The Church Times reports: Changes in training prompt resignation and protest letter.
…The Revd Dr Sarah Coakley, professor of divinity at the University of Cambridge, sent a resignation letter to the group four days before the report – Resourcing Ministerial Education – was published (News, 16 January). In it, she lists several reservations about the report, warning that it is “anodyne and misleading”. She describes the devolution to the dioceses as “the most disturbing part . . . I must be blunt: I simply do not believe there is sufficient qualitative theological understanding in most of the dioceses to protect the sort of aspirations that this report promotes.”
Resourcing Ministerial Education, presented to the General Synod in February (News, 20 February), proposes that “decisions about training pathways for individuals should be made in the diocese, in consultation with the candidate.” A “standard level of grant for tuition” will be given to each recommended candidate from a central fund, to which all dioceses contribute. This grant “may be used in a range of ways as the diocese sees fit, providing the training is from an approved provider”…
The letter to the editor, signed by 17 academics and quoted in the news report, can be found in full here.
…We the undersigned wish to express our great concern that, should core funding from central funds disappear and be replaced altogether with diocesan funding, a casualty will be the strong links built up over many years with university theology and religious studies departments, and that the public, intellectual engagement of the Church of England with pressing contemporary issues will suffer accordingly.
None of us disputes the importance of alternative modes of educational delivery to the full-time residential one. Mixed-mode and context-based training schemes, alongside part-time study, have already contributed enormously to the development of new ways into ordained as well as lay ministry, and there is no doubt that they have much more to offer the Church in the future. The Church of England needs a diversity of forms of theological education if it truly desires a diversity of ordination candidates.
We are alert, too, to the differential costs of all these various ways of pursuing study. Nor are we blind to the potential that exists – though arguably it is severely underdeveloped – for constructive relationships between university departments and the newer forms of training.
But there is a particular advantage to the pursuit of theological study in a full-time setting that can serve well the deepest engagement possible with the challenges of contemporary theology, and especially the development of an active research culture. All of our universities have contributed significantly to that in the past, and would hope to do so in the future. A key element is the involvement of universities in the education of clergy and laity, both through the contribution that academic staff make to teaching and to debate in the wider Church, and through the participation of students in graduate as well as undergraduate courses….