From the Revd Charles Read
Sir, - I am glad that the three deans who wrote in (Letters, 10
April) benefited from their mini MBA in Cambridge.
Nevertheless, this does not excuse the shabby process by which this
training has been initiated. The lack of willingness on the part of
those driving this development to consult remains a serious
problem, and the success of the course is, rather, testimony to
God's ability to bring good out of something rather disastrous.
The Deans themselves, however, inadvertently point to a weakness
in what is being provided. They speak of the MBA as being "wholly
complementary" to their "previous theological formation".
The model, then, is of studying theology in the past and now
moving on to embrace learning from other disciplines without
integrating the two. This is quite ironic, as the MBA was held just
around the corner from Ridley Hall, which has a Christian
leadership institute that does just that. What this mini MBA is in
danger of producing is senior ecclesiastical technicians, when what
we need is reflective practitioners.
Here, too, is the link with another debate in your letters
column: that of the involvement of universities in ministerial
training. Professor Elaine Graham (
Letters, 10 April) rightly points out that some university
theology departments do indeed provide teaching and formation in
theological reflection and contextual theology. The Revd Dr David
Letters, 2 April), however, is also right to point out that
some of our university departments of theology do not.
While we do need our ministers to be technically skilled in
theology and in other appropriate disciplines, that is not the
totality of our needs, and the central place of theological
reflection on practice is what is missing in both the advocacy of
certain forms of university-linked ordination training and in the
dash to MBA-style training for senior leaders. (The training of lay
ministers such as Readers is not able to opt in to either of these
Theological reflection can happen only when the minister has
some theological understanding to use, and some ministerial
practice to use it on. This is more about being formed than about
applying a technical process.
Reader Training Co-ordinator
109 Dereham Road, Easton
Norwich NR9 5ES
From the Revd David Berry
Sir, - Your articles (News
and Comment, 1 May)
about Reform and Renewal raise two important issues. One is the
place of "management" in the Church. The other is how vocations can
Among the gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 are some
particularly miraculous ones. Gifts of administration (v. 28),
though not appearing very miraculous, are vital to the life and
growth of God's people. These must include both day-to-day office
work and strategic planning of the system we are to use in the
Vocations are God-given. They are not something to be extracted
from among believers by beating the drum a bit louder. Thus the
question "How are we to recruit more vocations?" is the wrong one.
The right question should be more like: "What will attract more
vocations?" We need to ask what set-up we are expecting vocations
to be attracted to.
Might it be that God is not recruiting many ordinands,
churchwardens, etc., because he does not want to support an
out-of-date parochial and diocesan system? Is he waiting for our
old system to collapse before showing us the system that he wants
put in place? At that point we might expect his support in the form
of plentiful vocations to leadership ministry.
The Church of England in the south-east may feel little need for
radical renewal of the system. It is a very different scenario in
the rural north of England, where the collapse of the parish system
is much more advanced.
I have yet to feel that the deep roots of decline are being
diagnosed, let alone tackled.
2 The Croft, Warcop
Cumbria CA16 6PH
From Mr Matthew Clements
Sir, - Dr Phillip Rice (Letters,
1 May) says that the the Anecdote to Evidence report
is "a high-quality piece of research".Well, frankly, as he admits
to being a member of the church-growth advisory panel, "He would
say that, wouldn't he?" It would be more helpful if he would
actually address the specific issues raised by Revd Dr Mark Hart
Those of us in the pews would like to feel that we can trust
these reports that come from on high without prior warning, and
which seem to assume that we will welcome them without any
intelligent consideration.Has the hierarchy forgotten the need to
carry us with them in such matters. Do we not count?
4 Church Street, Bicester
Oxfordshire OX26 6AZ