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New governing board charts Trinity College future

By Paul Titus

A responsive, flexible and sustainable learning environment that prepares 200 to 300 people a year for lay, deaconate and presbyteral ministry in the Methodist Church. This is the vision Trinity Methodist Theological College has for itself and it aims to achieve it by 2011.

At Conference 2008 the Methodist Church reconstituted the Trinity College Council to be the board of oversight for Trinity College. Building on work that had taken place before Conference, and prior developments, the Council has drafted a strategic plan that lays out the direction the College will take over the next two years.

A key element in the strategic plan is to develop contemporary theological and ministry training programmes that can be taught at a number of locations around Aotearoa/New Zealand. This includes programmes designed to meet the needs of Maori and Pacific people in this country.

The strategic plan’s other goals are to partner with various theological training providers as well as synods and parishes to deliver those programmes, and to provide fair financial support to those enrolled in the programmes.

Trinity College Council chair Catherine Gibson says the strategic plan aims to create a nation-wide Methodist “learning environment” rather than narrowing the emphasis to training at Auckland campuses.

“The training can take place anywhere. Trinity College will negotiate partnerships with local parishes and other trainers around the country.

“We are using the image of a learning environment to get away from the idea that Trinity College is ‘that place in Auckland that trains 10 presbyters a year’. Though distance learning will be an important part of the programme, you cannot do everything at distance. It is very important to retain face-to-face work and that is why partnerships with parishes will be an important part of Trinity College’s efforts.”

Among the programmes Trinity College will continue to promote and develop are Lead Worship courses for lay leaders, and courses taught through the Ecumenical Institute of Distance Theological Studies (EIDTS). The College will also look at strengthening partnerships with the University of Auckland’s School of Theology and the Anglican Church’s St John’s Theological College. “Trinity College has a commitment to working with others where possible and feasible and to fulfilling its ecumenical commitments”.

Although Trinity College’s Meadowbank campus will continue to be its base, the notion of a learning environment means it will offer courses at parishes and other sites around the country.

“We must also ensure the College has a good capital base and that we have financial systems for students that are fair to all. Re-establishing the Trinity College Council is a good opportunity to look at how cost-effective financial systems are and whether they are meeting the needs of students,” Catherine says.

Trinity College principal, Rev Dr David Bell is now consulting with other Pacific leaders in the Church to get an idea of how the College can best meet the needs of their communities. Catherine says the college appointed Rev Dr Nasili Vaka’uta to its teaching staff last year, and he has brought a depth of knowledge about Pacific peoples’ perspectives on theology and ministry.

When Trinity College’s Ministry Training Unit closed last year, the diploma programme in Practical Theology it delivered was suspended. This year the college has reinstated the diploma and attaining it will be part of the ministry training of all new Methodist presbyters.

Currently Trinity College’s strategic plan for 2009-2011 has the status of a working paper. All groups within the Methodist Church will have a chance to comment on it over the next two months before it is finalised.