This is not a comprehensive survey of the problem of ministerial training; but simply an attempt to pinpoint four basic issues in ministerial training. It is submitted as a working paper for discussion in the Senate.
I. What are the ministries for which people are to be trained?
1.1 The ministry of the Church, as I understand it, is a threefold one, in short-hand:
a. the worship of God and the building up of the community through teaching, preaching, discipline and the sacramental mysteries;
b. the expression of compassion for suffering humanity, healing, education, social service, emergency relief, aid to the handicapped etc.,
c. preparing the people to mobilize themselves for development, liberation, structural change, and the greater approximation of society to the Kingdom of God (Justice, dignity, human freedom etc.)
1.2 I think the three are interrelated and complementary; not alternatives among which to choose.
1.3 It is clear that no pastor or priest or the clerical class as a whole can carry out this ministry. Clearly most of the work in all three areas have to be undertaken by the laity.
1.4. I think it is possible to work out the role of the pastor or priest conceptually as well as practically as an enabler, catalyzer and leader in the total ministry. But I think it is unwise to think of the ministry of the clergy and the ministry of the laity as two separate ministries distinct from each other. I also think there are fundamental differences among our churches in the conception of the relation between the two aspects of the ministry._ These differences will call for different patterns also in training.
1.5. The cumulative impact of the above considerations is that theological education of the clergy can be only a part of the training for the ministry.
II. Theology and World Reality
2.1 The minister, well-nurtured in the scriptures, theology, ethics, pastoralia, church history and all the rest, needs also to relate this knowledge to the reality that surrounds him. This requires some knowledge of and sensitivity for political economics, other religions, sociology, psychology, health and education. The introduction of these subjects into the theological curriculum offers the following rather formidable obstacles.
2.2. The time factor forces upon no the alternatives of either prolonging the period of training, or eliminating some of the subjects now taught, or at least teaching than much more cursorily. There is general all-round objection to prolonging the period of training beyond the present 3-4 years; there are also financial implications. There is also strong objection in certain quarters to any major reduction in the content of the present curricular load. This is a major problem.
2.3. If these subjects are to be taught at an academically respectable level, we will have to employ non-theological lay people with proper training. There is no compatibility, at least in most instances, between the pay scales of theological teachers and competent university teachers of political economic, or sociology. This would cause great difficulties in securing adequate and competent teaching staff in these disciplines.
2.4. In any case the kind of academic economics they teach in our secular universities may itself be quite far removed from reality, and may not help the young ministerial training in understanding social reality at any depth. we desperately need to integrate theology and’the secular disciplines.
2.5. Such integration cannot take place in a for interdisciplinary meetings. We need substantial and sustained interdisciplinary research to break new ground. We must learn to understand the political economic and socio-psychological background of the people in the Bible and in Church History. We must also learn to see the anthropological and ontological assumptions behind the secular as well an the theological theories and disciplines.
2.6. This kind of fundamental research must be undertaken by the Senate and the Colleges together by appointing research teams of competent theologians and social scientists not more than 5 or 4, to work together in one place for 4 to 6 months, and produce books which clarify issues and give new insights into theological as well as secular reality. Those books in draft form should then be discussed in shorter study conferences of theological students and teachers, and then introduced into the curricula. A commission should be appointed now to go into the possibilities of such Seminar, work out one or two such research projects, seek funds, and implement the projects.
III. Institutional and Field Training
3.1. It is obvious that section two deals only with the academic aspects of reality. Ministerial training cannot be authentic if it is only academic; but without the academic also it becomes inauthentic. Ministerial trainees should be in touch with reality. And only some aspects of reality can be brought into the institution or its academic curriculum,
3.2. It is also clear that at least l2 months, and if possible 24 months of the training should he outside the ministerial training institution, but not necessarily only in parishes or in other Christian institutions. We need to work out the kinds of field training programmes preferably three or four different field periods in different kinds of settings (village, urban, social service, social mobilisation, literacy, health delivery, emergency relief, ministry to the handicapped etc.,), and evaluation of these experiences back at the institution. We could appoint a second commission to learn from the experience of theological colleges which have experimented in this regard; and to make detailed proposals for inter-relating field programme: and curricula in various ways and under differing conditions. The commission’s report should then be given to a workshop for further refinement and submission to the Senate.
IV. Ministerial Training and Training of the whole Church
4:1 The whole church cannot be trained by the theological colleges; the parishes or congregations exist for the training of the whole church, and yet ministerial training exists only as ancillary to the training of the whole church. Apart from the latter, the former has no point.
4:2 It will be unwise for the Senate to overestimate its own role in the training of the whole Church. It is the Churches which should do the work; not the Senate or the colleges. The responsibility of the Senate and the College is to prepare the catalysts, enablers and leaders who will help the Churches do their work. This fact should not he overlooked in organizing extension courses in theology. These often serve merely to increase the number of external B.D.s and to create an alternate pattern of getting into the ordained clergy. If extension courses are meant for the training of the laity, then the courses should be specially devised for that purpose. Should these courses be organised by the colleges, or by the Churches? This is an issue which has its pros and cons. Colleges organizing those courses provide an opportunity for college teachers and students remaining in touch with the laity but it will be much more effective if the colleges can help working pastors in an area to accept responsibility in organizing and running these courses with only occasional help from the colleges. It is the Churches task which the colleges should not usurp.
We do not as yet have, anywhere in the world that I know, an appropriate curriculum for the training of the laity, which is not a-miniature version of the college curriculum.
Perhaps the Senate and the Collages have a responsibility in working out a few sample curricula, with considerable flexibility for use in differing situations. Is a third commission for this justified?