Report proposes big drive to attract new priests

15 January 2015

BRENT CLARK

Resourcing Ministerial Education

Resourcing Ministerial Education

THE annual number of candidates for ministry needs to increase by 50 per cent within five years, according to a report by a task group looking at ministerial education in the Church of England.

The report, Resourcing Ministerial Education, one of a series published this week as part of the Archbishops' programme for renewal and reform of the C of E, calls for "a cohort of candidates for ministry who are younger, more diverse, and with a wider range of gifts to serve God's mission".

To achieve this, it proposes an eight-fold increase in training programmes that helps those under 30 to explore vocations, from the present 30 participants a year to 250. At the other end of the age scale, it suggests dropping the national selection process for candidates over the age of 50.

Those aged above 50 would, in future, be selected by their diocesan bishop without reference to a Bishops' Advisory Panel (BAP). The cost of their training would be met by their sending diocese.

Currently the cost of maintenance grants for families of ordinands in training is pooled across all dioceses. The report proposes that this should instead be met by the sending dioceses, giving them the "freedom to determine how much of their training budget should be invested directly in ministerial education, and how much in the support of candidates' families".

It proposes a streamlined vocations process so that, in some cases, "vocational exploration can be begun and concluded within a year." It also proposes that ordinations be moved from Petertide at the end of June to September each year, to "provide more time available for formation and study" and to increase "the educational and training value of the final year of training by as much as one third".

These suggestions are in response to consultations with the dioceses. "Dioceses have told us that they want to hold the numbers of stipendiary clergy steady at around 8,000 over the next decade," the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, and chair of the task group, writes in a blog post published on the C of E website. "That's vital to sustain ministry in parishes right across the land.

"But because of the age profile of the clergy and retirements, the current predictions are that the number of stipendiary clergy will fall to around 6500. We need to take that gap between aspiration and reality seriously."

There is also a call for more lay ministers: "There is an aspiration to see numbers of volunteer lay ministers of different kinds grow by 48 per cent (to over 17,500)" says the report, "and of paid lay ministers grow by 69 per cent (to over 2000)."

The report does not say what the new push for an increase in younger vocations will cost, saying that "further detailed financial projections are in preparation". In the mean time, it has worked out what an extra 50 per cent on the training budget - from £20 million a year to £30 million - might achieve.

There would be a "significant fund" to enable the expansion of "context-based training accessible to all dioceses"; a new stream of funding for the training of lay ministers; and a revision of "Vote One" (the part of the Archbishops' Council budget that covers the costs of training ordinands), so that each candidate for training will, in future, attract a standard level of grant for tuition from a central fund, which dioceses could use as they see fit.

 

Twelve proposals from the Resourcing Ministerial Education Task Group

1. In order to ensure high standard outcomes, the selection criteria and the selection process will be reviewed in the light of current and future needs for ministry. Reporting and assessment processes from selection through IME Phases 1 and 2 need also to be reviewed to support the development of candidates and to ensure consistency all through the formation process.

2. All candidates will have a personal learning plan agreed with the diocese and covering the whole of IME to provide a flexible programme geared to individual need. Bishops Regulations for training will be replaced with flexible, indicative norms (Bishops Guidelines). The plan would be drafted as part of the selection papers and then reviewed at key points during IME.

3. Special national funds are proposed to continue to resource gifted individuals in training to prepare for strategic roles, for example in foundational theological work leading to teaching or research, as missional leaders, as those committed to serve in poorer dioceses including those in context based training in poorer parishes. These would supplement the standard grant (see Proposal 6 below) and be administered nationally.

4. In order to make the most of the investment in IME, it is proposed that ordinations will be moved to September each year. This will provide more time available for formation and study and adds to the educational and training value of the final year of training by as much as one third.

5. In contrast to the present restriction on the use of Vote 1, it is proposed that funds may be invested in candidates after as well as before ordination, opening up the possibility of "Teach First" type schemes for ordination training and creating the option of accelerating the vocational process in the case of candidates suited to this.

6. In place of the current Vote 1 system and Bishops' Regulations, decisions about training pathways for individuals should be made in the diocese, in consultation with the candidate. Each recommended candidate will attract a standard level of grant for tuition from a central fund to which all dioceses contribute in a similar way to the present Vote 1. The grant may be used in a range of ways as the diocese sees fit, provided the training is from an approved provider. The diocese will decide whether resources additional to the standard grant need to be invested in the candidate's future ministry, in each case according to need. No recommendation has been made at this stage about the level at which the standard grant should be set, though it is envisaged that it will be sufficient to enable a candidate to pursue an IME pathway leading to ordination.

7. The pooling of grants for maintenance of candidates families during training will be discontinued and each diocese will cover these costs for its sponsored candidates. We believe this will give the dioceses freedom to determine how much of their training budget should be invested directly in ministerial education and how much in the support of candidates families.

8. Candidates who will be under 50 at ordination will continue to attend a BAP, to ensure national commonality of standards. Candidates over the age of 50 at ordination will be selected locally by the bishop. Candidates over 50 at ordination will not receive the standard pooled grant: the cost of their training will fall directly to the diocese.

9. The Task Group proposes also to explore ways to facilitate through financial and other means the transfer of sponsorship of candidates at the time of selection to dioceses where ministers are needed, and in particular to poorer dioceses.

10. To sustain the effectiveness of IME 1 into the first appointment and beyond, the quality of IME Phase 2 and CMD provision need significant overall improvement. The Task group proposes a development fund providing a substantial sum per annum to which dioceses can apply for matched funding to provide leadership development in preparation for posts of first responsibility. Similar provision of a fund for training for ministers in subsequent posts of responsibility is also proposed in order to sustain the effectiveness of IME. Grants would be made to kite marked schemes which can demonstrate high quality outcomes.

11. We propose to explore benchmarking training posts to three years as a norm rather than four as at present, though it would be open to dioceses to choose a longer period or indeed a shorter one for an individual candidate. The length of curacy should be determined by the time the candidate needs to meet the Formation Criteria. On the basis of the RME research we believe this will not significantly reduce the effectiveness of IME Phase 2.

12. In the Resourcing the Future Report, lay ministry plays a very significant part in the vision for future ministry articulated by dioceses. Overall, there is an aspiration to see numbers of volunteer lay ministers of different kinds grow by 48% (to over 17,500) and of paid lay ministers grow by 69% (to over 2,000). Further work will be done over the coming months to explore how dioceses envisage the development of lay ministry in more detail. We propose the application of additional national funding to education for lay ministry in three streams:

  • Creating the possibility of the recognition of candidates for particular lay ministries through a national selection process and the funding of their training in a similar way to ordinands

 

  •  Matched funding available to dioceses to enhance their provision for lay ministry development (in parallel with Proposal 10 above)

 

  • Funding to ensure that the Church maximises the value of the Common Awards for lay education and training in dioceses.

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