every organisation, institution, business has to negotiate change. the rapid changes in the wider culture and perhaps especially in technology in the last 30 years make it feel as though change is the new constant. i happen to quite like change and newness but i realise not everyone does. it can certainly generate anxiety and fear in good measure. and in many places there is a very real sense of pressure. the new environment seems to call for flexibility, adaptability and improvisation. however when the pressure is on there is always the opposite instinct at play - defence of what already is, the status quo, at all costs and resistance to change.
in the next few days the church of england governing body general synod is receiving several reports. they were published a couple of weeks ago - on discipleship, simplification, resourcing the future and resourcing ministerial education. they have a focus on mission, growth and investing better in those at the margins which in itself is encouraging (though i realise 'growth' is a complicated word that has had a backlash from those who see it tied to measures of success and effectivenes making the church sound like a business). the church of england is full of surprises! i realise a blog post about some church reports might not sound that interesting but in their own way they are putting before the church questions about the inevitable incoming future and whether the church of england will act on the basis of courage or fear. without question she has to change!
i won't go through all the reports here but the one of most interest to me personally and the pioneer leadership training at cms is the resourcing ministerial education one which stresses the need to train people for adaptibility and flexibility for the future. it is also the most far reaching in its proposals. in my view by far the most interesting and long overdue proposal is to rapidly develop lay ministries and increase numbers and to that end developing a stream of funding for lay ministry training especially to resource the future. this will be funding training in a similar way to ordinands. my own take on the various streams that have brought challenge and renewal at the edges of the church in the last thirty years is that they have been largely lay led - in many cases unpaid, untrained and not licensed as well! the majority of pioneers training at cms are in this category. this is genuinely exciting news. it will be for ministry that is licensed but at cms last year we admitted 8 people as lay workers in the church of england which we can do because we are a religious community of the church - i am one myself. i'm slightly pinching myself on this as it's as though we have set something up that has anticipated this future. if this goes through it looks as though people in the church of england could train with us to pioneer and get fees paid for.
there is also recognition that training that is on the job or in-context produces good results and they are trying to encourage development of more pathways like this that are within reach of people who are training whilst working which is a good model and will generate innovation especially if the matched funding proposed is agreed to. this is causing great anxiety amongst providers of residential training who will no doubt be on the defensive at synod. both have their place and as far as i can see a mixed economy of provision is envisaged but for pioneers, on the job training is both recommended and the only way i would ever be interested in training pioneers. it's also so much better value - i know people hate discussions around money but money is a real issue in pretty much every diocese. there will be opportunity for innovation here for colleges who have almost exclusively focused on training ordinands because that is where the money has been. the proposal on money is that there will be a standard grant allocation that a diocese will decide how to spend on approved providers.
the report proposes increasing ordination numbers especially younger and i hope that pioneer numbers will get back on the up - we'll see. dioceses will have more say about the training pathways. they want to review and streamline selection process, presumably for pioneers too so it is done in a year. individuals pathways for training will be more flexible. they are proposing tough limits on age by making dioceses pay for over 50s. there will be money available for leadership development beyond the first phase of training.
in other words it's proposing something of a sea change. i think it's exciting, challenging, and hopeful. it's not without its problems and more work needs to be done. for example i think the critique of business approaches and language is welcome. i liked linda woodhead's challenge in the church times and on tv to not collapse the church into a congregational paradigm or a clerical paradigm but to retain a vision of church in society and public life. decisions won't be made on details - i think it will be a discussion and then voting to give permission for the reports to be taken forward. the key issue for me is imagination. i have in my mind arbuckle's phrase 'culture eats strategies for breakfast' and hope that the culture of the church doesn't eat these up but has the imagination to see ahead. don't be afraid synod!