This refers to my time at Unitarian College, Manchester, 1989-1990.
|At the start of Murphy's principalship there were two ministerial students. Brenda Catherall, a second year doing the BA course at the university, and Neil Lee, in his first year doing the federation certificate course, They were joined the following year by Helpme Mohrmen from the Khasi Hills of India. Mohrmen found the initial adjustment to western ways very difficult, but after be found his feet he became a well-liked member of the college who made a valuable contribution to college and federation life. Another new academically very well qualified student encountered some difficulties with the pastoral aspects of training and it was agreed he should withdraw after his probationary year. This episode contributed to tensions between the General Assembly staff and ministry’ committee on the one hand, and the college, mainly the principal, and [sic] the other. During the Long era responsibility for selection of ministerial students had been transferred from the college to the General Assembly, through its interview sub-committee reporting to the ministry committee, The principals of both UCM and Manchester College, Oxford (MCO) sat on the sub-cornmittee and ministry committee, and the arrangement had worked well for a time. However, Murphy found that in his time at the college the process was not a helpful one. He did not enjoy administration or committee work, and the setting up of a General Assembly president's commission in March 1990 was possibly the final straw. The commission was established 'with a remit to explore and facilitate the setting up of a denominational programme, including both ministerial and lay training'. Murphy tendered his resignation in the autumn of 1990, and left in December.|
Peart, Anne (2004), 'Endpiece: Long Haul to Ecumenical Co-operation', 161-176, Smith, Leonard (2004), Unitarian to the Core: Unitarian College Manchester 1854-2004, Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, 170-171.
In Appendix II, the Register of Students 1854-2004, 1989 names:
For some reason my name is given first name and then surname, unlike all others.
This account is a muffled and feeble version of what actually happened. The reports from London and Liverpool/ Southport did not add up to pastoral difficulties. They were not even tested: it was only my first year. I went with a Ph.D in the Sociology of Religion and a need to be trained in pastoral matters! There was an issue at Chorlton where I took a service that the congregation found insufficiently Christian, and there was a presentation to what I thought was a student training service at Cross Street where when I asked about it as members of the public entered and the Principal said "go on". So I did so - a discussion within a sermon about religious atheism and non-realism. So my theological reputation went ahead of me. The division between the GA and the College, made up of largely of representatives of local Unitarianism, existed because in 1990 I went to the GA General Secretary to discuss my future whereas the college had all the decision making powers and decided to terminate my year there. The termination was carried out in the manner a business makes someone redundant: in the office, a statement, and go. It was not for nothing that my departure was linked with Graham Murphy's own, having his own Eastern and Buddhist tendencies - we studied the Bhagavad Gita rather than the Bible in a sort of Lectio Divina manner. He concluded about the college's 'lack of potential' as it existed because when he gave up his principalship he was courteous enough to contact me and tell me and gave a short explanation why.
It is important to be clear that we all had good relations with the ecumenical nature of the Federation, and I got on with other students. We made a space for ourselves and my clarity of position was actually welcomed by evangelical and liberal Christian students alike: because at the time I made no pretence of being a 'kind of Christian' and acted so regarding my and Helpme's non-appearance at the Federation worship. There was a Baptist student of equal radical reputation as me (who later went into teaching, but he completed at college) and indeed there was a liberal/ radical grouping with me that year in the Federation. The actual problem was the local Unitarianism and its representation. It is the problem with liberalism and decentralisation when it becomes localism. Other denomination college staff members stated that I should have been allowed to at least finish the course.
Regarding entirely different issues Neil Lee in contrast was supported by the College and less so by the General Assembly, creating more tension, but he did not survive his first ministry.
It is strange not to mention me by name in the passage quoted, when the Appendix II names all the students.
Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful