Comments: Wycliffe Hall Appoints New Principal

I'm not sure it's a job I'd envy him, but I wish Dr Lloyd well. It may seem a rather churlish observation, but looking over his career description it's notable that he doesn't seem to have much parish experience. That seems to be par for the course for Oxbridge chaplains/deans today, but I'm not entirely sure it's a good thing. Does the church need college chaplains more than it needs vicars and curates?

Posted by rjb at Friday, 19 April 2013 at 12:31pm BST

So never any 'mud and bullets' ministry then? My partner teaches PGCE students how to be primary school teachers at our local uni. She does this after twenty years teaching experience in primary schools. Why is it all right for principals of theological colleges to have little or no experience of parish ministry?

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Friday, 19 April 2013 at 1:58pm BST

He seems very interesting. But in addition to the parish experience, I would like to see ministry to the marginalized.

I note that after the earthquake in Haiti (2010) I sought out ministers who could help me with the vastness of the catastrophe (I'd been going since 2004 and my school, colleagues, and students were highly impacted, to say the very least). The folks who'd written on suffering and evil were not very helpful. The priest who'd ministered in a war zone was extremely helpful.

It just seems like experience is a keenly needed component. But perhaps in a school it takes all kinds...

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 19 April 2013 at 4:29pm BST

I write as a fairly new Oxbridge chaplain with three years of parish experience as a curate and twenty five years as a lay member. I find the attitudes expressed about chaplaincy here inaccurate and demeaning: the pastoral issues of young adults and working professionals have been every bit as varied and demanding as in parochial ministry; chaplaincy is not some second class form of ministry compared to parish ministry; academic chaplaincy in particular is not a retreat from the real world, but ministry in a demanding, itinerant, and often aggressively secular sphere of the world. Before we lambast the new Principal of Wycliffe, we might do well to examine our own deficient sense of what chaplains do and who they are as priests.

Posted by Paul at Friday, 19 April 2013 at 7:45pm BST

Perhaps the same argument regarding experience could be said of our new ABC ;)

Posted by Bob at Friday, 19 April 2013 at 8:18pm BST

I don't think the comments critical of Mike Lloyd's lack of parochial experience are a general attack on chaplaincy. Certainly, as a chaplain in the NHS I don't take them as such. I think it is not unfair to say, that while chaplaincy in any university is a properly pastoral charge, it is probably the case, and a fortiori so in Oxford, that it hardly the grittiest end of the coal face of ministry.

The comments do, it seems to me, have some merit in relation to his new role - which is to prepare his students mostly for parochial ministry. It is here that I think not having had any significant experience is a disadvantage. I know that he has had associate priest connection with a parish, but until you have done it, there is no substitute for the responsibiity of having to lead a congregation (or six or thirteen or whatever), minister to a parish (or many parishes) who may be more or less unaware of your existence, manage the calls that people have on you regardless of their faith or lack of it, worry about money and buildings, go to endless PCCs and committees and chair many of them, do the tough pastoral work of sitting with the sick, dying and bereaved, act as a youth worker, a schools worker, a tutor to young people in lifeskills, an evangelist and apologist, try and be a preacher who gives people something worth hearing week in and week out, actually go visiting (now there's a new idea!) and then live out your own family life in the middle of this.

Theological colleges find it hard to capture the reality of all this, and how fast it is changing - but they are helped to do so a bit if their staff have personal experience in living memory of doing it at all. In fact, of course, the new ABC was Vicar of Southam in Warwickshire before he went to Coventry Cathedral. So he does know what it is like.

But I wish Mike well. Wycliffe are lucky to have got him - there will be a lot of healing to be done, I imagine.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Friday, 19 April 2013 at 10:57pm BST

All this sounds pretty hopeful for Wycliffe - to move into the 21st century in its prospective treatment of the issue of Women Clergy & Bishops.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1:04am BST

"Dr Lloyd did his doctorate, on the problem of evil, at Worcester College, Oxford (hence the nickname)."

Oh, THAT'S why! OK then.

"Born in 1957...his position on the ordination women had changed over the past 20 years. 'I used to be opposed to it'"

Heavens, he used to be opposed? And he's only 56??? O_o [I mean, for a priest who's 86, I can kinda get it, but...]

Well, prayers for him anyway.

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1:11am BST

There still seems to be a confused sense of what an Oxbridge chaplain does and also what theological colleges are for. Oxbridge chaplains not only have a 'properly pastoral charge' but this can often be 'gritty' - suicide, mental health issues, relationship problems including abuse, bereavement, just to name a few from this week alone. (I should say I come from and have served in what other commentators see as 'gritty' contexts and, while the issues are of a different intensity and demand in one regard, namely the impact of poverty, pastorally they are no different from 'privileged' areas; accordingly, pastoral experience in any context remains useful in the formation of others). It is also a commonplace that chaplains of privileged Oxbridge colleges also serve regularly in local parishes, as well as in UPA missions. I have no doubt that the new Principal will be able to offer a stellar array of ministerial and pastoral skills to ordinands.
The second assumption to challenge is that theological colleges are there to produce vicars. They are not. They exist to equip those who will become ministers and continue to train. Such initial formation is of a rudimentary educational and pastoral nature - not how to run a parish. A parochial curacy meets the latter training need. In that case, I would want the Principal of a theological college to be experienced in education, pastoralia, and the formation process.

Posted by Paul at Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 7:44am BST

I would never have lived in the communities I have served, nor had any chance of understanding them - intellectually or practically, unless I had been a parish priest. I am shortly off to a meeting of our deanery pastoral committee where I, as an urban priest, used to a parish of over 25,000 people, will be getting my head around the challenges facing colleagues who are in the midst of 6 or 7 APCMs in small rural communities. One person cannot carry all the experience. A certain amount of modesty about experience and a resistance to generalising from ones own is important. Theological colleges have teams of teachers for this reason.

I have found my own training theologically relevant but culturally distant from my parish experience and previous working life. Learning to inhabit new cultures has been the biggest challenge. The big issue with college training is how it equips students to inhabit diverse cultures as well as to analyse and understand them. For example, social norms of conflict resolution can vary dramatically - taking your own ideas into a situation can intensify conflict rather than resolving it. Or (alleged comment made to a colleague at a parish social) "we always have freshly squeezed orange juice at these events". And many other examples.

This is about living the incarnation rather than living a fantasy of what the Church of England is.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 9:02am BST

In the light of Mark Bennet and Paul's comments about training and formation, all credit therefore to Canon George Kovoor who this week announced his departure from Trinity College, Bristol, after eight years as Principal.
Not only has he engendered in that college and its students a new confidence, but the context based training on offer at Trinity ensures that the training of mainly middle class evangelical ordinands is firmly rooted in the day to day life of quite challenging 'bog standard' Bristol parishes. As a DDO, I felt that my ordinands were well served by that approach to theological training. I hope it continues to be offered at Trinity. Other colleges could learn from it.

Posted by SimonW at Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 4:26am BST

As someone who has been a parish priest and taught in several theological colleges and courses I offer a few reflections.
- Colleges are charged with delivering the highest quality of practical training and are also expected to deliver theological training at levels set by Ministry Division and accrediting secular universities. Believe me, it is very hard to do both! I agree with Mark that unless you have worked at parish level it is very hard to know what it is like or teach it to others. But those same parish demands make it very difficult to keep up the disciplined theological studies that are rightly required for leading a theological college. Colleagues I have worked with have all seriously struggled to keep up with their chosen academic discipline in the midst of huge demands of ministry training. These places run on formidable levels of hard work and immense good will while being regularly shot at from both sides.
- Colleges are less than half the story in this discussion. The majority those now training for ministry in the CofE do so on non-residential courses.
- Those outside the present world of English Anglican evangelicalism and its rawer tribal fault lines may not appreciate what a positive appointment this is and what an important shift in focus it may lead to. It surprised me and it gives me hope.

Posted by David at Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 11:35am BST

SimonW and David - thanks for perceptive comments. There isn't a single answer, but "formation" is both a crucial word and a dangerous one - it can drift into being inducted into the culture of the clergy of the Church of England as fondly imagined by the person who says the word. And also if "theological studies" can only be done out of context then our models are wrong - ministry is, in part, lived theology - it needs to be informed by studied theology, but the first and greatest commandment does not refer to the mind only, and the commands of Jesus to go, baptise, share bread and wine, remember are commands to act - at least that is what my theological and biblical studies have taught me.
If that sounds as though I am intent on dumbing down, nothing is further from the truth - but it is very easy to inhabit an intellectual space as a defence from reality, rather than as a gateway to reality. I am sure George Kovoor's leadership in ministerial training and formation has been influenced by his experience of mission training for overseas missions. It is more obvious in the overseas case that the cultural work is mission critical, and to have a sense of cultural humility - it is very easy to believe we know our own culture well enough.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Sunday, 21 April 2013 at 10:36pm BST

The previous principal had substantial parish experience, but things went wrong and amongst other things the relationship with the university was damaged. In making this appointment it appears that amongst other things Wycliffe is attempting to repair credibility with the university. I am sure that Mike Lloyd offers many other excellent skills in addition to this - but I remember the job description did emphasise the academic side of things perhaps more than the practical. Maybe in different circumstances this would have been different.

Posted by Simon Ro at Monday, 22 April 2013 at 8:53am BST

What David said about pressures on college and course staff. I've worked in both (and in parishes!) The time pressures on staff are worse in part residential courses. Neither they nor colleges are funded adequately so staffing is stretched. I am the only one of my 6 or 7 colleagues to publish regularly - and for me that means a Grove Booklet every couple of years!

The Wycliffe appointment though is very good news - it will bring that college back into being usable by the majority of the church.

Posted by Charles Read at Monday, 22 April 2013 at 5:03pm BST
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