Many have mourned theology’s separation from the Church, but in the last 30 years we have witnessed resurgent efforts to reconnect academic theology to its ecclesial roots. The Scholar-Priest Initiative stands in this vein, endeavoring to be the servant in the background of Rembrandt’s picture: to do everything in our power to reintegrate theology back into the life of the parish; to rekindle theological vocation and imagination; in short, to welcome theology home.
The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada face three intractable and seemingly unrelated problems: the double bind of ordained parochial leadership, the diminishment of theological discourse in parish life, and the overall decline of North American theological education.
First, while debates rage on whether and to what extent North American Anglicanism is in decline (and what to do about it), we suffer from an undeniable and debilitating double bind in our parochial leadership. In the Episcopal Church nearly 40 percent of congregations operate without full-time, permanent ordained ministers. Our churches ”” ever increasingly, it seems ”” simply cannot afford full-time clergy. Many dioceses have accordingly found themselves with a glut of ordained ministers. Several have suspended their discernment processes because they already have too many unemployed and underemployed priests. We have an overabundance of well-trained, capable priests. We have too many congregations in need of priests. We need to somehow connect the dots.
Second, there is a disconnect between theological discourse and parish life….