New era of learning for Methodist Church
The Methodist Church has formally changed its learning structure to offer more training from locally placed staff across 11 regions.
The Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network will work through two institutions, Cliff College and the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, as well as from homes or regional offices.
The network was set up following recommendations from the 2012 Fruitful Field report and its development follows a year of debate in the Methodist Council and other governing bodies.
The changes will result in more staff being based regionally than before.
Jude Levermore, head of Discipleship and Ministries, believes the changes hold enormous potential for the Church's growth.
"This is a response to the challenge of being a 'Discipleship Movement shaped for Mission'. To be a vital, growing church, we need to be a learning church," said Levermore.
"By having more Connexional Team members in the regions, we can combine the strengths of being a Connexional church with the strength of local mission. Being closer to where people are allows the Church to get the best out of what is already happening and what will be developed. The potential is huge."
Some aspects of training, like in safeguarding for example, is a requirement across the Connexion, but in other areas, the Learning Network will be tailored to meet regional needs.
Levermore added: "In each of the 11 training regions there will be conversations between the regional coordinators and the chairs of the districts in that region and other District officers. These will produce learning and development work plans for each region."
Paul Taylor, Director of Learning and Development (Regions) agreed, saying: "Each region has different needs, which vary by geography, demographics and local vision. So we want to listen to the regional and local needs along with the things that are identified as being Connexion-wide.
"The needs of a rural region will be different to those of an urban one. Each region will be able to explore what its learning and development forum will look like. The membership of such a forum used to be quite rigidly set, but now will look different in different regions, to be able to better discuss local needs."
The Reverend Canon Dr David Hewlett, Principal of the Queen's Foundation, said he was delighted to be part of this "new era" in Methodist learning and development.
He said: "As an ecumenical college, with 24 academic staff and over 400 registered students, including 150 who are preparing for ordained or authorised ministries, we are committed to bring the widest range of our research and experience to all those we work with."