Good morning God,
The news this morning is that all new nurses in the UK from 2013 are going to have to spend at least three years being educated to degree level. Hallelujah
! As someone who has to be in hospital on a regular basis, I think this is great news. But of course there are already some who insist that education has nothing to do with caring and that you don't
need a degree to be a good nurse..
We have the same problem in ministry.
It will come as a surprise to many readers of this blog to know that the British Methodist Church has no formal graduate educational requirement for ordained ministry. Someone can enter training for the ministry without a degree of any sort and can complete their time in seminary without having acquired one in the time they have spent there.
The failure to achieve what is clearly becoming the minimum professional academic standard is not thought sufficient reason for the Church to reconsider the individual's
suitability for ministry and delay their ordination.
But it really should be.
In the twelve years that I have been involved in training our ministers I have witnessed many who have really struggled with academic work, who would never have thought of themselves as 'clever' in any way, but who have nonetheless worked and worked to obtain the degree or diploma which forms an integral part of their seminary training. Ministry matters enough to them for them to really want to do well. They strive to be worthy of their calling by learning all that they can for the sake of those they will minister to.
Sadly I have also seen far more 'clever' students who fail to submit work at all, who plagiarise
the work of others or cut and paste something from the Internet
or just knock out an essay in an half hour thinking that anything will do. They often leave seminary as uneducated as when they arrived - and are usually stupid enough to think that there is nothing wrong with that!
And inevitably the work of the Church really suffers. The body of Christ is sick, but is being ministered to by some ministers who weren't prepared to learn how to take its pulse (but who do, of course, have an uneducated opinion about how to do it!)
The British Methodist Church at the moment does not seem to believe that ordained ministry requires people to be educated to what is fast becoming the national standard for a vocational profession. Obviously we presume our ministers know enough about you God by loving you and that they shouldn't need formal qualifications to prove it.
The government believes that a nurse needs a degree in order to equip them with 'the decision making skills which they need to make high level judgements'.
But Ministers...? Why would they need a degree?
What use is theology in ministry anyway God?
None of the disciples had a degree did they?
It's not just that I am ashamed of the poor standard of ministerial education compared to our European and American counterparts, I am also horrified at the biblical and theological illiteracy which we foster on our people as a result.
The lack of ability of all too many ministers to engage critically and analytically
with the rest of the world using the resources of the faith, (Scripture, reason, tradition and experience) is one of the main reasons that the gospel is often deemed irrelevant and anachronistic. It is widely thought by those who must wrestle with global problems such as ecology, justice, the war on terror and human trafficking that the Christian faith is as much use in such matters as belief in the tooth fairy is.
Surely the best way to begin to change this and to recover a national voice which can speak confidently and intelligently of Your concerns in these matters, is for the Church to follow the lead of the government. All ministers from 2013 should need a minimum qualification of a recognised Bachelors
degree in theology or ministry before they can be ordained.
The fear that this will prevent people from offering for ordained ministry must surely be set alongside the fear of what is happening to the Gospel because we don't