THE NATIONAL Assembly and the Synod of South Australia are poised to merge the distance theological education resources of Coolamon College with those of Parkin-Wesley Theological College.
The move comes in response to the recognition that for some years the Assembly has not been able to fund Coolamon College to the level required to achieve the demands placed upon it.
Rev Dr Andrew Dutney, Principal of Parkin-Wesley Theological College in Adelaide, saw it as a positive change in the life of the church.
“The materials Coolamon have been providing will continue to be provided,” he said.
“Parkin-Wesley College is committed to ensuring that that takes place.
“We already have a distance program like many colleges so from our point of view it’s expanding an activity we’ve already been involved in for a very long time.
“Because Parkin-Wesley has a larger administrative and academic base we anticipate being able to develop the distance materials in ways Coolamon wanted to develop but didn’t have the resources to.
“We should also be in a better place to access some of the support that Flinders University offers.”
Acting Principal of Coolamon College Jo-anne Fulton said the transition will not cause disruption to current students.
“It means more efficient and better service to students. Hopefully the students win.”
She also offered reassurance that though students will benefit from access to newer technologies Coolamon’s commitment to equity will be adopted by Parkin-Wesley.
“Distance education needs to be available to everyone and where people don’t have technology we have print-based text because of the justice issue involved,” she said.
In a statement on the Assembly website Rev Terence Corkin, Assembly General Secretary, expressed gratitude to the staff, councils, committees, and volunteers who have served Coolamon College’s ministry over the years, ensuring its contribution to lay leadership education around the country.
He also announced the Assembly’s commitment to fund a new three-year position that will provide a link between Parkin-Wesley and a range of providers of distance theological education as well as liaise with synod lay education bodies and promote resources from across the church.
“In some senses this is a recovery of the original Coolamon vision for a national network for distance theological education,” said Dr Dutney.
“It presents opportunities for greater levels of cooperation between synods in meeting needs so, organisationally for the church, I think it’s a good move forward.
“We’re determined to make this work for the wider church.”
Photo : Rev Dr Andrew Dutney. Photo courtesy of the UCA National Assembly