From the Revd Rod Thomas
Sir, — Canon Mike Parsons’s letter (Letters, 6 November) protesting at Reform’s concern about non-residential training courses for ordinands serves only to illustrate the problem.
I do not wish to downplay the dedication either of staff or students on non-residential courses. The commitment required is substantial. What is at issue is the curriculum and the type of ministry for which ordinands are being prepared.
I am delighted that “mission” is now covered by courses more substantially than in the past. But my greater concern is over the amount of time available to ordinands for biblical studies. This is partly the question how the curriculum is structured, and partly to do with the fact that a person studying for a limited number of hours each week cannot cover the same amount of material as a person studying six days a week at a residential college.
Canon Parsons questions whether biblical studies are really so critical. If his vision of church leadership is primarily managerial, then perhaps they are not. But if you believe that a presbyter is primarily a “pastor teacher” (Ephesians 4.11), as most Evangelicals do, and as the Ordinal affirms, then no amount of “leadership training” is going to make up for deficiencies in preparing ordinands to teach the scriptures.
Canon Parsons’s outlook on this — which is so obviously at variance with Evangelical concerns — simply illustrates why there is still such a mountain to climb in gaining the confidence of Evangelicals for non-residential training courses.
His letter points to the relatively low cost of non-residential training. This does nothing to alleviate the suspicion that it is money rather than ministry which is driving the growth of non-residential training.
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