By Stephen Spencer
The COVID pandemic has accelerated the transition from in-person to online theological education across the Anglican Communion. While most programs still contain elements of both approaches, there is an increasing weighting toward the use of Zoom and other online platforms for learning and teaching.
Students travel onto campus less than before, and therefore have decreasing access to library facilities. This is generating a growing need for access to appropriate online resources to support their learning, especially in the field of Anglican studies.
There has long been a need for such resources for colleges run on a shoestring (of which there are many across the Communion). This need is now growing for better-off colleges as well. There are colleges in Africa and parts of Asia that maintain full time residential learning and also need access to such resources.
Over the last few years the department for Theological Education at the Anglican Communion Office (TEAC) has been responding to this need, developing a range of resources produced by international working groups and made available through the Anglican Communion website, especially in the field of Anglican studies, and in four languages. There is a clear need for this work to continue, alongside other networking such as international webinars and regular e-bulletins, to keep colleagues in different continents in touch with each other.
A TEAC survey of lecturers and tutors across the Communion in 2021 revealed requests for resources on Anglican doctrine, especially ecclesiology, also Anglican ethics and politics, Anglican liturgy, Anglican mission and ministry, and Church history, especially pre-Reformation and 20th-century worldwide Anglicanism.
TEAC’s work has been generously funded by St. Augustine’s Foundation for the last few years. This is time-limited and finishes early in 2023. In its place, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council has approved setting up a new Commission for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion. It will have these aims:
- To give the Anglican Communion ownership and oversight of this work, demonstrating its commitment to support the learning of the whole people of God, a key component of the Season of Intentional Discipleship;
- To invite each member church (province) to nominate a commissioner, who could be a church leader and/or theological educator, to bring energy and enthusiasm to the work and help to extend its reach and impact;
- To have a clear and defined remit of resourcing online theological education, especially in those provinces where good-quality resources for Anglican formation are in short supply, with clear objectives for achieving this;
- To be able to raise funds for the work, including through colleges and seminaries becoming associate members of the commission and allowing their staff to contribute to its work;
- Not to be based in London but to be run from wherever its commissioners are living and working, though it will be supported in organizational ways by the Anglican Communion Office.
The commission will be led by Archbishop Howard Gregory of the West Indies. It will extend and enrich TEAC’s work in years ahead through its commissioners coming from across the globe and through convening working groups for specific projects.
To date, around 30 commissioners have been nominated by the primates of Anglican provinces. An introductory meeting will take place in late November and the commission will be launched at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Ghana in February 2023.
The Rev. Canon Dr. Stephen Spencer is director for theological education in the Anglican Communion.