THE Synod has broadly welcomed proposals in the two reports
Resourcing the Future and Resourcing Ministerial
Education, but will wish to give decisions by the Archbishops'
Council and House of Bishops more detailed scrutiny before their
Introducing the debate, John Spence, who chairs
the Archbishops' Council's Finance Committee, reiterated the
urgency of the issue as evidenced by historic trends, but also
emphasised that "every urgent issue gives opportunity, and we are
on the side now of having a response which is truly exciting. Never
let excitement be smothered by the duvet of urgency."
The objectives were the successful achievement of good growth
rather than orderly management of decline; more flexibility for
dioceses; the safeguarding of "those issues for which there can be
no negotiation", i.e. the focus on the poor, and the excellence of
The Synod needed to agree the governing objective. He agreed on
the need for careful planning. Both the Bishop of Sheffield and he
had agreed to accept the amendment from Christopher Hobbs that all
future decisions must receive due scrutiny.
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft,
described visits to some of the most deprived parishes in the
country: Maltby and Thurcroft. Although he was confident that
incumbents would not be impossible to find for the vacancies here,
he warned that this would not be the case in the next ten years,
given clergy numbers: "They need priests, but will not find them on
the current trajectory."
Currently, it took seven to eight years to go from exploring
vocation to incumbency. "The need is well past urgent to grow
vocations and improve training and invest in CMD." There was a need
to connect the needs of dioceses with the training available.
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) said that this was
a great first step, but wanted to place an early marker on the
place of laity in the process and outcomes. He expressed disquiet
over the make-up of steering groups or task groups.
The Revd Amanda Fairclough (Liverpool) spoke
from her "NSM soapbox". She would like to see more self-supporting
ministers nurtured in their 30s and 40s, when it might not be
necessary to "put them through the wringer of another degree". They
would be able to deploy skills from the secular world.
There could also be improvements to house-for-duty ministry.
There was a need to be "more imaginative and less
The Revd Tony Redman (St Edmundsbury &
Ipswich) expressed disappointment about the lack of consultation
with diocesan directors of ordinands and training facilities, who
wanted to add "creative insights", and the focus on stipendiary
ministry. Some problems with ministerial education not mentioned in
the report were the lack of contextual experience during training,
and the lack of a theology of church buildings.
The Revd Dr Philip Plyming (Guildford) welcomed
the honesty in the reports. "Over the last six years, Synod has
been in denial about the challenges facing us. . ." He also
welcomed the vision for the future, which was "unashamedly focused
on the mission God has called us to".
In defence of the focus on stipendiary ministry, he said:
"Unless we have more leaders of churches and parish priests, we
will not be able to maintain our presence in every community."
Speaking to his amendment, Fr Thomas Seville CR
(Religious Communities, York) expressed serious concern about the
lack of "theological undergirding". Missing was a theological
analysis of "Why are so many people not coming to church?" Without
this, the "myths of the age creep into the Church." Here this
included the "big myth of the self-sufficient autonomous self",
present in the approach outlined in the report. It was imperative
that those in training institutions be consulted.
Canon Jane Charman (Salisbury) said that her
amendment allowed for "wider clarification of the proposals without
losing forward momentum". The Synod needed more information in
order to "easily exercise its responsibility to scrutinise this
Samuel Margrave (Coventry), speaking to his
amendment, questioned whether the proposal passed the "Ronseal
['does what it says on the tin'] test": it said it had a bias to
the poor, but would it, in practice? "My concern is, while the
report speaks of a bias to the poor, it fails to ensure the
resources needed for this ministry."
The Revd Christopher Hobbs (London), speaking
to his amendment, highlighted that the money for ministerial
education did not come from the task groups or Ministry Division or
bishops, but from parishes. Unless his amendment was passed, clergy
or laity would not have a proper say over the changing of the
The Church of England was a synodical Church, but had only just
been made aware of the task group, which the Synod had had no say
"This is important: don't rush it. It may be that our system of
training has to change even more significantly, so that we get more
church-planters and evangelists and apologists, and would welcome
Church Commissioners' funding for that. It may be that we need
fewer residential colleges, but we need more consultation with
training institutions, more robust research, and more time for
Synod to operate." The process was "not right".
The Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani
(Peterborough),diocesan curates' training co-ordinator, said that
the Church should be cautious before shortening curacies or
fast-tracking ordination training. The wisdom necessary to be an
incumbent took time to take root and could not be rushed.
The Revd Charles Razzall (Chester) said that a
long-term strategy was needed to put the poor at the heart of the
life of the Church. They also needed to plan for those dioceses
that would be winners and losers in any redistribution of
Samuel Follett (St Albans), a 24- year-old
ordinand, said that streamlining the vocations process was a good
idea, as its length deterred some candidates; but this had to be
done without lowering the quality of ordinands. "We need to find
ways that are quicker and simpler, but just as rigorous." He also
warned against residential training filling ordinands' time with
study and not leaving space for practical ministry.
Fr Seville withdrew his amendment.
Canon Charman moved her amendment.
Dr Croft urged the Synod to resist the amendment, as they could
not do this level of consultation by the July group of
Dr Elaine Storkey (Ely) said that the Synod was
rushing far too fast with these proposals. "We desperately need
more theology and research on this." She mentioned social media,
the democratisation of knowledge, demographic change, fragmentation
of work, and other issues.
The chairman of the House of Laity, Dr Philip
Giddings (Oxford), said that July was far too early to do
everything that needed to be done. He urged the Synod to accept Mr
Hobbs's amendment, "which will give most space for these questions
to be addressed before we move to implementation".
The Revd John Cook (Oxford) said that there
were some significant knock-on effects, if the level of the
standard grant was not set correctly, which could even lead to
residential training becoming non-viable.
Canon Charman's amendment was lost.
The Margraveamendment was moved. Mr Spencesaid that he had a
degree of sympathy with Mr Margrave's point, but insisted that the
poor would be better served by these changes, as half of funds
would be ring-fenced to be used in deprived communities. So he
asked the Synod to resist the amendment.
Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester) was in favour
of the amendment, but questioned whether it truly had a strong bias
to the poor. "On the face of it, 50 per cent is not a bias at all,
let alone a strong bias," he said.
Canon Graeme Buttery (Durham) said that
anything that did not "identify the poor as equal players are not
doing the right job". Mr Margrave's amendment was not perfect, he
said, but it was a start. "We desperately need them to teach us
their lessons on how we thrive on what we consider inadequate."
The amendment was clearly lost.
Mr Spence welcomed Mr Hobbs's amendment. Further consultation
would take place, and the Synod would "not be ambushed with
proposals in July".
The amendment was carried without further debate.
Philip Blinkhorn (Manchester), who chairs the
diocesan board of finance, spoke of the support his diocese had
received for ministry in rural areas, and the work it had funded.
"Our friends from Church House have been challenging," he said, but
their questioning had led to "better planning and work in the task
groups we have set up." He called for "something like the Sheffield
formula" to continue to enable dioceses to plan three or four years
in advance rather than work on zero-sum budgeting.
Concluding the debate, Dr Croft, having received permission to
speak twice in the debate, said that more theological work was
being done with bishops, theological educators, and
He did not think that the risk to theological training
institutions was as great as had been suggested. They were not
proposing the abolition of maintenance grants for married
ordinands, but the pooling of such grants.
Mr Spence apologised for having been seen as working "in the
dark" up until now; but they could not have worked as fast as they
had if they had consulted widely.
The motion was clearly carried.
It said: That this Synod, welcoming the objective set
out in paragraph 4 of GS1978 of investment focused on dioceses'
strategic plans for growth, and with a strong bias to the poor, and
the vision set out in paragraph 8 of GS1979, invite the
Archbishops' Council and the House of Bishops to reach early
decisions on the specific recommendations in the two reports once
the current consultation period with dioceses, theological training
institutions and others is concluded; and bring those decisions
back to Synod for more detailed scrutiny before