Only theological college in Church in Wales may close

04 April 2014

church in wales

A REPORT considering the future of ministry training in the Church in Wales has recommended the closure of the Province's only theological college.

It proposes that St Michael's College, Llandaff, would close in 2016. Training for ordinands and lay ministers would be provided across Wales through a non-residential Theological Education Institution (TEI); and ordinands selected for full-time training would go to an English theological college.

The report estimates that the TEI would cost £565,000 a year. The bulk of that sum would cover the employment of a provincial Principal, and of six nationally funded diocese-based Directors of Study.

The main source of funding would come from the closure of the college, which, it says, could be turned into a conference centre, and the base for a new national theological library, St Teilo's.

"The proposals meet head-on the regional challenges of the management of ministry training, and offer a flexibility of approaches to ministry formation and training for the future," the authors of the report say. "The appointment of six diocesan Directors of Studies as part of the TEI will allow dioceses to own the training programme, and give them the flexibility to respond to local needs, and experiment with different forms of ministry and its training methods."

The Principal of St Michael's, Canon Peter Sedgwick, will retire in June. The report says that his post should remain vacant, as part ofthe transition to the new way of working.

"We have begun to formulate our own contribution to this discussion, and we expect to be able to presenta proposal that will be creative, effective, inspiring, and affordable," Canon Sedgwick said. "We are very much in the process of consulting with people about the future of ministry in the province at a whole."

He described the proposed closure of St Michael's as a "disaster" for the Church's attempts to increase and develop the use of the Welsh language in its mission and ministry. "While I can see that [non-residential training in parish groups] has great advantages, I think it is going to be very hard for people training through parish groups to learn the Welsh language; and those going to England will lose the whole aspect of Welsh identity.

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"All our services have prayers in Welsh. That doesn't exclude people from England, because we don't speak Welsh all the time, but it does mean that we are very much part of the Welsh culture and identity. We work on that. All students learn Welsh on Wednesday afternoons."

The college currently has about 20 part-time and 18 full-time pre-ordination students, including one from an English diocese, Ely. If the college closed in 2016, students starting in September on a two-year course would be able complete their studies. Three-year students would have to transfer to an English college for their final year.

St Michael's College includes the Centre for Chaplaincy Studies, which provides a distance-learning and part-time residential Masters course for 50 chaplains serving schools, hospitals, prisons, and the military. The report proposes transferring this to Cardiff University.

St Michael's was an independent college until 2010, when it merged with the Church in Wales; which then spent more than £1 million on renovations (News, 23 April 2010).

"Looking to the future, it is self-evidently crucial for the Church in Wales that we have in place arrangements for training and formation which reflect our current perception of the roles of all those engaged in public ministry in the future," the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said in a letter setting out a consultation process on the report's proposals.

"At the same time, I and the other bishops are very conscious that a review of this kind is unsettling for all those who are potentially affected by it."

The consultation period closes on 30 May, and the report will then be discussed by the Bench of Bishops at their meeting in June.

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