THE principals of ten residential theological colleges are worried that new plans to reform the training of priests will have a “disastrous effect” on their colleges, and will disadvantage women.
In a letter to the Church Times (Letters), the principals begin by expressing their enthusiastic support for the vision at the heart of the Renewal and Reform process of “a growing Church with a flourishing ministry”.
The latest report, to be debated by the General Synod next week, Renewal and Reform: Resourcing Ministerial Education, gives more details to the proposal that emerged last year to allow each diocese to say how its ordinands would be trained.
Under the new scheme, from September 2017, the diocese would be able to choose whether candidates attended a residential or a regional course. Different amounts of funding would be made available from central funds, depending on the age of the candidate.
It is this last detail that has alarmed the theological college principals. The proposal is that £41,900 be given to train candidates under 30, enough to cover a three-year residential course. Those in their thirties would receive £28,000; those between 40 and 55, £18,400; and those over 55, £12,300.
This bias to the young will, the principals write, “enshrine an inbuilt and systemic bias against women and in favour of men in financial terms. This is because the existing pattern and profile of ordinands shows more men than women in that age bracket entering training.”
They go on: “While we support an increased effort in encouraging younger women to explore ordination, we cannot endorse a system of funding which reinforces such a bias.”
This particular proposal, they suggest, “could have a disastrous effect on residential training”.
The letter has been signed by the principals of Wycliffe Hall; Westcott House; Trinity College; St Stephen’s House; Ridley Hall; Ripon College, Cuddesdon; Oak Hill; the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield; Cranmer Hall; and The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education.
Question of the Week: Should funding for ordinands be age-related?