Why is education such a complex topic for British Methodists? Is it because they associate their Church’s involvement in education with fee-paying private schools? This despite the fact that the vast majority of Methodist schools in Britain are state-sponsored community schools?
I work for a College - Southlands College, University of Roehampton, London - which has been providing a Methodist education for nearly 150 years. This makes it, alongside its sister college, Westminster, the oldest Methodist college of tertiary education in Britain. It is now part of a worldwide association of Methodist-related institutions, numbering over one thousand, called the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities - IAMSCU. Last month, we hosted the Board meeting of IAMSCU, and I have written about that on the Susanna Wesley Foundation site.
Being part of IAMSCU reminds me that education was, and is, a key part of the Wesleyan mission. Often schools were established in new areas long before chapels and churches. At its heart was a profound belief in equipping people for a life of faith and service through a holistic education of body, mind and spirit. Wesley saw the social, spiritual and economic benefits of education that must be available to all and not just the privileged few.
Making education a key part of the Methodist mission in Britain (again) is a priority and work is already underway. I am proud to be part of this, and to re-learn from our Methodist partners around the world that involvement in schools, colleges and universities as students, teachers, chaplains, administrators and governors is mission in the Wesleyan way.