How did the Federation originate ?
The Cambridge Theological Federation was formed in October 1972, when three residential theological colleges in Cambridge - Ridley Hall, Wesley House, and Westcott House - agreed to work more closely together to pursue the ecumenical agenda of the church. In 1972, this agenda was focussed on organic union inspired by a shared sense of mission and vision for humanity in relation to God. In the inaugural address, Archbishop Michael Ramsey concluded, “Here in Cambridge the tasks before the new federation of Colleges are tasks theological through and through. And the names of Ridley and Westcott and Wesley will stand to remind us that theology is nothing apart from the true liberation of mankind and the call to holiness with the vision of God as its goal.” He envisaged a day when the Church of England, Methodist and United Reformed Churches would be one church with strong relationships with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Ridley Hall, from the evangelical tradition of the Church of England, Wesley House, a Methodist college, and Westcott House, from the central-catholic tradition of the Church of England, had between them 9 tutorial staff and 111 ordinands, undertaking academic theology courses through the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity. In 1976, four years after the merger of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches to form the United Reformed Church, Westminster College joined the Federation bringing with it another 5 tutorial staff and 21 ordinands. A dispersed learning Course (now the Eastern Region Ministry Course: ERMC) was developed between these same churches and was added to the Federation’s work in 1993.
By the early 1990s, the agenda for church unity had moved towards a unity of purpose – in practice the goal was no longer organic union but closer church co-operation. The Federation expanded quickly as a result: The Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, dedicated to educating women for lay ministries in the Roman Catholic Church, joined in 1994 and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in 1999. The Henry Martyn Centre for the Study of Mission and World Christianity became an associate member in 1999 - further expanding the Federation’s perspective from a largely British one to a global one. In 1998 another associate member, The Centre for Christian Jewish Studies (CJCR), now part of the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, added the inter-faith agenda to the ecumenical, while the Anglican Diocesan Ministry schemes in St Edmundsbury & Ipswich and in Norwich, strengthened the regional and part-time dimensions in 2006.
This expansion was matched by a growth in the Federation’s academic portfolio. In 1990 the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Cambridge introduced a ministerial qualification entitled the Certificate in Theology for Ministry. Its pattern of delivery proved so successful that the case was made to the university to create a new degree, a Bachelor of Theology for Ministry, which was added to the existing portfolio of Tripos, Diploma, MPhil and PhD in 1995.
The expansion of the Federation also led to the development of relationships with other academic institutions. The ecumenical East Anglia Ministerial Training Course (now ERMC) for Anglican, Methodist and URC students used dispersed learning to train candidates, both lay and ordinands, who lived at home and studied part-time through residential weekends and summer schools. These programmes were accredited by the University of Wales. In 1995 the MA in Pastoral Theology was developed jointly with Anglia Polytechnic University (now Anglia Ruskin University) which was able to validate and support a part-time and regionally delivered programme. The partnership with Anglia Ruskin subsequently enabled the creation of an Anglia Ruskin/Federation BA (Hons) in Christian Theology, which formally replaced the regional provision with the University of Wales in 2006 and gave the Federation a highly flexible programme in response to the changing needs of the churches.