In commenting on the Anglican Church financial crisis, the issue came up about insitutional support for lay initiatives or lack thereof. The upcoming Church Planting Summit that Morling College has organised for the end of June is a perfect example. When is it held? During work hours!

That is just so typical of the institutional church isn’t it? And it is not as if Morling College is overly hierachial. On the contrary, Morling College has a theological commitment to the priesthood of all believers and is more open than many institutions, so if anything it can be even worse elsewhere. But here is the thing, if you were really interested in investing in lay leadership would you hold such an “open” event like this for “teams” during work hours? At the end of the financial year no less! As it is, it pretty much screams paid ministers or professional students only.

Now if this was only a one off occurence I would have much to say, but I frequently have to pass up opportunities offered by Morling College and others because I am unable to attend during work hours and no alternatives are offered. Some of these events, believe it or not, were explicit emerging church events. So much for the flat structures cited by Gibbs and Bolger.

8 thoughts on “Morling College Church Planting Summit

  1. First up, let me say that Morling, in my experience at least, was tying to take seriously theological education for the “conventionally” employed. I squeezed in two years of part-time study while still working full-time in finance. My wife still looks back fondly to the semester of OT she caught before starting her MBA. I don’t want to single Morling out here.
    However, it seems that people going into “the ministry” and maybe even college positions (not sure there) have less and less “work experience” and that will naturally lead to less awareness of the sacrifices working people will have to make to attend training, courses and seminars.
    The theological education of the “laity” is a tough nut to crack. Most colleges are not set up that way – they are ministry TAFEs. Moreover, most ministers (in my experience) don’t think like that either. The education of the laity is of a different kind and different stripe to that of ministers and professionals.
    In a way, we don’t all drink from the same well.


  2. And I think much is lost because of that. But you know, I see a lot of lay people going to college to upskill, people who have no intention of ever becoming a minister. It speaks of inadequate local church discipleship tool.


  3. I recall there were some strong voices behind the idea of having a bigger rotation of faculty. So, people going into faculty then back out to churches and more people getting a jersey as part-time and visiting lecturers. If you increase the pool of people who can “cut it” as faculty, then, by extension, you increase the educational strength in the local churches.
    But, there were also some voices who felt pretty strongly that the materials for “lay” education should be different and much less critical than those offered at college level. Different in kind, not just intensity.
    Of course, we promote this by steering the “brightest” towards college positions, rather than places our “theologians” in churches as, well, theologians.
    So, at college you get commentaries and systematics and all the critical tools to think theologically, for yourself. While in the church, you get Koorong bible study booklets and pre-packaging no thinking required “training” manuals.
    OK, so I sound a bit cynical, but in my travels I’ve rarely seen western churches take this issue seriously.


  4. Oh, I agree with you. I would say critical thinking is essential for church contextualization. If you’re channelling your best thinkers away from the coal face you’re asking for real world irrelevancy.
    The idea you mention above, of rotating faculty more sounds very good. If leaders are truly committed to the priesthood of all believers then they should be putting the tools of the priesthood in the hands of all believers.
    I was saying recently in a post on Sally’s blog that if we are serious about post-Christendom Christianity then the distinction between non-Christians and Christians should be more distinctive than the distinction between laity and clergy. This clergy / laity training dichotomy perpetuates Christendom thinking imho.


  5. Oh the pain of empathy!
    Here is a quote from the most recent FORGE Canada The Missional Voice Magazine:
    “there is something particular about these times we live in that demands theological work. Much of the work done in the last century was done in reaction to secularism, and much of it was done on foundations that no longer exist. Moreover, it was done as a privileged elite within the edifice of Christendom. Theology from a place of privilege and power was theology that often made compromises for the sake of maintaining a place of privilege. Now that the edifice is falling down, we have an opportunity to do theological work that is not self-protective: not primarily concerned with privilege, pensions or power…
    …I return to the Whitehead’s reflection on theology as conversation. It’s critical to recognize the dialogical.. or trialogical.. nature of the conversation between Scripture, the community, and culture and experience. Theology is always tethered: the freedom to do theological work is not freedom from tradition, but freedom within it, and not freedom from Scripture or the community, but the freedom to live within it. If this seems too limiting, or if we doubt the collective wisdom of the Spirit in the Body…”


  6. Brilliant quote, yes there is a despirate need for communal theology arising out of engagement with cultural context.
    As it is, we forge this bipolar thing, between unreflective (and theologically weak) pragmatism in local congregations and unapplied (and elitist) theology in academia, which ultimately gets us nowhere. Theology does need to be tethered – to Christ, to context and to community.


  7. One thing to add to the comments above is that to make all this stuff work two changes need to evolve.
    First, churches need to be more willing to give pastors time to write, research and network “academically.” We need to do a better job of recognising the vocation of the minister who moves in an out of academic roles, who publishes scholarly work, etc.
    Second, we need to rethink in some ways, the calling for life thing. Our view of “the ministry” is often all or nothing. Some churches are flexible in their approaches to staffing administrative roles and children’s roles, but less so when it comes to pastoral, missional and educational roles. Maybe it’s time to change that?


  8. That would call for a major paradigm shift for some. Some seem to think the only read job of the pastor is preaching and pastoral care, even when there is a pastoral care team in place. Where we run into problems in a church like ours is that, with so many kids under 10 years old, childrens ministry and child minding while one partner does other ministries sucks up a substantial proportion of our lay resources, leaving a lot on the minister’s plate. To free up more for missional and educational roles would probably require us to kill off music ministry. How many do you think are willing to do that in this charismatically influenced age?


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