From the Revd Hugh Bowron
Sir, - For this New Zealand Anglican, Resourcing Ministerial
Education has an eerie and ominous déjà vu feeling
Just such a devolution of ministerial education to the dioceses
has been the norm here for the last few decades. Many of our clergy
have never attended a theological college or completed a serious
theological degree from a tertiary educational institution.
The downwind consequences have been considerable: liturgical
confusion and lack of competence, superficial preaching, amnesia
about the Anglican spiritual tradition, a reluctance to engage in
any kind of serious theological debate at synodical level when it
comes to crucial issues, and a lack of perception in recognising
the theological issues, difficulties, and opportunities for belief
in a secularised Western society with rising educational standards.
The Church's ministry has dumbed down at a time when more people
than ever have been to university, and when many of the bien
pensant perceive the Church to be a soft target.
This is not the fault of the clergy trained in the devolutionary
model. They volunteered to serve in the Church's ministry, often at
the invitation of the Church itself, and did what they were
required to do in the formation process. Responsibility lies with
the flawed training process.
Looking back on 35 years of parish ministry, I wonder if I would
have survived or thrived without the formation I received at the
College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, in the 1970s, with its
emphasis on liturgical excellence, the disciplined search for
holiness, a strong community life, and serious theological
reflection. It wasn't perfect, and I accepted that it was my
responsibility to pick up the extra skill sets required. But this
ministry formation process has been a life-saver, and I would be
sorry to hear that it had become a rarer possibility.
I don't see a disjunction between academic theology and
front-line ministry. Currently I am doing a part-time Masters in
systematic theology at the local university as a complement to my
parish ministry. I find it to be consolation, animation, and
inspiration that sustains the fire in my belly in the long haul of
faithful parish ministry.
57 Baker Street, Caversham
Dunedin, New Zealand
From Dr Phillip Rice
Sir, - I am writing as a member of the church-growth advisory
panel to dispel any thoughts that the work underpinning
Anecdote to Evidence is weak or unfocused, or goes beyond
the evidence base. In particular, my contribution to the advisory
panel was to bring a wider context of methods used in
growth-studies current across the social and economic field, and to
interview the contractors around their technical ability. The key
theme for such studies is to tackle when the evidence is causative
as a step beyond being associative or correlative; and recent
advances in methods are around "causes".
Quality academic studies are most particular about how the
statistical evidence stacks up in a technical sense, and in all the
precursor steps about cleaning the data and checking for errors. It
was in the former area that Professor David Voas was a most
judicious research analyst, and in the latter area that Bev
Botting, head of research and statistics for the Archbishops'
Council, has done sterling service in checking the numerous data
files on parish data accessed by the teams.
As to the claim that self-declaration introduces bias, surveys
are all about self-declaration. But what good research does, and
the team also did, was to look at the non-respondents. So even the
non-respondents were followed up to look for bias, and the evidence
was that the non-respondents did not look out of line.
This was a high-quality piece of research.
23 Christchurch Square, London E9 7HU
From the Revd Dr Mark Hart
Sir, - It suffices to address one paragraph of the letter (24 April)
from Bev Botting, head of research and statistics for the
Archbishops' Council, and Kevin Norris, senior strategy officer for
the Church Commissioners, written in response to your report on my
paper From Delusion to Reality.
Contrary to what I had claimed, they assert that From
Anecdote to Evidence does, in fact, make the point "on the
back cover of the report" that, according to the church-growth
research, "the factors associated with growth account for only a
small proportion of the difference between growing and declining
That assertion is categorically false, as anyone may determine
by inspection. This significant gap in the findings is reported
neither on the back cover nor elsewhere; neither as quoted nor in
"non-technical" language. I am lost for words.
The Rectory,41 Oaklands, Guilden Sutton,Chester CH3 7HE