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Change afoot at Board of Ministry

By Paul Titus

The Board of Ministry is one of the Methodist Church’s real workhorses. After a period of reflection and planning, the Board now has the bit in its teeth and is cantering quickly toward making some major changes in the way the Church educates its members for ministry.

An unpaid body of ordained ministers and lay people, the Board of Ministry has oversight of ministry education through Trinity College and the church’s work in the community through Mission Resourcing.

To keep pace with the changing nature of the Church and remove some of the unmanageable burden it has been saddled with in recent years, the Board has made several key appointments and is set to consolidate its Auckland-based ministry training programs at a single site.

Principal of Trinity College Rev Mary Caygill says following its hui on ministry in 2005, the Board has moved beyond simply reacting to what is happening in the Church. It made some key appointments and is doing strategic planning for the future.

Once it defined its priorities, the Board created two new positions to implement them. They are business manager Nicola Grundy and director Pasifika ministries Rev Aso Samoa Saleupolu. Rev David Bell was also appointed director ministry development based in Wellington. David continues the ministry education work in parishes and synods begun by Robyn Brown as former director of the lay ministries programme.

The Board also intends to change the way it does its own work by creating two work groups, one to cover Mission Resourcing and one for Trinity College.

“The work groups will be able to look at the issues in their area more closely and bring recommendations to the Board. The full Board will then make recommendations to Conference. The work groups will have the ability to second people with specific expertise,” Mary says.

“This way of working will take enormous pressure off the Board and its chairperson Jan Tasker, who has done a huge amount of work for the Church in a voluntary capacity.”

As the Board’s business manager Nicola uses her expertise to handle its financial and strategic planning. She also manages the increasingly complex compliance tasks Trinity College must meet as a Private Tertiary Education provider.

Mary says before Nicola was appointed in 2005, she was so bogged down in administrative work, she was unable to focus on the core teaching and pastoral tasks of being principal.

“I was very happy to pass over to Nicola the complex and detailed reporting required by the Ministry of Education’s Tertiary Education Commission and the NZ Qualifications Authority,” Mary says.

With the retirement of Frank Claridge, Nicola takes over the financial management of the Board’s work. With new regulations looming under the Charities Act, she will have more compliance tasks for registration and annual returns.

Nicola has also been instrumental in helping the Board of Ministry create a vision for the future and retain focus on the bottom line so that vision can be realised.

The Church has an urgent need to address some key strategic issues in relation to mission resourcing and ministry education, Nicola says.

“Take two statistics. One is that today 55 percent of the people in Methodist congregations in Aotearoa are first or second generation Pacific Islanders. The second is that in the next five years we expect 20 percent of the Church’s current presbyters (26 out of 126) to retire.”

The majority of those entering ministry training in recent years have been Samoan and Tongan. This trend will likely continue with the addition of people from other cultural backgrounds, such as Korean and Fijian. Trinity College is grappling with how to adequately respond to these changing demographics.

To do so the College wants to increase scholarship funding for Pacific ministry education and employ a Pacific lecturer. This would help meet the need for continuing education for Pacific ministers exercising local ministry.

As it takes steps to move Trinity College’s Auckland programmes to one location, the Board of Ministry is exploring the possibility creating a Methodist Centre that would also house the Mission Resourcing directors and other administrative staff whose offices are currently in Ellerslie.

Mary says it will require effective communication and open conversation throughout the Church to respond to the complex ministry education needs of the future. It will also require careful management of Trinity College’s endowments.

Single campus Trinity College priority

As the first step towards achieving its strategic vision, the Board of Ministry is working towards consolidating its two Auckland-based ministry education programmes onto one site by the end of 2007.

As it now stands, Trinity College has a site at Pitt Street where it offers ministry training through the diploma of Practical Theology. It also shares a site with St John’s College in the suburb of Meadowbank, where Trinity College students access the Bachelor of Theology programme at the University of Auckland.

Board of Ministry business manager Nicola Grundy says it no longer makes financial sense to have the two Auckland programmes on different sites along with Mission Resourcing directors based in Ellerslie. This dispersed arrangement creates prevents easy access, communication, and consultation and leads to a duplication of administration.

Currently conversations are taking place with Trinity College’s partners, Auckland Central Parish and St John’s Anglican College, as whether their sites could provide a single base or whether the Board and the Church need to look for a completely new site.

“In favour of Meadowbank is the long, established partnership we have with the Anglican Church. We have been at the Meadowbank campus since 1973. While we cannot build there because it is Anglican land, modifications could be made to accommodate our needs.

“Our partnership with Auckland Central Parish is also an attractive option. The Ministry Training Unit is currently housed in Pitt Street Church’s Bicentennial Hall. It may be possible to redevelop the whole site, which would have the potential to be a larger Methodist centre.”

A single Methodist centre in Auckland is a distant dream at this point. It will require extensive planning and discussions with key partners, such as Te Taha Maori. The Board also has obligations to Christian World Service, which has an office at the Methodist administration centre in Ellerslie.

Trinity College principal Rev Mary Caygill says creating one site will not do away with either of the current streams of ministry education. Rather it will enable creation of a core ministry formation programme that all Trinity College students would share while undertaking different programmes for theological training.

“The Methodist Church needs flexibility and multiple points of entry in its ministry education programmes given the increasing diversity of the Church.”

Mary believes a single Trinity College site in Auckland would help to bring greater cohesion to the student body and a greater sense of connection.

“Trinity students are a very diverse group, which reflects the diversity of New Zealand Methodism. They come from different ethnic backgrounds and theological perspectives. Some are conservative, some liberal; they are different genders; some are gay, some straight. As they share core aspects of their ministry formation, we hope they will actively respect and engage in conversation with one another’s differences,” Mary says.