20 June 2001

Training for Ministry - Planning it and Funding it

A report on the initial training of authorised ministries in the Methodist Church will recommend the principle of "Regulated Funding" for training from 2002.

Regulated Funding means that there needs to be a guaranteed base-line of funding for a fixed period which is affordable by the circuits and districts, and is reasonably constant from year to year.

Training would proceed within the funding available. This would necessarily set limits to the total numbers of students who could be trained. However there would be variations from year to year in the numbers of students in the different categories: Foundation Training, Pre-ordination Training and Probation. A balance would also need to be set between full-time and part-time training.

The Methodist Conference will decide whether to adopt this funding scheme. If approved, it will go on to set a minimum base-line over the five-year period 2002-7. The Methodist Council is recommending that the level of Funding for Foundation Training, Pre-ordination Training and Probation be fixed at £2.75 million for the year 2002-3. This level would be guaranteed for the subsequent four years with inflation being added as necessary.

This amount will pay for the projected maximum number of students in the current systems: since costs are now cut to the bone, anything less will lead to potential students being deferred or declined.

The costs for training in the Methodist Church budget for 2001-2 is £2.625 million.

If the Conference chooses to fix a lower budget, then criteria would need to be devised to determine who should be declined or deferred from entering training. These would probably include the likely number of years of subsequent service, the readiness for study, and other grading during selection. A decision would also be needed on whether those declined could be permitted to proceed entirely at their own expense.

The proposals have come about after "many people in the circuits and districts felt that there has been a steep rise in the costs of training in recent years," explains the report. "This is because for many years they had been cushioned from the full extent of the costs by a decision to meet the difference between the total costs and the moneys available (from assessment and donations) by using up connexional training reserves. When those reserves ran out, the full cost began to fall on a general assessment and the Fund for Training."

The 2000 Methodist Conference decided that it should all now fall on assessment only. "This has made the rise in costs seem much steeper than it actually has been," says the report.

The Methodist Conference 2001 takes place at Ipswich Town Hall from 23-29 June.

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