THE Church of England's Ministry Council is operating with a
"paucity of quality information, analysis, and insight" about
ministerial training, two of its officers said this week.
In a paper discussed with the Council this week, Dr Liz
Graveling, researcher for ministry projects, and Dr Tim Ling, head
of ministry development, say that the work of the Archbishops' task
groups, including the one that produced the report Resourcing
Ministerial Education (RME) (News, 23
January), has drawn attention to a "paucity of quality
information, analysis and insight, and its need if the Council,
House of Bishops, Dioceses and Theological Education Institutions
(TEIs) are to be active agents in . . . Reform and Renewal" - the
church-growth programme currently being rolled out in the C of
Dr Graveling and Dr Ling were given the task last year of
researching the effectiveness of the Church's investment in
ministerial training. This research proved to have "several key
limitations", echoed in feedback from stakeholders, including TEIs,
they write in their paper.
These limitations are, they suggest, "both conceptual and
methodological". They include "a historical perspective" - the
research covered clergy who had trained several years ago,
self-reported data, a lack of consultation, and a failure to
address ministry in contemporary society.
"There does not appear to be consensus on the objectives of
ministerial education, partly because the picture of what
ordinands' future ministry will (or should) look like is unclear,"
They call for a "longer-term approach" to understanding
ministerial education. This would incorporate "both quantitative
and qualitative methods with robust structures of validity and
reliability. Central to this support and participation of all
stakeholders is a spirit of openness and willingness to share and
receive knowledge and resources."
They acknowledge that concepts of ministry, education, and
society are "vast and complex topics, which will not be resolved in
a short space of time".
The Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, the Revd Dr Jeremy
Morris, is among those who have expressed concern about the
(Letter, 27 March;
News, 17 April). On Wednesday, he said that the admission of
"several key limitations" was "very welcome indeed". He said that
the authors were "reluctant to acknowledge just how disabling the
criticisms are for the overall strength of RME".
He also questioned whether the new research proposed would solve
the problems identified in the report: "The three core concepts
they want to clarify are the nature of ministry, education, and the
nature of contemporary society - vast and complex issues, indeed,
which will not be decisively 'clarified' by the research they
propose. . .
"What is necessary, first and foremost, is a vision of what
theological education for the whole Church - for the whole people
of God - ought to look like. The abiding impression that this
document leaves, for all its good intentions, to my mind, is that
we are not confident on theological vision as a Church, but much
too trusting in the security and decisiveness of empirical
On Wednesday, the Director of Ministry, the Ven. Julian Hubbard,
said that the RME report had acknowledged the need for
further research: "It was always our intention to develop the
research from the initial stage and to extend it so that it served
not just in the area of ministerial education but also selection,
deployment, and other areas which are closely related to
He stood by the RME report's proposals, which "do not
favour any particular pathway on abstract or ideological grounds. .
. They allow the exercise of intelligent judgement about the needs
of the individual candidate and the hopes and needs of the Church
in relation to them. The intelligence about such decisions will
grow as the body of data and information develops through the