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On the point of "isn't it an oxymoron to train a pioneer?", I would argue that the answer to this is a definite no. It might be an oxymoron to train someone to 'be' a pioneer, but even pioneers might need some training on other topics, and training in honing the skills they already posses.

There are two words in the term 'pioneer minister' and someone being a natural pioneer does not automatically make them adept at all things related to ministry. I would argue that pioneers still need training in things theological, pastoral, social and practical; pioneers still need space to develop maturity and have opportunity to discuss and be challenged.

Natural singers still need voice coaching, great footballers still train. I would say the same goes for pioneers.

You are right that this training might need to look different to previous ordinand training, but the idea that pioneers do not need any training at all seems to credit the trait pioneer with more than is warranted.

A nice post Mark.

Esp the bit about bishops. :-)

Kate, I fully agree, the meeting was to explore Pioneer training... Chris' comment was meant more in the way you suggest, that you can't train someone to be a pioneer, rather we need to work with the natural pioneers and see how best we can help them to reflect and learn, how best we can resource them, what support and accountability methods work best. I think it was also intended to provoke a deeper debate about the issue of training full stop.

Yo! Mark, hello!

I haven't dropped in for a while, but you know TSK ... whenever he links to you, I find my way here. You're always talking about something interesting! Actually, I started out with his link to your analysis on Lakeland, and then clicked here.

It sounds as if people who truly do want see Christ's Kingdom expand are potentially limiting that very thing by being locked into their paradigm, which requires the systems and structures of the past. So, they are unable to perceive from within the perspective of the future – the very one that pioneers are more likely to hold. It's an unfortunate irony: At the very critical point when leaders in the established order know they need to pass the baton, they start to pass it but don’t truly let go. They "push" to empower, fund, encourage, and train pioneers who can "pull" the churches toward new wineskins and a sustainable future. Yet, they end up "pulling" the entire process back by tethering it to their old wineskins of paradigm, perspective, and requirements. Done sincerely, not maliciously, and yet definitely counterproductive.

Ordination may be the “presenting problem,” but it seems to me that the real issue is far deeper, and if that is not addressed, everything else becomes irrelevant. The real problem is that “pioneering” requires contextualization to emerging cultures; sounds like the systems, trainings, etc., do not contextualize to the very students that they want to contextualize ministry. In effect, pioneering should ensure *continuance* of the Church but those in charge seem to be opting for *continuity* instead. They are not the same thing and mere continuity with the systems and structures of the past will not work.

That doesn't mean these leaders who tether the process to the past are inherently "bad" people. It's more like they are colorblind, and so it is impossible for them to distinguish the differences between certain colors. Then the real question becomes, Will you recognize your visual limitation, and allow someone who is not colorblind to lead you into the multi-colored land of the future? And that willingness or unwillingness, actually, could be seen as a character issue …

There are similar situations here in the US with church planting assessments, "emerging church" consultations, training programs, congregational surveys, etc., where sincere but “colorblind” managers attempt to assess what is, with what was. Just this week, I blogged about how to assess ministry in emerging cultures, and some of the reasons why this has gotten bogged down. Maybe this post would be of help in your discussions there:


Meanwhile, press on! I appreciate your voice of consideration, reason, and kindness, Mark. Pomotrans: You, like, totally rock!


As someone who started my ordination training for pioneer ministry a week before Greenbelt... I agree that the church is asking the wrong questions, putting the cart before the horse, domesticating what's emerging before its even emerged etc. I also agree with Kate that I need ministry training and some good theological reflection tools.

I guess at the moment I'm just rolling with it and hoping that I can reflect back to the institutions (thrological and ecclesiastical!) on my experience and be part of shaping the training stream for the future.

Mark - wise comments. As soon as I saw the proposals to institute the category of "pioneer minister" I felt uneasy. The role of ordained minister will take a long while to change because it is inevitably linked to *wider* community role responsibilities. This may be the very last thing that a "pioneer" needs to be lugging around in her/his ministry, but by ordaining someone, there is inevitably (and rightly) going to be an expectation that they will act in a representative capacity for the wider Church. I think I have an unusual perspective here in that I was an ordained minister first and then became a pioneer minister afterwards. They ain't the same animal in many ways, and keeping the two things together isn't always easy. I'm also worried about the way it suggests "funding" is tied to ordination. I think we probably need to wean ourselves off the funding ticket fast - if we can't fund ourselves, then the answer is to "drive a white van" (a phrase coined by Bp Mike Hill). The biggest problem will occur if "pioneer ministry" becomes the only way the Church of England recognises pioneers in ministry. I'm having fun in California at the moment, but missed meeting you guys at Greenbelt.

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