Report on WECAN-College of Emmanuel & St Chad Initiative
Diocesan Council, Sept 7/19
What is WECAN?
The Western Educational Collaborative Anglican Network is a group of dioceses involved in local ministry training, changing models of ministry, and facing challenges in gaining access to theological education which works in their context.
On the initiative of Archbishop John Privett (BC/Yukon) and ESC Principal Iain Luke, the group had a preliminary meeting in February 2017, and has held three annual gatherings since then. Continuing contact takes place, approximately bi-monthly, via video-conference.
Almost every diocese in the Provinces of BCY and Rupert's Land has participated, though to different degrees. The members bring a range of existing resources to the work of local training: some have long-standing functioning schools, while others are struggling to assign any paid staff resources.
While we don't all experience the same issues in the same way, participants have expressed common convictions: “local is where it's at; small is not a problem; God is at work.”
There is a tangible excitement in WECAN gatherings, arising from the sense that we are not alone in what we are doing, that we can achieve more together than we can separately, and that our work has something to offer the wider church in its changing circumstances.
The outcomes of our meetings so far have been:
- mutual support for staff, and for the visions of local training in each partner diocese
- sharing of information with a view towards making resources, personnel, and course offerings available across diocesan lines
- interest in a common initiative that would enhance and connect local schools: this includes support for distance learning, electronic library resources, best practices in curriculum design, and a recognizable credential.
Where does Emmanuel & St Chad come in?
WECAN's goals relate closely to the College's interest in developing a partnership with local ministry schools. This is both our historic role and vision, and our adaptive response to the changing landscape of ministry in our region in this generation. Only, rather than “pushing out” clergy from a single learning centre, we can now serve the church best by “gathering together” the work that is being done in many local programs, highlighting their attentiveness to ministry context, which is a hallmark of the church in our time.
Since about 2014 the College Council has been considering options to re-frame the Licentiate in Theology (LTh) so that it can address the needs of ordained and lay leaders who are locally affirmed and locally trained. After working closely with the WECAN network, in particular during the June 2019 gathering, we have a shared vision of a Licentiate which would be
Delivered locally as much as possible, making use of the resources dioceses are already bringing to the work of ministry training, respecting local context and oversight
Maximizing accessibility through local course offerings, but also through the use of distance education technology and course sharing
Making the context for ministry a key focus, and expecting it to be a distinctive strength for people who complete the program
Flexible enough to handle the range of contexts across Western Canada, but solid enough to provide a basis for collaboration and for transferability of credentials and learning
Tapping into distinct resources which would benefit the whole network, in areas such as adult education, curriculum development, distance learning, and instructor training.
The College and WECAN have set up a joint curriculum working group, which is working on a revised LTh program. Rather than prescribing specific courses, it is outcomes based. In this way, courses offered in diocesan schools can be recognized as fulfilling LTh requirements, when they enable students to achieve the intended outcomes. This leaves the maximum flexibility for dioceses to organize and administer their own programs, tailored to their own needs, making use of the resources they have available and taking into account any constraints.
On the other hand, the existence of agreed outcomes will provide a means of mutual accountability, and a mechanism for recognizing the achievement and hard work of participants. It will serve as an agreed standard, which will help in cases when people move to a new diocese. It keeps the local programs in touch with new developments in the wider church, and in the professional and academic communities. And it also helps to build clarity, confidence and communication about the “local model” and how it can help the whole church understand its mission.
The content of the new LTh is based on the consultation WECAN has conducted between participating dioceses to identify common core areas of study and training. As a result, it is not “seminary lite”, but address the distinctive needs and strengths of people operating in locally-focused models of ministry. There is a lot of overlap between the two models, but significant differences in perspective. The focus on contextual ministry also means that some program requirements in the LTh will be determined by local need.
The agreed vision for the LTh emphasizes that training is not just about completing curriculum requirements. There is also a need for mentoring, spiritual formation, and practical experience, and these elements will be the responsibility of partner dioceses.
What about the diocese of Saskatoon?
Given the opportunities for sharing resources and building up our vision for local training, it's vital for our Diocese to participate fully in WECAN. I'm delighted that Trish is taking on responsibility for coordinating our program, and hope she will be able to be part of the WECAN video conferences and annual gathering. Future gatherings will likely be open to others who are teaching or mentoring in diocesan programs, as an opportunity for professional development.
In relation to the LTh initiative, I look forward to opportunities to explore how this could work for people in our diocesan program in the future. If we can frame our local training in a way which meets the consensus expressed in the shared curriculum, that will both be an advantage to our own students, and a contribution to the whole partnership.
I will also be writing a letter to the partner dioceses concerning financial support for the initiative, based on the consensus achieved at the June gathering. Dioceses will continue to have their own policies for financing courses offered locally, including the freedom to decide whether they will charge tuition at all, although the best practice seems to be that individuals, their parishes, and the diocese share the costs of ministry training in some proportion.
The College will be asking for some support for its role in developing, maintaining and administering the LTh program. For the coming year, our request is for $1500 from each participating diocese to support staff time in this area. That amount will be reviewed in the future, along with an appropriate per-student amount to reflect administration and resource costs.