Minutes of the AOCM Conference held at Mirfield on Saturday 22th January 2011

Minutes of the AOCM Conference held at Mirfield on Saturday 22th January 2011

  1. The conference started with coffee followed by Morning Prayer led by Bernadette Hegarty (Mirfield)
  1. Attendance: Dom Jones (Chair), Diego Galanzino (Treasurer), Sally Jones (Secretary), Andrew Hall (Cranmer Hall), James McGowen (Cranmer Hall) Chris Hassell (St John’s Nottingham), Frankie Lee (Westcott House), Andy Walker (Trinity Bristol), Annie McCabe (Ripon Cuddesdon), Graham Wilkins (Ridley Hall), Margaret McPhee (ERMC), Mark Lyon (St Stephen’s House), Bernadette Hegarty (Mirfield), Carol Durk (EMMTC).
  1. Apologies: Nicholas Mercer (OMC Cuddesdon), Pete Myers (Oak Hill), Carys Walsh (MinDiv) Sam Erlandson (St Michael’s, Llandaff)
  1. Minutes of the Last Meeting and Matters Arising: The minutes of the last conference were agreed upon and signed off.

The main issue arising at the last was concerning Maintenance Grants and extra being charged by colleges to top-up, this was taken to the last meeting with MinDiv (12nd January), this is not a new issue as MinDiv were aware of this issue within Cramner Hall already, however this is not an issue relating to just one college and will be taken further by MinDiv and discussed at the board of finance meeting in March. Guideline have already been provided by MinDiv on what the maintenance grant provides for and this can be found on the AOCM website.

Another large issue was Common Tenure and it was observed that the main issue concerning ordinands was the lack of communication.  As of 31st January 2011 all curates ordained after this will be on time limited common tenure for 4 years for the purpose of training to take on a full common tenure post. Curates already in training will be assessed but it won’t be quite the same!

Feedback was given from when the Chair took the issue of vocation & professionalism to MinDiv – MinDiv were very interested to hear this as they are often accused of focusing too much on the vocational. David Way has had to spend a lot of time with Bishops persuading them that then new assessments still leave room for vocations.  MinDiv try very hard to marry professionalism and vocation together.

It was reported for reps information what help is available for Ordinands who have had to drop out of training due to health issues

-         Ministry Division discretionary fund- the student needs to devise a budget with DDO as to how much support would be needed to allow the ordinand to return to good health and continue training.

  1. Training Pathways: Discussion was held concerning the issues around more expensive training pathways and it was recognised by the conference that the current methods of training are not viable for the future and therefore understand the need to look into other options of training. This issue was discussed that the last meeting with MinDiv (12th January). MinDiv have made a commitment that diocesan fees for training will not raise more than 1%, further to this, MinDiv would like all diocese to make a 5 year plan so that each diocese knows how many priests they need, how many are retiring, how many curates they will need and where the money for all this will come from.

Currently 10% of all ordinands training for ministry within the Church of England are on high cost pathways, this uses 50% of the money available for training.

The Chair read from a letter received by MinDiv (dated 12th January 2011, photocopies were made for those at the conference).

Clarification was asked for the term ‘Strategic Ministers’, the Chair is going to seek a definition of this term from MinDiv.

There was a question concerning the role of BAP and it being used to select potential future bishops, reply was made by the Chair that BAP is not seeking to pick out potential bishops, bishops come from all backgrounds however it was recognised that wording ‘strategic Ministers’ is miss-leading if that is the case.

A question was also raised about the appeals process and it role in deciding a candidates training pathway. The Chair replied, if a candidate feels like they should be on a higher (or different) pathway, appeal should be made early on and the candidate should speak directly to their DDO.

The letter (dated 12th January) was distributed and discussion followed concerning the merits of each of the 4 options currently under discussion by the working group appointed to look into these matters(page 2 of the letter). The discussion resulted in the following agreements:

Point One: “Paying for the high cost routes but not the validated pathways so that the majority of candidates meet the Church’s requirements but do not get an academic award or contribute the additional cost of the academic award themselves”

AOCM was unclear regarding specifics of this option and seeks further information before passing comment. It was interpreted by the committee to mean that whilst all students would undertake the same work, not all would come out with a degree or certificate. However there was some confusion.

Point Two: “Paying only a standard amount for each ordinand plus a system of bursaries for potential strategic ministers and theological educators to cover part of the cost of high cost routes, and looking to students, supporting parishes and college bursaries to make up the difference on the high cost routes.”

Concern was expressed regarding a potential degree of unfairness regarding the inability of well-off dioceses and parishes to financially support Ordinands and thus being penalised.

Additionally AOCM would be interested to know what criteria would be used to award bursaries.  We all greatly appreciate the fact that our training is funded and do worry what the result of this stopping would be. We recognise that ministry is a vocation but have anxiety that vocation might be overruled by finance.

Point Three: “Reducing the level of maintenance paid for families and children (currently £4m by dioceses in addition to their contribution to Vote 1) and using the money to pay for the increased cost of training itself, and looking to students, supporting parishes and college bursaries to make up the difference.”

AOCM strongly disagreed with this and would wish to discuss this much further with Ministry Division if it were to be seriously considered.

It was felt that maintenance paid for families and children was already currently insufficient any reduction this would be a great shame and potentially an adverse threat to those exploring training.

Point Four: AOCM felt this was an interesting option with some pros and cons.  The committee wanted to know if the thinking behind this option was purely financial or if there was any other reasoning?

•           We would like more information as to how this would save money – are there any figures available and has it been budgeted?

•           AOCM considered one of the positive things concerning this option would be the equality it would bring with every Vicar in the country having undergone the same training and having the same qualification. We felt this was positive and might remove possible arrogance associated with certain academic qualifications and institutions.

We were also aware that degrees could not be awarded unless a training programme had been running for four years, consequently what would happen in the preceding four years?

Would the flexibility and diversity currently available through the choice of different colleges be retained?

Reps were asked not to distribute the letter until the Chair had checked with MinDiv that this was not confidential information.

Discussion continued concerning standardised training and at what point during training ordinands would be able to add specialist skills/ training to their belt. The rep from EMMTC suggested post ordination as curacy is still a period of training however concern was expressed that during curacy time for study becomes shorter and leaving it this long could hinder people’s opportunities to develop in their ministry.

Following on from this issue, the Chair asked the committee to consider what made training for ministry distinct from just studying for a theology qualification, what do we value in our colleges/ on our training schemes, what are the priorities of training?

The conference shared a range of answers from their own experiences: the list below are some of the things the committee members felt was most important to their training.

Pastoral Training

Placement opportunities – Parish, Non-Parish (Chaplaincy etc), Secular

Theologically Educated

Prayer life

Spiritual Direction

Community/ Family

Personal Spiritual Formation

Skills for ministry (Learning how not to burn out etc)

Eclectic view of the church (traditions and styles)

The conference values that we are being trained and supported in our ministry and that the church invests in us 100%, thanks was expressed for this.

  1. Lunch break was taken during the above agenda item as the agenda was running over. A tour of the college was given by the Mirfild rep.
  1. Issues from Colleges: The rep from Cuddesdon raised the question of students training with disabilities. Some reps shared the policies of their colleges and discussion was made whether colleges have their own policy or fall under existing university policies.

It was also asked if MinDiv have policies on disabilities following the equality act. The Chair will take this question to MinDiv and find out what their policy  is. There was also a question of what support/ protection is provided once an ordinand is ordained and curacy.

Something was done a few years ago by AOCM in this issue and the Chair was to look this up.

The rep from Ridley asked the conference if any of the colleges were ‘fair trade’.

The rep from EMMTC raised the problem that self supporting ordinands are having finding grants. A small grant is given at the beginning of each term which is designed to cover books and fuel costs; however it is believed that this is not enough. Another issue concerning self supporting ordinands is that they have to take a lot of time off work (usually taken from annual leave) to complete work, and for ordination retreat/ ordination. This is an issue that needs to be taken up between the individuals and their diocese; however these concerns will also be taken to MinDiv. The Chair will report back.

  1. Questions relating to elections: Opportunity was given for reps to ask questions about the roles up for nomination (Chair, Treasurer and Secretary).
  1. Nominations of candidates and Hastings: Nominations were made and an extended coffee break was taken to allow the committee to think further about the positions, to give opportunity for further questions, or to express concern.

As the committee returned from their coffee break, each member was given a voting card and asked to vote either for a person standing for each of the positions or to re-open nominations.

10.  Results: The conference voted for:

Margaret McPhee (Chair)

Sam Erlandson (Treasurer)

Annie McCabe (Secretary)

Congratulations!!!!!!!

  1. The Chair gave some final reflections on the year of AOCM which will be publicised on the website

12.  AOB & Expenses: Articles for the website was discussed, the rep from St Johns, Nottingham has provided one about Street Pastors. The rep from Trinity will write one on life in residential theological college. The rep from Mirfild will write one about her experiences in South Africa on placement. The rep from EMMTC will write one about non-residential training.

13.  Thanks was expressed to the rep from Mirfield for her hospitality.

Thanks was also given from the committee to the outgoing executive for their work over the past year.

14.   The conference ended with a period of prayer for the incoming executive as they take up their new roles and the outgoing executive as they move on into their curacies.

Prayer Requests from Colleges

Mirfield: Sense of community. Guidance for the up and coming inspection from MinDiv and for the appointment of a new principle

St Michael’s, Cardiff: All those who are still waiting for title parishes. Give thank for the final completion of building work and pray for the college as it evolves and develops.

St Stephen’s House: Pray for the life of St Stephens, for all who have their title parishes and their futures. Bless the tutors and sustain them in their work. Pray also that all may remain faithful in their calling.

Chair: Thanks for the year passed in the AOCM and we give thanks for the stronger relationship we have developed with MinDiv.

ERMC: Pray for the diversity of the course, giving thanks for the opportunity to train. Pray also for the staff.

Ridley: Thanks for the engagement with other traditions. Pray for the Fair Trade Policy of the college and for the term ahead.

Trinity, Bristol: Thanks for the supportive community. Pray for those seeking title parishes. Pray also for the college’s like with a college in the Sudan.

St John’s, Nottingham: Give thanks for the move to new  a new affiliating University of Chester and for those members of faculty and admin staff who put in a lot of work to make this happen.

Cranmer: Pray for title parishes, for the mission of the college and their ecumenical links.

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