picked or chosen. These 12 guys were 12 for a reason but that didn't mean that the make-up of the 12 was not influenced/limited by the fact that only certain individuals had responded to Jesus's call. Regarding those who had, he prayed all night and then made his final choice.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 5 June 2009 at 12:23pm BST
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