Ministerial Education Commission

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


The Assembly’s responsibilities for ministerial education are exercised through the Ministerial Education Commission (MEC). The MEC meets annually, drawing together two representatives from the UAICC, two members appointed by each Synod, one appointed by the Presbytery of Tasmania, the principals of the theological colleges recognised by the Assembly, the convenors of the MEC’s working groups and the chairperson and secretary appointed by Assembly. That meeting provides an essential forum in which possibilities and problems for the formation and education of those who offer themselves for the specified ministries of the UnitingChurch are discussed, the Assembly’s resolutions on ministerial education are implemented, and those involved in ministerial education on the Assembly’s behalf are held accountable.

Following the Assembly’s decisions, the MEC sets the rules and guidelines used by our theological colleges to define courses of study and reflection and arranges for regular consultations with and visitations to the colleges. The MEC also seeks to provide the Assembly with feedback and recommendations on formation for ministry, and to interpret the Assembly’s decisions to other councils of the Church.


The full membership of the MEC convenes annually – most recently in Melbourne (2011) with the next meeting immediately preceding the Assembly in Adelaide in June 2012. The MEC continues to meet the full range of responsibilities required by Regulation 2.2.18., however this report will focus on the major issues rather than summarise how all responsibilities were met.

The MEC Executive has been based in Queensland since July 2009 and meets every two months to provide continuity, to respond to correspondence, to plan the meetings of the Commission and to coordinate MEC projects. The Executive also facilitates the implementation of MEC and Assembly decisions, maintains contact with the Synod Ministerial Education Boards, colleges and Working Groups, and considers queries that arise from a wide range of individuals and groups. Work patterns are heavily reliant on electronic communication and an efficient secretariat, particularly to process Certificates of Satisfactory Completion prior to ordination for the Ministries of Word and Deacon.


Over the last three years, the MEC has given particular focus to:

  • conducting an ongoing discussion regarding formation for Specified Ministries
  • sponsoring a review of supervision participation, practices and training across the presbyteries and synods comparing these with Assembly requirements (research conducted by the Rev Beth Seaman)
  • sponsoring a review of the ministry of Lay Preacher (research conducted by Mr Craig Mitchell)
  • engaging with the ASC regarding the future of the MEC


4.1 Membership
The 12th Assembly decided that each Synod would appoint an additional member whose expertise centred upon lay education. While the MEC has limited responsibility for lay education, the additional membership has allowed a broadening of the expertise and views available to the MEC. A lively agenda is emerging as the new category of member and the traditional membership work through issues and include relevant matters brought to the MEC by lay educators.

4.2 Third Phase Guidelines
The Third Phase of Ministerial Education is intended to be period of sustained and intentional mentoring and support for newly ordained ministers during the first three years of ministry practice.  It is to be a period of increased partnership between the Presbytery, the placement context and the minister to assist the minister to make a smooth transition from the Core Phase with ordination occurring at the end of the Core Phase. Guidelines were developed to accommodate the changed emphases and then approved by ASC.

4.3 ASC/MEC Relationships
The ASC expressed concern to the MEC that it is the only Assembly body that did not have to submit its policy decisions to the Assembly for ratification. The MEC responded to the ASC and the relationship clarified.

4.4 Review of ministry of Lay Preacher.
In July 2009 the MEC agreed to undertake a review of the Rules for training people for the specified ministry of Lay Preacher. Subsequently the 12th Assembly received a proposal for a broader review of the ministry of Lay Preacher, including the definition of the role itself, candidature, training and oversight. The Assembly Standing Committee referred this proposal to the MEC, requesting that the MEC broaden the scope of its review accordingly, and bring recommendations back to the ASC.

Terms of reference for the review were approved by the MEC in July 2010. Subsequently, a process of information gathering was designed and undertaken in 2011.

The initial research involved surveys of presbyteries; lay worship leaders and preachers, including accredited Lay Preachers, Lay Preacher candidates and ‘non-accredited’ lay leaders; ordained ministers who relate directly to lay preachers; and church councils who relate directly to lay preachers.

The National Lay Preachers’ Committee, SA Presbytery Lay Preachers’ Committee, one presbytery and several individuals also made submissions during this time.

A discussion paper was distributed nationally in March 2012, inviting responses by the end of May 2012. The paper summarised the research results and sought feedback from councils, committees and individuals regarding the future of the ministry of Lay Preacher. A final report with recommendations will be presented to the July 2012 meeting of the MEC, and subsequently to the ASC. Recommendations will be made regarding the role, recruitment, training and oversight of Lay Preachers.

4.5 The Future of the MEC
The ASC indicated to the MEC that it would be reviewing the mandate, membership, roles and functions of the MEC with a view to recommending replacing it with an Education for Ministry Working Group and that the Regulations concerning Ministerial Education Boards, theological colleges and candidates be reviewed.  The MEC Executive was invited by the ASC to provide a response to an initial paper. Following further development, the paper was released to the full MEC membership and was a major focus for discussion at the 2011 Annual Meeting. The General Secretary provided considerable input to the discussion. While it is fair to say that support for such a change is not strong, the MEC prepared a response to the paper which focussed primarily on issues to be taken into account if such a change was to be made. The Chairperson was invited to attend an ASC meeting as a resource person for its subsequent discussion.

4.6 Assembly Youth and Children’s Ministry Task Group 
The MEC invited the Task Group to speak to the 2010 Annual Meeting. It then resolved to ask Colleges and MEBs to examine the report from the ASC Task Group in the light of Assembly Res. 00.28.13 on equipping in the ministry of teaching all ages (children, youth and adults) and cross-culturally, and to discuss the implications for formation for Specified Ministries in their own reports to the MEC in 2011. These reports included how Colleges and MEBs addressed the previous resolution and how they intended to address the recommendations in the Task Group Report. Formal discussion of the implications had to be deferred until the next annual meeting.


5.1 Supervision Practices
A review of current supervision practices, comparing these practices and training against the Assembly requirement was conducted by the Rev. Beth Seaman on behalf of the MEC. Following discussion of this research, an appraisal of  “Professional Supervision; a process of reflection of ministry practice” was undertaken and a revised document approved by ASC in 2011.

The “Trainers’ Manual for Supervision and Pastoral Supervision” was also revised and the pamphlet “The Why and What of Supervision” adopted.

5.2 Deacon Presessional/Intensive
The MEC has approves a name change from Presessional to Intensive and, providing accreditation is able to be maintained, scheduling the Intensive to one week.

5.3 Core Competencies for Pastor and Review of the Ministry of Pastor
Alterations commenced in 2009 were completed and the amended documents distributed to Synods and Presbyteries.

Following discussion promoted by the Lay Specified Ministries Working Group and by a range of questions regarding implementation and interpretation of documentation relating to this ministry from presbyteries and synods, the Commission determined to request the Assembly to review the ministry.

5.4 Review of the Guidelines for Theological Educators Consultation
The current guidelines were circulated to all principals and lay educators and responses invited as to their perceived views on reviewing it. Following this process, minor changes to the guidelines were adopted.

5.5 Continuing Education for Ministry (CEM)
A review of continuing education recognised that effective continuing education is crucial to sustainable mission and ministry, but that ministers often struggle to define a coherent program and to fulfil the expectations of the Church. The MEC asked its Working Group to gather information from Presbyteries on current practice across the Church, and to review the Assembly guidelines on continuing education “Seeking a Heart of Wisdom:  Guidelines for Continuing Education for Uniting Church Ministers.” This work has been completed and approved by ASC in 2011.

5.6 Working Groups
There are three working groups in operation: 

Combined MOW/MOD
Lay Specified Ministries

5.7 College Visitations
The 2010 MEC meeting requested the Visitation Team to the SA Uniting College for Leadership and Theology to make a follow up visit during 2011 to review a number of matters outstanding from their 2009 visitation. All matters were successfully resolved. The MEC requested the ASC to formally acknowledge the change of name of the now Uniting College for Leadership and Theology.

The 2010 Visitation to Yalga Binbi was conducted and the report received.

A Visitation to the Centre for Ministry (Vic-Tas) was undertaken in the first half of 2011.   

The United Theological College (NSW) was also due to be visited in the first half of 2011 but this was postponed until August 2011. The report will therefore be received in 2012.

The MEC intends to review Visitation Guidelines in an attempt to accommodate better the place of lay education in the consultation/visitation process. Recent visitations have highlighted a confusion regarding the process and how it related to lay education, lay educators, facilities and courses. This is particularly significant given the new membership of the MEC and the implied focus on lay education, synods for this. ASC input was sought by the MEC but further discussion curtailed because of discussion regarding the future of the MEC.

Dr Ron Skilton
Ministerial Education Commission






Responsible to: The Assembly
Reporting arrangements: The Assembly and the Standing Committee
Mission statement: To fulfil the Assembly’s responsibilities in ministerial education, as stated in Constitution clause 38(a) and Regulation 2.2.18 (the new regulation number will be (c))

Mandate:  (Regulation 2.2.18 (the new regulation number will be (c))

(a) to recommend to the Assembly the colleges to be recognised by the Church as approved centres for training for ministry;

(b) to recommend to the Assembly the pre-requisites for admission to candidature and the standards of ministerial education to be required of a candidate to qualify for recognition as a Minister or Youth Worker, including the requirements for completion of the period of discernment;

(c) to prescribe the areas of study and the minimum requirements within each area which shall comprise an acceptable course of study for the various ministries of the Church, including the requirements of the licensed year;

(d) to receive annually for review from the faculty of each recognised theological college a report on ways in which the prescriptions specified under (c) are being met;

(e) to maintain a roll of candidates;

(f)   to set standards for qualifying examinations where appropriate for applicants seeking acceptance as candidates for specified ministries and to arrange for the administration of such examinations;

(g)  to prescribe the conditions under which a candidate qualifies for ordination and/or recognition and to issue a certificate of satisfactory completion of studies in respect of each candidate on receipt of advice from the faculty concerned that all requirements of the course have been satisfactorily met;

(h)  to encourage the several theological colleges to participate in ecumenical theological education so long as direct responsibility for each candidate is maintained and all regulations of the Commission adhered to;

(i)   to arrange regular consultations of staff of the several theological colleges as may be appropriate;

(j)   to recommend to the Assembly guidelines whereby Ministers and Youth Workers shall fulfil the requirement for three to five year continuing education agreements with their Presbytery or other appointing body;

 (k) to receive reports on ministerial education from the Synods and to report to the Assembly;

 (l) to do such other things as may be required of it by the Assembly.


The responsibilities of every agency include:

  • focusing the activities of the agency on the vision of the Assembly as a whole;
  • advising the Assembly and/or the Standing Committee on policy matters within their area of responsibility;
  • making policy decisions where the Assembly or the Standing Committee has delegated authority for certain policy areas, either through the agency mandate or by resolution;
  • participating in cross-agency projects and teams established from time to time by the Assembly or the Standing Committee.

Power to appoint:

  • To establish working groups for special tasks related specifically to the mandate.
  • To make recommendations to the Standing Committee to establish other working groups for special tasks related to but not part of the mandate.

Membership of the Commission (Regulation 2.2.15 (the new regulation number will be and 2.2.16 (the new regulation number will be

(a)  a chairperson and a secretary appointed by the Assembly;

(b)  the principal (or an alternate appointed by the principal) of each theological college recognised by the Assembly;

(c)  one person appointed by each Synod;

(d)  two persons appointed by the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress; and

(e)  the chairperson of each working group appointed by the Commission, provided that a working group may appoint another of its members active in the ministry concerned to serve as a member of the Commission in the place of the chairperson of the working group.

Note:    An executive committee of the Commission shall be appointed and function in accordance with Regulation 2.2.17 (the new regulation number will be


Approved by the Tenth Assembly, July 2003