*** DEBUG END ***

North-south divide: a solution to hand?

21 March 2014


From the Revd Tim Evans

Sir, - As one who served successively in the dioceses of London, Blackburn, Carlisle, and Wakefield, I have followed the recent debate in the Church Times over the challenge of attracting clergy to northern dioceses with great interest.

It is a long-standing issue: every spring since I was ordained deacon, I have received the list of those to be ordained from my old theological college, and every year of the 20-25 on the list only two or three will serve in the north of England. Often more go to the diocese of London than to the whole of the Northern Province! But it is not a simple north-v.-south issue. Very few leave my old college for dioceses in the south-west, or Hereford, Gloucester, Worcester, Norwich, St Edmundsbury, or Lincoln.

This long-term trend belies the fundamental mission of the Church of England to the whole of our nation, and should lead to sustained action by the House of Bishops, which is ultimately responsible for the selection and formation of candidates for ordained ministry. There is already, however, a creative and dynamic response to this situation, which has proved its value over more than four decades: the regional training courses that serve the Church all over the country. They work with locally recruited ordinands who are formed for ordained ministry in the contexts in which they will serve. They combine rigorous study (in the case of the Yorkshire Ministry Course, up to MA level) with pastoral engagement and experience of mission.

The courses provide an excellent alternative to the residential colleges, and one that is likely to be far more financially viable in the long term. In addition, those on regional courses have the essential formational experience of praying, learning, and socialising with those from every tradition of the Church of England. They are thus prepared for ministry and mission in a Church in which they will be required to show adaptability and the willingness to work across the old party divisions that lay behind the foundation of theological colleges in the 19th century.

Because of the regional courses there is no need for candidates to relocate to another part of the country in order to be formed for ordained ministry, and this offers the best hope of attracting and retaining clergy in the parts of England which theological colleges often do not reach.

In order to make better use of these well-established resources, however, it will be necessary for the bishops to grasp the nettle of the funding of the regional courses vis-à-vis the colleges. A level playing- field is needed, so that the full-time courses being developed by the YMC and others are funded at a level equivalent to the funding given to colleges.

This would go a very long way towards addressing this urgent issue in the pastoral mission of the Church to the whole of our nation. Part of the solution is already there, and has been a wonderful success story over many years. Let's celebrate it, and use it fully.

Tutor and Director of Pastoral Studies
The Yorkshire Ministry Course
The Mirfield Centre
Mirfield WF14 0BW


From the Revd Cllr Mike Dixon

Sir, - We shouldn't be surprised at the rush by the clergy to the fleshpots of the south-east. This reflects the ideological agenda of this Government, which is to transfer wealth, power, and influence from the poor to the rich, from north to south. By 2016, the spending power of Durham County Council will be reduced by six per cent whereas that of Surrey (+3 per cent) and Buckinghamshire (+2.5) will actually increase. Where is the voice of the Church? Do the Church and the clergy have the stomach for a fight for equality, justice, and fairness for the wholecountry, and will they recover the missionary zeal to preach the Good News to the poor?

"Money is no object" - for those in the Thames Valley, maybe; and for those up north? Hm.

2 Crowley Place
Newton Aycliffe
Co. Durham DL5 4JH

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)