funding to expand lay ministry
Ministry of Resources
The first steps in overhauling the funding and delivery of theological education in the Church of England were approved by General Synod on Monday.
The new framework, Ministerial Training Resourcing (RMF), is still being finalized, but the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswichthe Rt Revd Martin Seeley, presented the main elements of the proposals so far.
Theological Educational Institutions (TEIs) were an “extraordinary resource for learning that we want to see increasingly widely available” – for ordinands, lay ministers and the whole Church, he said. Work had therefore focused on how to increase access. There was a need for additional funding, but not all existing funds had been spent: currently £1m a year remained with the dioceses because ordinands chose different paths.
The pandemic has complicated both the work of FMRs and TEIs, although both opportunities and challenges remain through the further growth of online learning.
The national vision and strategy has shaped the work of the RMF, with a focus on increasing the number of ordinands and rebalancing towards a more secular ministry, Bishop Seeley explained. The RMF would offer a block grant for each institution, with a smaller component linked to each student. This should reduce the age bracket element, with fewer restrictions for applicants on the courses, regardless of age.
In terms of maintenance, the goal was to create a simpler and more transparent model, to make candidates understand what they would need to live during their studies and to encourage a greater diversity of candidates, he said. declared. There was also going to be a clarification of what was expected in initial ministerial formation (IME1) and post-ordination formation (IME2), Bishop Seeley said, before formally presenting the motion.
Ros Clarke (Lichfield) remembers being called to lay ministry 20 years ago. Since then, funding has been limited only to readers and licensed lay ministers, she said. When students had to fund their own education, only the wealthy could afford to serve, she said. Rather, funding should be available for lay people on the same basis as for ordinands.
Teacher Joyce Hill (Leeds) supported the idea of block funding for TEIs, which she said would allow for longer-term planning, less competition and more collaboration between different colleges. However, she wondered if the timetable for introducing the RMF by next fall was realistic.
The Reverend Dr. Sara Batts-Neale (Chelmsford) said funding for continuing education should not be based on the “mythical” average ordinand, but able to adapt to the real needs and backgrounds of applicants. There are invisible financial barriers to participation in training that need to be broken down.
The Bishop of London, The Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, praised the Peter Stream at St Mellitus College for providing training for those without typical training. She felt that the RMF was not ambitious enough to expand access to training to people from diverse backgrounds. Discernment processes should be simplified, she argued.
The Principal of Trinity College, Bristol, Reverend Dr. Sean Doherty (Universities and TEIs), introduced their amendment, which would require the FMR working group to return more elaborate proposals to the Synod for consideration before implementation. Dr. Doherty supported the motion, but said some work was in progress and therefore the Synod could not approve it wholeheartedly.
The current system has exacerbated the trend towards shorter runs, which should be avoided, he said, and also raised concerns that the task force could approve a standard maintenance grant, replacing the current means-tested model.
Bishop Seeley accepted the amendment.
Reverend Mark Miller (Durham) also supported the amendment, sharing Dr Doherty’s fears about the abolition of means-tested maintenance grants. He knew an ordinand, who went into debt just to heat his house, and who had asked for help from the diocese, only to be told to expect to suffer for Christ. How would new standard grants be determined, he asked, and how could the basic needs of ordinands be met without resorting to charitable grants?
Reverend Dr Ian Paul (Southwell & Nottingham) also supported the amendment and change of tone in the discussion on ministerial formation. He advocated for greater biblical emphasis in training, a shared curriculum for all ordination training, and equalization of study hours for all paths.
The amendment has clearly passed.
Dr. Doherty then spoke about his second amendment, which called for the Board of Ministries to support the capacity of TEIs during the implementation of the RMF.
Bishop Seeley accepted the amendment.
Reverend Mark Bennet (Oxford), Honorary Treasurer of Westcott House, Cambridge, spoke of the fragility of TEI’s finances, as the final number of ordinands, and therefore funding, was not known until the start of the academic year. A good plan for a transition period is needed, rather than an ad hoc arrangement for the current year. He supported both the amendment and the main motion.
Professor Helen King (Oxford) also supporting the amendment, argued that the capacity of TEIs would be further challenged by increased investment in non-vocational training in coming years. It was also time to consider the tension between different diocesan models of lay ministry and the national picture, she said. Did anyone really know what lay ministries existed in which dioceses, let alone what training they had received?
Alison Coulter (Winchester), vice-president of the House of Laity and trustee of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, said much of her time was spent worrying about not having enough money for college. And, nationally, was it efficient to have 21 TEIs for the 600 ordinands each year, she asked. Couldn’t TEIs be at the forefront of higher education rather than worrying about how to pay their bills?
The amendment is adopted.
The Bishop of LeicesterThe Rt Revd Martyn Snow, who is the senior bishop for lay ministry, said the RMF was extremely important: it was the first time the national church had sought to place serious funding behind lay training rather than to rely on “trickle down”. principle” of funding the two percent of the Church who have been ordained and hoping that they would train the others.
The Bishop of Dudley, The Rt Revd Martin Gorick (Southern Suffragans), said the Church needs more self-reliant people who come forward to serve as ministers in their own areas. He supported the motion, but asked how these innovative local programs could continue.
Claire Williams (Norwich) said there was still work to be done to develop more career paths for lay people. She had fully funded her own undergraduate and postgraduate training as a lay minister, to serve the Church. But was the lack of paid positions in the Church holding many others back? Increased funding for training the uninitiated was welcome, but not enough.
Kenson Li (Co-opted UKME), ordinand at Westcott House, said inspiring priests and lay people were needed to field more ethnic minority candidates like him.
The Reverend Dr. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes (Liverpool) asked the Church to be considerably more generous to ordinands in maintenance and childcare. She fell pregnant weeks into her own training 20 years ago, and her bishop at the time told her she should have ‘thought about it’ before she got pregnant, when she inquired on financial support. It was known that there were not enough women under 30 entering training, she said, and that would not be solved until there was realistic childcare included in the interview.
Reverend Chantal Noppen (Durham) spoke of his own struggles to afford training. She also condemned the pressure exerted on women candidates to choose an autonomous ministry. More audacity and investment are needed to encourage young women to take up training.
Reverend Elizabeth Hassall (York) said she benefited from three years of full-time residential training as an ordinand, which the Reader students she now teaches could not take advantage of. She wanted to tell her students that the Church truly appreciated them by investing in their ministry.
Reverend Jack Shepherd (Liverpool) said a lot of time was invested in the discernment process, but very little was invested in helping successful candidates decide where to study. Was there mental and wellness support available for these people, he asked.
The motion, as amended, is clearly carried:
That this synod:
(a) affirm the goals of “Ministerial Training Resourcing” by seeking to create a more sustainable and responsive accountable framework for ministerial training within the calling of all God’s people;
(b) welcome the principles of reform set out in GS 2271;
(c) request that the Synod be invited to consider and approve more elaborate proposals before they are implemented; and
(d) request that the Board of Ministries closely monitor and support the capacity of TEIs throughout the implementation period of the PMF.