Project Canterbury

Flood Tide in the Pacific: Church and Community Cascade into a New Age

By Frank William Coaldrake

Stanmore, New South Wales: Australian Board of Missions of the Church of England in Australia, no date.

A Pacific diocesan asserted recently: "Adequate theological training is the most important problem facing our Pacific dioceses and I would argue that we have not taken this sufficiently seriously."

The question has been brought up for urgent thinking by the proposal of the Theological Education Fund of the International Missionary Council to establish a United Theological College in Suva, Fiji. A start on this project will probably be made in 1963. Is it to be with or without Anglican participation?

A United Theological College in Suva?

(a) Would the Australian Church (through the A.B.M.) provide approximately £10,000 capital for a United Theological College in Suva and an annual working grant of £3,000, these being the Anglican Church's due share of the initial costs proposed?


(b) Would the Australian Church expect to have Anglican theological education carried on in an exclusively Anglican College and would it meet the costs of such a central Anglican College at approximately £20,000 capital and £6,000 annual grant?

(c) If the latter is decided, would the Australian Church expect to concentrate its assistance with higher theological education in one Central Anglican College for the whole South Pacific area? Or, should there be two or more Colleges in different localities?

(d) Should the location be Suva or Port Moresby or both?

[77] The costs of a United College might be less than the higher grade of theological colleges which each diocese agrees it badly needs and may not be able to provide on its own. But travel costs would be serious and problems of married students, separated from their wives for a long period, more serious.

The proposal for a United Central College in Suva has been developed rapidly and practical steps requiring financial commitment are now being called for. The four Anglican Dioceses concerned could raise their proportion of the large sums involved only by appeal to the Home Church. Before they commit themselves they should have an idea of the probable extent of Australian support.

The other Churches are ready to give their answers. The ecumenical movement has come to stay and the Anglican Church is involved. Merely nominal participation means weakening the elements we must have in the ecumenical movement if it is to satisfy us. Of the churches concerned about theological education in the Pacific only the Anglicans will have second thoughts about United Colleges.

And a University College at Port Moresby?

A University is to be established in Port Moresby shortly. The Churches in New Guinea hope together to provide a Hall of Residence. Would participation in a United Theological College in Suva be possible in addition to Divinity in Port Moresby? Will New Guinea need the Suva scheme when its own University is functioning? Port Moresby is the centre of about four million people in the West Pacific. Suva is the centre of about one million within a thousand-mile radius of the Central Pacific.

The National Missionary Council of Australia has submitted a memorandum to the Minister for Territories [77/78] regarding its hope to establish on an ecumenical basis a Hall of Residence at Port Moresby.

This Memorandum submits proposals in four areas of higher education, namely:

1. Residential accommodation for any students in a united "Hall of Residence".

2. Academic standards.

3. The academic study of religion by any students.

4. The study of Theology at higher levels by future ministers and teachers of religion.

It is suggested that in initial stages theological subjects should be included within a Faculty of Arts and count towards an Arts degree, but that eventually there should be a separate faculty for religious studies; and that diplomas or certificates in religious subjects should be awarded on an examination basis to students unable to proceed to degree standards.


As a direct result of these developments, a Consultation on Theological Education in the dioceses of New Guinea, Melanesia and Polynesia was held early in 1963 with the Bishops concerned and their Theological College principals. The Australian Board of Missions made this possible by paying the fares, and the Chairman was present. The three dioceses have between them 49 men in college at present with a yearly output of nineteen or twenty ordinands.

This statement was drawn up:--

Standards and Streams: The inadequacy of present standards and the difficulty of raising standards was studied in conjunction with the problems caused by the different [78/79] types of men now coming into the colleges. Young men coming straight from the top grades of schools are increasing in number, but there are still many older men who have been at work since leaving school. The position is made more difficult by the fact that when they left school the top grades were at a much lower level than now. How to provide adequately for younger and older, "academic" and "experienced" in the one college under one lecturer has become a great problem.

Staff: To meet the more varied demands and greater numbers, the minimum staff needed in each college was seen to be four lecturers. They should be trained educators as well as theologians in at least one of the following brackets of subjects:

Varied Courses: The lack of staff makes it necessary

(i) Holy Scripture.
(ii) Church History, Prayer Book and Liturgy.
(iii) Theology.
(iv) Moral and Ascetic Theology.

to give all the same tuition. It was recognised that the more able men in a group should be given special assistance to develop, but this will not be possible with only one lecturer for the whole college. It is also impossible to do justice to two groups of men at different levels with only one lecturer. An immediate increase in staff is needed.

It is desired to bring present-day problems of theological education in the area of the three dioceses to the attention of the Synods, Councils and Bishops, who alone can make decisions in the matter. At the same time it is thought desirable to keep supporting bodies informed of developments.

[80] Three levels of colleges for the training of the ministry were clearly discerned by the Consultation. The point is not merely that there are three levels but that the needs of the three dioceses might best be met by combining their operations in the two higher levels. There is little doubt that, as a result of the Consultation, training for the ministry will in future be viewed as a three-level undertaking, even if each diocese carries out its operations exclusively. The three levels are:

(i) Preparatory studies to raise men from their standard at entry to the point where they can commence the examination course accepted for ordination.

This preparatory study must allow for the range of ability included in any intake of men. Some come from the highest grades attainable in the schools. Others come from some years of work in the service of the Church or community, having left school when the highest grades were low. These men have maturity and experience, but are not usually students. The preparatory course must give individual tuition and coach each man to develop his potential. It is possible to bring men with widely different origins to the point where they can begin one course of solid study.

This preparatory course will also reveal some who must be diverted to other work. It also provides an opportunity for testing vocation and it should be possible by this to keep wastage to a minimum in the higher levels. One or two years will be needed for this course.

(ii) Ordination Training: To bring the men who have qualified from the preparatory level through the course of study and examination required for [80/81] ordination. It is not yet possible for all three dioceses to adopt Th.L. of Australia or L.Th. of New Zealand. Polynesia is in reach of the New Zealand L.Th. as the standard for ordination. Melanesia and New Guinea expect to attain it in a few years, but meantime hope to have the Australian Th.A. as standard for ordination until it can be raised by more concentrated teaching in the colleges.

All are agreed that it is desirable to have an external examination by an appropriate Church body. . The standard for ordination is believed to be only an average, and those who are able must be helped to go higher. None must be allowed to start in the studies of this second level unless he can be expected to reach the standard required for at least a pass in the ordination examination.

Entry to this ordination training should not be limited to those who have reached the highest grades in the schools. With the raising of school gradings as education develops there will be fewer difficulties in the preparatory levels, but the way must always be open for a man who has not reached the top of the schools to receive suitable training for ordination at the completion of the work in this second level. Three years should be the requirement for this course.

(iii) Higher Training: The more able students revealed in the two lower levels should be encouraged to develop their abilities to the full. By the time they have passed the ordination examination at the end of the second level of college they should be ready for university work in Theology, or study in a Church college overseas, or in a higher [81/82] Theological college in the Pacific. It is unlikely that the three dioceses will have the academic resources to provide for higher Theological learning. Though research under competent staff in the second level college should be kept in mind, the needs of higher level study will only be met by sending the students into institutions outside the control of the three dioceses. At this point the dioceses begin to look to participation in a united college planned for Suva, or a university Hall of Residence proposed for Port Moresby. This third level of study would require at least three years.

Combining operations at some levels is suggested. The Consultation felt that the three dioceses should keep their own individual colleges for the preparatory level but would best achieve their object by having one central college for the second level. For the third level only it was thought best to seek participation in institutions open to several churches.

The factors which influenced the Consultation towards a desire for a Central Anglican Pacific College at the second level were:


(a) There is a wide community of interests in the region.

(b) There is much. that is common in the practices and disciplines of the three dioceses.

(c) All three need new high standards of competence in the training of clergy, and must seek a minimum staff of four competent teachers for each college.

(d) A growing need for interchange of indigenous clergy throughout the three dioceses. A common standard in training would facilitate this.

[83] (e) The location of Theological colleges should be in proximity to other institutions of higher learning and to urban areas, except possibly in the preparatory level.

(f) There is a common need for a centre for specialisation at higher levels, and research and the requisite resources and numbers probably cannot be found in any one diocese. The understanding of the Christian Faith in relation to local circumstances and its interpreting in local terms is the task of Theological education, common throughout the three dioceses.

The three dioceses share the need for a centre in which their clergy can gain ecumenical experience and training in the search for unity. The protection of comity agreements is being penetrated by sects and others. The movements out of comity areas into urban settlements and labour lines is also bringing questions of unity to puzzle the island churches. Theological training for the clergy must now include preparation for this, and all the clergy of the region should receive training for ecumenical encounter.

The factors which influenced the Consultation against the desire for a Central Anglican Pacific College were:


(a) Costs would probably be higher. Cost of the new programmes in Theological education will be very high in any case. The buildings for lecture rooms, libraries, dormitories and staff quarters will have to be extended and improved, but it would probably cost less for each diocese to provide the first two levels of work in the one place. To develop each diocesan preparatory college fully and at the [83/84] same time make a separate central college in some other place would probably cost more. Participation in the united colleges at the highest level would also mean providing considerable capital outlay. Costs for students and staff might also be higher because of the increased cost of living in such an area as the central college would require. The costs of fares to return home annually would be a major item for a central college.

The three dioceses hope to receive substantial assistance from supporting bodies, but must face the problem of supporting the institutions when substantial assistance from abroad stops. It was this aspect which most deeply disturbed the Consultation. Developing a new Anglican institution for Theological training at the time when we are being asked to participate in a "United" college seems to be an expression of "Anglicanism" against "Ecumenicism" or of "Intransigence" against "Unity". It might be a case of preferring to do on our own what we might well be able to do together with other churches.

It is to be considered that the Central Anglican College should not be established as the second level institution without simultaneous commitment of funds and staff to participation in the ecumenical institutions at the third level.

Resolutions from Consultation at Honiara

In condensed form, these drew attention to the following:

(1) The urgency of providing special opportunities for more able students and that the Church outside the Pacific should provide staff for advanced courses and scholarships for overseas study.

[85] (2) That each Theological college should have not less than four members of staff.

(3) The importance of first-class Anglican Theological libraries. Help from outside the Pacific was asked. A minimum of £250 per library is needed.

(4) Pacific colleges must include indigenous staff members. The training of suitable people is urgent, and should be a joint responsibility of the whole Anglican Communion.

(5) The need of specialists, clerical and lay, in such fields as urban areas, labour lines, radio and Press, policy, youth work, women's work, adult education and stewardship. Chaplaincies to Government and other institutions and schools.

(6) The need of the three Pacific dioceses for:

(a) A Preparatory College in each diocese.

(b) A Central Anglican Theological College for normal ordination training.

(c) Participation for suitable students in United Colleges for higher Theological training or University education.

That no development plans can be put into effect without very considerable expenditure on buildings and equipment is obvious, and the Consultation requested the sympathetic consideration of these needs by the A.B.M., the N.Z.A.B.M., and the Executive Officer of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Bayne.

Ecumenical Encounter

Social change is throwing up another problem in Theological education.

The churches at home are used to living with disunity and divisions from long experience. No other situation can be remembered.

[86] The Church in the Islands has had little experience of this. Contact with other churches has been in the main limited to encountering invaders at comity frontiers and trying to chase them out. But a new mobility in island society is making this futile and difficult. The three dioceses must therefore prepare to deal with the confusion this new encounter in disunity will provoke.

The island churches may soon find it impossible to accept disunity. Without the historical background against which the West has grown to accept divisions, the differences between denominations lose much of their substance. The pressure for ecumenical developments is likely to mount most rapidly in those areas which have previously been sheltered by comity.

This is another reason why it might be wrong to develop an Anglican Central College just when United Central Colleges are being established. But such matters pose questions which Church people and members of Synods in the three dioceses would not understand. A statement in very simple English was prepared for them:--

Unity of the Churches

"We, meeting at Honiara (March, 1963), to discuss Theological education, speak this word to you all. We believe the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church as our Anglican Church has always taught them. We thank God that people of different churches, including Roman Catholics, all over the world are now praying and working for a better understanding with one another. We feel that we also, in the Pacific Islands, must take our part in this work towards Christian unity. Things which have divided us in the past (like languages, customs, fears) are now being broken down. Our divisions in the Church not only make us weak, but are sinful in God's eyes, [86/87] because Our Lord made and wants the Church to be one. Sin has divided the Church: God can unite the Church again if we are penitent and pray.

"Leaders of some other Pacific churches have invited us to send one or two of our future priests to have additional training with their students at a united college in Fiji. [Congregational, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed and Evangelical.] We ask you all to pray that our Synods may decide rightly about this.

"We hope that, through the work of our Theological Colleges, we all may better understand our own Faith, holding fast the Truth that we have received. We hope also that we may learn from others in humility and love, working and praying for the unity which our Lord Jesus desires.

"Signed: Alfred Melanesia, Bishop; John Charles Polynesia, Bishop; David Hand, Bishop Coadjutor of New Guinea; Eric Cassidy, Warden, Newton College, Papua; John Pittman, Warden, St. John's College, Suva; Alan Dutton, Warden, St. Peter's College, Siota; Harry Reynolds, Archdeacon, Central Solomons; Leonard Alufurai, Rural Dean, Malaita; Edgar Wood, Canon and Sub-Dean, Honiara; Frank Coaldrake, Chairman, Australian Board of Missions."

Project Canterbury