Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (TEAC) Report to the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and ACC
1. ‘To equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Ephesians 4.12)
It is appropriate to begin by referring to a phrase from the biblical passage, Ephesians 4.11-16 which TEAC has taken as its key biblical charter. This report to the JSC will seek to respond, as far as we are able to at the present time, to three key questions about theological education, that process of equipping the saints. These questions are ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘How’. They are questions which TEAC has been using to structure its work. Therefore this report will set out the parameters within which TEAC is functioning and the key starting points for our work – effectively the ‘Why’ question (a). It will then share some goals and outcomes we have identified as being intrinsic to the task – the ‘What’ question (b). It will acknowledge that there are currently a number of issues and problems which prevent or hinder the establishment of these outcomes (c). Finally it will give some examples of ways forward, specific suggestions and proposals that we have already identified, which we believe will help to achieve the vision that undergirded the setting up of TEAC – the ‘How’ question (d). In some cases these proposals are ideas which we need to bring to the attention of other bodies for their approval and implementation. However there are also a number of suggestions which we feel it is within our remit as a working party to introduce and develop, and we will briefly indicate how we hope to take these forward.
We would stress that our report is very much work in progress. We have very recently held a major meeting of the entire working party in Kempton Park, South Africa, 14-21 January 2006. We are still absorbing and reflecting upon the stimulating and creative ideas that emerged out of that meeting, as also the process of the meeting itself. It was, on the whole, a very positive and significant time together, particularly given the current stresses and tensions in the life of our Communion. This report to JSC is first and foremost intended as a reflection on the present and future of theological education within the Anglican Communion, rather than a narrative report about the work of TEAC itself. Yet the conviction of those involved with the work of TEAC is that, as far as possible, we should aim to model within our practice and engagement as a Working Party something of the vision for theological education we are seeking to encapsulate in our task. Inevitably our process is imperfect, but it is still a vision worth holding on to. Therefore at points this report will draw particular attention to the experience of the Working Party during its approximately two and a half years of life.
2. ‘It is our conviction that all Anglican Christians should be theologically alert and sensitive to the call of God.’ (Meeting of Anglican Primates, May 2003)
These are the words that introduced the paragraph with which TEAC was commissioned by the Anglican Primates at their meeting in Grimado, Brazil, May 2003. The complete paragraph dealing with the work of TEAC is given as Appendix A to this report.
Since that date the timeline of TEAC’s work has looked like this:
(Autumn 2002, provisional setting up of the Working Party with Bishop Greg Venables taking the role of Chair, and Canon Robert Paterson the role of Vice-Chair. Proposed structure of Steering Group and five ‘Target Groups’ devised. The five Target Groups focus on respectively: Bishops; Priests; deacons and Licensed Lay ministers; Laity; the Anglican Way)
In between these residential meetings the members of TEAC have sought to work together – largely in their Target Groups – by means of email. We have discovered that this way of operating works best when Target Groups have been given particular, defined and focused tasks to achieve within a limited space of time.
During this period TEAC has made a number of ongoing reports to bodies of the Anglican Communion.
We envisage making a further and very substantial report to the Primates meeting to be held in 2007, feeding insights from the work of TEAC into the Lambeth Conference in 2008, and concluding out work in its current form by the time of ACC 14 in 2009.
Our present report to the Joint Standing Committee will seek to build on these earlier reports, and so will not repeat all the points made previously.
3. ‘Because all Anglican Christians need some kind of theological education’ (from ‘Aims of TEAC’, November 2003)
This section sets out the parameters and starting points for the work of TEAC (pt (a) in the initial paragraph of this report) and it seeks to respond to the question ‘Why?’ The ‘Why’ question operates at two different levels. The primary question is ‘Why is it necessary for a body such as TEAC to be set up’? Inevitably however this leads into a wider ‘Why’ question which is a presupposition for the first. ‘Why is it that (Anglican) Christians need theological education’? The task allotted to TEAC requires us to focus on the first question, yet the second inevitably and rightly insists on invading it, for unless we are prepared to reflect on the wider challenge of the need for theology and theological literacy among Christians the results of TEAC’s work may not ‘catch fire’ in a world in which theology is too often perceived as either irrelevant – or dangerous. Archbishop Rowan’s own comments, given at a lecture in Birmingham in November 2004, perhaps provide an appropriate answer to that wider ‘Why’:
‘A theologically educated person is someone who is reading the world in the context of the narratives that have brought God alive, savingly and transformingly. That means that a theologically educated person reads the Bible as a record of the changes impressed upon the human world by the living God. A theologically educated person encounters Christian doctrine as the struggle for words large enough and resourceful enough not to be completely misleading about the mystery, the scale of the living God. The theologically educated person is the person who reads the history of Christian communities as an invitation to read the Bible in company and to find education and discipleship in that process.’ (Rowan Williams, CEFACS lecture, 3 November 2004)
As regards the first ‘Why’ – ‘Why is TEAC necessary?’, during the first 18 months of its life TEAC devoted considerable attention to this question. Out of that reflection came a document entitled ‘Rationale for the work of TEAC’. This was originally presented to the Primates at their meeting in Dromantine in February 2005. It has since been slightly amended and in its more recent form it is attached to this report as Appendix B. Although inevitably particular points could be quibbled over or further discussed, we feel that taken as a whole this Rationale provides a good and clear justification of the need for improvement in theological education within the Anglican Communion and we present it to the JSC as what we consider a now completed part of our work.
One of the presuppositions with which TEAC is operating is that theological education is not the sole preserve of clergy or professionals. It is also the right and duty of lay people.
Those whose religious, political and economic circumstances have led them to place a profound value on theological education because of their hunger for it in a time of ‘famine’ are very well aware of the need for ‘all’ to be included. TEAC was inspired and moved by listening, during its meeting in South Africa, to Dr Oliver Duku, Principal of Bishop Allison Theological College of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (in exile in Uganda). It is no accident that a Church, like that of Sudan, which has suffered such privation should choose to make the following such a strong commitment about theological education for all.
‘We affirm that all Christians are called to “learn Christ” and that theological education is one way of describing the obligation that discipleship imposes on every member of the Body. The Church should aim to provide opportunities for all its members to study the wisdom and truth of Christ in relation to their own culture, vocation, interest and capacity. Provision of theological education should therefore be multi-layered and address the needs of the whole people of God.’ (Report of the theological education review group, Episcopal Church of Sudan)’
These sentiments expressed by the Church in Sudan were echoed by TEAC’s Vice-Chair Canon Robert Paterson in his final homily to the TEAC meeting in South Africa:
‘If we are convinced that improved theological education will change the Anglican Communion – indeed, change the world – for the better, it will not happen simply by improvements in the education of ministers. Only when the people of God, ‘the salt of the earth’, also are helped to be more articulate in God-talk will we begin to notice the change we long for.’
So it is vital to include theological education for laity within TEAC’s remit, although the situation with which the Laity Target Group is having to deal is inevitably less structured and more open-ended than the remit assigned to some of the other Groups. We have increasingly grown to realize that the specific targets with which each group is dealing cannot considered in isolation from each other, as the theological education of each constituency affects and is affected by the theological education (or lack of it) among other groups. In particular we have become increasingly aware of the key role and influence Bishops have in ensuring adequate theological education for those others for whom they bear spiritual and pastoral responsibility, and believe that part of our role must be to challenge them, by providing tools for them to become more effective educators of others.
The briefs of the different Working Groups were shared with JSC in March 2004 and appeared in the documentation issued by that meeting. Therefore with one exception (see comment below in section 4) they are not appended to this report (though the Secretary of TEAC will be happy to provide copies to anyone who does not have access to them). However it is worth reiterating the aims of TEAC, which appeared in the preamble of the briefs document:
‘TEAC has been charged with the following aims:
because all Anglican Christians need some kind of theological education.’
These aims, which have provided key parameters and starting points for TEAC’s work, both relate to the question ‘Why’ – but implicitly lead us towards the question ‘What’, and it is to this that our report now turns.
4. ‘The Church is a tree with its roots in the future and its branches in the present’ (John Zizoulas)
To adapt Kasemann’s famous dictum, if ‘apocalyptic is the mother of Christian theology’ then ‘eschatology needs to be the mentor of Christian theological education’. By eschatology here is meant a vision of a transformed future in which the reign which Jesus proclaimed and embodied is fulfilled. Such an approach to theological education restores mission to its very heart. In turn it leads us to ask the question ‘What’ – ‘What is the kind the ministry /discipleship that such a vision requires.’ (pt (b) in the initial paragraph of the report)
TEAC has sought to take seriously the relationship between mission and theological education. One of the most remarked upon features of our presentation to ACC 13 was a section in which we drew links between theological education and the ‘Marks of Mission’ of the Anglican Communion. This has provoked a considerable amount of interest and discussion since June 2005, partly because, for the purpose of the exercise, we extended the five long standing Marks of Mission by a further two ‘Marks’ (in fact drawing upon hints made by the 1994-1999 Mission Commission). Whatever one’s final conclusions about the possible inclusion of these other two – the interest that has been generated, resulting in some lively email discussions, suggests at the very least that one of TEAC’s longer term roles may be to help stir up constructive theological discussion within the Communion.
A particular benefit of our choosing South Africa as the location for our recent consultation was that we were meeting in a country where such a transformational understanding of education – including but not restricted to theological education – has become the basic premise upon which all educational institutes are now required to operate. We learned more about this from two presentations made at the meeting, one by Revd Mike McCoy, Corresponding Secretary to ANITEPAM and Chaplain to the meeting, the other by Revd James Massey, Principal, and Ms Megan Norgate, Administrator, of the TEE Centre based in Johannesburg. All are South Africans. This transformational nature of education is undergirded by using a framework of ‘Outcomes Based Education’ (= OBE).
In his presentation on this Revd Mike McCoy said:
‘Theological educators in the region (ie Southern Africa) have had to grapple hard with this fundamental shift. For a century or more, we and our predecessors have mostly offered content-based courses built on the inherited Western model of cognitive (knowledge-centred) education.
This model asked: What must students know and understand in order to gain this qualification? The required knowledge was delivered through lectures and written texts; it was assessed through assignments and exams; and it was validated with a degree, diploma or other qualification. In theory (and too often in practice), a learner could complete a theology diploma or degree, and satisfy the requirements for ordination, with little or no direct personal experience of ministry and mission, and few demonstrable skills in Christian leadership. That the system has in fact produced many outstanding pastors and theologians is a cause for much thankfulness; but it has often happened despite the formal educational process, rather than because of it. I am reminded of Mark Twain’s definition of education as that which you must acquire without interference from your schooling.
The challenge that OBE poses is quite different. The question that now has to be answered is: What competence does the learner need to gain in order to be able to fulfil this or that task / job / vocation? The required competence is gained through an integrated process of learning that addresses the head (knowledge), hands (skill), and heart (values); it is formally assessed through a range of tools that include written work, practical projects, field research, workshops, and the like; and it is validated when the learner is able to demonstrate her/his capacity to carry out the required tasks, using all the intellectual, practical, and attitudinal resources that have been acquired.’
It is certainly true that members of TEAC did have some questions and hesitations about this approach. Perhaps the key one is that it seems to leave little space for that exciting sense of open ended enquiry which some of us regard as a significant part of the theological educational enterprise. However the approach did provide a clear justification for the process that TEAC itself had been engaged in over the preceding few months, and which it took forward during our time in South Africa. This was the setting out in grid format of the ‘competencies’ which each of the Target Groups considered were normative for the ministry which was the particular focus of their Group. The grids are set out as Appendix C to this report. There are seven of them.
In most cases these are self-explanatory – and also largely complete. (At the time of writing the Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Licensed Lay Ministers, and Laity Target Groups have been asked to take one final look at the grid(s) for which they are responsible and suggest any final amendments within the next month.) We regard these grids as setting out the essential shape of our answer to the ‘What’ question – although there may be ways in which we will seek to fill out in more detail some of the specific issues and competencies raised.
The exception is the grids which relate to the Anglican Way group. As regards the Anglican Way Grid Part One we consider that this grid is now largely ‘redundant’ as, during our meeting in South Africa the other Target Groups ensured that the suggestions offered in Anglican Way Grid Part One were fed into their own Grids. As regards Anglican Way Part Two, this is still very much ‘work in progress’. The Anglican Way Group is intending to revise it considerably in the next couple of months. However we offer it as part of this report for the sake of completeness.
Part of the process of revision may involve taking into account the definition of the Anglican Way which is given in the Anglican Way brief (see Appendix D). Although this was originally written to form part of the working brief of the group it has received considerable interest and attention from a wider audience. It formed a background document for the questionnaire distributed to Primates/theological education institutions in early spring 2004, and on the basis of the responses to that questionnaire it was slightly revised at the TEAC meeting in Bristol, June 2004. It could well be said to constitute a specific aspect of TEAC’s answer to the question ‘What’.
5. ‘To be a theologian is to be exposed to the vision of heaven and to the tragedies of mankind.’ (Michael Ramsey ‘Looking into the Future’)
Inevitably one of the days which made most impact on members of TEAC while meeting in South Africa, was that in which the group visited a number of HIV/AIDS projects coordinated either by the Anglican Diocese, or by Roman Catholic sisters who worked closely with Anglicans in this area. Our visits illustrated, in a way that was all too direct and graphic, the gaps, actual or potential, between our ideal answers to the ‘What’ question which we had identified in our grids and the reality which churches faced on the ground. As TEAC member Dr Esther Mombo reflected at the end of that day in a moving Bible study on our core text of Ephesians 4, it is difficult to talk with integrity about building up the church ‘with maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ’ when the poverty of many of the children we had encountered that day and their exposure to the HIV/AIDS virus meant that many would not grow physically strong and were unlikely to reach maturity or adulthood.
Dr Oliver Duku’s address to the group about the situation that the Church in Sudan needed to confront, particularly in relation to theological education, also reinforced this sense of a gap between ‘ideal’ and ‘reality’. As the initial paragraph of our report suggested we ‘acknowledge that there are currently a number of issues and problems which prevent or hinder the establishment of [the] outcomes (c).’
Yet at the same time we could see that the very problems we were having to confront could provide possibilities which enabled the churches to engage in more authentic theological education, certainly if we took seriously the insight, which many claim as traditionally Anglican, of the need to take seriously the incarnation in doing our theology and theological education. Michael Ramsey’s definition of what it means to be a theologian (see heading of this section) seems to suggest that ‘exposure’ to a problematic reality is a sine qua non for authentic theology.
That was well expressed by Sister Sheila Flynn, the Coordinator of one of the HIV/AIDS projects we visited:
‘AIDS challenges us to do theology that is rooted in human dignity, because it reveals how we deal with each other,” she said. “Theology is ‘God-talk” – so our theology must be rooted in the reality of people’s lives.’
Back at the Centre at the close of a reflection session on the day’s visits, TEAC member Bishop Simon Chiwanga commented:
‘What we did today was an example of good theological education: we engaged and dealt with real issues in a situation, and then reflected on it together.’
During a couple of sessions the Target Groups individually and corporately identified a range of common syndromes which often presented problems for the development of effective theological education throughout the Anglican Communion. These included:
Obviously the solutions to these problems are not always easy to discover and implement. Yet there is a sense that the work that TEAC has already done may in some cases help to provide part of the solution. For example the ‘Bishops Grid’ devised by TEAC provides quite a detailed mirror of the qualities and competencies required in episcopal ministry. If this were to be treated as a checklist by those involved in episcopal selection in our different Provinces it would undoubtedly have an impact.
Of course we are only too aware that the current tensions within the Anglican Communion themselves can militate against working together in theological education. Yet at our consultation in South Africa we were conscious that our 34 members present represented most of the Provinces of the Communion, and that no member had chosen to withdraw from the meeting. We believe that potentially one of the tasks of theological education may well be to enable us to work together despite our differences, and that part of the role of TEAC is to help model this. TEAC member Archbishop Orlando da Oliveira of Brazil commented:
‘We want to share resources regionally and around the Communion. The process we have started here may help us with all the difficult issues that divide us. TEAC is showing us that it is possible to live together, work together, and do theological education together.’
His comments were reinforced by TEAC’s Chair, Bishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone:
‘The real issue is how we do theological education as Anglicans, and act in a united way. How do I walk with an Anglican who does things differently? How do we stay in communion? That’s an issue for theological education.’
6.‘Grant that we may desire you with our whole heart, and so desiring may seek you, and seeking may find you’ (after Anselm of Canterbury)
During the meeting in South Africa we believe that we moved gradually from the ‘What’ question, into the beginnings of our response to ‘How’ (pt (d) in the initial paragraph of this report). In this section we sketch out some of these suggestions as a series of bullet points, conscious that developing, adding to, and implementing these will provide the thrust of TEAC’s agenda over the next two-three years. There are a variety of issues raised here – some are specific suggestions relating to theological education, others are comments about ways that these – and potentially other – proposals may be implemented. We are conscious that we still need to set these out within a readily accessible structure, comparable to the grid format with which we have sought to answer our ‘What’ question. We have begun to work on such a structure, and would anticipate that by the time TEAC provides a further draft report (which it intends to do for the meeting of the Lambeth Design Group in April 2006) we would have made further progress on this. The quotation from Anselm (above) is a reminder that our quest – whether to live the Christian life, or to improve theological education, is a process. ‘Desire’ by itself is not enough. It needs to lead into ‘seeking’ and ‘finding’.
As a preamble to our response to the question ‘How’ we offer a short document ‘Principles of Theological Education’ (Appendix E), developed initially at TEAC’s meeting in Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and assented to by the whole membership of TEAC when we gathered in South Africa. The Principles document effectively spans the gamut of Why/What/How questions. We believe that if, as we suggest in the introductory commendation to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primates ‘that Bishops be invited and encouraged to assent individually to these Principles’, they will provide an undergirding for a number of our more specific proposals and solutions.
Among the particular suggestions which have emerged from the work of TEAC so far are:
Linked to this list is the issue of how these suggestions will be implemented. Some will be the direct responsibility of TEAC’s Steering Group, others will be worked on by one or more of TEAC’s Target Groups, acting as a resource group. Some will be suggestions to feed to other bodies to implement eg the Lambeth Design Group, GAP etc. Some are for the Primates meeting or ACC 14 to discuss and possibly take forward. However the recent establishment of a post of Director of Theological Studies at the Anglican Communion Office can be viewed both as one of the firstfruits of the work of TEAC, and as a means by which others of these ‘How’ suggestions will be implemented.
7. ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he was talking to us on the way’ (Luke 24.32)
In our introductory section we spoke of our hope that our work as TEAC might model in some way our vision of theological education. If that is so, it seems appropriate to end this report by at least a brief theological reflection.
What are the biblical paradigms for theological education? One biblical episode that seems to act as a model for theological education is the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well of Samaria. (There is a reflection on this already on the Anglican Communion website
However another biblical story which certainly provides insights into the process and goals of theological education is that of the encounter between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In the vivid verses of Luke’s retelling of the tale we run through the gamut of the ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘How’ questions of theological education. ‘Why’ did those disciples need theological education? Answer: Because of the enormous chasm between their inherited faith and their current existential situation. ‘What’ was the goal of their theological education? Answer: To equip them to be witnesses to and ministers of the resurrection. There is a real sense in which the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus constitutes also the beginning of the story of Acts and the early church. ‘How’ was this education accomplished? The answer to this last question is multi-layered and pluriform, but those varied responses together build up towards a vision of theological education that is both truth-ful and holistic. ‘Jesus took seriously their inherited faith and tradition and yet helped them to understand and interpret it in a new light’. ‘He refused to compromise, and insisting on challenging them over inadequate and immediate answers to his questions’ . ‘He allowed himself to be welcomed as a stranger and to be offered practical hospitality and support.’ ‘He took the opportunity to place worship at the heart of their mutual encounter’. Perhaps above all that comment by the disciples themselves ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he was talking on the way’ is also an important clue. Whatever mechanisms, processes, and projects TEAC suggests to improve theological education in the life of our Communion, they may seem arid if we do not also succeed in sharing and celebrating our ‘burning’ passion for theology. Fortunately we have an Archbishop of Canterbury who believes that too, and whose support for the work of TEAC, along with that of his fellow Primates, has helped to inspire us in this task. It is appropriate therefore to close this report on the work of TEAC with words of Archbishop Rowan which were offered as part of TEAC’s presentation to ACC 13. ‘The gospel overflows in theology… Theology is perhaps first and foremost a celebration – a celebration that helps us find a way, or a truth that leads us into a life.’
Bishop Gregory Venables,
Chair of TEAC
Canon Robert Paterson,
Vice-Chair of TEAC
Mrs Clare Amos,
Secretary of TEAC, Director of Theological Studies, Anglican Communion
14 February 2006