Training for ministry in the Church of Ireland, 1969 – 2019

IN THE CONTEXT of the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, I contributed an essay on theological training in the Church to the book Irish Anglicanism 1969 – 2019 published last year. Having no first-hand knowledge of the work of the Theological College before being appointed to the review team set up by the House of Bishops in 2002, I focused almost exclusively in this essay on the period from 2005 to 2019, making only brief reference to the earlier years.

IN THE CONTEXT of the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, I contributed an essay on theological training in the Church to the book Irish Anglicanism 1969 – 2019 published last year. Having no first-hand knowledge of the work of the Theological College before being appointed to the review team set up by the House of Bishops in 2002, I focused almost exclusively in this essay on the period from 2005 to 2019, making only brief reference to the earlier years. My emphasis on the later period may have given the impression that developments in theological training in the College prior to the millennium were less significant. This was not the case, and I apologise for not mentioning the considerable contribution made by successive principals and staff of CITC to the training of ordinands between 1969 and 2005. In what follows I will try to address the issue of theological formation in the Church of Ireland for the period from 1969 – 2009, with thanks for considerable help from some of those who were closely involved with the College during that time.

Theological Training before 1969

For over four centuries since the foundation of Trinity College Dublin in 1592, those seeking ordination in the Church of Ireland undertook their academic education in the School of Divinity, Trinity College. The early provosts were required to lecture in divinity and prospective clergy had to study Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as divinity. At the end of their course, students were awarded a Divinity
This article also draws on information in the annual Church of Ireland Directory, the Church of Ireland Gazette and the journal Search. The chapter “From divinity to theology in four centuries” by Canon J.R. Bartlett in Trinity College Dublin and the Idea of a University, edited by C.H. Holland in 1991, was particularly helpful, as was Canon Adrian Empey’s article “Perspectives on Ministerial Education in the Church of Ireland” in Search in 2007. An interview by Canon Adrian Empey with Paul Harron, in the Church of Ireland Gazette in 2007 also provided insights into life in the Theological College during his periods as student in the 1970s and as Principal in the 2000s.

Testimonium, a practice that continued until the mid-1970s. The academic education of the ordinands and the general framework within which divinity was taught in Trinity College changed remarkably little between the 1590s and the 1960s.

Developments in the 1960s and 1970s

Until 1964, when the new Divinity Hostel opened in Braemor Park, Dublin 6, candidates for the ordained ministry had lived in the Divinity Hostel in Mountjoy Square under the supervision of the warden, Canon John Brown, while attending lectures in Trinity College. According to the entry in the 1969 edition of the Church of Ireland Directory, “The warden gives instruction on matters connected with the personal and parochial life of the clergy”, whereas “the Bishops’ Selection Conferences advise on vocation and training”. Candidates recommended for training were eligible for grants from the Church’s Divinity Students’ Grants Committee. They were awarded the Testimonium on successful completion of examinations in biblical, dogmatic and historical theology. A student who was already a graduate could be exempt from the preliminary year and be awarded the Testimonium after two years instead of the usual three.

The academic staff of the Divinity School in 1969 consisted of the Regius Professor of Divinity, Revd Hugh Frederic Woodhouse; Archbishop King’s Professor of Divinity, Revd Frederick Ercolo Vokes; the Professor of Pastoral Theology, Revd Canon John Brown and a Lecturer in Divinity, Revd John Bartlett. In 1970, in addition to the warden and his sub-warden (Revd James Hartin) a tutor, Revd Maurice Stewart, was added to the Hostel team. In 1974, Revd Hartin and Revd Stewart, who in due course were to become the Theological College’s principal and vice-principal respectively, were both described as part- time lecturers in the School of Divinity, the first in church history, the second in liturgy.
Adrian Empey, who was a mature student in the Divinity Hostel between 1972 and 1974, was one of those who completed his training in two years instead of three. In his article in SEARCH in 2007 he wrote of the training he received:
. . . Certainly some of the teaching was poor; some good, if not always inspiring, and some fairly disorganised, though immensely stimulating. Scarcely any pastoral training was offered then. Notwithstanding methods of teaching that are now scorned, I found much to reflect Training for ministry, 1969 – 2019

Áine Hyland on, even as a ‘mature’ thirty-something ordinand. I was afforded generous space and freedom to resolve quite painful issues for which I pay tribute to the wisdom of the warden of the Divinity Hostel, John Brown . . . If we were naively unaware of the distinction between training and formation, we certainly knew that the disciplines of prayer and daily worship were fundamental for preparation for the business of ministry.2
The 1970s were years of constant change and development in the teaching of theological students in TCD, the process being largely master-minded by Professor Vokes in conjunction with Canon Brown. Through these years, as later detailed by John Bartlett, the Divinity Testimonium, after being “ruthlessly modernised” in 1964:

. . . in 1972 became a three-year diploma course for which the BA was not a necessary previous qualification and ordination was not a necessary outcome. In 1979 it became the three-year professional diploma in theology, taught jointly by staff from the Church of Ireland Theological College and from the Trinity School of Hebrew Biblical and Theological Studies [established in 1978] and controlled by a co-ordinating committee in composition not unlike the now defunct divinity school council.3
Along with the changes in nomenclature came radical updpating of biblical and theological studies reflecting the results of mid-twentieth century scholarship, and careful re-thinking of what was the appropriate academic syllabus for ordinands in the Church of Ireland. The syllabus was to be further developed in the early 1980s, the diploma being upgraded in 1986 to a B.Th (pass or honours – a fourth year’s study being required for honours).
The Church of Ireland Theological College, 1980
In 1980 the Divinity Hostel was re-named the Theological College. Canon John Brown retired as Warden, and the sub-warden, Revd James Hartin, now a canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, was appointed as Principal. The new Vice-Principal was Revd Maurice Stewart and Revd Bill Browne was appointed as Tutor in Practical Work, reflecting
2 “Perspectives on Ministerial Education in the Church of Ireland” in Search 30.1. Spring 2007, p.43.
3 J R Bartlett, “From divinity to theology in four centuries” in C.H.Holland (ed.) Trinity College Dublin and the idea of a university, 1991. Pp.232-233.

The new sense in the Church that practical and pastoral training and its integration with academic work needed to be introduced to the curriculum.4 This was probably the most significant of the changes in the formation of ordinands that went along with the re-designation of the hostel as the Theological College. The entry in the Directory that year read as follows:
The College is under the control of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland, assisted by a committee of clergymen and laymen. It functions as a theological college in association with Trinity College Dublin. Divinity students of the Church of Ireland live in the college and receive their training there and in Trinity College. The Diploma in Theological Studies of Trinity College is a recognised ordination training course … taught and assessed jointly by the staff of Trinity College and the Theological College.
The entry went on to state:
The three-year Diploma course has three components – theoretical, practical and professional – and all the work done is assessed for the final result. The assessment includes work done in ‘pastoral placements’ in parishes, hospitals, and social care agencies. Academic and pastoral studies are closely connected with the distinctive community life of the college in the daily pattern of worship, prayer and biblical meditation.
The entry in the Directory concluded by expressing the hope that “the College will develop as a centre of Christian education in the Church of Ireland”, pointing out that courses for in-service training of clergy, adult education and lay training were now being provided.
4 The appointment was hailed in the following year in the Report of the C of I Commission on Ministry, “Ministry today – A Calling for All” in paragraphs 111 and 112. “Training for ministry involves much more than academic knowledge of the Bible, theology, church history, liturgy and ethics. The work of a priest and pastor is a distinctive vocation with its own professional skills . . . [which] must be assesssed in training along with the more academic courses . . . For that reason we welcome the appointment of a Tutor in Practical Work . . . who will work with the Principal in the development of pastoral training in which there will be experience for strudents in different situations, supervision of the work they do and opportunity for reflection and assessment afterwards.”
Training for ministry, 1969 – 2019

Dr Seán Freyne appointed as Professor of Theology in Trinity College
Also in 1980, Seán V. Freyne, a former Roman Catholic priest with a doctorate from Rome’s Angelicum, was appointed Professor of Theology, taking up the post the following year on the retirement of Professor Woodhouse. Dr. Freyne was the first Roman Catholic appointed to the Chair of Theology since the foundation of Trinity College in 1592. His appointment was welcomed in the Church of Ireland Gazette of June 1980 as follows: “The Church of Ireland has welcomed the appointment of Roman Catholic theologian, Dr. Seán Vincent Freyne, to the Chair of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. [He] is a noted New Testament scholar currently teaching at Queensland University, Australia.” Having listed his many academic qualifications, the Gazette went on: “The gifted academic speaks and reads English, Irish, French, German and Italian apart from his ancient language specializations in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic and Coptic”.5
Following his arrival in TCD in 1981, the new regime of the School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies, featured Freyne as Professor of Theology, Canon James Hartin as Professor of Pastoral Theology, Dr Andrew Mayes as Associate Professor and Revd John Bartlett along with a new appointee, Dr. Werner Jeanrond, as lecturers in Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology respectively. An Adult Education Officer, Revd Patrick Semple, was also appointed to the Theological College in 1982 – a sign of the wider understanding of theological education at this time.
The arrival of Prof. Freyne and his leadership of the School in TCD, as well as Canon Hartin’s appointment as principal of the Theological College, led to new emphases and sharper focus on the training of ordinands. From now on the academic training was firmly in the hands of the School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies in TCD, the old Divinity School Council having given way to the new coordinating committee. The decade also saw the development of more contemporary approaches within the Theological College to theology and pastoral training, signalled by the appointments of the Revd Dr David Hewlett, an outstanding young theologian from the U.K. in 1986, and Revd Virginia Kennerley, who had recently studied reflective pastoral theology practice in London and Dublin, succeeding Bill Browne in 1988.
5 Church of Ireland Gazette. 27th June 1980.

1989 – Appointment of Canon John Bartlett as Principal of the Theological College John Bartlett had been appointed to the Divinity School as Junior Lecturer in 1966, becoming Lecturer three years later, and a Fellow of TCD in 1975. He had assisted Prof. Vokes in the development of Biblical Studies in the Faculty of Arts, and with the arrival of Prof. Freyne had become part of the new School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies, where his remit included the teaching of Old and New Testament to the Church of Ireland ordinands, becoming Professor of Biblical Studies in 1986. On his appointment to succeed Canon Hartin in September 1989, he had had twenty-three years’ experience of both TCD and the Church of Ireland ordination training, so was
well placed to take on his new role, heading up a course that had seen many changes over the past quarter century

The increasing number of women in training, had an immediate effect for good on the life of the College

When he took over as principal, there were just three full-time academic staff in the Theological College: the Revds Stewart, Hewlett and Kennerley. In 1991 they were joined by the Revd Tom Gordon as chaplain-tutor. In 1992 Canon Dr William Marshall, lecturing in Anglicanism and the philosophy of religion, was appointed to succeed Maurice Stewart as vice- principal, while the Revd Dr John Marsden replaced David Hewlett as Lecturer in Systematic Theology.

The 1990s, under Canon Bartlett, saw continued emphasis on the importance of a strong academic curriculum delivered by Prof. Freyne and his team in TCD, but also saw changes of emphasis in other areas of training. Under Tom Gordon, the teaching of liturgy and the expression of it in the College chapel were revitalised; John Marsden’s lectures underlined the changing social scene and the church’s responsibility to recognise it; and Ginnie Kennerley made students realise the vital importance of personal pastoral relationships and how to effect them while modelling gospel values. All this was demanding on students, and not always appreciated, but it radically changed the spirit of the College. The greatest change of the decade was the increasing number of women in training, which, though unpopular in some quarters, had an immediate effect for good on the life of the College. Over twenty years later it is generally agreed that it has had an important (and improving) effect on the life of the Church of Ireland as a whole.

In 1993, having spent five years in the Theological College as Lecturer in Applied Theology, the Revd Ginnie Kennerley, one of the first women ordained in the Church of Ireland, moved on to an incumbency in Glendalough diocese. Her position was assigned in 1994 to the Revd Jeremy Young, a Church of England priest of some thirteen years’ parochial experience with a strong interest in social psychology.

There were further staff changes in the Theological College towards the turn of the millennium: in 1998, a new lecturer in Church History and Theology, Dr Andrew Pierce, was appointed and the post held by Tom Gordon was re-designated Director of Extra- Mural Studies in 1996, his chaplaincy position being allotted to Revd Norman McCausland. Then in September 2000, the pastoral and practical theology post devolved to the Revd Bernadette Daly, after the completion of her curacy in Taney parish nearby, while Revd Kevin Moroney from the USA took over as chaplain tutor. In December 2000 Andrew Pierce moved on, but continued to teach in an interim capacity until Revd Alexander Jensen’s appointment in 2002.

2001 – Appointment of Canon Adrian Empey as Principal of the Theological College.

In 2001, on the retirement of Canon Bartlett, Canon Dr Adrian Empey was appointed Principal of the Theological College, the teaching staff remaining as under Canon Bartlett. As noted earlier in this article, Canon Empey was a mature student at the Divinity Hostel in the early 1970s. From 1988 he had been vicar in St. Ann’s, Dawson St., Dublin.

His appointment gave him the opportunity to return to teaching, which he found very rewarding. He found that the new gender-mix made for “a good, natural and balanced community”, the diversity being increased by a large number of older students including former architects, lawyers, farmers, truck drivers, policemen and business folk. And unlike England, where people of different churchmanship could choose colleges that suited their persuasion, the Church of Ireland Theological College had to cater for the whole island “and for the full range of cultural backgrounds and shades of outlook”.

6 Interview with Canon Adrian Empey by the Church of Ireland Press Officer, Paul Harron in the Church of Ireland Gazette, February 2008.

Auxiliary Ministry Training

Until the end of the 1980s, non-stipendiary ministry (NSM) training was diocesan-based and the level and degree of training depended largely on the bishop of each diocese. In 1991, the Church decided to centralise NSM and for the first time, the entry in the Directory in 1993 referred to training for the auxiliary ministry. It stated: The Theological College provides also for the training of candidates for the Auxiliary Ministry of the Church of Ireland. Auxiliary candidates follow a three-year course attending the College for weekend training sessions and studying the appropriate academic courses at home with the assistance of diocesan tutors. During the first decade of centralised NSM training the curriculum was shaped by the staff of the Theological College and the course was run through the extra-mural arm of St John’s College, Nottingham. The course consisted of the certificate course of Christian Studies of St John’s College with liturgy and the history of the Church of Ireland as additional subjects. As well as spending at least six residential weekends in the College
in Braemor Park, students were supported by diocesan tutors and were required to write four essays per unit (two units per annum) which were submitted for outside assessment. After his arrival in 2001 Canon Empey took steps to ensure that the St John’s course work, which
had not previously received academic certification, was validated by the Open University so that it would be recognized anywhere. A diploma qualification validated by the O.U. was also provided, which was the equivalent of two-thirds of an honours degree (or level 7 on the Irish Qualifications Framework). From then until changes were introduced in 2009, NSMs could go on to complete an honours degree if they wished. This gave the NSMs a solid platform as well as a justifiable sense of achievement and increased confidence – not to mention the respect they deserved. During this period, NSM training was integrated into the life of the college and thereby into the full life of the Church. The NSM co- ordinating committee became one of the committees of the college. The amount of time spent in the college summer school was increased and the number of weekends spent on campus was increased to nine weekends per annum. NSM students came to enjoy a corporate experience similar to stipendiary students and they also came to know people across the whole spectrum of the Church of Ireland and to enjoy much greater support from their dioceses and from one another.

NSM training was integrated into the life of the college and thereby into the full life of the Church

Review of theological training

There had been many changes in Irish society in the late twentieth and early twenty-first-century, especially insofar as the Christian churches were concerned. To quote Canon Empey:
In the past thirty years, since the B.Th. degree was designed, such is the pace of change that it would be difficult to identify familiar features in a landscape transformed almost beyond recognition. An obvious revolution has occurred in the position of the churches in society partly as a result of scandals, but more essentially because of the forces of secularisation. What is emerging from the rubble of the ancient regime is a post-modern, multi- cultural, secular society, which is highly technological. Where the legitimacy of authority is not taken for granted . . . The spiritual space traditionally occupied by the historic churches is under increasing pressure from new congregational churches … The pool from which ordinands are selected today is much wider than it was 30 years ago when the majority of those offering themselves for ordination were male, unmarried and in their early twenties.

In 1999, the bishops had appointed a Theological College Council, chaired initially by the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, Richard Clarke, to oversee the work of the college. Writing in the Church of Ireland Gazette in December 2000, Bishop Clarke anticipated a major review of the current curriculum for theological training and the development of new models of ministry to meet the changing demands on the Church for the twenty-first century. In December 2002, the Academic Committee of the Theological College, chaired by Bishop Michael Jackson, then bishop of Clogher, met for two days to consider aspects of future training. The committee recommended that a review of ministry training be undertaken and the report of the review group
7 Interview with Canon Empey in the Church of Ireland Gazette, April 2008. and the subsequent implementation of its recommendations are discussed in my essay in Irish Anglicanism 1969 – 2019.

The review was welcomed by Canon Empey who wrote:
The main thrust of the recommendations of the review was that the focus of the training programme should be shifted from content to formation. From my perspective, it provides both a solid platform for change and a map for achieving it. While significant changes are proposed it should be noted too that the report had very positive things to say both about the atmosphere of the College and the standard of teaching.8
The report of the review team was considered by the House of Bishops in November 2005 and a ministry formation team was set up to draw up an implementation plan. The plan (which is described at length in my essay in Irish Anglicanism 1959-2009) envisaged a significant change in ministry training. In particular, it aimed to ensure that theology and other academic subjects would not be learned in isolation but would be connected and applied to actual experience of ministry. The change of emphasis was similar to the approach being taken in other professional areas of training, e.g. in healthcare professions, teaching and engineering. Moreover, while there would continue to be two paths towards ordination, the traditional separation of stipendiary and non-stipendiary candidates and the distinction between their academic qualifications would no longer exist. From now on, all candidates would follow the same academic course, choosing either a full-time residential route or a part-time route. Prior to selection, all candidates would be required to complete a one-year foundation course. If selected they would follow a 120 ECTS credit level 9 course leading to a master’s degree in theology (M.Th.).
Explaining the reason for opting for a master’s degree rather than maintaining the B.Th., Bishop Michael Jackson stated in an interview for Search in 2008:
Part of it is the standardisation of training throughout Europe, and particularly the principle of interchangeability of ministry with our colleague in the Porvoo churches, for example, where a master’s degree is mandatory for ordination. Also a professional degree in Ministry makes it possible to emphasise more strongly the collaborative aspect of training, which we and the Inspection Report team consider so important.

The proposed new ministry training programme generated a considerable level of interest and some controversy throughout the Church of Ireland, which was manifested at the various consultation events organised to disseminate the revised programme. In an article in Search in 2008, while commending much in the new course, Tom Gordon and Lindsey Hall10 were critical of the processes of communication which accompanied its dissemination – processes which “have been characterised more by a top-down business management style than by open and sensitive engagement with the whole church.” They also expressed their concern that the new master’s degree course might exclude applicants who did not have an undergraduate degree and that it appeared to undervalue “ministry as an expression of the whole people of God”.
A series of letters in the Church of Ireland Gazette in Spring 2008 echoed some of these concerns. In a letter in the issue of 18th April, Tom Gordon expressed “dismay at how this will exclude so many people who have previously gone on to become mainstays of our Church’s ministry”. To allay these concerns, Bishop Jackson pointed out that applicants for the new course would also be considered on the basis of prior learning and experience to assess their potential to undertake a professional degree course, so while graduates with a B.A. would be welcome, other qualifications could be equally valid. He pointed out again that the only essential qualification would be the Foundation Course, consisting of modules of Biblical Studies, Theology and Practical Studies.11
In conclusion, I am aware that neither this article nor my essay in Irish Anglicanism 1969 – 2009 addresses details of the actual curriculum followed by ordinands. In order to come to a better understanding of ministry training and formation in the fifty years since 1969, such a specialist analysis would be highly desirable and might perhaps be provided in a future edition of Search.