What does ordination training need to include?

We are once again undertaking a review of ordination training in the Church of England, technically known as IME 1–3, Initial Ministerial Training years 1 to 3, to note that initial training continues in curacy prior to anyone becoming an incumbent (sole leader of a congregation). The reason for this is that all previous discussions have been beset by conflicts of vested interests, and effected only by decisions made with a lack of transparency, accountability, and participation for all those involved. The complexity for the C of E is that there are at least four parties to questions of training, each with their own concerns which in some way clash or are in tension with each other: bishops and dioceses; training institutions; central church management and decision-making (Ministry Council); and ordinands themselves, along with those who support and sponsor them.

In the debate in Synod last week I made this short speech, outlining some key concerns:

I am very encouraged by the new and refreshing tenor of these discussions about ministry training. For many years—decades even—these discussions have been beset by playing off vested interests, with a lack of transparency and accountability—until very recently. I welcome the change of tone.

In this spirit, could I make a plea for four issues to be addressed.

First, we desperately need to rediscover a depth of biblical and theological engagement in our pre-ordination training. Everyone I speak to—training incumbents, bishops, even ordinands themselves—recognise the continuing decline in biblical and theological literacy in the newly ordained. This is not the fault of the candidates—it is a failure of our current system.

Secondly, please can we find a common core for training. Deacons, priests and bishops are ordained using the same vows to a shared ministry. It makes no sense that they do not cover much of the same issues in their training. Without this, we continue to sow division into the future of the church.

Thirdly, we must find a way of equalising hours of study across different pathways. I fear we have succumbed to a missional pragmatism in some of our pathways which undermines depth engagement with key issues.

Fourthly, can we please abandon the idea that ‘formation’ is something separate from study of Scripture and theology. Reading scripture is deeply personally formational, and learning how to read and study scripture aright is a preparation for a lifetime of continuing formation.

If we address these things, I really hope after RMF, we can avoid RMG, RMH, RMI and RMJ in years to come!

There were two very interesting sets of reactions to this. The first was that many people, across the whole range of theological traditions, agreed with my comments very strongly—including some who shared them on social media after I had posted them. This is very significant, since it shows that there is a desire across the Church to address serious concerns with where we have ended up in our approach to training.

I should also add (as an aside) that many people think that the Church is becoming more ‘liberal’. I am not sure that is really the case—at least not in the sense that the word ‘liberal’ has been used historically. Liberal theology in the past has been a robust and substantial intellectual tradition in the Church—and one which has shaped me in many regards. Compared with, say, the evangelicalism of 100 years ago, I think that my acceptance of critical thinking in the reading and interpretation of Scripture makes me look quite ‘liberal’ intellectually. What is happening in the Church at the moment is that it is becoming more ‘progressive’, but that is most often coming out of ignorance, rather than being a well-informed position. At Synod someone shared an anecdote from their recent ordination retreat: on reading the 39 Articles in preparation for their ordination, they were asked by another ordinand ‘What are those?’ And another ordinand was asking whether the Parable of the Good Samaritan came in the gospels. Anecdotes don’t prove anything, but they do illustrate something.

The other reaction was one I had come across before: someone from a particularly tradition in the Church objected to the idea of a common core syllabus, because it would be the means by which a different tradition would impose its agenda on the whole Church. This is a reaction I have had from all traditions! But it precisely illustrates why we need to agree a common core syllabus: without it, we are teaching, training, and forming those being prepared for ordained ministry in quite different ways, and this embeds our divisions and perpetuates them for years to come.

It also illustrates the solution to this disagreement: get people from different theological traditions in a room to thrash out what a core syllabus should cover. We need to deal with our disagreements, not run away from them. I have a feeling and a hope that, when we do this in the light of the ordinal and our current ministry context, we might actually find some surprising agreement.

To that end, I would like to suggest here a list of things that all those being ordained need to have studied and understood. There are many ways to organise this, but one helpful way is to focus on: biblical studies; doctrine, liturgy and history; and practical theology. The reason for this stems from the Church of England’s own identity: we are Reformed, so need to be rooted in Scripture; we are Catholic, so need to understand doctrine, liturgy and history; and we are a Church for the nation, offering missional invitation and pastoral care. Taking each heading in turn:


Those being ordained should have studied:

  • The synoptic gospels
  • The Gospel of John
  • Pauline theology
  • Paul’s major letters (1 Corinthians, Romans)
  • Hebrews, Revelation, the catholic epistles
  • Torah (Pentateuch)
  • The OT prophets
  • Wisdom literature
  • OT ‘histories’

In each case, the teaching and learning needs to cover the content of the texts, theological themes, critical issues in reading, and the history of interpretation, including recent developments. In addition there should be the opportunity to study Greek and Hebrew, which for some should be compulsory.

The overall goal should be for those being ordained to have grown in confidence in their handling of Scripture, and to have confidence in Scripture as ‘the word of God written’ which will nourish them and those they minister and build up their faith.

I have grouped these areas of study into manageable chunks which, in higher education terms, would take up about 10 credits. I cannot see how this material could be covered in less than 80 credits, that is, one third of a full-time two-year course or equivalent.

Doctrine, liturgy, history

This area is much more complex to think about, since there are quite different ways that it can be approached. To take one example, in thinking about the doctrine of the person of Christ (Christology), you could either look at different ways in which this had been considered through different periods of history, and different themes. Or you could study different periods of the history of Christian thought, and in each one have a section on Christology. But overall, it seems to me that ordinands should cover:

  • Christology
  • Theories of atonement
  • Trinity
  • Ecclesiology
  • Patristics
  • The medieval period
  • The Reformation
  • Modernity and postmodernity
  • Anglican liturgical development from 1552, 1662, into the modern period
  • Philosophy of religion

The goal here should be to enable ordinands affirm with confidence their answer to this question in the ordination service:

Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it, and in your ministry will you expound and teach it?

Note the twin focusses here on ‘the Christian faith’ and ‘as the Church of England has received it’. Once more, I don’t see how this material could be covered in less than 80 credits, that is, one third of a full-time two-year course or equivalent.

Practical Theology

In some ways, this is more straightforward to think about. Ordinands need to cover:

  • Pastoral care
  • Ethics
  • Leading worship
  • Mission and evangelism
  • Sacramental theology and practice (baptism, Communion)
  • Preaching
  • Education, learning, and growth in discipleship

These are the subjects which most obviously connect with actual practice and placement experience during training, unlike the previous two lists. In fact, alongside exploring issues and principles, an essential elements in all of these is the integration of practice with reflection, drawing on scriptural and theological perspectives.

I suspect that some readers of these lists would see this kind of outline as quite ‘traditional’ in some respects, but I hope they provoke some observations and discussion, and raise some questions.

My first question is: what is wrong with these lists? What is missing, and what is unnecessary? I am genuinely interested in answers to these questions—but it is not obvious to me what from these lists someone being ordained in the Church of England could do without. At best, there might be one or two things that could be pushed into the second part of initial training—but there is no agreed framework for that either at the moment.

And my observation is that I don’t think all these things are being covered in ordination training across the different pathways at the moment. Some pathways miss a number of these subjects out; others simply don’t have time to cover them adequately—though I say this from observation, rather than a systematic analysis of current provision (which should be done, but because of diversity of training would be a complex task). And I have never been convinced by the suggestion that ordination for ministry in certain contexts means that you can miss some of this out—not least because ordained ministry in the C of E is nationally deployable.

When I wrote about this previously, Simon Stocks asked this question in comments:

Are you aware of any approved ordination training pathways that do not include all the elements you outline?

If that is the case, then why can’t we move to a common core syllabus immediately? The fact that so many have resisted it suggests that it is indeed not the case!

Two final comments, on ‘traditions’ and delivery.

Having something like these lists as a core curriculum need not determine or constraint the distinctive theological or intellectual tradition of an institution, within the boundaries of Anglican identity. Institutions always vary in their ethos, and that ethos is carried by many more things than the subject content. In fact, it is vital that the tradition is not carried by a selectivity of content; we should not commit to being evangelical, or liberal, or catholic out of ignorance of other traditions and emphasises, but as a result of engagement with them.

Secondly, there are important discussions to be had about modes of delivery. I was trained in a residential college; I completed my PhD part-time whilst doing a mixture of ministerial and non-ministerial work; I first taught on a diocesan course; I had a substantial period of time as academic dean of a residential college; but I have since taught on a context-based course. I previously commented on these three main modes of training:

  • Residential training can involve costly upheaval and relocation, with all the distraction and disruption that involves (though with fewer people entering the property market early in life, some of the practical challenges are reduced). But it creates a critical mass of a learning and teaching community, allows depth formation in community, and creates the opportunity for in-depth study which can lay foundations not easily acquired anywhere else.
  • Part-time training is flexible and affordable and makes training accessible in a local context that residential training will never be able to. It is economical for the Church since residential costs are avoided—though of course this means the candidate in training is bearing that cost.
  • Context-based training encourages strong partnerships between the training institution and the local church, and allows the possibility of continuity in ministry prior to, during, and after training. It mainly avoids the issues of deskilling and dislocation that can come with residential training, and is highly motivating for those in training, since ministry immersion offers an immediate reason for learning. But this approach as currently practiced does not allow the same depth engagement as residential training, and students have too many pressures on their time.

But the question that all pathways need to address is the equity of learning hours—and we are currently living with an unhelpful fudge. (See on that posts in the comments an exchange between Mike Higton of Durham and myself on the question of learning hours in context-based training.)

A further major factor in the delivery of training is how we make it inclusive across educational and class divides; it remains the case that the Church of England has a poor record of selecting and training working-class leaders, and as a result consistently fails to reach the working-class population.

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186 thoughts on “What does ordination training need to include?”

  1. I think I would want to add training in leadership to Practical Theology. Most priests will end up leading congregations and ministry teams (paid and volunteers.) Many enter the church without any experience of leadership and/or without reflecting on how leadership works. This is a current weakness of the church (there have been some high profile cases where authoritarian/bullying leadership has caused huge damage to congregations and even dioceses; there are also many less high profile parishes where this happens.)
    From the perspective of children’s and family ministry, I would also like to see more time spent on children’s spirituality and worship. If a priest is going to be leading a weekly (or even monthly) all age worship then they need to have a good understanding of the principles behind it. This is something that can’t necessarily be learnt in context as the Training Incumbent may also have an inadequate understanding of what is involved, so the perpetuating the problems.

    • I think I would add to training in leadership an understanding of management of change. With so much changing around us, having the skills to be able to lead people through such times is increasingly important.

  2. This is a good start but I wonder whether there should not be an agreed reading list prior to ordination training and perhaps even a gentle entrance exam (“gentle” means that forms other than a written examination might be more suitable). I know this raises questions about different people’s mode of learning but there is only so much (so little) one can do in a ten credit module and academic training is too expensive to spend on basics that should and could be covered easily prior to ordination training. A church that sponsors candidates for ordination training should ensure that such candidates have heard of and read the Thirty-Nine Articles and are familiar with the Scriptures. The absence of a useful catechism within the Church of England is a further problem. If we had something like the ACNA catechism, I do not think that it would be too much to ask people to become thoroughly familiar with it prior to ordination training.

    As for areas missing in your list, I reckon that it would be good for candidates to learn about psychodynamic counselling and themselves have a counsellor – but that would be expensive.

      • “Do we all need counselling…?“

        I think this should be an absolute requirement. The pastoral work that is required in ministry involves intimate and personal matters of life and death. To undertake such pastoral work without counselling and supervision is just asking for trouble.

        • I’d have to agree, though it would be important for an individual (a) to recognise their own skill limits; and (b) the limits of what should be handled at church level in terms of counselling. At least as important is understanding local and national counselling resources, because with the best will in the world, most priests/ministers will not be professionals best suited for certain kinds of counselling.

          All that said, I recall a priest whose counselling was catastrophic for me on a Christian house party. My father had just died of cancer at the age of 55. I was in deep and utter grief. My father had not attended church since he was a youth. I was told that I should accept that he had been sent to Hell. It was crushing and it destroyed my Christian fundamentalism in the end. Even if the priest was entitled to that view, his blunt insistence was cruel and inept.

          There needs to be awareness of limits, and consciousness of dangers implicit in counselling, because in the end most priests/ministers will be amateurish compared to actual professionals with far more training in these skills.

  3. I completely agree with you here Ian. One additional thing I would add is a post training BAP to see if the ordinand and the church still agree that Holy Orders are right for the student, and perhaps what ministry make look like specifically for them. What I fail to see, having not taught in all of the TEIs, is which institutions are NOT teaching all the modules you list. It’s a no brainer. Why would any institution not teach these tried and tested core modules?!?!

      • If a principle actually started failing ordinands they’d swiftly find themselves without students. The economic pressure is entirely towards getting as many students through as possible, regardless of suitability or aptitude.

        • No it is not – TEIs regularly decline to recommend students for ordination. The numbers are not great but it happens each year and bishops encourage us to be honest about candidates. We have had the fees by then anyway!

        • Principal’s can’t ‘fail’ ordinands. The Principal simply makes a recommendation to the ordaining bishop. It is then up to the bishop to decide whether to ordain or not. I have known of a Principal recommending that ordinands should not proceed to ordination but the Bishop goes ahead. And vice versa.

  4. I thought the common award sylabus is supposed to address this? That said, I didn’t do it for training: I was lucky to be able to read Theology at Oxford for my IME 1 & 2, and then covered the rest in my third year.

    I would hate to see that pathway die under the pressure of standardisation: it was far more rigorous, required in depth study of biblical languages (translation under exam pressure!) and gave me a great foundation to build the rest of my learning on.

    To add to the anacdotes about poorly educated/discipled curates, I had an interesting discussion with one of my fellow curates who claimed that christ had sinned in life. This is core gospel stuff!

    • ‘I thought the common award sylabus is supposed to address this?’ Yes—except there isn’t one!The modules are not all shared, and even the ones that are don’t guarantee anything. I examined two colleges which both taught one particular module—and the two versions had zero common content!

    • To add to the anacdotes about poorly educated/discipled curates, I had an interesting discussion with one of my fellow curates who claimed that christ had sinned in life.

      Wow! No wonder the CofE is in trouble.

  5. Speaking as a ‘liberal’, recently trained in a liberal part-time training establishment, I admit my first response was, as you predict, “oh no, another attempt to privilege particular interpretations of scripture over others”. But really, I think this would be addressed by teaching hermeneutics and models of interpretation of scripture prior to studying the scripture itself. You do mention this when you say that “In each case, the teaching and learning needs to cover the content of the texts, theological themes, critical issues in reading, and the history of interpretation”. The change of emphasis I’d make is that I think it’s vital to study how to interpret scripture prior to studying scripture itself, as this is a tool that allows us to continue to do our own study of topics and passages that aren’t covered directly in any core syllabus.

    TL;DR Methods for interpreting scripture should be at the start of a core syllabus about scripture.

    • Tess

      My worry would be that the hermeneutics taught may end up blinding the student to Scripture rather than help access it.

    • A further danger would be simply assuming all the models-for-interpretation were coherent. There is no particular reason for assuming a model would be coherent rather than incoherent.

      And then another danger again: If many models exist, people will be tempted to think they are precisely as good as each other, or even (aargh) ‘each to their own’. Which is pure relativism; and relativism is known to be self refuting.

      And that is before the text is even opened…

  6. I’m copying my comment here from the comment I made on Ian’s facebook post:
    I like your thinking very much!! And agree with you almost wholeheartedly. Personally I think (although my personal experience is now 20 years out of date) that initial training (college or otherwise) should give a thorough grounding in the essentials of biblical theology as you’ve outlined and SOME of the practical theology you mention, but with more of that being more robustly built in to the later curacy stages and first-incumbency stages of training (I would be very much in favour of rigorous compulsory training over the first years of incumbency which are relevant to that point in time – such as faculty issues, registers, team management etc). Outside of biblical study and the tools which help us handle scripture and apply it, I would put a much greater emphasis and expectation on all clergy to be trained in at least the rudiments of counselling and all aspects of mental health – so that they are at least not causing damage in the pastoral encounters they have on a daily basis. Surely encountering those with trauma, mental illness (of all ilks) and pastoral problems (grief, dying, illness, relationship troubles, divorce, financial difficulty, stress etc) is one of the greatest burdens and responsibilities of clergy today. Not only being able to handle these encounters well, but also being wise in how to signpost and support people appropriately, knowing when we have reached our limit of appropriate care and when we have something wise to offer ourselves is crucial – yet for me the training in this regard was not nearly enough and something I had to self-teach over the years. The training I remember was far too vague and tried too quickly to cover far too much ground. My sister has just trained as a professional counsellor over several years and that training has a huge burden on supervised counselling sessions with feedback and support, in much the same way I recall getting for preaching but never for pastoral care practice. I do not think clergy should be professional counsellors but there is no getting away from the fact it is a large part of what we end up doing. In other words while we ought not try to be full time professionals, we do need to be really very highly competent, able to offer GOOD first line support at the very least and know how not to operate dangerously or cack-handedly. Knowing professionally when to refer someone on, and how to do so in the right way is an essential skill.

    For me the ability for clergy from curacy stage onwards to hit the ground running with BOTH biblical literacy AND pastoral literacy are the two main requirements of what we need for clergy moving into full time ministry. I don’t think high quality pastoral practice can be delayed to somewhere further down the line because from day 1 curates are sent out to visit the grieving, the sick and the dying…. as well as a host of people from all walks and states in life. They need to be adequately equipped for the task.

    • “I would put a much greater emphasis and expectation on all clergy to be trained in at least the rudiments of counselling and all aspects of mental health – so that they are at least not causing damage in the pastoral encounters they have on a daily basis.”

      Very good point.

  7. I think somewhere in there, space needs to be found to situate the Church of England within the Anglican Communion, to better understand and appreciate the perspectives and concerns of the Global South in particular. Wouldn’t it be great if every learning institution had as part of it’s teaching team at least one from outside the Church of England – not as tokenism, but to be able to encourage the love of learning from different perspectives, and to value those with a different view point rather than to dismiss it.
    Interestingly, at the ISEO in Paris (a theological centre for training lay and ordained that works ecumenically) most courses are taught by two people of differing traditions. Whether it be the Reformation & Counter-Reformation, or Eucharistic Theology (to name but two) the teaching of different perspectives from people who hold on to them brings real enrichment and doesn’t allow for the easy dismissal or simplification of views that are not your own.

  8. You clearly have thought about this in some depth Ian. I as a free churchman with Brethren ecclesiology in my bones cannot contribute much. I have never been at an Anglican service as far as I remember,

    I’ll make a few suggestions from my perspective.

    One of the great weaknesses to my mind is one-man-ministry. The omni-competent pastor is seldom omni-competent. It must lead to breakdowns. I think there is a need for a team ministry. To this end I think it is a good idea for the pastor to recognise and train up young men involving them in the church teaching programme when appropriate. I think this is the way to identify and begin training future ministers

    Ideally I would want an eldership that is there to encourage and support. If possible, involve elders in teaching.

    Perhaps next thing in importance is pastoral care. By all means have a team involved in this but also the pastor. It is important in itself and it brings realism to his preaching.

    Preaching and pastoral work (and meeting with elders) seem to me to be the main works and perhaps preparing others for ministry. Other works can be carried out by various teams. The pastor needn’t always be available.

    Given this, I think the greatest part of an ordinands course should be developing an understanding of the Bible and various associated disciplines like pastoral, systematic, biblical and perhaps historical theology.

    I’d like to see a course lay down a syllabus for reading the Bible that was monitored in some way. I’d like the core theology books on the course to be all solidly evangelical. Liberal books are better weighed in that context.

    Help with preparing sermons is also vital.

    I’d hope there was a mentor for the young ordinand.

    To summarise
    in churches try to have a team ministry approach
    In training – almost an even balance between reading and discussing Scripture and reading theology.

  9. Ian, I have done and am doing a great deal of thinking and working in regard to training for so-called ‘distinctive’ deacons ie those of us not called to priesthood. I agree with your core training suggestions. However, the huge frustration for us DDs is that there is no training available for us to understand, inhabit and develop our ministry which is a call to live on the boundaries of the church and in the community. I’ve finally made some progress, with a zoom call arranged by NMT last December with the heads of 8 TEIs who all supported more awareness of and resources for us. I am now pleased and relieved to say that I’m able to add to resources for DDs on the Common Awards blended learning Hub and Ken Farrimond is incredibly helpful.

    After many years of frustration, being ignored and neglected as a ministry, etc, the NMT is finally stepping up with Qualities and Evidences for DDs which have gone to every DDO in the same document as those for priesthood. This should start shifting awareness a little more, but DDs have been complaining for years – and still do – that all the training is geared to priesthood. There are six topics (in broad terms) that DD ordinands and curates need to cover:
    1. community theology (when I asked for this from a previous head of TEI he said ‘what’s that?)
    2. mission on the margins (DDs can now access the St Hild’s online programme from next year)
    3: Spirituality for those ministering in liminal spaces
    4. Conflict resolution, team-building
    5. justice and poverty issues (particularly relevant to DDs) and
    6. History, theology and ecumenical development of the diaconate.

  10. As you may recall I came into training in 1992 and found the syllabus covered much of what you have outlined in the BTh course. What was missing was anyone with real practice in actually leading rather than lecturing and as the saying goes you can’t teach what you don’t know. The ‘practical’ side of ministry which ever since has taken up a large percentage of time (ie actually discipling people, leading with others, pastoral care) was not addressed at all. There was one ‘getting ready to leave’ week where we were warned not to drop babies in the font and a fairly hypothetical talk given on deliverance ministry are all I recall.

    The other thing that was missing from many (not all) of those I started with was any idea at all about the Bible, many freely admitted to knowing nothing about it or ever having read more than a few well known passages because the churches / dioceses they came from didn’t place much emphasis on so doing. The problems this caused in lectures came when someone with a PhD but no faith at all or little recognisable as Christian instructed them and without a basic idea of what scripture actually said they were ready to be (to use a contemporary phrase) deconstructed quite easily as there was so little already constructed and nothing felt to be worth contending for.

    I don’t think you can give this desire to learn and put Christ’s teaching into practice by theological education and for me it should be a requirement tested in applicants otherwise they will never be able to lead others except into error.

    • I do remember it well!

      Can I please agree with some of your comments—but challenge some others? The fact, even then, many came with little Bible knowledge shows how important this is now—since knowledge has certainly not increased in the meantime! And no syllabus is going to solve the problem of those teaching not having faith. That should be a sine qua non—but is a separate question from what should be taught.

      Questions around ministry practice (‘don’t drop the baby’ ‘how to do deliverance’) cannot be taught in the classroom. These things should happen on placement, which even for ‘full-time’ residential students can be up to two days a week. I think this is one of the selling points of context-based training—which provides such opportunities.

      But, unless I have completely forgotten, or the course changed a lot, you should have taken modules on pastoral care, mission and evangelism, ethics, leading worship and so on. That is certainly the regime that I oversaw when back as staff.

  11. My comment was not that those teaching had no faith, but that they had none or very little experience of actually leading churches. If I can hopefully pull in a corollary from my background, the police system of training is universally acknowledged by all except the useless ones at the very top now hoping for a QPM to have begun to fail when officers were fast tracked (if they had any kind of degree even in interpretive dance) rather than apprenticed by those with actual experience with real people not just role play so I agree that on the job training is vital but disagree that placements can assume to do this and one of mine was a disaster by any such standards.

    Reviewing your points –

    Pastoral care was a basic listening course. I decided to do an essay on grief as my background again prepped me that this would form a large part of ministerial life, it has proven to be invaluable over the years.

    Mission and evangelism – I can’t recall anything but this was saved (see what I did there?) by J John & Michael Green doing short missions

    Ethics. Nope can’t recall that but happy to be corrected.

    Leading worship was why I didn’t get a First You had to LOVE liturgy, I challenged that and as a result got the worst mark across the 3 years as a result.

  12. You should probably check that they’re Christians. Though ideally before they start training rather than as part of it.

        • You can see a summary here but the fuller document is very full in this area

          That document mentions ‘priests’ a lot. I thought the Church of England didn’t have priests?

          • For the avoidance of any doubt it is important to note that the Church of England has always had Priests (and Bishops and Deacons). Hence the Preface to the Declaration of Assent reads:

            The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the *Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons*. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?

          • For the avoidance of any doubt it is important to note that the Church of England has always had Priests

            Oh, is it just altars the Church of England doesn’t have, then?

          • re altars, cf. Andrew’s comment and link below.
            If you are so uninformed about Anglicanism I can’t really see the point of commenting on a blog on ordination training.
            Unless, you are just hoping to score cheap points.

          • If you are so uninformed about Anglicanism I can’t really see the point of commenting on a blog on ordination training.

            I don’t know everything but I’m pretty sure I’m right about altars. Communion in a Church of England church is served from the Holy Table or the Lord’s Table; sometimes people refer to it colloquially as an ‘altar’ but they are wrong to do so.

          • But, Andrew, the priests here are not ‘priests’ as RC priests are priests. Theologically, they are presbyters. The make no sacrifices and offer no absolutions.

          • ‘Of course priests offer absolution’, No they don’t. Nowhere does a ministry of the Church say ‘I absolve you’. Honestly, this is basic stuff.

          • Read some CoE liturgy.

            I will if you point me to any authorised Church of England liturgy that uses the word ‘altar’.

            Of course priests offer absolution.

            They do, which is why the Church of England doesn’t have priests, because the Church of England has no sacrament of absolution.

            (Asking God to absolve people is not the same as offering absolution in their own right)

    • Ah but on what criteria would you check? The 39 Articles? Most of the regular contributers here wouldn’t pass many checks!

      • Ah but on what criteria would you check? The 39 Articles?

        That would be checking they’re Anglicans; you should probably check they’re Christians first before you get into what variety.

  13. Another post on the C of E which ignores the elephant in the room – the collapse of church attendance. In 2010 the average age of C of E members was 61, it is almost certainly higher now. Many congregations are quite literally dying off. Going forward we will need a lot fewer churches and fewer clergy, most of whom will have to be non-stipendiary.

    In this context ordination training needs to focus on leadership and management skills, especially people skills, change management and models of church growth, fresh expressions, pioneer ministry etc. rather than on learning Greek and Hebrew.

    And I see little future for residential training. It is completely inappropriate to take someone out of the secular job market for 2-3 years training and a 3 year curacy when there is a high chance they won’t have a job at the end of it. Non stipendiary ministry needs to be the norm.

    • This entirely the correct approach…..if what you wish to do is manage decline and preside over the death of the CofE rather than seek to change this trajectory.

      All the evidence produced on this blog seems to point to the reverse; that investment in well-trained and motivated clergy produces growth, which if it were taken seriously and properly resources could reverse the decline!

    • If you want to correlate issues in training with church decline the most obvious one is a massive shift to part-time training which focussed on practical theology rather than Scripture and doctrine!

      • Really? Church attendance declined massively from about 1960 onwards whereas part time training has only taken off in the last 20 years or so.

        Why not look at the churches that are growing e.g. New Frontiers, Vineyard, RCCOG, etc. Do their leaders have theology degrees/full time residential training?

        • Er, the Southwark Ordination Training Course started in 1960! By 2000, half C of E ordinands were training on courses!

          These ‘new’ churches are only recently thinking about structures for training. One of their leading thinkers in Newfrontiers, Andrew Wilson, has a Cambridge PhD. If you want to sample the standard, go along to his Think Theology annual conference.

          • I stand corrected on the dates, but weren’t most clergy trained on courses non-stipendiary until fairly recently? Not many will be leading churches. I’d like to see some hard data on church attendance trends and the training of the leaders. I suspect that those trained at St Mellitus have better track records than most of the residential colleges.

            I find it hard to believe that the new churches have only recently started thinking about training. New Frontiers has been around for about 50 years and Vineyard (in the UK) about 35 years. Andrew Wilson is not a typical New Frontiers leader and his PhD is from a secular university. I doubt any of the new churches will be launching 3 year residential training programmes.

  14. Can I ask how often in college liberal works hold centre stage? Also how necessary it is that they do so? Is it not possible to summarise liberal works either through a book tor teacher hat criticises their stand.

    Liberalism in one form or another has emptied churches. It has robbed believers of their faith. Why do we feel the need to ‘admire’ it even cherish it. I’m not suggesting we be obscurant but I want preachers coming through who believe the gospel and hate the liberalism that corrupts it. I don’t want them thinking there is something edgy about having a few liberal leanings.

    Would a core syllabus mean some liberal elements?

    • John, by your own admission you have never even been to an Anglican Church service so it’s very difficult to know what you mean here. Your post here is also so general as to be almost meaningless.

      I suspect that by liberal you mean ‘critical scholarship’ as opposed to some form of literalism. The truth is that Durham University validates the programmes for training in the CofE and you can see something of what they do here:


      I suspect you don’t really think that theology and/or biblical studies (which is a branch of theology) can be or even should be studied as an academic discipline au universities like Durham. But it has been, can be and will be. No one is asking you to participate in it. But you might want to try somewhere like a cathedral to see how ‘liberal’ churches can thrive. You might want to try some of the HTB network to see how evangelical churches thrive. And you might want to go somewhere ‘conservative’ of both an evangelical or catholic persuasion. Then come back and make observations. All of the clergy from those places will have undertaken some critical study (which is what I think you mean by liberal) of both the bible and theology during their training. What that should mean is that they have been given the tools to engage their minds and other minds in the fascinating study of God’s engagement with the world and humanity.

      • Hi Andrew

        You’re right, I know virtually nothing about Anglicanism. As you say I confessed as much. And I understand that makes my comment less comprehensible.

        I was attempting to make a general point about a) the possible danger that too much is expected of a vicar. I know in free churches too much is laid on the pastor b) the requirement in training to prioritise getting a good overall grasp of the Bible and a reasonable overview of theology through a conservative evangelical lens. 3) caution against the dangers of liberal theology which can be attractive to a young evangelical because it is often new and edgy and the thoughts of very intelligent people.

        I would describe both biblical studies and theological studies as studies predicated on the premise that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. By inerrant I mean that as first written it was without fault expressing exactly the mind of God. Textual criticism that seeks to ascertain the original text is helpful. Other forms of criticism if used in a controlled manner under the authority of the text of Scripture may be used helpfully. If used in a speculative manner and in a manner that serves to undermine the voice of Scripture then they are poison. Are critical tools neutral? I do not subscribe to literalism but to the interpretation of any book of Scripture according to its own genre and rules. This is the curtesy we would give to any text. I would also wish to see a canonical interpretation of each book seeing its place in the flow of salvation-history. The key to OT interpretation is found in how it is interpreted by NT writers.

        For most potential pastors/ordinands I would like their initial studies to be within an evangelical college like Oak Hill or Moore in Australia. Once established and if gifted for academic pursuit then Durham may be a possibility. I am concerned that Durham may be a ‘sea of faith’ that it may be possible to get lost in, even drown.

        I had a quick glance at the staff and I don’t know most of them. John Barclay stands out. How many of them would be coming from a position sympathetic to evangelicalism? How easy is it for an evangelical to leave Durham with an evangelical faith intact? When I say ‘evangelical’ I am not thinking of it as a branch/sect within the C of E or Christendom. I am thinking of it, despite its many flaws, as the most trustworthy expression of the Christian faith. I think of it as Bible based and Bible believing. When I think of liberalism I am not so much thinking of critical tools as an approach to Scripture. Liberals interpret Scripture in ways which undermine it. Their theology is often speculative.

        I know nothing about Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It used to be said that while liberal Protestants detract from the Bible Catholics add to it. The trouble is the additions seem to take precedence. I find the veneration of Mary deeply troubling. I think the charge of mariolatry will be true for many and for this the church is responsible. I suppose, as a low churchman, I find the ceremonial in the C of E, the R Catholic and the Orthodox churches very off-putting. On the one hand it looks faintly ridiculous. It also seems to me to militate against the simplicity of NT churches. The trouble with Cathedral Christianity is it tends towards NT Judaism – an impressive temple where God is absent. I tend to wonder if when the substance disappears we need an form to fill it.

        Christianity is flagging. In all denominations. The country has turned away from God. It will pay a heavy price. Christians who stand firm on the Bible will be called to suffer for Christ. We need preachers committed to the apostolic gospel and emboldened to champion it.

        • “Christians who stand firm on the Bible will be called to suffer for Christ. “

          It sounds impressive but I’m afraid it also sounds a bit meaningless. Christians who stand firm on the bible by definition keep it closed. Exclusive Brethren, for example, couldn’t even agree among themselves about doctrine.

          The bible is a firm foundation. The temptation is to treat it like the finished article.

          • You’re right about exclusive brethren but they are a tangential group. Good people who gave too much credence to men especially one man. For one bad apple there have been many more who have kept Christianity alive by their preaching of God’s word.

            Human culture is normally opposed to Christian truth. This is what Christ said – they hated me they will hate you. At the moment we can see how our culture wishes to silence biblical Christianity. Wokeism and Christianity are opposed.

          • The bible is a firm foundation.

            How can it be a firm foundation if (as you think) it was written by fallible humans and is riddled with errors?

        • Forgive me, but if you know nothing about Catholicism and Orthodoxy you might refrain from criticising and caricaturing them. And perhaps from caricaturing Second Temple Judaism. It’s anti Semitic. Why would you think God was not there in His Temple? Jesus and Paul certainly thought so.

          • Jesus and Paul certainly thought so.

            But everything Paul thinks is suspect, isn’t it, because he was trapped in his homophonic sexist culture, right?

            You can’t make an appeal-to-authority argument if you simultaneously dismiss the authority that you’re appealing to.

          • You may think Paul’s thought is suspect. I don’t. He was a great mystic and fine theologian.

          • You may think Paul’s thought is suspect. I don’t.

            So you think Paul was correct on all matters?

            Link filed for future reference in case you ever try to say Paul can be ignored because he was merely expressing the views of his culture.

          • Of course he wasn’t correct on ‘all matterrs’. He was a human being.
            But you’re hoping to trip me up will fail because:
            1. I don’t believe Paul was expressing the beliefs of his culture; he was, in many ways, profoudly radical
            2. I would never say that Paul can be igonred!

            I think that you’re thinking of some other biblical scholar (not that I would describe myself as a biblical scholar any more 🙂

          • Of course he wasn’t correct on ‘all matterrs’. He was a human being.

            Okay, so how do you know which matters he was right on (and therefore can be used as an authority in an argument by appeal to authority, as you were doing) and which he wasn’t?

            I think that you’re thinking of some other

            Possibly; I try to keep liberals straight but there are so many wrong ideas out there I sometimes mix them up. Is it Susannah who thinks that Paul was wrong because he was unable to see beyond his culture?

          • He probably wasn’t ‘right’ about cosmology’ or human biology, or geography.

            And no, I wasn’t thinking of Susannah, or anyone here actually.
            But Ian often lists a number of scholars whom he claims think Paul is wrong on sexuality. I find Ian’s arguments unnuanced, but the list is a start …

            You could also look at scholars who distinguish – or attempt to distinguish – between those views of Paul’s they regard as core, and those they regard as contingent (that, is, specific to certain situations).

    • ” I want preachers coming through who believe the gospel and hate the liberalism that corrupts it”
      That is perhaps why the evangelical church plants are growing as the CofE declines?

      • Has church attendance at evangelical churches in the Church of England grown or declined since 1970?

        I suspect that all traditions in the Church of England face decline, even if individual churches buck that trend.

        Then – when you analyse the reasons for overall church decline in England – isn’t it possible that the public is alienated by the vilification of lesbian and gay sexuality, with many evangelical churches taking the lead in that alienation of millions?

        Is it not possible that, while evangelical churches here and there may act as magnets for people who seek certainties, overall more people are put off by the evangelical message than attracted to it. Sort of: number attracted to an evangelical church = 200; number alienated by the Church’s position on gay people = 1000’s.

        In the end, I believe decline in numbers is related to advance in science over recent centuries, and the way that has subverted belief in a literal bible or in God at all. I think that’s why the scale of decline across the Church is so profound. Digging in, and championing the very things that put people off, frankly, does not help. In my view, we need a new paradigm for handling scripture, because otherwise the public just regards it as fairy tales, animals in arks, hostility to all their friends/family/colleagues/neighbours who happen to be gay or lesbian etc.

        Some evangelical churches attracting a bit of a local following (100, 200, 300?) does not stem the tide, which is to do with scepticism in a world now understood in more scientific and secular terms.

        I believe their teaching on some issues repels far more people than it attracts.

        That does not make the picture all rosy for more socially liberal churches. But at least they may not be alienating people to the same degree?

        Note the question mark (?). I’m just inviting other views, but not engaging in further debate (too busy and not online often enough).

        Ordinands-in-training need more than academic training – they to be prepared for a Church in near catastrophic decline, and the disconnects that have occurred with the modern world.

        • ‘Has church attendance at evangelical churches in the Church of England grown or declined since 1970?’

          Some have grown, some have declined, but the stats show clearly that decline here has overall been much less than other traditions.

        • In the end, I believe decline in numbers is related to advance in science over recent centuries, and the way that has subverted belief in a literal bible or in God at all.

          Assuming that’s ‘believe’ in the normal sense of the word meaning ‘think it is true that’, rather than the weird Andrew Godsall sense meaning I don’t know what, I think you’re wrong. I think decline in numbers is related not to advance in science but to the decrease in guilt. C.S. Lewis described it in ‘God in the Dock’, which I have quoted before so I won’t do so again; Trueman documents it well in ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’.

          Basically it’s not that people have stopped believing in God because of the advance of science. Most people do still believe in ‘something’ out there that gives meaning and moral weight to the universe. What they have stopped doing is thinking that they need God. They reckon that as long as they ‘stay true to themselves’ and try to do more good than harm, then in any just universe they will get into The Good Place when they die.

          So why bother going to church?

  15. When I was privileged to be included in some discussions about the curriculum review for a Seminary in South Africa in the early 90s, we were introduced to Problem Based Learning which was how medics were being trained, where the approach to learning is so different from the traditional Western one. The medics were trained by being given problems to solve, and as they went further so the problems developed in complexity. The “trick” is in the creation of the right set of problems and then mentoring the groups as they learn. What was being developed was specialist knowledge, practical application, personal-interaction, and coping with changing social context, not dissimilar to what ordination training is confronted by.
    Rather than 10 credit modules (which are necessarily pretty thin), we should create “issues” with secondary probes in them which demand engagement and curiosity from the groups as they investigate. A funeral issue (not for year 1) which would look at the Funeral liturgy would include whether you can use the same funeral liturgy for an avowed atheist, a convicted criminal a Buddhist, or more directly a family member asking whether we really believed in eternal life or where their loved one had gone – are there really many mansions? .. , maybe a question about what to do if the spouse breaks into inconsolable sobbing over the coffin disrupting your prayers .. During this Issue there would be some key lectures to help give content which might include something on Gehenna and Sheol and Hades, or a lecture on how 1 Cor 15 fits into the overall argument of the letter. Groups are expected to organise their research and bring it together sharing it. Tutors keep an eye on how each group is faring.
    A baptism issue would have an awkward family member asking about god-parents and why we have them, or why baptised babies don’t receive Communion as in the Orthodox Church. There are so many theological threads around baptism, not least exploring salvation and what it means to be a Christian. Another family member might say they were a baptist and can you show me from Scripture why babies are baptised ..
    The skill is in constructing a programme of issue-based learning which would excite and train ordinands in deeper exploration. Such an approach can work very well in a residential college with the library facilities it has, but also – now internet resources are so substantial – it can work well on the context-based routes. Tutors will need to help push students to find more and then be sufficiently fleet of foot to see how best to challenge any group which has firmed up its answers too early. Yes it is more difficult to check everyone is learning, and to allocate credits to Issues, but universities should be able to find a way to assess which does not disturb the learning path by introducing alien forms of assessment.
    Issues might well be of varying lengths- and while artificial – can be constructed to be of use. One might be to present the Biblical understandings of Creation to a Secondary School group (and to face up to an awkward teacher) or to present the case for and against that David Livingstone and the C19th missionaries were imperial colonisers. The students can then debate it more fully.
    The curacy period needs also to have ongoing biblical and theological -historical input. The context-based modes of training are more cost-effective for many, but the church will need to nurture the next generations of theological educators, but there are already PhD routes available – so use them.
    Sadly the Seminary felt it did not have the resources to plan an Issues-Based Curriculum. I know there are some who are pursuing this far more fully than my sketch implies. I hope they will make it work. I found the module system at college very episodic and disjointed – but I found doing a thesis on political ecclesiology forced me to read Reformers like Luther and Calvin, then Rauschenbusch, Barth and Bonhoeffer, Gutierrez, Segundo, Cone, Boesak, etc as well as deeper studies of Romans, Revelation, the prophets and the gospels in their political context; all of which was exhilarating and enriching and life-changing.

  16. Thanks for this, Ian. I might tweak a few things here but overall I agree. Just three additional thoughts: first, I think biblical studies have to take the lion share of ordination training for the simple reason that we’re starting from a base knowledge level with most ordinands. Personally, I’d like to see discernment/selection involve some prep work (including scripture) so we might move one day to a kind of ‘minimal knowledge’ requirement for theological training. We’re now too much like a law school or med school that doesn’t worry too much about its students knowing much law or medicine.

    Secondly, we need to rethink how Scripture is taught. There has been too much emphasis (I think) on hermeneutics and critical studies before students have learned how to inhabit Scripture, to know it as their own homeland. At the same time, I’d also want to introduce them to some of the important debates about biblical theology (e.g., ‘righteousness’ in Paul), so they could get an idea about the consequences of different interpretative approaches and learn something about key biblical scholars.

    Finally, I’m increasingly of the opinion that ordination training needs to be re-embedded in the Church rather than in universities. Pedagogical needs and regulatory structures are making the old marriage between the two more problematic. The problem is that we live in an age that prizes qualification and devalues anything that lacks it. So, I’ve not yet seen a way to square the hole of freeing theological education from higher education without also devaluing it.

    • Ordinands can certainly feel like they are serving multiple masters throughout their formation: the criteria of Ministry Division, the college/course, their accrediting HE institution, their sponsoring diocese, their sponsoring church, their ordaining diocese. In additional the various modules (taught and experiential) can feel very disjointed and compartmentalised. I believe what’s needed is an overarching theological rationale for training for ministry. The bible does I believe give it to us in the form of the pursuit of wisdom. This is not simplistic or individualistic. As presented in the OT and NT the gift of wisdom is big idea and has the capacity to hold education and formation, ministry and mission, as one piece. I believe this allows the church to make best use of Higher Education accreditation and ‘the academy’ within theological education and formation, so long as they are seen within and critiqued by the bigger category of wisdom. The new selection framework gets nearer to this idea than previous frameworks, but has no follow on thought the training process.
      The wisdom model is key to integrating learning across the various categories and disciplines of theological education, which ultimately creates a richer conversation.

  17. Alan Billings book “Making GOD” possible : the task of ordained ministry present and future” I found interesting. He shows how in a diverse church like the C of E there are quite different models of ministry ( he teases out 4 ..classical ( parson) : evangelical ( minister) : Catholic ( priest) Utility ( social activist). Could a core syllabus encompass this reality?
    Once there was a core syllabus more or less, GOE. When did it disappear? I think early 90’s when institutions were allowed to devise their own syllabuses with external moderation. But these syllabuses tended to be based around that institutions model of what they were training people for. I think the emphasis on formation ( the integration of the academic/ pastoral and spiritual came from Professor Dan Harvey in a paper to the ministry division or the bishops. But he argued that the C of E needed greater clarity and agreement as to what it’s understanding of ordained ministry was for it to be effective

  18. Speaking as someone with no formal theological education, but some informal reading (so take this as you would like), I would like to see an overview of Church history before diving into patriasics, medieval writers, reformation etc., mainly to give context for whichever theologians you focus on.

    I think there should be something on textual criticism before the Biblical materials. I agree with you that interpretive methods ought to be taught alongside the content of the books, but at least a summary of how we establish the text, and the uncertainty in the text, ought to come first.

    It would also be nice to have an overview of the cultures around during the Old Testament period and which influenced the Israelites, and maybe some Biblical archeology. Same with Roman/Greek culture for the New Testament.

  19. Thank you. I think I would like to add (excuse me if I missed this), some kind of recognised critical analysis of the culture we all now inhabit and of the significance of the subcultures that different kinds of community (eg -rural, inner city, post industrial, multi ethnic etc) throw up to us. Without knowing and understanding what shapes congregations (eg), so much of our pet theologies and ‘pat’ formulae are just whistling in the wind and the root of so much crisis in the early years if ministry. I understand that those ordained in the Episcopal Church are expected to have a (recognised) Spiritual Director, Mentor and Counsellor/Therapist in place before ordination takes place. Some of that would not come amiss!

  20. I like the outline list of subjects above, but I wonder who would control the list and therefore be eligible to change it. Could it put too much power in Ministry Division’s hands?
    Given the current concerns about centralisation in the CofE I’d rather see this as a bottom up project that commends itself over time, beginning with colleges and courses offering this kind of syllabus in the framework of an attractive and compelling rationale for Anglican theological education. The value of the syllabus and ethos would have to be commended to ordinands by their sending church/clergy, DDOs, bishops, IME officers, who recognise it as a wholesome formula. The fruit of it would have to be seen in clergy who fulfil their ordination vows with integrity over the long term. Hopefully supply and demand issues would result in more TEIs adopting it. Perhaps there is space in the TEI market for a new college or course recognised by Ministry Division based around this vision of Anglican formation.

    • ‘I like the outline list of subjects above, but I wonder who would control the list and therefore be eligible to change it. Could it put too much power in Ministry Division’s hands?’

      I think that is why we need an agreed and collaborative approach, rather than one of the interested parties seizing control, as has happened in the past.

  21. I’m no stranger to this debate, having been on the Common Awards Working Group and having chaired the Academic Committee in the Cambridge Theological Federation when the Common Awards began. In fact, I ended up chairing the first session of the Biblical Studies tutors for TEIs when we were attempting to put a coherent curriculum together with colleagues from Durham. It quickly became apparent that my desire to ensure that there was a common curriculum across the board would be met with considerable resistance. We were helped by Francis Watson who made a number of helpful contributions to the discussion. While the experience felt like herding cats at times, I think it is worth saying that everyone present was concerned about levels of biblical literacy among ordinands.

    I fear that your proposals in relation to scripture, while quite properly expecting that candidates should have a clear knowledge of the entire biblical corpus, do not necessarily address some of the issues which we had to grapple with nearly ten years ago: prior learning of candidates (think not just of theology graduates but of people who trained as Readers and who then train for ordained ministry), FHEQ levels 4-7 (where level 4 might hopefully cover the breadth of the canon as you suggest, but levels 5, 6, and 7 should be encouraging greater depth than breadth), the desire to maintain some intensive language learning in Hebrew or Greek for candidates under 32 in residential training (people may think that this is a luxury – you won’t be surprised that I don’t), competing demands of modes of delivery (context-based, residential, part-residential), constraints of time (one year, two years, three years), and finally money (I always felt that older candidates would be seriously short-changed by RME and that has proved to be the case). In the case of CTF, we also needed to consider the training pathways of the URC and other ecumenical partners. You can begin to see some of the complexities we were dealing with (and I have to say, in the light of Jeremy Duff’s remarks in an earlier thread, that this was not simply about the scholarly aspirations of staff in residential colleges. That said, there should be space for some research-led teaching at levels 6 and 7 if we want to take the professional development of TEI staff seriously). But most importantly, we had only 40 credits to play with at each level. This is a significant point because if we expect students to complete 120 credits a year full-time, then a combination of 10 and 20 credit modules is going to put some significant limits on what can actually be covered in the curriculum. There are 26 headings of different subject areas in the article – and many ordinands emerge from IME1-3 with 240 credits (after two years). Inevitably, this means making a number of strategic decisions about the weight given to these different areas of the curriculum – 20 credits for the Gospels at level 5 with 10 credits for Ethics/Moral Theology at level 4? Instantly, you see the challenges of fitting everything in.

    Looking back on the experience, I think that there were lots of modules created, which were not really necessary. Some were hobby horses of individual staff, others were created for a single institution (when a more generic module would have sufficed). At the time, I was willing to let this go because I felt it was more important to achieve a consensus around the Common Awards serving the needs of the entire sector (and I think in spite of a bumpy start we achieved that). I think that as discussions continued within the Cambridge Theological Federation, institutions such as Westcott House and Ridley Hall were more than capable of overcoming any perceived differences of tradition in order to create a common curriculum. Mike Thompson, John Proctor and I did it nearly ten years ago for NT studies. (I remember that Mike’s main concern was about contact hours, and I think this was a legitimate concern. At the time, CTF was applying to the Home Office for the right to sponsor Tier 4 candidates for visas. In order to secure this, we needed the appropriate validation by the QAA. Their processes required us to achieve parity of student experience for residential and part-residential candidates – this was partly because Durham had failed to deliver any sponsorship for international students as originally envisaged within the contract and we needed to ensure that non-EU candidates from the Diocese of Europe would secure Tier 4 visas if required. This was one of the factors which meant that we couldn’t just do what we wanted to do with contact hours. But I do think that this is worth looking at again).

    It would be interesting to look at the number of modules now used across the sector within the Common Awards – I suspect that there is far more held in common now than when the Awards began. However, I think that we need to attend more urgently not simply to the question of the curriculum (and I think you raise some intriguing questions abour the relationship between curriculum and canon in your article) but also the liturgical aspect of formation. Cranmer insisted on the systematic reading of scripture in the daily office for a reason: that constant and daily engagement with the scriptures should be integral to the life of any Christian minister and to the whole people of God. If a priest has not come to inhabit and engage with scripture ‘as their inspiration and guide’ in the course of IME1-3 then no amount of meddling with the curriculum is going to make the slightest bit of difference.

      • In an earlier thread, Ian, you say that a priest in the Church of a England would never say ‘ I absolve you’ and that this distinguishes Anglican from Roman Catholic orders. (I am replying here because it looks as if the reply function has been switched off in the earlier thread). You say that this is ‘basic stuff’. And yet in the Prayer Book in the Visitation of the Sick, it says that if a sick person should be moved to make a special confession of his sins, the Priest should absolve him with these words: ‘ Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thune offences: and by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins….’ This is unambiguous basic stuff. We are priests, and the Prayer Book provides an ordination rite for the Ordering of Priests.

        • No, that is just one example. What distinguishes RC from Anglican orders is that RC priests offer the sacrifice of the mass; as the liturgy of the mass says (which I still remember from my upbringing) ‘May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for our sake and the sake of all his church’. By contrast, Anglican liturgy studious avoids the language of offering, as can be seen in the phrase ‘bring before you’ in Eucharistic prayer B.

          It is the major change that Cranmer made in 1552, and remains in 1662. It is pretty core to the historical identity of the C of E, and remained so with the rejection of the 1928 prayer book.

    • Why was the idea of a common curriculum to be resisted ? What were the reasons? Vested interests eg colleges/ courses wanting to do their own thing? Or a feeling it couldn’t be done because of “party division”? Comprehensivness having become de facto pluralism? Or more positively some educational reason due to the wider range of academic abilities of ordinands now? Or their age? ( Isn’t the average age of ordinands now in the 40s) or what?. Given the C of E is being criticized for becoming more centralised it’s curious to see resistance in a key area like the formation of future clergy.

          • Yes. I think the way things work here, as in other institutions is:

            a. same framework, but diverging views
            b. similar framework, but greater latitude, so views diverge further
            c. new framework, embedding divergence.

            It then means that to go back to the first framework, you have to deal with the embedded divergence—and it is this which no-one has the courage to tackle.

          • But Ian, how do you ‘tackle’ the reality that faithful Christians in the Church of England DO diverge in some of their beliefs… indeed, on certain issues more than half of the Church’s believers may disagree with the ‘uniformity’ you seem to want to impose? Accommodation of divergent views is simply a necessary reality in a Church of England where different views are held in good conscience by very large numbers.

            No-one has the ‘courage’ to ‘tackle’ this reality, mainly because it IS a reality, and just imposing your view on everyone else (especially at a theological college) is arguably more like disrespect than ‘courage’. I’m not accusing *you* of disrespect. But I’m trying to tease out how on earth you think divergent views can be ‘tackled’, without trampling over people you don’t agree with. I just don’t think, in realpolitik terms, it is viable in today’s Church of England.

            I’d counter-argue that it’s mature to respect conscientious differences of view, and to co-exist, and rather than try to assert a fairy-tale uniformity, with a rigidity that can only drive schism… we focus on listening to one another, even if we don’t always agree.

            The *reality* in the CofE today – with respect to ordinands – is that wherever they serve, they are going to find local Christian communities which themselves hold a range of views and divergences – you probably found that recently on the teaching day in Berkhamsted. Not everyone agrees with identical uniformity. Ordinands need to be prepared and trained, with deepened understanding of divergent theologies, to support and accommodate Christians with differing views.

            Quite simply, the reality of the Church of England today is that there is no one uniform view on issues like sexuality (to take one obvious example). You don’t ‘tackle’ the training of priests by insisting on one single uniformity in the Church which doesn’t exist. That’s unreality. In the end, Unity in Diversity is the way forward that the Church of England will take on issues like this (already done it with women priests)… with half the CofE affirming gay sexuality, and half the CofE not affirming. It’s the way forward because 50 years has shown there is no other way forward. Except schism.

            I just don’t see what specific steps you think will ‘tackle’ this reality of divergence. The concept feels like the ‘Anglican Covenant’ re-framed. But honestly, I don’t think that’s where the Church of England is.

            All that said, I believe your own views can be strongly held on the issue I cited, in good conscience. I disagree with your views, but I absolutely want those views to be tolerated, accommodated, and protected in the Church of England.

            Because it’s the mature thing to do. I don’t think you can tackle the issue of diversity by crushing it. I don’t even think that’s possible at this stage. Happy to discuss with you (in quietness and goodwill), or leave things here. I do feel goodwill towards you, for your gifting and service, and do pray.

          • Accommodation of divergent views is simply a necessary reality in a Church of England where different views are held in good conscience by very large numbers.

            It’s really not, though, is it? It’s quite possible to set out, ‘this is what the Church of England believes; if you don’t agree, you are welcome to find another church.’

            Lots of organisations, political parties, and denominations work on that basis; the Church of England itself has done so in the past. To not work that way is not a ‘necessary reality’, it is an active choice — a choice which has consequences, just as costing otherwise would also have consequences, but would be perfectly possible.

          • Responding to Ian below. Comprehensiveness was historically based on a division between fundamentals and non fundamentals. Of course there has always been argument about which is which. Unless there is adequate agreement on fundamentals a Church can hardly function as a Church ( rather than a theological debating society). The catechism played an enormous part in spreading basic Christian doctrine/ behaviour since the Reformation. I am sad the C of E has never produced a more up to date short catechetical Outline of the Faith as the C of E understands it. I discussed this early in my ministry. ( early 80s) with John Austen Baker chair of the then Doctrine Commission. He agreed but added 75% would go through on the nod but 25%would be a nightmare to get agreement. I suppose that’s why it has never happened.

          • I discussed this early in my ministry. ( early 80s) with John Austen Baker chair of the then Doctrine Commission. He agreed but added 75% would go through on the nod but 25%would be a nightmare to get agreement.

            Did he not consider simply redefining the word ‘believe’?

          • Susannah ‘how do you ‘tackle’ the reality that faithful Christians in the Church of England DO diverge in some of their beliefs’

            It depends on what that divergence is about and how and why it arises.

            All the evidence is that the divergence is about central issues (like the person and work of Jesus, the belief of the C of E, as well as sexuality) and that it primarily springs from ignorance.

            The response to that is to teach better.

            The Church *does* indeed have a clear view on sexuality, expressed in its liturgy. But people are either ignorant of this, or they decide they don’t believe it, but usually both of these come from the complete silence on it.

            To say ‘let’s respect one another’ sounds great in theory, but what that is doing is asserting, often very strongly, that all these things are ‘indifferent’ and second order, when in fact they are first order.

            And I am glad you are able to state your respect for me in public. I wish that would extend to your views about me privately expressed to others too.

          • Susannah

            It is the Anglican Covenant reframed.
            It seems ludicrous that the CoE can inlcude people who believe that ordained ministers are priests and those who don’t (and they live with this tension) and yet think sexuality and gender are first order issues.

          • Penny, the C of E, in its formularies, canon law, and liturgy, is crystal clear that none of its ministers are sacerdotal. The word ‘altar’ occurs nowhere; ‘priests’ are also called ‘presbyters’ since that is the terms etymology; the question was tested in 1928 and rejected; and those who do believe in a ‘sacerdotal’ ministry are forced to use the Roman rite, against canon law and their ordination vows. So there really is no ambiguity here.

            The reason why sexuality is a first order issue is because changing our definition of marriage will require rejecting the clear and consistent teaching of scripture, including the teaching and example of Jesus. I think that he been well established for some time in the debate.

          • And, Penny, the Anglican Covenant was an attempt to establish the unity and clarity that the C of E already has in its formularies, canon law and liturgy. The reason it didn’t work in the Communion is that some members have let go of the BCP whilst others, like the C of E, hasn’t. So members of the Communion don’t actually believe the same thing, even formally.

          • Ian,

            I DO respect your scholarship. I also respect your sincerity, faith, and desire to serve God. I even respect your right to views on sexuality, which I have described to others as ‘coherent’. (That doesn’t mean I agree with them, of course.)

            In any views I have expressed – in confidence – to others, I have been careful to differentiate between your views and campaigning (on the one hand) and you as a person (on the other).

            Your views and campaigning I will certainly criticise publicly or privately. But I have never expressed disrespect for you yourself as a human being. Quite the opposite. I see your ardour, and I worry for you as you seem a bit beleaguered, so I pray for you.

            I can think of only one correspondence where I have privately criticised your views to others, and that was in the context of acknowledging your right to your views, but urging a local church to balance a teaching day you led on sexuality, with another teaching day led by someone with different views, to achieve balance (and to show respect for parishioners who are LGBT, or have friends, children, parents, colleagues, neighbours who are.

            I hope that what you allude to is only ‘hearsay’ passed on to you and that I have been misrepresented, because I know in that correspondence, that I made clear that you had a right to your views. On the other hand if my private email was actually forwarded to you, then I have a problem with the breach of confidence (which would not be your fault).

            I am happy to publish my references to your teaching here, verbatim, if you wish – and the context of my call for other views, again verbatim. The email in totality, however, was a private and confidential letter of concern, directed at the minister-in-charge to argue the case for an equivalent teacher with different views, to balance your own. My issue was with the minister-in-charge, not with your own right to coherent opinion.

            I am happy to repeat my views, as expressed in that scenario of concern… I have nothing to hide… but my email also included references to family and things besides you, so I am extremely concerned if there has been a security/confidentiality breach – though that would be no fault of your own.

            My heart warms towards you as a person devoted to God, it really does. Obviously criticism of your views or campaigning may be painful, but you engage in church politics very publicly, and criticism of your views does come with the territory. My views in my private letter were concerning my homechurch, and the church of my children. As such, I had a legitimate concern about the balance of teaching being offered to people I know and love.

          • Ian,

            May I ask in all truth, was my private and confidential letter forwarded to you?

            It contained personal and confidential information about third parties, references to my children, mention of my health.

            You will understand my concern.


          • Of course people diverge in their beliefs. Some of the reasons why:
            (1) Some are well read enough to understand the issues, and others are not.
            (2) Some people are honest, and therefore change their mind when there is new evidence. So then they end up diverging from themselves as they were last year.
            (3) For some the penny has dropped, and for some it has not.
            (4) Some are living in times of more accurate dominant worldviews than others are, and they have succumbed to the worldviews of their day.

            The degree to which you are relying on the word ‘views’, Susannah, is absolutely mindblowing. You repeat it over and over. This in the context of your repeatedly not having addressed the arguments for the word ‘views’ being far too broad to mean anything or be of any significance. The answer is staring you in the face. You are espousing pure relativism, since all ‘views’ are allowable. One simply has to hold a ‘view’ for it to be kosher. No evidence or argumentation or debate required. It is difficult to emphasise just how far relativism is from Christianity. Or (from another angle) give examples of Jesus being relativist?

          • Ian

            Thank you for your replies.

            1. that is not true: both BCP and CW refer to the ordination of Priests.
            2. sexuality has never been a first order issue and the clear teaching of Scripture and the example of Jesus are very flimsy foundations for a modern and conservative theology of sexuality and marriage.
            3. the Anglican Covenant sought a kind og unAnglican magisterium; thank God it was defeate in the CoE.
            4. the churches of the Anglican Communiuon disagree on certain tenets of belief. Since they are autonomous churches, I can’t see the problem – apart from where they are advocating epistemic and systemic violence.

          • Also, Susannah, do you see any limit to the proposed diversity? Bear in mind that theoretical diversity (between the leading thinkers) is liable to be a symptom of still floundering in the dark and needing further enlightenment. Whereas diversity between leading and non-leading is exactly what we would expect, but it beats me why anyone would propose to listen to the latter on a level with the former.

            In physics a few years ago there might have been 3 schools of thought – light is a particle, a wave, or somehow both. Perhaps that was an acceptable diversity because highly trained people who have done a lot of thinking still provisionally came down against each other on this, always pending further enlightenment. If another person had come along and said light was a little man holding a lightbulb, then the inclusion of that theory would have brought about an unacceptable diversity.

            Your idea seems to be that however provisional the thinking any of us has so far done, we should regard it as (effectively) final. Half the time we are probably disagreeing because some of us have not done enough thinking and you want to honour and recognise *lack* of thinking.

            And that is before we investigate the question of whether people are just claiming they ‘think’ things that they merely ‘want’.

          • On the page you link, it is mentioned twice in a narrative about contemporary practice. Not in the liturgy. And all within a text which is commended, not authorised.

            It is mentioned on the C of E website and by bishops? All that shows is how common is ignorance of our actual liturgy and the doctrine it sets out. Communion is presided over at a holy table.

          • You will understand my concern.

            Poison spoken behind someone’s back will inevitably reach their ears. It’s fruitless to try to track the route.

          • S

            You really are most unpleasant and nasty aren’t you?
            Please go away: reflect and pray.
            Stop meddling in a conversation about a betrayal of trust which has nothing to do with you.

          • Gosh this is getting unpleasant. I wonder if everyone should go away and come back when it is cooler. I am not sure what I need to do to get everyone to actually follow the guidelines for comments on MY blog.

          • You really are most unpleasant and nasty aren’t you?

            In many ways yes, but I don’t talk nasty about people behind their back. I know that if I ever did it would get back to them.

          • Susannah, no, no confidences were broken. But I am aware that you tried to intervene in a teaching morning I was given. I don’t think that is any of your business.

            I offer a hospital space for comment here, and you make very full use of that. I would hope that the hospitality might be reciprocated without interference.

          • Thank you Ian. I am grateful no confidence was broken. And I am grateful for your hospitality here. I just do not want to be regarded as two-faced. There is nothing I said about your teaching to the vicar concerned that I am not willing to share with you. You may prefer if I did that in private email to you, if you would like. My ‘interference’ was to write to a friend, copying in to the vicar of the church where you held a teaching day, urging them to hold another teaching day led by a different speaker to provide balance to your views. I criticised your teaching and campaigning on sexuality (which is little surprise) and I’d only share those criticisms with you by email.

            But to be clear about context, my private email of concern was about my own homechurch, and the need for greater balance. I was not critical of you as a person. In fact I wrote:

            ” I don’t think Ian is a bad man. In fact, I feel protective and warm towards him for his ardour. But his voice is by far not the only voice in the Church.”

            “I do hope the church will balance his input with LGBT voices, or more moderate speakers.”

            This was what my email was about. Concern for balanced teaching in the parish where I worshipped over 30 years, where my children were nurtured, where friends still worship, where my former teenage students live… LGBT teens need to have both views on sexuality presented, with equivalence and to show respect.

            For the record (but you must know this) I regard your teaching on LGBT issues as potentially harmful, and that was my concern about a teaching day led by one single teacher.

            But I have also made clear that there is a place for your take on human sexuality as well as others. But you know all that. Your views are coherent, but half the Church of England (at least) don’t agree with them. The other side needs to be presented by someone who takes the view of the other half of the Church of England.

            As I said above, you are very active in Church politics, and you cannot really expect not to face critique. It comes with the territory when you put yourself out there as a campaigner and vociferous critic of gay sexuality. You can’t expect people not to be concerned. I was concerned. But I ‘get’ that you have ardour, conscience, belief. I get that you are a Christian. So am I. We disagree. As a Church we have no credible alternative except to seek balance, and accommodation of divergent views, and that balance was what I was asking for.

            I have heavy work commitments the next three days, so won’t be logging on here (can’t afford the distractions!) but do email me if you would like, or I’m very happy to speak by phone.


          • To include teaching of Scripture and the C of E, and to insist alongside that to include a contradiction of both scripture and the doctrine of the C of E is not ‘balance’. Given you are busy, it is amazing that you find time to comment here at such length.

            To grant space for my view in apparent generosity is in fact to assert that this is a ‘thing indifferent’. I don’t think it is.

          • ‘As a Church we have no credible alternative except to seek balance, and accommodation of divergent views’. Yet again you dogmatically assert that the only possible acceptable view is yours—that all views must be accommodated.

          • “Your views are coherent, but half the Church of England (at least) don’t agree with them.”

            What is your evidence for this?

          • “It is mentioned on the C of E website and by bishops? All that shows is how common is ignorance of our actual liturgy and the doctrine it sets out. Communion is presided over at a holy table.”

            Goodness I thought such anti Catholic prejudice had almost gone in this country. How absolutely bizarre.

            I have assisted at hundreds of liturgies and in the Cathedral I worked at for 13 years I never once saw a service booklet which said ‘There will be a Procession to the High Holy Table”. It was always and only Altar. We always used service booklets as CW was an impossible book to give to regulars let alone the many visitors we had. The same is true in Canterbury cathedral. Check with ++Justin if he is happy with that. I’ve never heard an Archbishop say the word Altar isn’t authorised.

          • Indeed. The personal practice of Archbishops doesn’t determine the doctrine of the Church. We do not have a Pope. What you point out in cathedrals illustrates the way that C of E practice in many places bears little relation to C of E doctrine. I think that is a problem.

          • I’ve never heard an Archbishop say the word Altar isn’t authorised.

            So if it’s authorised then you’ll be able to point to its use in an authorised liturgy, won’t you?

            Go on.

          • And re: what you have heard or haven’t heard Archbishops say… I didn’t think Archbishops had the authority to pronounce doctrine for the Church of England. They’re not Popes. Or am I wrong about that? Is thinking Archbishops aren’t Popes ‘anti-Catholic prejudice’ now?

          • What you point out in cathedrals illustrates the way that C of E practice in many places bears little relation to C of E doctrine. I think that is a problem.

            To return to the subject of the article, does this mean that training for ordinands needs to include a module on the actual de jure doctrine of the Church of England, common ways in which de facto local practices may differ from it, and why that needs to stop?

          • Susannah speaks of ”LGBT teens”. Wouldn’t that preemptive and prematurely-sexualising classification classify as abusive?

            It is quite obvious that teenagers are in process of growing up, and it follows that their bodies have not settled down yet.
            It is secondly also obvious that there are those with an interest in claiming that such teens’ LGBT status is fixed and immovable. Namely those who want them in their potential pool of sexual partners. And/or those who have already seduced them.
            It is thirdly obvious that this meltingpot period is quintessentially a time of experimentation or trying to work out who one is, as opposed to it already being clear and fixed who one is.
            It is fourthly obvious that they are not of an age to marry anyway, and filling their lives with sexual matters will distract from everything else important. This too is abusive. They are being deprived of the stable family culture that is available to so many others.
            It is fifthly obvious that the number of people who identify in such a way will correspond to the degree to which the culture encourages them to do so. Alas therefore it seems that the ‘secondly’ para type of individuals also characterise the culture as a whole to too great a degree.

            You are classifying these precious young people (whose lives are before them and can be rich and fruitful) in terms of what they are going to do sexually without being married – as though that were the most essential thing of all. It sounds more like the thing that others would want of them the most of all.

            And – Why are people writing *before* studying the science (e.g. Savin-Williams and Ream)?

          • “Indeed. The personal practice of Archbishops doesn’t determine the doctrine of the Church. “

            Neither does using the word altar. It’s just the universal name for the particular piece of church furnishing.

          • It’s just the universal name for the particular piece of church furnishing.

            It’s not ‘universal’ at all. Presbyterians don’t use that name. Neither do baptists. And neither does the Church of England.

            Plus it’s not ‘just [a] name’ anyway. It presupposes a particular theology of what is happening during the Eucharist — a theology which is not accepted by the Presbyterians, the baptists, or the Church of England.

          • Christopher

            I may be mistaken but I believe you are an advocate of chastity before marriage and early marriage. How do young couples who are still going through their formative years know that they are straight, that they will continue to be straight, and that, therefore, a mixed sex marriage is a wise choice?

          • S

            I suggest that, before pronouncing on the Eucharistic theology of the CoE, you acquaint yourself with its content.
            You will find the words altar and Mass there.
            I know, shocking isn’t it 🙂

          • I suggest that, before pronouncing on the Eucharistic theology of the CoE, you acquaint yourself with its content.
            You will find the words altar and Mass there.

            So you can point to an instance of either of those words in officially authorised Church of England liturgy, or an official statement of doctrine like the 39 Articles?

            Go on then. Point. I don’t believe you, but you can quite easily prove me wrong just by providing a reference to some suitably official documents with the proper authority to set doctrine.

          • S

            Those words (along with priest) are used on the CoE website under Eucharist – what we believe, so construing them as somehow “unofficial” is deliberately obtuse.
            The CoE is part of the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. It is not some Protestant sect.

          • Those words (along with priest) are used on the CoE website under Eucharist – what we believe, so construing them as somehow “unofficial” is deliberately obtuse.

            So you admit the word ‘altar’ appears nowhere in authorised Church of England liturgy?

            I’m afraid a web-site does not count.

            The CoE is part of the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. It is not some Protestant sect.

            (A) the Church of England is absolutely Protestant. On every theological point at issue in the Reformation, the Church of England came down on the Protestant side.

            (B) Protestant denominations, like Presbyterians and baptists, are absolutely part of the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. The Roman denomination doesn’t have a monopoly on being the Church.

          • S

            You believe a website doesn’t count even though these are official Church of England documents. What criterion do you require to judge them as ‘official’?

            You also appear to believe that the Church of England is a Protestant sect. Once again, I suggest you read some church history, or even have recourse to those official documents which explain that Anglicanism embraces a variety of liturgical practices and, for example, understandings of the Eucharist.

            You may, like Ian, take a Protestant view of the Eucharist. It is not the only one accepted and wishing it was the only view doesn’t make it so.

          • Yet another pointless exchange. ‘You believe a website doesn’t count even though these are official Church of England documents’ Of course a website doesn’t count as defining the doctrine of the C of E! It hasn’t;t been passed by Synod!

            Please Penny and Andrew, either point us to the liturgy which talks of the sacrifice of the Mass and uses the language of altar, or concede the point—before we all die!

          • Ian

            It is quite proper to require ‘balance’ in theological, doctrinal, biblical, and ethical views. Surely this is why the Grace and Disagreement booklet 2 included essays by both you and Professor Loveday Alexander? I do not know whether the booklets were commissioned by the House of Bishops or by the Archbishops’ Council.

          • You believe a website doesn’t count even though these are official Church of England documents.

            Of course a web-site doesn’t count. It’s a web-site, for goodness sake, not something serious. Stuff on the inter-net isn’t real.

            If you want to know the law, for example, you don’t look at the government web-site, do you? You have to read the Acts of Parliament.

            (Although we know that is something you struggle with, given you seemed unable to read the Equality Act 2010).

            What criterion do you require to judge them as ‘official’?

            Last time Andrew Godsall and I had a discussion on this topic, he told me that the only body with the authority to set doctrine for the Church of England was its General Synod. So I will accept as evidence anything with has been explicitly authorised by that General Synod.

            You also appear to believe that the Church of England is a Protestant sect

            I don’t know what you mean by ‘sect’. Do you think Presbyterian is a ‘sect’? Methodism? The baptists? Can you not use the word ‘denomination’ like any normal person?

            But, the Church of England is definitely Protestant. As I wrote above, on every theological issue during the Reformation — salvation by grace alone, the Eucharist, sola scriptura — the Church of England came down on the Protestant side. How, therefore, can it not be Protestant if it agreed with all the Protestant positions?

            Out of interest, do you really think — as you seemed to imply — that, say, baptists are not part of the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?

          • Or do you think that a denomination being Protestant isn’t about its beliefs meeting certain objective criteria, but is more of a — how do the youth put it — a vibe?

          • What a funny exchange.
            Of course Priests offer absolution. From the Preface to Order One:

            “The president at Holy Communion (who, in accordance with the provisions of Canon B 12 ‘Of the Ministry of the Holy Communion’, must have been episcopally ordained priest) expresses this ministry by saying the opening Greeting, the Absolution, …..”

            The Preface to the Declaration of Assent, as I have already pointed out, talks of the ordination of Priests, not Presbyters.

            As in so many things in the C of E, precise definition is not given because there are a range of views about what is meant.

            So too in our Eucharistic theology. There are different interpretations in the C of E and that is acknowledged everywhere. But certainly the Eucharist calls us to remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. So Altar is a term that may not appear anywhere but every Church has one, and everyone knows it. And what it is associated with.

          • And for an example of the use of the word Altar, there could hardly be a more authorised order of service than the consecration of Elizabeth our Queen. You can read it all here:


            The word Altar occurs numerous times and in connection with the Holy Communion here is an example:

            “When the Archbishops, and the Dean of Westminster, with the Bishops Assistant (namely, those who carried the Bible, Paten and Chalice in the Procession), have communicated in both kinds, the Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh shall advance to the steps of the Altar …..”

          • As in so many things in the C of E, precise definition is not given because there are a range of views about what is meant.

            Pure humpty-dumptyism. There’s glory for you!

            So Altar is a term that may not appear anywhere but every Church has one, and everyone knows it.

            ‘Everyone knows’ wrongly, then, don’t they?

            You seem to be arguing now for a theology decided by the uninformed terminology used by the most ignorant, which is a bit at odds with your usual obsessive obsequious credentialism. You wouldn’t be just picking and choosing principles of argument based on whatever you happen to be trying to claim at the time, without any thought of logical consistency, would you?

          • Ian

            CoE guidance is official guidance whether it appears on a website or not. The BCP is on a website. Common Worship is on a website. Things are not not true as S seems to believe because they appear on the internet.

          • Things are not not true as S seems to believe because they appear on the internet.

            Of course I never claimed things are ‘not true because they appear on the inter-net’. I merely pointed out that just because something happens to be on a web-site doesn’t mean it is authoritative.

          • CoE guidance is official guidance whether it appears on a website or not.

            It may be official guidance but the point is it’s just guidance. Guidance is not doctrine.

            If you find yourself up in front of the beak, you better not rely on ‘guidance’ because you will be judged according to the legislation, not the guidance — and as we discovered over the last couple of years, someone’s official government guidance can be very very different to the actual law.

  22. This is not the fault of the candidates—it is a failure of our current system.
    To take a step back, it’s the fault of the churches from which the ordinands come. In my experience, your average churchgoer is scarcely biblically and theologically literate, and that is because they are not encouraged to be by church leaders. Teaching – except in the rare instances where there are midweek all-church meetings as well as sermons – is shallow, almost exclusively focused on the NT, and repetitive, if it is expository at all. In my book I quote Richard Baxter, who exhorted his congregation:

    “1. Every man that hath a reasonable soul should know God that made him, and the end for which he should live, and know the way to his eternal happiness as well as the learned. Have not you souls to save or lose as well as the learned have? 2. God hath made plain his will to you in his word; he hath given you teachers and many other helps, so that you have no excuse if you are ignorant; you must know how to be Christians if you are no scholars. You may hit the way to heaven in English, though you have no skill in Hebrew or Greek, but in the darkness of ignorance you can never hit it. 3. Will not God judge you as well as the learned? And will not he require an account of the talents which you possess? He hath set you on his work as well as others, and therefore you must know how to do his work. If you think therefore that you may be excused from knowledge, you may as well think that you may be excused from love and from all obedience, for there can be none of this without knowledge. … Were you but as willing to get the knowledge of God and heavenly things as you are to know how to work in your trade, you would have set yourselves to it before this day, and you would have spared no cost or pains till you had got it. But you account seven years little enough to learn your trade, and will not bestow one day in seven in diligent learning the matters of your salvation.”

    Jesus calls for committed disciples. He hates lukewarmness, and indeed warns that the consequence of it is to be spit out of his mouth (Rev 3:16), or, where works are in view, to be banished into the outer darkness (Matt 25:30). This applies to leaders as much as laity (Matt 24:51). It is common wisdom that if you want to get on in this life, you need not only to have spent 13 years at school but also 3 years at university: learning all sorts of things of dubious value for much of that period, but eventually knowing what it means to know something at a fairly high intellectual level. Is the next life, in which we are called to invest now, not at least as important? Why are expectations in the Church so abysmally low – very often, content for adults to remain at kindergarten level all their lives?

    If there is no radical call to discipleship, from teenage years on, the Church will not merely decline but die. As has been remarked, the average age of the C&E congegant 12 years ago was 61. It will be at least 70 now.

    • Why are expectations in the Church so abysmally low – very often, content for adults to remain at kindergarten level all their lives?

      Maybe because so many churches are actual kindergartens – where all activities are focussed on meeting the (social) needs of young mothers. Adult conversations are secondary to family friendly banter with an occasional biblical sounding buzzword thrown in to remind everyone it is a church and not a playgroup.

    • It all comes down to the leadership and culture. If there is emphasis on tithing, people tithe the more. Likewise, if there is emphasis on bringing your Bibles and highlighting (which implies preaching from a passage) that sets the tone.

  23. I would have to disagree that Christology, Theories of atonement, Trinity, Ecclesiology, Patristics, The medieval period, The Reformation, Modernity and postmodernity, Anglican liturgical development from 1552, 1662, into the modern period and Philosophy of religion should be given as much time as acquiring an in-depth knowledge of Scripture (though they would merit some). Several of these topics are covered by Scripture itself, and it would be wise to root ‘theories’ in Scripture and learn how to evaluate ‘theories’ by it.

    There should also be time and thought given to apologetics, especially the interface between theology and science. In practice, no serious thought is given to how to counteract the remorseless onslaught on intelligent faith from the likes of Richard Dawkins, Alice Roberts and Brian Cox because the C of E as an institution has no counter-narrative. It believes the very things its enemies teach, and is as scientifically illiterate as most churchgoers are biblically illiterate. That is one reason why the Church will continue to decline. I am not suggesting American creationism is the answer, but the Intelligent Design movement has a lot of good things to offer, and so has earthhistory.org.uk.

    Of course I am whistling in the wind. Nonetheless the time is coming when God will require that he be worshipped as the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water (Rev 14:7).

  24. I found new testament Greek opened God’s Word up, buttressed my understanding of wider issues through grappling with translation process. The only reason I could see or hear from colleagues not to study NT Greek was that it was hard work! It was indeed. What does that tell us? Yet Nt Greek has informed the majority of my sermons, talks and conversations ever since. I offer that as food for thought. I would long to see every ordinand get the blessing and understanding of translating even just one paragraph of Scripture!

  25. One area that I believe is really important is ‘spirituality and prayer’.

    I’m sure that has to be explored somewhere in the categories you have detailed, Ian, but I’m not sure where. I realise that spiritual formation will also be developed by the very act of living in community during the training, but I mean *teaching* about the history of spiritual practice, study of traditions like contemplation, and the practice of prayer explored as part of the teaching course.

    ‘Community’ is essential, not only as lived experience with fellow trainees, but the study of what community means, spiritually, practically within church life, and in relation to the actual communities where the local church is located. What does community building mean, not just as a church community, but being part of the secular community building where Christians live?

    Where does study of the range of Christian theologies, traditions, and expressions fit in? What section are these taught under or, as I suspect, should they be taught as a unit?

    Should the psalms be in your ‘Scripture’ list?

    Finally, under what category – and again, I suggest it should have its own category – does a priest in formation get taught about ‘the interface between a priest and the modern world’? What and where should a person be taught in preparation for priesthood about: racism, identity/culture issues, church and politics, inclusion, secularism, scientific and tech frontiers, universal credit etc, social care issues, housing issues, the law, including equality law, safeguarding, local government, green issues/climate/recycling/sustainability/environment, the healthcare system, poverty and debt, the education system, allergies, GDPR, feminism, ethnic and religious minorities, islam and other faith traditions, youth work and youth culture, faith schools, rural issues and the countryside, housing, development overseas, migration issues, the Anglican Communion overseas, church buildings as local resource/playgroups/other uses, accessibility, parish nurses, inequality, elderly/retirement/pensions/support, local policing issues, prison system/criminal justice/probation service, veterans/military, social media, scope and limits of counselling, local sport/fitness/wellbeing, support for men, doubt/despair/depression/loneliness, family breakdown. I’m positive I’ve missed out plenty of other categories.

    I’m not sure how so many important issues of the real and modern world can be slotted into ethics. The issues are so many that perhaps these deserve their own module?

    To pre-empt complaints that I am morphing Christian mission into a kind of social work, yes I believe that the Church should proactively live alongside the secular community and not be detached from its needs and concerns. ‘Alongsideness’ should be fundamental to formation of Christian character. But even just in terms of navigating and caring about the modern world communities we live in, the Christian priest/minister should be well-equipped to navigate them. You could know everything about Romans or Exodus, but ‘being academic’ is not enough in itself. That brings me to my final point about placements.

    I trained as a registered nurse. I found the teaching rigorous and demanding. All that said, 50% of the three-year course was spent on hospital wards, and the combination of the two was crucial. Additionally, the NHS expects all registered nurses to continue training after qualification, and to account for that further training in 3-yearly re-validation. Frankly, the 50% of the course on the ward was absolutely essential, and kept the vocation firmly rooted in the realities of the people we serve. Never regretted the practicality and the academic challenges of my nursing degree, and found the experience far more demanding than my English Language and Literature degree years earlier (much as that was enriching as well). I think there are interesting parallels between the training of healthcare staff and the training of priests because, in both cases, the heart of the vocation is fundamentally pastoral and it’s no use knowing everything about Romans if you aren’t trained in the raw practicalities and work experience of actually serving alongside real-life communities and honing your inter-personal skills on the shop-floor / ward.

    To extend the analogy, trainee priests need to get their hands dirty, and if most of their training is books and academics, then I fear that they miss out on the raw humanity and practicality that is actually their future life as a priest.

    Is there a case for seeing ‘training and formation’ as a combination of first ‘curacy-in-training’ or ‘ordinand’ in training, and residential education, spread out over 4 to 5 years, with 50% of training each year taking place in local church in practical action? I’m unclear about the extent to which that already happens now?

    • ‘One area that I believe is really important is ‘spirituality and prayer’.

      Well, all ordinands should be inducted into a pattern of daily prayer, but that is not part of the assessed curriculum. In the institution in which I worked, we has a weekly spirituality lecture, followed by an hour’s silence.

      • Thanks, Ian. It’s good to know that there were (hopefully still are) lectures in spirituality. I absolutely agree that ordinands should be following a (shared) pattern and discipline of prayer. The religious houses have a lot to teach about this kind of discipline. Incidentally, I hope ordinands get the chance, as part of formation, to stay in convents and monasteries.

  26. Sorry not to have replied earlier Ian. A really helpful article.

    I am roughly in agreement with you on the balance and range of subjects. Here in Wales the ‘two-years full time’ academic syllabus is 1/3 bible, 1/3 doctrine, ethics and history, 1/3 mission, worship, practical theology. A good number of people do three years full-time and then we can push some of this more, but in a similar balance (since we believe in a spiritual curriculum and thus mission/evangelism/church growth in each year, doctrine in each year etc.).

    Probably this has slightly less doctrine that your outline, and slightly more in the third category, given that you put ethics there. We would also put more stress on mission/evangelism/church growth/apologetics that your scheme suggests (which is why our third category is more).

    My experience of designing various ordination curricula is that the devil is in the detail. You can brainstorm and get lots of excitement and agreement and find you have 15 modules on the table yet only 12 slots. It is that final cut which matters. Therefore, I would be genuinely interested in you pushing on from this more discursive piece to a list of 12 modules (given 20 credits over a 240 2 year full-time programme).

    However, there are three things I would want to explore more:
    1. The article seems to focus on ‘credit bearing academic modules’ and thus seems to buy into the old model that ‘the curriculum’ focuses on such things and ‘formation’ is a more vague wrap around. I understand why it is easy to fall into that, but I think we have to stop doing that. The most important thing for an ordinand is to be transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3.17-18), and to deepen their prayer life, to develop their own confidence as a child of God, to cleave to Christ through stress and difficulty, to hear more deeply God’s call on them to be ordained, and to develop the fruit of the spirit (and thus fulfil 1 Tim 3). I don’t think we get where we need to get to by saying that these formation things are the most important, but then not putting them front and centre is discussion of ‘curriculum’. I would say that the key role of scripture in the life of the ordinand is in their formation – compared to the importance of that being based in scripture, the ‘biblical studies modules’ are secondary.

    2. Regarding biblical studies here, we have moved away here from just thinking of books in their own boxes in the manner your list suggests (modules/part-modules on different books). There is a place for that yes, and the fact that it fits the approach in universities is helpful in many ways. However, the questions which clergy need to answer in real life are not ‘what does 1 Corinthians say about baptism’ but ‘what does the bible say about baptism’ etc. So I think we have to have elements of our biblical studies which is constructive – teaching people how to hold together and bring together different parts of the bible. In that sense we need to teach people to use scripture and not buy into the line that ‘there is no such thing as the bible its just a collection of 66 different texts’.

    3. Regarding the question about common curriculum, I am not sure. It sounds attractive but ‘some clever people will work out the solution and roll it out to everyone else’ always does sound attractive, particularly if you are one of the clever people. The problem it brings though is stultification and a system which finds it very hard to evolve. Everything becomes politics, some great argument every 5 years about whether we should up the amount of church growth/mission stuff and at the expense of what? Can you imagine the bureaucracy and long-grass involved? I think it works better to allow evolution and experimentation on the edges, and that allows development and change in a slow, non-political, spreading best practice sort of way. However, that works if it is as I put it ‘on the edges’. Which gets to the heart of the issue for me. How can the church ensure that ‘roughly speaking’ there is a common curriculum, while allowing appropriate limited flexibility in that to allow evolution, development and testing out of different possibilities. That then makes me ask ‘How greater problem is this? What are the differences in curriculum at the moment? If there are major differences, e.g. places which only spend 15% of the time on the bible, or which don’t do doctrine, or don’t do mission, then we need something new. But instinctively I think that most curriculum are actually relatively similar. So I suppose we would need the facts – the facts about the scale and nature of the ‘problem’ before I could judge whether the proposed ‘solution’ is proportionate.

  27. Jeremy, you stated that

    “Here in Wales the ‘two-years full time’ academic syllabus is 1/3 bible, 1/3 doctrine, ethics and history, 1/3 mission, worship, practical theology.”

    Is it your view that these three categories should have equal weight and value or would you consider some to be more essential than others if the curriculum had to be trimmed?

    • Hi Chris,
      Since I am responsible for how things are here in Wales, strangely enough I support how we have it. As indicated in my main reply, it is always a squeeze, and so much of importance is not in the one strand of formation for ministry which is the academic programme. So for example, the bible is crucial for formation far beyond the academic programme. But yes given the importance of mission, evangelism and apologetics, then yes this three way split seems about right to me.

  28. No S you couldn’t understand the Equality Act. Which was unfortunate, but not surprising.
    Rather like your assumption that documents on websites aren’t official. You do know laws are published on websites don’t you? Of course you do, that’s where you misread the EA.

    Yes, Baptists and Presbyterians are sects. Do you not understand the term?

    I don’t quite understand where you are coming from ecclesiologically, but it seems quite a confused space.

    • No S you couldn’t understand the Equality Act.

      Now, you know that’s not true. You claimed that the Equality Act said something that it did not, in fact, say; and when I repeatedly asked you to quote which section what you claimed was there came from, you were unable to give a section (because it wasn’t there) while I quoted, at length, the sections which proved your interpretation of terms did not match what was in the actual Act.

      There’s no point in rehashing the discussion here; if anyone wants to amuse themselves by reading Penelope Cowell Doe making a fool of herself, you can do so at: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/is-the-c-of-es-living-in-love-and-faith-project-coherent/#comment-408934

      Rather like your assumption that documents on websites aren’t official. You do know laws are published on websites don’t you? Of course you do, that’s where you misread the EA.

      So I assume this blather is you admitting (by attempting to distract from) that in fact the word ‘altar’ does not appear in any liturgy approved by the Church of England.

      So you admit you’re wrong. Good oh.

      Yes, Baptists and Presbyterians are sects. Do you not understand the term?

      Obviously I don’t. Please explain it.

      I don’t quite understand where you are coming from ecclesiologically, but it seems quite a confused space.

      Where I am ‘coming from’ is irrelevant.

    • Yet again this discussion has descended into trading insults. Can’t you all do any better? Calling a denomination a ‘sect’ is pejorative and doesn’t help anyone.

      • Re formularies of absolution. The 1662 BCP Visitation of the Sick ( my edition p337 ” And by the authority committed to me , I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father etc….”
        I seem to remember there was a synod debate many years ago when the Synod was looking to authorise more contemporary forms of the ministry of reconciliation.

      • It wasn’t intended to be. They are synonymous.
        But, interesting as usual that you pick up on my comment rather than on S’s snide attacks.
        But I do very strongly object to S’s trolling.
        Although I suppose it matters little since anyone who understands the law can see that he egregiously misrepresents it.
        Still, mea culpa, I should remember never to engage with the unpleasant troll.

        • Although I suppose it matters little since anyone who understands the law can see that he egregiously misrepresents it.

          I have quoted in detail from the legislation. It can’t possibly be ‘misrepresentation’ to let the legislation speak for itself.

          You have made wild assertions but conspicuously avoided either quoting from the legislation, or making specific (section, paragraph) references to it — because to do so would expose that that the legislation as written does not support your interpretation.

          • I have quoted in detail from the legislation. It can’t possibly be ‘misrepresentation’ to let the legislation speak for itself.

            Actually I suppose it could, if I had quoted bits of the legislation selectively and out of context. But (a) I have always provided references so that people can go and look at the context to check I haven’t been doing that, and (b) if so it should be easy for you to quote the context I had removed and show what I had done. But as noted, you have avoided quoting from the legislation at all. If you’re so sure that the legislation supports your interpretation, why have you done that?

          • In fact if anyone was taking things out of context it was you, writing ‘you cannot discriminate against them because of that characteristic’* but not providing either a quotation or a reference to where ‘discrimination’ is defined in the legislation (it’s section 13). Is this because you knew that doing so would expose you assertions to be baseless?

            * https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/is-the-c-of-es-living-in-love-and-faith-project-coherent/#comment-408948

          • Specifically, you seemed to be trying to imply that ‘discriminate’ was being used in the sense of ‘differentiate’ , ie, to claim that ‘it is illegal to discriminate based on a protected characteristic’ meant something like ‘it is illegal to make a legal differentiation between a women, and a man with the protected characteristic of Herbert transition’.

            But reading the actual definition of ‘discrimination’ in section 13 would make it clear that this is not the reading that Parliament intended. Is that why you didn’t draw your readers’ attention to the actual definition?

        • It wasn’t intended to be. They are synonymous.

          Are you saying that ‘sect’ and ‘denomination’ are synonyms?

          I’m really not sure they are. But certainly they have different connotations, one neutral, the other negative. Given a choice between two synonyms, why did you choose to use the one with negative connotations rather than the neutral one, even after I promoted you with the neutral one?

    • Surely historic dissent is better described as denominations ( at least since the early 19c) following the sociologist David Martin finessing the classic definitions of Ernst Troelsch into Churches and Sects. Sects is a term best reserved for a group ( historically) like the Muggletonians surely. Perhaps today you might call fellowships like the Exclusive Brethren as a modern sect. Sect implies small, tight discipline, clear boundaries etc….

  29. As someone who finished training a year ago, I can say that the module that made the most impact on me and has sustained me through my first year of curacy was ‘Spirituality’ which was actually introducing us to various spiritual practices and enabling us to refresh and restore in ministry. The initial list to me seems to focus a lot on ‘head learning’ rather than how to stay connected to God (although I agree about the need for that too!). Can I also add that I was really impressed by how my diocese (Diocese in Europe) prepared and discerned – there was no way that I would have been put forward to BAP without having read and understood the 39 articles, Bible basics and the tradition/history of the Church of England. I had to write a whole portfolio first.

    • That’s really interesting to hear about your preparation in Europe.

      I don’t doubt that spirituality will be important and formative—but the reason I didn’t list it is that I don’t think it needs to be part of an assessed, academic syllabus. All TEIs will share in daily prayer and reflection; in the college where I taught Monday morning was given over entirely to spirituality, though a lecture, silence, and working in small groups.

      But there is no real reason for that to be academically assessed.

  30. Ian

    And whilst we are about it – because I’m feeling feisty this morning – you might reflect that accusing gay men of being groomers, seducers and corrupters of youth is rather more seriously abusive than using the word sect.

    • I don’t think anyone accused that entire category of such a thing. I am sure they didn’t. Those that are, are – and they are too many in number (one would be too many, after all). If the cap fits, wear it. Unless you are suggesting that nowhere in the world are any at all for whom the cap does indeed fit.

  31. Well l am surprised to learn that l have been a member of a sect for the last 25 years. Is this better or worse that being a member of an organisation that was formed for reasons of political expediency due to the the actions of Henry VIII?

    • Hi Chris

      If memory serves me correctly there was a most interesting paper by George Lindbeck in the late 1970s when I was a theology undergraduate called ‘The sectarian future of the Church’. I suspect we are all members of sects.
      The ecumenical movement seems a great deal less active than it did when even the Methodist and Anglican Covenant was signed back in 2003. It seemed to offer a hope which I think Anglicans have failed to nurture because of our on-going internal squabbles.
      There was certainly much talk then of joint theological education for ministry in both denominations. We seem to have failed in delivering that – partly I suspect because of the collapse of candidates in the Methodist Church. That has certainly been a feature in the South-West
      It’s all troubling….

      • Andrew,
        ” I suspect we are all members of sects”

        Ha ha – I like that – yes I think that’s one way of looking at it!
        However, I think there is some cross-fertilization between Baptist and Anglican theological education. When I did my training at Bristol Baptist College (BBC) I noticed that there were strong connections between BBC and Trinity College Bristol in some shared modules I believe. I have also found that many Baptist churches have an Anglican flavour to them.

        On a different note, can you tell me if an Anglican ordinand fails ordination at the end of their training, are they given the reasons for it? Is there a de-briefing as to why it happened and any support for them afterwards? Who tells them? The Bishop?

        Or are likely failures identified by the process early on?

        • Hi Chris I can only speak for the two dioceses where I have had responsibilities in selection of ordinands.
          If there are known issues with an ordinand they would be flagged up by the TEI in the penultimate and final reports to the bishop. The TEI can not fail or pass an ordinand – they can only make a recommendation to the bishop.
          If the bishop decided not to proceed with training or ordination then there would always be a thorough de-briefing. The ordinand would have seen and signed their reports in any case but the Data Protection Act would give them access to their file.
          In both dioceses I worked for in that area there was considerable support offered, including a counselling service.
          Hope this helps!

          • Thank you Andrew. Can you give examples as to why the TEI or Bishop might not recommend or decide not to proceed with training? Is it mainly to do with spiritual formation or are there other criteria?

            Theological knowledge or personality perhaps?

          • Sorry Andrew, I am not too familiar with the 9 criteria. Can you point me to a link which explains them please?

          • Replying to the question below (maybe above..) about why a TEI might not recommend a candidate to be ordained.

            In my experience this is almost always about personality and relationships. Here are modified accounts of some situations I have seen over the last 20+ years:
            1. Student’s behaviour increasingly erratic, including appearing semi-clothed in front of two staff at 8.30 am in college corridor. (Behaviour was generally thought by staff to be attention seeking, surprisingly!)
            2. Student refused to go on any college placements as they alleged there were no churches in the local diocese which were theologically sound enough for them to minister in.
            3. Student did not engage with training process- sat in classes playing with phone, very publicly asked staff why they (the student) had to have any training. Flirtatious behaviour with other students and staff.

            In each case there was more which staff were concerned about, but the above gives a snapshot of what we has to deal with. We offered counselling, i appropriate, and had lengthy conversations with the student about the issues we could see arising.

  32. For those wondering about the Equality Act (which is not apropos to Ian’s post), the protected characteristic of gender reassignment means that those assigned a particular gender are entitled to use single-sex facilities particular to that gender (single-sex loos, for example). There may be legal exceptions but these are on a case by case basis and must demonstrate a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Even when these are allowed, they are ‘allowed’ and not required.

    The protected characteristic of gender reassignment is explained in the notes to the legislation.

    You are most welcome.

    • For those wondering about the Equality Act (which is not apropos to Ian’s post), the protected characteristic of gender reassignment means that those assigned a particular gender are entitled to use single-sex facilities particular to that gender (single-sex loos, for example).

      Except you can’t quote the bit that says that, can you? Because the legislation doesn’t say that at all. You have made it up.

      If you haven’t just made it up, quote it or link to it.

      • (The Gender Recognition Act means that those who have a Gender Recognition Certificate are treated for legal purposes as if they were the sex on the certificate; perhaps that’s what you’re getting confused with?)

    • What’s more, those who are selling you this line know they’re wrong.

      How do I know they know?

      Well, think about it. The progressive lobby loves lawfare, right? Ashers, the inaccurately-named ‘Good Law Project’, et al. And they have deep pockets, thanks both to the proceeds of policy laundering and billionaires like Jon Stryker and his Arcus Foundation.

      So — given this keeps coming up — if they were confident in their interpretation of the law, wouldn’t the easiest thing in the world be to set up a test case? Get someone obviously male, claiming to be female, to use female toilets or changing rooms somewhere they know they will be chucked out and, when they are, file a claim under the Equality Act.

      Then — assuming they won — every time anyone (like me) questioned their interpretation of the law they could point to the case they won and we would have to shut up.

      But they haven’t done this. Instead they continue with bullying tactics, asserting that the law is what they wish it were and threatening dire consequences for anyone who ignores them.

      And the only reason I can think of is that they know that if it ever came to court, they would lose.

      I have no doubt that your misunderstanding is honest and in good faith. But those who are telling you this are lying and they know they are.

    • This has got nothing at all to do with the post. I keep asking you not to breach the comments policy, and you refuse.

      Please take a break for commenting, and come back in a month when you can do what I ask.


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