From the Revd Dr Ian
Sir, - Three cheers for the Revd Dr Barry Orford's eloquent
and timely plea for more teaching of church history in theological
Comment, 8 February). I am quite convinced that the downgrading
of this particular discipline across the academic and
denominational spectrum has been a significant factor in the growth
of the new tradition- (and reason-)lite fundamentalism to be seen
in all mainstream Churches in this country.
As a Church of Scotland
minister who is particularly concerned with the formation and
education of ordinands, I share his concern that an increasing
number of people are entering the ministry (in our case, especially
from overseas) with no background in or understanding of the
traditions and ethos of our national or Established Churches.
I am not sure, however, that
a greater attention to the historical dimension in Christianity,
and to the development and traditions of the Church of England in
particular, would or, indeed, should have the effect of turning out
more "committed Anglicans", as he appears to advocate and desire.
Learning more about the past surely makes one realise just how
contingent, accidental, and conditional are so many deeply held and
In the case of the Church of
England, and of my own Church, I would suggest that, far from
reinforcing "committed Anglicanism" or - God forbid - "committed
Presbyterianism", historical study rather fosters a broad, eirenic
outlook, and an understanding of the particular calling and
opportunities inherent in being part of a national or Established
I would commend to Dr Orford
the Queen's observation, quoted in Cole Moreton's contribution to
your fascinating and moving commemorative pages, that the role of
the Church of England is "not to defend Anglicanism" so much as to
serve everyone, principally through pastoral ministry exercised
through the parish system, and protect the free practice of all
Reader in Church History in the University of St Andrews
School of Divinity, South Street
St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JU
From the Revd Mark
Sir, - The Revd Dr Barry Orford rightly emphasises the need
for ordinands to be thoroughly educated in the Anglican tradition.
It may cheer his heart to know that, at Ridley Hall, there is a
weekly discussion group that works systematically through the
formularies of the Church, that is, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the
Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal. It is a splendid way for
students to en-counter the richness of the Catholic and Reformed
tradition into which they are to be ordained.
Peterhouse, Cambridge CB2 1RD
From the Revd Timothy
Sir, - The Revd Dr Barry Orford is right to insist on the
importance of historical awareness as a key aspect of formation for
ordained ministry today. Without a strong and developing sense of
where we have come from both as the Church of England and the wider
Church, it is impossible to minister with depth and wisdom in our
rapidly changing world, in which "heritage" often masquerades as
history. Without a secure understanding of our Anglican story, we
easily become prey to the latest fad or passing initiative, or to a
misplaced anxiety about the future of the Church.
He is also correct to reject
the path of "eccelsiastical antiquarianism", whether in liturgy,
forms of ministry, or the expectations of congregations: there
never was a golden age of Anglicanism.
At the Yorkshire Ministry
Course, preparation for ordained ministry centres on regular
worship from Common Worship or the Prayer Book, together
with opportunities to understand their historical origins,
theology, and current use. Ordinands also encounter the likes of
George Herbert, Jeremy Taylor, and William Temple, and complete a
whole module exploring the Anglican tradition.
Additionally, the experience
of participating in the worship of the Community of the
Resurrection at Mirfield and of learning alongside those of many
varying traditions of Anglicanism provides a rich historical
perspective on the distinctive identity of the Church of England
and what it means to be a deacon or priest within our Church.
Developing a historical
understanding is central to the preparation offered to ordinands in
at least one non-residential context.
Director of Pastoral Studies
Yorkshire Ministry Course
The Mirfield Centre
Mirfield, West Yorkshire