The Uniting Church commits a lot of resources to theological education. It is something that we care about. It is something that we have done well – as did the Congregational Methodist and Presbyterian churches before their union. Its effectiveness has been crucial to the health of the church and so we invest in it. Since 1994 theological education has been under review in the Uniting Church. Reports have been received. Changes have been made – some great, most small. But still, something is not working.
Rather than encouraging the continuing round of theological education reviews, this book suggests a new question. Has the Uniting Church spent all these years and all this energy refining a model of theological education that we don’t actually need? Have we just been perfecting a model of theological education designed to produce the sort of ministers and leaders we don’t actually need any more and which people called to ministry don’t really want to be any more – a model of ministry to which God is no longer calling people? This book does not supply a simple answer to the question, but it puts it on the table and, in its three careful studies, marshals the information that the church will need to wrestle honestly with the nagging question of the future of theological education.
Since the publication of his first book, Manifesto for Renewal (1986), Andrew Dutney has been one of the leading interpreters of the history and theology of the Uniting Church. Through his subsequent books and essays, through public lectures and seminars, and through formal academic courses on the Uniting Church he has helped a generation to share the vision of the UCA’s founders. He has nourished an expectation among ministers and members that they are part of an innovative, outward-looking church that is constantly seeking new opportunities to respond to God’s call to mission – to evangelism, to serving those in need, to reconciliation and community building. In this searching new book, Andrew Dutney turns his attention to theological education in the Uniting Church, joining an intense national conversation about the kind of theological education that a truly missional church needs.
Andrew Dutney is the Principal of Parkin-Wesley College, the Uniting Church’s theological college in South Australia. He is also Associate Professor in Theology at Flinders University.