Taking its title from the final sentence of the 188 version of the Liverpool Minutes, the Fruitful Field was a project initiated by the 2010 Conference to survey and reorganise all the Church’s provision for training, initial and continuing, ministerial and lay, full-time and part-time, with the aim of producing more coherent and accessible, and less costly, provision to equip the Church as ‘a discipleship movement shaped for mission’. An initial report was published in the autumn of 2011, and after a brief consultation period the final report was presented to the Conference of 2012 and its proposals adopted. It proposed the concentration of all residential training in two centres, the Queen’s Foundation and Cliff College, with the closure of, or withdrawal from, all other centres for initial ministerial training. In addition it proposed the creation of a network of regional, non-residential, training provision, with dispersed staff, to provide for the needs of ordained and lay ministries of all kinds and for formation in discipleship.
The proposals proved controversial both for the speed at which the decisions were taken and for the decision to concentrate initial residential training for ordained ministry at the Queen’s Foundation with the loss of existing academic and ecumenical links elsewhere. Other aspects of the proposals however were generally welcomed. Arrangements were later made for the Methodist Church to share with the Church of England in a Common Awards scheme validated by the University of Durham