Bible college to close due to lack of trainees

Ordinands with the Principal of St Michael’s College, Dr Peter Sedgwick

A Bible college in south Wales that has taught new church leaders for over 120 years is in danger of closing as not enough people come forward to enter the clergy.

St Michael's College in Cardiff has been training new ministers since 1892. It currently receives a £150,000 annual grant from the Church of Wales, but falling ordinand numbers have caused a financial crisis.

Currently, the college has only 18 residential students, 38 non-residential students and 20 full-time staff.

The situation has been further exacerbated by a £1.7 million refurbishment of the college's facilities completed in 2009.

A recent report into the future of theological training in Wales said: "The training of ordinands runs at a substantial loss. It is our opinion that this will be unsustainable in the near future.

"We therefore recommend that full-time residential training ceases at St Michael's College by 2016."

The report noted the level of disruption this could cause.

"Careful thought should be given to managing the transition so that no-one suffers through the handover period, either students with decreasing numbers or staff with uncertainty over future provision," it said.

The report recommends that in the future training of new priests for Church in Wales should be organised at a local level, with the University of Durham overseeing the process of giving out official qualifications.

Speaking about the future of the process, a spokesperson for the Church in Wales said to Wales Online: "There will now be a process of consultation until the end of May about the recommendations, particularly with those who would be directly affected.

"The Bench will then consider the report and all the responses to the consultation at its next meeting in June."

This financial difficulty for the Church in Wales is not an isolated incident. In 2013 Llandaff Cathedral announced it could no longer afford to pay for professional singers in the choir.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, made an appeal to Cathedral worshippers to increase their donations, something many in the congregation resented.

The 2011 UK census revealed that Wales suffered a larger drop in its Christian population than in any English region.

Of the 3.06 million-strong Welsh population, 1.58 million described themselves as Christian - 58 per cent. This is a drop of 14 per cent from 2001.

At the same time, just under a million people - or 32 per cent of the population - listed themselves as having no religion. The most atheistic region was Blaenau Gwent with 41.1 per cent of the residents declaring themselves religiously unaffiliated.

This is 7 per cent higher than the proportion of those without religion in England and Wales as a whole, which reached 25 per cent in 2011.