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Oxford diocese confirms it will withdraw from the Local Ministry Pathway in the autumn

25 February 2022

Emma Thompson

Oxford and Dorchester area deacons, in Oxford diocese, at Petertide last year

Oxford and Dorchester area deacons, in Oxford diocese, at Petertide last year

OXFORD diocese will cease to provide its own training pathway for ordinands from this autumn, it was confirmed this week.

The Oxford Local Ministry Pathway (LMP), a part-time context-based programme, has trained ordinands for more than 25 years. Since 2014, it has been one of four centres forming the South Central Theological Education Institute (SCTEI), alongside the Guildford Local Ministry Programme, Sarum College, and Winchester School of Mission.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the diocese said that the Pathway had delivered theological training and education “of the highest quality to both ordinands and LLMs, and also lay learners”. The decision to withdraw from it was “a response to a changing context, not because the LMP has failed or that there is something wrong.

“Our planned changes reflect an ever-widening accessibility to theological education and formation, a firm desire to celebrate the provision of TEIs across the country, and our diocesan vision to widen formational training for a variety of lay ministries in a creative way. We look forward to sharing the detail of these exciting new plans in the coming months.”

It is understood that the planned retirement of the Principal of the LMP, the Revd Dr Phillip Tovey, prompted a review of the Pathway’s future. Although the recruitment of ordinands will cease, students currently on the Pathway will continue to be supported to enable them to finish their training. The diocese will also continue to train LLMs and other lay ministers, and a consultation is currently under way about how this will work. It is already home to a number of TEIs, with which its LMP will no longer be competing for ordinands.

The Oxford LMP is part of the diocese’s Department of Mission and is underwritten by the diocesan board of finance. While the closure of other TEIs has been prompted by falling numbers of students, numbers on the Oxford Pathway had grown over the years. The 2019 report of a periodic external review of SCTEI, published by Ministry Council, praised the Pathway, concluding that “it aims for excellence and mostly achieves such,” and was “well embedded in the life of the Diocese”.

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