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Leader comment: Student grant

05 November 2021

THE mention in the General Synod papers of “an accumulation of unspent money in dioceses” is eye-catching when finances on the ground are tight. “Something over £1 million per year is being transferred to dioceses which they are not in practice spending on agreed costs for IME1 [the first stage of initial ministerial education] for ordinands. This accumulation is irregular across dioceses and was not predicted.” It is due to ways in which dioceses have made their funding decisions since the last shake-up. The changes have not, it seems, improved the precarious position of some theological-education institutions (TEIs). The system ought to keep them on on their mettle; but the same reservations apply to this as in any debate about competition.

The goal is not, of course, to preserve particular TEIs, but to prepare for fruitful ministry; and yet institutions preserve values, some of which, at least, are important, contributing to the Church’s breadth and diversity. This review also reflects the new emphasis on lay ministry, and one recommendation is to include training of licensed lay ministers or Readers in the national system. This ought to be considered apart from the dismissive talk about ordained ministry which soured the atmosphere earlier this year. In debates about theological formation, at least, there should be clarity about the relationship of Holy Orders to the priesthood of all believers.



WHILE there is so much discussion of global warming, the very thought of bonfires seems almost blasphemous in itself. But on 5 November in England, at least, it can hardly be avoided. An article in The Tablet last week suggested that there was, in fact, no Gunpowder Plot, and that Guy Fawkes’s barrels could well have been the invention of Lord Salisbury, acting very much as his father’s son to meet a political need, add lustre to the crushing of the Warwickshire rising, and create a Catholic scandal that would be remembered for centuries.

Even if this is just another conspiracy theory, it is a reminder that Gunpowder Treason is not the red-letter day of popular celebration which it was in living memory. The fireworks might now be for Diwali. As for dressing up a Guy — costumes are for Hallowe’en, aren’t they? If this was, indeed, a Cecil plot, it has arguably been beaten by this Scottish custom, exported to the New World, then sold to the English by the power of Hollywood glitz in the post-Brady Bunch era. Elizabeth I and her royal cousin Mary might be equally surprised.

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