From the Principal of the College of the Resurrection,
Sir, - As we await publication of yet another report,
Resourcing Ministerial Education, from the five task
groups, an important matter needs careful attention.
The TEIs (colleges and courses training people for ordained
ministry) collectively represent significant theological wisdom and
experience. Over the past twenty years, that wisdom has, it seems,
been effectively sidelined. There are two main causes.
First, the constant stream of reforms and changes from "London"
have drained the energies of staffs, and even deflected them from
giving their best to their students; and, second, governance has
been restructured to separate it from practice, removing principals
and others working at the coal-face from membership of
policy-making bodies such as the Ministry Council - leaving the
latter with a partial understanding of the task that it is seeking
Significantly, no representative of the TEIs was part of the
Resourcing Ministerial Education task group; the consultation that
has taken place so far has been carefully controlled and reduced to
a limited response to selected parts of the mass of material
gathered as "evidence". It can be said, of course, that this is
only one view of the matter, and a picture could be presented of
the practitioners engaging with enthusiasm and showing support for
the project. All of that can be said, but cannot airbrush out the
serious concerns of the practitioners.
The matter that is really at issue is something else: is the
process being driven by God or by human beings exercising power?
What is at work: theology, or an essentially secular picture of
what it is to be human beings? The answer is shown in an increasing
reluctance to engage with the treasures of the theological
tradition in corporate thinking and planning. Instead, participants
are invited to engage in "theological reflection" in a way that
risks trivialising what that term ought to mean, besides
deliberately ignoring the living spiritual tradition in which we
"Theology" here seems to be understood as complex intellectual
constructions that will serve only to confuse. But theology has to
be the heart of the matter: nothing other than a willingness to
seek the mind of God and to desire to do God's will, discerned from
a rooting in the sources of the spiritual life.
To set theology in this fundamental position is to say that in a
worshipping, praying, and reflecting Church, God's very self is
revealed to us, and that is the first thing we need: all our
strategies and plans are worthless unless we have first set aside
our own will and the temptation to take the Church by the scruff of
the neck and control it.
No one doubts the seriousness of the challenges facing the
Church of England, but planning for success and efficiency will be
a disaster if it takes the form of one group pushing another group
around. Those entrusted with the formation of candidates for
ordination need to be able to share truly and effectively with the
Church's bishops and officers in sustained attentiveness to the
spiritual and doctrinal realities at the heart of the Body of
It is not enough to make such orientation to God and his
revelation a gloss on a humanly proposed strategy: it has to be the
foundation for the journey. And because we are Christians, that has
to be really corporate - brothers and sisters listening to one
Peter Allan CR
College of the Resurrection
West Yorkshire WF14 0BW