New Scottish Episcopal Institute dedicated for ministry formation

Posted Oct 6, 2015

[Anglican Communion News Service] The new Scottish Episcopal Institute has been dedicated by the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church with a challenge that the contexts of ministry that people are being called to will “become ever more complex and demanding.”

The Scottish Episcopal Institute (SEI) is tasked with the formation of those preparing for a variety of lay and ordained authorised ministries in the Scottish Episcopal Church. It will also train lay and ordained leaders in the United Reformed Church in Scotland.

The SEI says it is “shaping vibrant missional ministers for today’s world” by encouraging “an ethos of ongoing learning for all involved in ministry, both through its oversight of Continuing Ministerial Development and in the encouragement and resourcing of lifelong enquiry in a learning church.”

The SEI emerged from church-wide discussions following changes in the Church of England’s training regime after a 2013 review, the SEI Principal Canon Anne Tomlinson, said. “This resulted in a new governance structure being instituted to enable the training to be much more closely allied to the Church’s overall vision for mission and ministry in the 21st century, and a new curriculum developed which integrates theology and experience in a dynamic reflective practice,” she said.

SEI’s diplomas and degrees will be validated by Durham University’s Common Awards from October 2016, “in keeping with the desire to form clergy and Readers who are reflective practitioners and missional leaders for twenty-first century Scotland,” Canon Tomlinson said.

The SEI operates from its Provincial Office in Edinburgh, and throughout all seven dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The service of dedication in St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth, was led by the Bishop of Argyle and the Isles, the Rt Revd Kevin Pearson, who serves as Convener of the SEI Council.

“This is a moment of celebration and hope,” the Primus of Scotland, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, said in a sermon during the service. “The launch of the Scottish Episcopal Institute is an important moment for our church. We have planned, worked and prayed. Now we celebrate with joy.

“But ministry often isn’t like that. In my experience, many of the moments which have spoken to me of the movement of the spirit of God in the hearts of his people have been half-whispered. They have been the words of people – about to turn the door handle on their way out – standing in the relatives’ room at the hospital – facing the breakdown of relationship – half understanding the way in which we are caught up in the working of God’s grace. It is people who find themselves in the most challenging of circumstances saying almost without realising it the words of forgiveness, sacrifice and hope.

“But now and again a moment comes along – a moment at which we can celebrate and give thanks because something rather wonderful has come about. As William Barclay once said, we stand on the shoulders of our parents. As we mark the launch of the Scottish Episcopal Institute, we carry forward some of the story of Coates Hall and of TISEC – but we write a new chapter which is about our understanding of ministry in 2015 and onwards and we place that chapter in the ongoing story of the vocation of the SEC in Scotland in 21st century.”

Bishop Chillingworth admitted to feeling “a little flat-footed in the presence of those who are training for ministry,” saying that it was “a time when you live with a heightened sense of your calling – and you are in prayerful dialogue with it.

“So the forming of people for ministry tests and develops the very human vessel of temperament and character in which vocation is experienced and held. It means the developing of skills and talents. It means over and over again shaping the spiritual life which says that ‘this is not about us’. It prepares those who are committing their lives to ministry for the possibility – no certainty – that ministry will bring them at times testing and pain almost beyond endurance just as it will bring joy and fulfilment beyond expectation.”

He said that the “community of learning” at the SEI “expresses the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church not just at this moment but as it will be in ten, twenty or more years from now.

“As a church, we are and need to become a community which lives with vocation – a community which is being formed for mission – a community which needs to become not so much a church of agendas and projects as a church of obedience so that we may be blessed. For me that means that, like the people who half-whisper what they half grasp, we need to be people who catch glimpses of what by God’s grace we may become – becoming that not for ourselves but for the community which we serve and to which we go in mission.

“And of the contexts in which the ministry for which we are being formed – we can know little other than that they will become ever more complex and demanding. In the secular culture of Scotland, we need to minister with our spirituality uppermost and our institutional life as something secondary.

“Poverty, migration, devolution, religiously-motivated violence, human rights, hunger, climate change and climate justice – the list of questions to which there are no easy answers is endless and growing. People formed for ministry will seek God’s answers and minister God’s love in ways which are for the building of the Kingdom.”

  • You can read Bishop Chillingworth’s full sermon here.