Years ago when attending a Moruya Chamber of Commerce meeting, the guest speaker from the local business development board, listed in the power point statistical display the percentages of employee categories.
Up came the statistical percentile for 'Clerical' – 14%. I raised my hand and commented that I didn't realise there were so many clergy in the Shire!
To this I received the appropriate candour and humour, and further remarked to the gathering that there were seven 'Clergy' in the Moruya township alone. I noted that two had Doctorates, two has Masters degrees and the rest had primary degrees from accountancy to the liberal arts along with theological seminary degrees..
That was quite startling to the Moruya business community that the clergy in their own right were so highly educated, but in historical terms, that is the norm.
Theology and Education
I recall some years ago now that an ordained Anglican minister took up the reigns as the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University. The Reverend Dr Michael Spence himself a graduate from Sydney University with first class honours in Italian, English and Law took up then role. His specialty was intellectual property law and was at Oxford University, UK, for 20 years, where he also served as an academic administrator.
This is nothing unusual within the context of contemporary Australia, and that in a historical context it is nothing out of the ordinary. Christian leaders have always played a critical role in Education.
Christianity continues to be an integral part of our Australian educational community, and any reference to historical events will show that each of the colonies’ education systems was initiated by the Christian Churches.
Quite apart from the private schools run by church or independent community religious groups, 'Religious Education' as a legitimate subject is mandated in every State and Territory Education platform. Of course, this is not necessarily entirely Christian religious teaching, as elements of comparative religion and other accredited religious persuasions are catered for in some states (for example, Victoria).
In all States, children have opportunities to be taught about their own faith within the State School system or to opt out of the classes if this cannot be catered for in their local school.
The New South Wales Education Department for example, mandates 'Special Religious Education' (SRE) for its high schools. Salaries are met by community groups that raise funds for that purpose, and it works very well as it is an integral part of the school program.
In Queensland a different system is in operation, where 'school chaplains' are the norm, generally administered by Scripture Union. They are partially funded through community efforts and the Federal Government's Chaplaincy program. Each State and Territory has its own mechanism which ensures religious education is covered.
Given Australia’s heritage, we can see how this situation has its historical roots in the English Education system, where the Christian Church not only established education but were the founders of the great Universities, not least Oxford and Cambridge.
And they in turn were developed on the basis of the original place of Universities, as being part of the European monasteries where the governance of education was centred in the Middle Ages. Up to that time, if you wanted an education for your child, the only place it was available was a monastery or a nunnery.
If you required some learned advice, or medical attention, or a tutor in a particular area, then the people educated sufficiently to provide these services were monks or nuns.
It was at this time in the Middle Ages (when it was compulsory for different professions and ‘guild’ members to wear the appropriate hat to show who they were), that the traditional black gown, hood and cap was modified from the garb of the monks, which had been sensibly designed to keep them warm and dry in their life of austerity in cold, damp climates.
Subsequently, the wearing of the gown indicated an obvious demarcation of vocations; and the historical fighting between ‘town and gown’ developed a violent culture of its own. We still have echoes of this tension, but thankfully it is imbued with a bit more humour than in days of “olde”.
Another entrenched cultural stereotype from these times which remains alive and well is “the ivory tower syndrome”; although this, too, is a little more tempered with the cross-fertilisation of knowledge and corporate salaries. The ‘town’ is nowadays much more integrated with ‘gown’ than in the past.
This extract from a spoof speech to university graduates, given by a businessman, illustrates this tenet:
“This is your big day, the day when you leave university, prepared by your professors to go out into the real world. The first thing you'll notice is that your professors are not going out there with you. They're not stupid; that's why they are professors. They've figured out that this seat of learning is a carefree place where the most serious real problem is finding a legal parking space. So your professors are going to stay in college until they die. Even then, they'll go right on teaching classes. This is called 'tenure’ ''
Back in our real world, education is taken very seriously by Clerics and the Christian laity. This shows that clerics fall into the category of 'normal citizen' - tertiary studies, graduation, (theological post graduate studies), and this currency is mirrored by our entire society which has a huge emphasis on all forms of education.
There are innumerable Federal Government debates, Federal and State conflicts, and public comments on the most effective ways of delivering and funding the very ‘best’ education for our children. This ranges from pre-school right the way through to the concern about the ‘brain drain’ of post-graduate researches being lost overseas.
The high value of education for the clergy is that we live in a society where such input is required by congregations. There was a time where Pentecostalism in Australia was derided as non-educated pastors simply hung up a shingle.
In the eighties and nineties a massive shift took place in Pentecostal theological training correlated with the enormous increase in their congregations. Why not make an appointment with your local Pentecostal pastor, you’ll be astonished to find an articulate well educated ‘couple’ – husband and wife ministry team.
So too our young writer ministry with Christian Today. Young people 18-30 years interested in writing for Christian Today with your own column please connect with Dr Mark Tronson email@example.com 0419 917 713
Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html