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Training Anglican Ordinands who come from a non-Anglican or non-Australian background.

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Published Date: 01 May 2009

Presentation Date: 01 May 2009

A paper on the need for at least two years full time training as an accepted candidate for ordination at an Anglican College.

In my opinion Anglican ordinands need at least two years full time training as an accepted candidate for ordination at an Anglican College.

This should be required of all candidates, but is of particular importance for those who come from a non-Australian and non-Anglican background, and especially from ordained or other leadership in those contexts. These include three distinct groups of people:

  • Those who come from other traditional denominations, such as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Uniting Church, Baptist, Pentecostal, Salvation Army, etc.
  • Those who come from the Emerging Church or Fresh Expressions movements, or from independent congregations.
  • Those who come from Anglican churches in the 2/3rds world, and especially those for whom English is not their first language or culture.

Those who come from these traditions, and especially from ordained or recognized leadership in these traditions, come with good resources of Recognised Prior Learning. However it is also the case that some of their RPL might be unhelpful, that some might need to be revised and then complemented or replaced with more Anglican values in terms of thinking and practice.

Recognising the need for Australian Anglican enculturation is not to fail to value what people bring to Anglican ordained ministry, but does recognize the new context and new style of ministry that is appropriate within Anglicanism.

The purpose of this enculturation is not to make people feel inferior, but to help them through the process of identification with the new culture they are entering. This is a recognized missiological principle, and is neglected to our peril.

1. Understanding of Anglicanism

Anglicanism is a distinct and subtle culture and pattern of Christian identity. It requires both knowledge and shared values. Anglicans know creedal orthodoxy and also how this has been variously expressed in the history of the church. Anglicans value Anglicanism, but do not claim that it is the only acceptable form of Christianity. Anglicans have a particular way of being both Catholic and Reformed, traditional and contemporary, of valuing the tradition and yet being contextual, and of valuing Word and Sacraments.

Anglicans have a particular view of dispersed authority, which is distinct from Roman Catholic and Salvation views of centralized authority, Uniting Church government by committees, and Baptist and congregationalist government by the people.

Anglicans have a particular view of liturgy, which combines substance with flexibility and creativity. Anglicans have a particular view of conformity, diversity, and individual responsibility. We have a particular view of the role of the church in society. We have a particular history and understanding of the role of women, and of women in ordained ministry and leadership. We have a particular view of the subtle relationships between Scripture, tradition, reason, experience, and responsibility.

If we want clergy to have a broad experience and understanding of Anglicanism, they are most likely to receive this in an Anglican college, where they meet other students, meet Anglican faculty, and have Anglican placements.

  1. It is possible to study Church History in an ecumenical or inter-denominational context and learn nothing about English history, English church history, or Anglicanism, whether early, medieval, reformation, modern, or contemporary.
  2. It is possible to study Bible in an ecumenical or inter-denominational context and learn nothing of an Anglican approach to Scripture, as exemplified, for example in the work of Westcott, Lightfoot and Hort.
  3. It is possible to study Systematic and Historical Theology in an ecumenical or inter-denominational context and learn nothing about Anglican theology of the Anglo-Saxon church, the Reformation, or the 17th – 21st Century.
  4. It is possible to study Christian Worship in an ecumenical or interdenominational setting and still not gain much understanding about the history and practice of Anglican liturgy.
  5. It is possible to learn about Christian spirituality in an ecumenical of interdenominational setting and yet not learn about Anglican patterns of spirituality.
  6. It is possible to do placements in a field education in an ecumenical of interdenominational setting and have no experience of Anglican parishes.
  7. It is possible to engage in theological education in a setting in which there is no pattern of shared communal Christian worship, or no pattern of regular shared communal Anglican worship. It is Anglican colleges which provide shared communal Anglican worship, an essential component and context of godly learning.

2. Formation for Anglican ordained ministry.

Students bring to their understanding and practice of ministry their previous experiences. For example, teachers are likely to do ordained ministry with the strengths and weaknesses of teachers, surgeons as surgeons, engineers as engineers, social workers as social workers, chefs as chefs, etc.

Part of the preparation for ministry in an Anglican College involves helping individuals to recognize how their previous work patterns might influence how they live and work as clergy, to recognize the strengths and weaknesses that they might instinctively apply in their future ministry, and help them to process this awareness positively.

People who come from non-Anglican or non-Australian ministry contexts will instinctively reduplicate those models of ministry when they are ordained. They need  time to reflect on those models, absorb the characteristics of Anglican ordained ministry in Australia, and begin the process of adjusting so that they bring the best of their past, but are not bound to reduplicate it.

This is especially important when people have exercised significant leadership in prior contexts. For effective leaders often find it difficulty to be learners in a new context. Two years in College can succeed in helping students to learn reflect on ministry, ordination and leadership in new ways, to question unhelpful patterns, and in enabling them to find their place in a new community, and to recognize its values.

3. Anglican identity: the insufficiency of liturgical conformity and of individual subjects or units, and the importance of the hidden but pervasive curriculum

a. Liturgical conformity
It is a mistake to think that if people conform to expected Anglican patterns and norms of worship, then they really are deeply Anglican. Liturgical conformity is not a sure guide to deep identity. For Anglican identity is not just about how we function in worship, but how we approach God, how we do theology, how we relate to the world, how we treat the Bible, how we treat others in our church, how we treat other churches, how we live as human beings.

Liturgical conformity is a superficial and unreliable test of Anglican identity.

b. Individual subjects or units
It is frequently assumed that teaching an isolated unit on a topic will be sufficient to deal with it. This is not the case. Anglican values need to be expressed and learnt in our lectures on Bible, Church History, Theology, Liturgy, Pastoral Care, Preaching, Evangelism, in Chapel, in Field Placements, and in the common life and interactions of the College.

One Unit on ‘Anglican Identity’, however excellent,  is not sufficient to form people for Anglican ordained ministry.

c. The powerful hidden curriculum
Of even greater importance than the formal curriculum of units and degrees is the hidden curriculum, which comes from the style, mood values, priorities, patterns and personnel of the teaching institution. The formal curriculum is intentional, obvious, articulated, recognised and sometimes effective. The hidden curriculum is unintended, subtle, not articulated, not recognised, and always powerful. It is of vital importance that the hidden curriculum express Anglican values. Anglicanism is ‘caught as well as taught.’

4. Two years as an accepted person within the ordination training program

One of the current features of theological training is that many students only apply for acceptance as candidates for ordination after starting their training at an Anglican or other college. We need to recognize that membership of an Anglican College does not itself constitute formation and training for ordination. Many students are not part of the ‘ordination stream.’

Indeed it is not unknown for students to apply for ordination in their last year, and for them to be accepted and then ordained without any time in the ‘ordination stream’ of a college.

If this is the case, it is no wonder that they lack fundamental aspects of formation for Anglican ordained ministry.

This is why we need to specify that those to be ordained need to spend at least two years as accepted candidates for ordination at an Anglican College.

5. Changing Anglicanism

All this may sound as if Anglicanism is an unchanging phenomenon. This is not true, and much Anglican change is initiated ‘from below’ by enterprising and energetic clergy and people. We hope that those who come into Anglican ministry will bring fresh energy and new ideas. Anglican conformity may deaden, as well as enrich. However those who bring change need to be aware of what is already in place, of established and valued patterns, so that they know how to evaluate their new ideas and patterns, so they know that they are new ideas and patterns for their new context of ministry, and so that they can work out productive ways of inviting people to engage in change.

6. The advantages of studying at an Anglican College in Melbourne

Here are some reasons to support the proposal that these two years be spent at Trinity or Ridley College.

If people train in Melbourne at Trinity or Ridley:

  1. They will build up relationships with others in training, and these relationships will help them sustain each other in the years of ministry ahead.
  2. They will learn together in that cohort in their lectures and common life of the Colleges, and also in the joint activity of Theological Reflection. Learning together is a great basis for trust.
  3. Through their placements in Melbourne Anglican parishes, chaplaincies and other ministries they will gain a good understanding of Melbourne Anglicanism.
  4. Through their participation in church life in Melbourne, they will gain a good understanding of the Diocese and its distinctives and characteristics.

In short, they are more likely to ‘catch’ Melbourne Anglicanism in Melbourne.

It is the case that I have what might be described as a vested interest in these matters. From my perspective, it is the convictions and principles outlined above which have led to my taking on my role at Ridley

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