Category : Seminary / Theological Education

(CT) Rowan Williams: Theological Education Is for Everyone

So that is, in some respects, a kind of pushback on conventional seminary.

A bit. It’s not radical. The old chestnut that theological education is about giving you a set of perfect answers to questions nobody’s asking—you’ve got to avoid that. That human locatedness, that contextualizing, is important. And that’s not to say that contextual considerations trump every other consideration. It just reminds you that you’re learning about the human as well as about God.

As for lay education, what I’ve seen of it working well is very often the kind of group where people feel they have permission to ask the real questions, where there’s a degree of real trust and mutuality, where people don’t feel obliged to come up with shortcuts but are able to take time.

And, again, you don’t stint on the intellectual questioning there. The priority is to get back again and again to that big picture. I go on obsessively about this sometimes. The big picture of the landscape, the new creation, is where we’re headed and where we’re from. The mistake is to think you can just break it down into manageable bits. A theologically-educated layperson is somebody whose capacity for praise and wonder is filled out, not just the capacity to answer pub questions.

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Posted in --Rowan Williams, Seminary / Theological Education

(AC) J.I. Packer: A Remembrance

Already in his 70s at the time, he preferred not to travel on a Sunday, but to travel earlier and serve a local church on Sunday, preaching to and teaching the faithful gathered in that place. He would fly in on a Friday, spend the weekend relaxing and recreating with us, preach and teach on Sunday, and then head off to CT Monday morning. He was always the perfect houseguest.

The first visit was arranged by my friend and parishioner Mark Galli, then editor at Christianity Today. It was thrilling to have him as a guest and to introduce him to my parishioners. The epistle for that Sunday was from Philippians 4, and he urged us not to neglect the important Christian work of rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness. But it was his second visit, rather the arranging of that visit, that opened a particular window onto his character.

I was in my office at the church one afternoon when the phone rang. I answered and heard a soft, British voice say, “Hello Chip, this is Jim Packer. I hope you remember me…”

I hope you remember me? Are you kidding me? But there you are, Jim Packer was perhaps the least presumptuous person I have ever known. He never felt that the renown his work had earned him was his entitlement to any special recognition or treatment.

Here’s another thing about Jim Packer: that man could eat! I never remember him turning down seconds at a meal, or refusing dessert because he was full. Oddly, he didn’t drink water, didn’t like it at all, but ate his food as spicy as he could get it. Once, at the airport in Dallas, we shared a breakfast of eggs and bacon. Lots of folks, myself included, like a bit of hot sauce on a scrambled egg. I remember Jim drowning his eggs in Tabasco Sauce, creating what looked like a sort of Tex-Mex Egg Drop soup.

Another time, driving from Columbia, SC to Tallahassee, FL for a Prayer Book Committee meeting, we stopped at an old Boarding House restaurant in south Georgia for lunch. At those places, you don’t order, they just bring what they have prepared that day: a variety of vegetables and rolls, and a choice of three meats. Jim chose all three. And when the two dessert options were offered, he asked if he might be permitted to have both.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Canada, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education

(CT) Bruce Hindmarsh–J.I. Packer Was the Robin Hood of Evangelicalism

J. I. Packer was my teacher at Regent College when I was a young graduate student. Some years later, he became my colleague and next-door neighbor in the hallways at the college and a fellow church member at St. John’s Anglican Church in Vancouver. I will forever be grateful to have known him. He shaped my life and thought in many ways, and I am not alone in this experience.

In light of his recent passing, I have been thinking more about his wider legacy and especially his significant contribution to evangelicalism as a whole. In the present political culture, however, the word “evangelical” or “evangelicalism” is freighted with a good deal of baggage that’s worth shedding immediately.

We can do so by going back in time. The Old English word “gospel” never got a proper Old English adjective and had to steal a Greek one: “evangelical.” But the noun and the adjective belong together. And as the great Bible translator William Tyndale put it, “evangelical” is a word that “signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy.”

This vibrant relationship between word and life, message and experience, doctrine and devotion was absolutely central to the evangelical movements in Germany and English-speaking lands that emerged at the beginning of the modern period.

Evangelicals today claim some sort of genealogical or theological continuity with these movements. But wherever we see the preaching of Jesus Christ generate new life and set people in joyful motion, that is where we properly use the adjective “evangelical” in its most important and basic sense. It is why we cannot, I think, abandon the term. Again, the words “gospel” and “evangelical” ought always to be kept together. Indeed, Jim Packer played a significant role in evangelicalism over the past six decades precisely because he helped those who identify as social evangelicals to be theological and spiritual evangelicals as well.

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Posted in Canada, Church of England (CoE), Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education

JI Packer RIP

Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, this story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet — which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! — declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service! (Yes, the loan was paid back.)

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15 ESV

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr. J.I. Packer, a treasured faculty member, author, churchman, and friend.

James Innell Packer died July 17th in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was ninety-three, and humorous, gracious, and prayerful even in his final days.

One of the most widely-respected systematic theologians of the twentieth century, Jim drew his inspiration primarily from Scripture, but was deeply influenced by the works of John Calvin and the English Puritans. Jim brought seventeenth-century Puritan devotion to life for his twentieth- and twenty-first-century students. While named as one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals by Time Magazine in 2005 and author of one of the best-selling Christian books of all time, Knowing God, Jim Packer’s description of himself was as an “adult catechist.” “Theology, friends, is doxology” is a phrase students recall, and in many respects, the adage that shaped his lengthy career.

From his youth as the son of a railway clerk in Gloucester, England, Jim won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he was noted as a remarkable student with a brilliant intellect. Growing up in a nominal Anglican home, Jim became a Christian early in his time at Oxford, largely through the InterVarsity Fellowship Christian Union and St. Aldate’s Anglican Church.

Following his undergraduate degree, Jim taught Greek at Oak Hill Theological College in London. He quickly felt drawn to further study, and commenced his studies in theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was awarded an MA and DPhil, writing his dissertation on Puritan Richard Baxter’s doctrine of salvation under Geoffrey Nuttall. “It was the Puritans,” Jim noted, “that made me aware that all theology is also spirituality.”

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Posted in Canada, Church of England, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Evangelicals, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

New Theological College announced for North West England

The Bishops have established a multi-disciplinary implementation team led by the Rt Rev Philip North, together with the Rt Rev Beverley Mason and the Rt Rev Emma Ineson.

Bishop Philip said: “This is a once in a generation opportunity to develop a new outstanding theological college in the North West to serve the Church in the region and beyond.”

The new independent college will offer part-time and full-time formational, vocational training for lay and ordained leaders of the Church and become the sole regional theological educational partner for the North West dioceses.

Bishop Emma noted: “The team recognise that change can be unsettling but we are committed to building on the strengths of three current providers, and the six dioceses they serve, so that the new college can be both an outstanding centre of excellence in theological education, and be better able to respond to the rapidly changing needs of the Church across the region.”

As part of responding to the needs of the region, the new college will seek to provide pathways for groups that have previously found it difficult to access training. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev David Walker, explained “there are many people who are called by God, but who currently find it hard to access the training they need. My episcopal colleagues and I are determined that this new college will enable people from diverse backgrounds to pursue ministry in the Church of England.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Seminary / Theological Education

William J. Abraham Named Inaugural Director of the Newly Established Wesley House of Studies at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary

Following extended conversations with and consultation of seminary faculty, alumni and friends, Dean Todd D. Still, Ph.D., announced today, with strong support from university administration, the formation of a Wesley House of Studies at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. In conjunction, he announced that Dr. William J. Abraham, a theologian, philosopher, author and minister, will serve as the founding director of this strategic initiative.

In this role, Abraham will ensure that students attending Truett from Wesleyan traditions are nurtured and networked for the ministries into which they are being called. Additionally, Abraham, who will regularly teach courses at Truett pertaining to Wesleyan thought and practice, will collaborate with individuals, congregations and organizations in the Wesleyan tradition in the recruiting, training and placing of students and in supporting and educating ministers who are already engaged in gospel service.

“From its inception in 1994, Baylor’s Truett Seminary — an orthodox, evangelical school in the historic Baptist tradition embedded into a major research university — has been blessed to train ministerial students primarily, though not exclusively, from baptistic congregations,” said Still, The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran Delancey Dean and The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures. “In recent years, however, Wesleyan students and churches have begun to turn increasingly to Truett as a desirable destination location for theological education. We have, in turn, warmly welcomed these Christian friends into our seminary community, which exists to train God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. The establishment of The Wesley House of Studies at Baylor’s Truett Seminary strengthens further this ongoing practice and places Truett on a trajectory to become an increasingly multidenominational school while holding steadfast and true to its doctrinal and ecclesial commitments.”

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Posted in Seminary / Theological Education

A Celebration of the Life of the Rev. Dr Peter C Moore

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

(Regent College Vancouver) A new language for the sexual crisis of our generation- with Dr. Sarah Williams

Dr. Sarah Williams addresses the current sexual identity crisis that we experience today by advocating for 1) a better understanding of history and 2) a more nuanced use of language that can help us have better conversations about marriage, sex, and identity.

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality, Theology

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary for Peter Moore

Age 83, peacefully entered into eternal life May 30 in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Born in Scarsdale, NY, Peter was an innovative leader, mentor, preacher and author for more than 50 years. He currently served as the director of the Anglican Leadership Institute since 2016, training leaders in the world-wide Anglican Church in servant leadership, all the while serving as a scholar in residence at St. Michael’s Church, in Charleston, SC. Peter served as director of the Council for Religion in Independent Schools in New York City and at that time, started FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools) in 1962. FOCUS seeks to bring Christ to students attending independent Secondary Schools along America’s East Coast. He then served as the fourth dean/president of Trinity School for Ministry and as its first president of the board of trustees, before moving to Charleston, SC.

Decade after decade, Peter was an unswerving, tireless agent of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Al Zadig on the Death of Peter Moore

From there:

Please keep the family and loved ones of the Very Rev. Dr. Peter Moore, Director of the Anglican Leadership Institute, in your prayers. Peter died on the Eve of Pentecost, May 30, following a battle with cancer. Details for a service have not yet been announced.

The following is a message from the Rev. Al Zadig, Rector of St. Michael’s Church Charleston, where Peter served as Scholar-in-Residence.

Saying Goodbye to a Hero

Just minutes after our Annual Meeting/Festival of Faith on Zoom today, I received word that our Scholar in Residence and dear friend the Rev. Dr. Peter Moore had died. My brothers and sisters in Christ, we lost a hero of faith this weekend. A hero of the faith who always stood for the bedrock truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the foundation of Scripture against all odds, powers and principalities.

In addition to writing books, pastoring, and leading, Peter poured his life into the ancient art of mentoring the generations. Whether students at FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools), Trinity School for Ministry, St. Michael’s Church, or the Bishops and clergy of the Anglican Leadership Institute, he loved coming alongside to make disciples!

I therefore marvel at the fact that Peter died on the eve of Pentecost. Why? He simply lived and breathed through the power of the Holy Spirit. I know we all have our Peter Stories, but I especially remember that when he first came to St. Michael’s he would walk around with the pictorial directory of the parish just so he could memorize all your names and pictures! He had that kind of love for you!

While Peter’s obituary is being prepared as I write this, I just wanted you to know now so you can be praying for Peter’s wife Sandra as well. Funeral plans are being arranged and the service will take place at St. Michael’s Church at a date and time to be announced. In the meantime dear brothers and sisters, please pray with me:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Peter. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive Peter into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

The Rev. Alfred T. K. Zadig, Jr
Rector
St Michael’s Church
 

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

Peter Moore RIP

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ministry of the Ordained, Seminary / Theological Education

William Witt–Renewal Past and Present

There is a focus on spiritual formation and worship at Trinity now that echoes the spiritual seriousness of the earlier charismatic and Evangelical renewal movements, although the approach is perhaps more distinctly Anglican. Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and weekly Eucharist are at the center of the school’s worship life. Trinity’s faculty find themselves among successors to that earlier movement in academic theology: Biblical studies center on biblical theology; systematic theology and church history focus on the creedal core of trinitarian theology, christology, and the church as not only regenerated individuals, but the corporate community of the body of Christ gathered to worship the Triune God in Word and sacrament. TSM carries on the “Chicago Call” by hosting “The Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient Evangelical Future.”

The current crop of students were not yet born at the height of the charismatic and Evangelical renewal movements of the 1970’s, and many of them were raised in Evangelical homes where what once was renewal is now “just the way things have always been done.” While the renewal movements of the 1970’s were in some ways responses to the cultural uncertainties of the 1960’s, the counter-cultural youth movement, and too placid mainline churches, the generation that attends seminary now faces a very different culture characterized by post-modern pluralism, the prevalence of social media, and a dominant secularism in which skepticism about religious faith is a given assumption.

What form renewal will take for the current generation is not evident. While today’s students are not dismissive of the charismatic and Evangelical renewal movements of their parents’ generation, many come to seminary with what is perhaps more of a concern for spiritual and theological depth. Some of our students come to us after doing undergraduate work at such Evangelical strongholds as Moody Bible Institute or Wheaton College, and they are looking for a liturgical church more rooted in the church’s tradition. Students express keen interest in biblical languages and theological exegesis. They write theses on the church fathers. They enthusiastically participate in the seminary’s liturgical life, and they pray for one another on campus and in each other’s homes. They willingly join in the worship and community of local churches, and take courses in church planting. Trinity’s students form deep friendships with fellow students and faculty that continue after they graduate. I have every reason to believe that this current generation of students will be the leaders of a new renewal movement in the church that may look somewhat different from the renewal movements of my own generation, but I pray will be the needed missional response in the presence of a now increasingly secular and post-Christian culture.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, America/U.S.A., Church History, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(The Coast) Atlantic School of Theology: Being Ready to Accept the Call

Typically to be accepted into the Master of Divinity program at the Atlantic School of Theology, you must have an undergraduate degree; Dawn-Lea Greer was accepted with an equivalency.

She worked with the AST faculty to submit a 300+ page portfolio of all of her work, courses she has taken and extensive volunteer experiences to be accepted into the program.

“I thought that I couldn’t make this program happen without an undergrad. With the encouragement from Rev. Susan MacAlpine-Gillis and Rev. David MacLachlan working with me to develop the portfolio, and to argue that I have an equivalency, made all the difference,” Dawn-Lea says. “Taking the time to comb through my achievements was validating, and when I was accepted, I rejoiced. Not all of us walk the same path, and that does not make one less or more of a candidate at AST. AST embraces students from all walks of life and many faiths.”

Dawn-Lea is now in her first year of the three-year full-time program, where she is also required to complete three years of formation (denominational formation), chapel and placement time.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Seminary / Theological Education

(CC) Why Andover Newton requires seminarians to take a course from the Yale School of Management

Bill Goettler, associate dean at YDS, says that a quarter of YDS students indicate an interest in taking courses at the SOM, though only a small fraction of that number follow through. By making it a requirement, Andover Newton is nudging people toward a kind of learning that, on some level, they realize they need.

Perhaps most interesting is the way new theological questions can arise in business classes. Washington shared an example of how this happened in the course Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations. “I had to answer questions like whether or not nonprofits were supposed to work to no longer be needed, which led me to ask myself this same question as it relates to denominations and churches.”

As long as the world still needs churches, it needs a learned clergy, and the clergy need whatever education is called for by the times. Today congregations are calling out for multidimensional leaders, and business education is rounding out an increasingly important dimension of pastoral ministry.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecclesiology, Economy, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

David Booman–Sabbatical “Greatest Gift Ever Received”

The past 12 weeks of sabbatical have been one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. I am profoundly grateful to the clergy, vestry, and the people of St. Michael’s for blessing me so generously and joyfully. The sabbatical went beyond what I had even hoped and was a summer I will always cherish.

In the months leading up to the sabbatical, my prayer for this time set apart was taken from Psalm 36: that the Booman family would be able to feast on the Lord’s abundance, drink from His delights, and see the light of His glory—all while sheltered under the shadow of His wings. Little did I know how critical the last clause of that prayer would prove to be…

Read it all (page 3).

Posted in * South Carolina, Children, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Spirituality/Prayer

(CEN) Historic Anglican theological college, St John’s, Nottingham, is set to close in 2020

One of the leading theological colleges, St John’s, Nottingham, is to close. In a statement this week the College said that at a meeting of their Council on 11 November, future options were ‘prayerfully considered’ and it was agreed that the operation of the current configuration of St John’s is no longer financially viable.

The process of closure is to begin immediately, although several ‘significant’ aspects of their ministry will continue through partner institutions. Established as the London College of Divinity in 1863, it was during the term of Michael Green as Principal that it moved to Nottingham in 1970. The name was also legally changed to St John’s with the move.

From its move to Bramcote, Nottingham, the College developed and diversified its ministry under the successive leadership of Michael Green, Robin Nixon, Colin Buchanan, Anthony Thiselton, John Goldingay, Christina Baxter and David Hilborn as Principals.

With the closure imminent, the Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission announced recently that it will move to Leicester and merge with iCYM to continue its work. The specialist Library resources (which amounts to around 10,000 books) will also be gifted to iCYM in Leicester.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Seminary / Theological Education

(AI) Trinity School for Ministry expands campus, purchases local church

In the small town of Ambridge, PA, a renewal is taking place. Storefronts are being updated, old buildings are being refurbished to house new tenants, and new sidewalks have been poured. Trinity School for Ministry has a desire to support this renewal in a way that is helpful to the town and also helps to build community. To that end, Trinity School for Ministry is thrilled to announce that we have just purchased the Presbyterian Church of Ambridge, located just a few blocks from Trinity’s campus. “When the pastor from the church approached me to inquire whether we would be interested in buying the church, I knew that I had to explore this option,” stated the Very Rev. Dr. Henry L. Thompson, III (Laurie), Dean and President of Trinity School for Ministry. “We knew we needed a larger chapel/meeting space and we had been praying that God would help us to discern whether or not to build a brand new building,” Thompson added. “We received our answer— not surprisingly, this existing church met every one of my criteria that I had identified for a new building. God has given us such a tremendous gift.”

Opened in 1976, Trinity has a long history of working with the Ambridge and surrounding communities. Of interest is the fact that Trinity’s current chapel was a Presbyterian church, and when Trinity purchased it, half of the congregation began attending down the street at the church that was just purchased. “We feel like God has taken us full circle,” said Thompson, “and once again we are able to put new life into an older building.”

The recently purchased building will allow Trinity to move forward into the future as its residential student population continues to grow and its partnerships reach even further globally.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Housing/Real Estate Market, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship

Regent College, Vancouver, Receives $3.5 Million For Endowed Chair In Marketplace Theology And Leadership

Regent College is very pleased to announce the creation of the R. Paul Stevens Chair in Marketplace Theology and Leadership. The Chair’s $3.5 million endowment, the gift of Dr. Margaret Wai Kay Wong of Hong Kong, is the largest gift in Regent’s history.

Dr. Jeff Greenman, President of Regent College, expressed the College’s gratitude and delight:

“We at Regent are deeply grateful to Dr. Margaret Wong for her generous support of Regent’s mission by investing in the College’s commitment to marketplace theology and leadership. A fully endowed chair simply is a marvelous gift to us. It provides a strong and enduring institutional platform for a faculty member’s research, teaching, writing, and mentoring in a strategic area of Regent’s ministry.”

“Throughout our entire history, Regent has sought to equip men and women with a deep, integrated faith that is lived out in a variety of marketplaces and in their leadership roles. This gift advances that distinctive pursuit and ensures the vitality of Regent’s contribution to the church in this important area.”

Dr. Wong, a Canadian citizen, lives and works in Hong Kong. She completed her doctorate in Physics at MIT before moving to Hong Kong to oversee management of her late father’s property developments, including new town residential communities in the New Territories.

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Posted in Canada, Seminary / Theological Education

(Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics) Don Collett–Overcoming Historicism’s Dividing Wall of Hostility: The Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Christian Smith notes the influence of bad philosophies of language and science upon biblicists, the latter of which are typically imbibed without much, if any, critical reflection. Paradigm-protecting approaches to organizing the diversity of Scripture also generate canons within the canon, while the influence of modernism’s mathematical and scientific rationalism upon biblicists leads them to effectively regard the Bible as a set of algebraic equations, thereby confusing mathematical and scientific ideas of precision with accuracy and truth. Sophisticated views of the philosophy of language and science are either unknown in popular forms of biblicism, or if known, exploited for purely negative and apologetic purposes, thereby precluding their constructive appropriation on any level.

Among the more interesting answers that Smith gives to this question are found in his third chapter, which is largely rooted in sociological observations. As it turns out, biblicists don’t get out much. They talk among themselves within socially and ecclesially constructed rooms of their own making and vintage, never bothering to open up windows to let in fresh air from the outside. When one adds to this the sociological observation that the need to reinforce one’s own identity is often tied to the need to differentiate oneself from others, this isolation is compounded even further (62-63). In short, because difference is essential to identity, biblicists may be subconsciously resisting “the idea of the biblical differences among them actually being settled” (63). Smith’s discussion of “homophily”, which he defines as natural attraction to those who think in the same terms we do, also helps to explain, at least in part, why biblicism is so resistant to change. Evangelical biblicists regularly underestimate the influence of social networks and social location upon how people process Scripture (64-65; 195-196). Because of this, they fall into the trap of believing that if they can just get people all believing the right things, everything else would take care of itself. While one can go too far with this and foster a sort of social determinism that ignores the Bible’s ability, through the Spirit, to overturn and counter the influence of what Smith (following Peter Berger) calls ‘plausibility structures’, in this reviewer’s opinion, Smith is right to point out that most biblicists regularly underestimate the impact their social context and location has upon how they hear Scripture. Many biblicists are Cartesians who view people as disembodied selves, or if you prefer, ideas with feet.

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Posted in Books, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Elisabeth Braw–The Stasi Spies in Seminary

East Germany’s Communist government opened the Berlin Wall and thus the country 30 years ago Saturday. Geopolitics and economics drove this outcome, but East Germany’s religious communities played a complicated, significant and far too often overlooked role.

The Stasi, East Germany’s secret police agency, understood that the country’s congregations presented a major threat to the existing order. Lutherans were East Germany’s largest denomination, and many actively opposed the regime. Undermining them became a thorny task for a ruling class that disdained the brutality of the Soviet Union and its other satellites.

By 1954 the Stasi had built a Soviet-inspired agency to monitor churches, later named Department XX/4. It gradually perfected the art of subversion. The group’s officers came from the proletariat, as most top officials did. The Stasi recruited farmhands and factory workers and sent them to the Potsdam College of Jurisprudence, its officer training school.

To weaken faith communities, the department cultivated believers, including pastors, as spies….

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Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

(NPR) With Plans To Pay Slavery Reparations, Two Seminaries Prompt A Broader Debate

Among elite U.S. universities, Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Georgetown have all admitted in recent years that at one time they benefited financially from the slave trade. But two Protestant seminaries have now gone a step further, saying that in recognition of their own connections to racism they have a Christian duty to pay reparations.

Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., the flagship institution of the U.S. Episcopal Church, announced in September that it has set aside $1.7 million for a reparations fund, given that enslaved persons once worked on its campus and that the school participated in racial segregation even after slavery ended.

Earlier this month, Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., followed suit with an announcement of a $27 million endowed fund for reparations, from which $1.1 million would be dispersed annually.

“As a theology school, we use the language of confession to acknowledge our complicity with slavery,” says M. Craig Barnes, the Princeton seminary president. In its announcement, the seminary said a historical audit, while showing that the school never itself owned slaves, nonetheless made clear that it “benefited from the slave economy, both through investments in Southern banks … and from donors who profited from slavery.”

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Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship

(CT) David Taylor–A word of encouragement for recent theology graduates

The upshot of all of this? Be like God and name the people of God not just faithfully and graciously but also in care-filled and responsible ways.

Remind them also of their baptismal name. Which is what? It is the same name, I suggest to you, that the Father gives to Jesus at his own baptism: beloved. In all three accounts of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Father’s voice from heaven is heard audibly. And all three accounts include the same basic statement: You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I well pleased.

Think for a moment how astonishing this is. The Father presumably could have made his voice heard countless times throughout Jesus’ ministry. But he speaks out loud only three times, and two out of the three times—including at Jesus’ transfiguration—the eternal, infinite, supreme God repeats himself.

The Father knows all the words in the world. He knows all the words that could be and yet shall be, world without end, and he could have said a million things about the Son. But instead, he says one thing: You are my Son, the beloved.

Read it all.

Posted in Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

Michael Sadgrove–Walking on Water: an ordination retreat address

On your ordination day last year I asked you about your hopes and aspirations and expectations as you approached this great moment in your lives. “You wouldn’t be human if somewhere within, you didn’t tremble at this threshold” I said, recalling my own ordination more than forty years ago. Now that I look back, it felt a bit like the disciples going down to the sea, getting into a boat and setting off on their voyage. Even if the lake wasn’t rough to begin with, it was now, John points out, “dark”. Ahead of them an adventure beckoned. But there was so much that was unknown to them, so much that they couldn’t know. There is risk involved in launching out on to the deep at night, as they will tell you when you visit Galilee and learn about the storms and squalls that suddenly sweep down from Mount Hermon and churn up the water treacherously.

But I think the key question concerns what is going on inside us. Van Gogh said that the human heart is “very much like the sea; it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has its pearls too”. This is a metaphor they may not recognise in poor landlocked dioceses. But we here in Newcastle know the North Sea and its fickleness, the calm still days where barely a ripple laps the pristine white beaches of Northumberland, and the storms out of the north east that crash against the basalt rocks and lighthouses and breakwaters so violently that you wonder they are still standing. We know our own selves too. On the night before Thomas Merton was ordained priest in 1949, he confided to his journal The Sign of Jonas. “My life is a great mess and tangle of half-conscious subterfuges to evade grace and duty. I have done all things badly. I have thrown away great opportunities. My infidelity to Christ, instead of making me sick with despair, drives me to throw myself all the more blindly into the arms of His mercy.” He knew about treading water at seventy thousand fathoms.

Which is, not literally but metaphorically what the disciples experienced on Gennesaret that night. “The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.” They had rowed three or four miles, says John, which can only mean that they were in the middle of the lake, out of sight of the shoreline. At the height of the tempest, they see Jesus coming to them, drawing near to the boat. “And they were terrified” says the text. You’d have thought they would already be frightened for their lives because of the storm. Yet it’s the apparition of Jesus that terrifies: that’s clear from the words Jesus speaks. “It is I; do not be afraid”.

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Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Craig Barnes–Everyone in ministry gets their feelings hurt

After that he took a stab at the administration for not being very responsive to his problem. I indicated that I was at least the third administrator who had seen him in two days. Finally, he slumped his shoulders and said, “This really hurts my feelings.”

That was his final appeal for me to allow him to graduate. It would hurt his feelings if we upheld the requirements for his degree.

The vast majority of our students would never come to me with such an appeal. They are very conscientious about fulfilling the expectations of their rigorous academic programs. But this was a rare student who wasn’t paying attention. The subtext of his appeal was that I should now do anything I could to avoid hurting his feelings, as if this were one of the standards of leadership.

I was a parish pastor for a long time before I became a seminary president, and through most of those days I was wading through hurt feelings, including my own. So I responded to the student by saying, “You do realize that your feelings are going to get hurt all of the time when you become a pastor, don’t you?” He just picked up his backpack and walked out of my office….

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Seminary / Theological Education

(Tablet) Ashley Beck–Theology battles the nonsense of today

Those of us who teach or research in theology and related disciplines have a responsibility to try and support the whole Church – laypeople, clergy and bishops. Theological reflection about the world in which we live is constantly being deepened, and this can and should strengthen the faith of the People of God. The consequences of lacking theological literacy are serious. “The majority of those raised as Catholics find their way out of the Church, in part, I suspect, because the version of Christian faith to which they have been exposed has been so poorly articulated that it is not worth taking seriously at all,” the theologian John McDade has pointed out. “Good theology is necessary for the life of faith and the spread of the Gospel.”

Good theology is not always sought. In many places catechetical programmes are promoted that are intended to be “simple”, sometimes a shorthand for skirting around critical reflection. Some courses are offered because they are cheaper than those that are properly accredited; many programmes are imported. And there is a worrying decline in religious studies programmes in Catholic secondary schools. This has serious consequences for our future ability to provide RE teachers, and even more serious consequences for university departments. The new report from the British Academy alarmingly reveals that there were 6,500 fewer students on theology and religious studies degree courses in the UK in 2017/18 than there had been in 2011/12. In recent years, we have seen the closure of Heythrop College and the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury, and the possible closure of theology departments elsewhere, including in Catholic institutions.

If you’re a theologian, falling student numbers gives rise to anxieties about redundancy. And for a Catholic theologian there can be the added feeling that what you do is not really valued by the Church, either because some people think academic theology is highbrow or irrelevant, or because others don’t like your views and think you’re a heretic. If you feel under threat, it is hard to feel confident about offering yourself to the Church as a resource.

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Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Seminary / Theological Education

(CC) C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler–What pastors get paid, and when it’s not enough

In recent months, schoolteachers in various parts of the country have gone on strike, protesting (among other things) their low salaries. In 2017, the average elementary and middle school teacher in the United States made $60,900 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For many clergypersons, that figure looks pretty good since the average clergy salary is $50,800. But unlike most teachers, clergy are not in a position to strike for higher wages.

Salaries of teachers and clergy range above and below these means, of course; but regardless of re­gional variations or demographic contexts, teacher salaries tend to be higher than clergy salaries.

Salaries of teachers and clergy range above and below these means, of course; but regardless of re­gional variations or demographic contexts, teacher salaries tend to be higher than clergy salaries.

Calls for higher wages are voiced not only by teachers in poorer states but also by those in places where teacher incomes are well above the national average. In some high-priced urban settings and coastal states, the relatively low salary of teachers makes it difficult for schools to attract teachers. For clergy too, whatever the setting, their relatively low salary is often an issue of economic survival.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship

(F+L) Matt Croasmun: It’s time to ask more from theologians

What are we here for? What makes this life worth living? The questions of meaning are pressing in a contested, divided world, but it’s rare to see theologians make the connection to how their work helps people answer them.

To begin to recover the connection between theologians and these life questions, scholar-pastor Matt Croasmun and theologian Miroslav Volf co-wrote a book — or a manifesto, as they have described it — issuing a clarion call to theology to think bigger about its own role in the world.

“Theology should make a difference, because God cares about the world,” Croasmun said. “We say in the book that God does not need theology. If anyone needs theology, we do — that is, we human beings.”

Theology is a uniquely qualified discipline, Croasmun argues, to convene the conversation about meaning with other religious and philosophical traditions. Theology can help us define questions of meaning and talk about firm answers that are not just a matter of personal preference.

Croasmun is an associate research scholar at Yale University and directs the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. His research focuses primarily on the Pauline Epistles, and his first book, “The Emergence of Sin: The Cosmic Tyrant in Romans,” was published in 2017.

Croasmun spoke with Faith & Leadership’s Chris Karnadi about what theologians and Christian leaders can learn from his and Volf’s book, “For the Life of the World: Theology That Makes a Difference.”

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Posted in Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(Church Times) ‘Church has forgotten how to tell the Christian story’

The Church has forgotten how to tell the Christian story to the 93 per cent of people who have little or no contact with it, a new report from the Central Council of Readers suggests.

“We desperately need skilled teachers who will live the story, tell the story, and accompany people as they explore the full implications of becoming part of the story,” says Resourcing Sunday to Saturday Faith, a booklet sent to every Anglican Bishop and every Reader in England and Wales this month. “Our argument in this booklet is that Readers are ideally placed to meet this urgent need.”

Setting out the Council’s “renewed vision” for lay ministry, it begins with a diagnosis of the current landscape for evangelism: “a time of great ferment in the Church”, given internal disputes over sexuality, safeguarding failures, and a society where “many are bewildered by the sheer scale of change”. A “fresh perspective” is needed, it suggests.

“The problem is that we have forgotten how to tell our story — or, to put it another way, we have only been telling part of the story,” it argues.

“In part, this is because we simply don’t know the story. The Church has been described as ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’. Many people in our churches simply haven’t reflected on how the story impacts that many different parts of their lives.”

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Posted in Adult Education, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

For Jackson Kemper’s Feast Day–Gustaf Unonius’ Summary of [some of] his Work

In the course of time almost all the states and territories which at first had constituted a great missionary district under Bishop Kemper’s oversight became separate dioceses which for a time continued under his care but finally selected their own bishops. In this way, after a period of only a few years, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin–where, at the time I began my studies at Nashotah, there were only a few scattered churches and mission stations–and finally Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kansas–territories which at that time were hardly known even by name–have now churches and ministers enough to be organized into separate dioceses. In Wisconsin alone there are more than fifty ministers, and an equal number of churches without ministers, belonging to the Episcopal church. All of this, under the grace of God, may be ascribed to the tireless labors if Bishop Kemper and the excellent mission school at Nashotah.

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Posted in Church History, Seminary / Theological Education

(Fathom Magazine) A Sermon Under the Pastures An Interview with Nathan Poole

There must be fifty passages like that in the book, which indicates to me that you have a practice going here, this openness and attention, reverence and expectation isn’t the result of merely waking up in a good mood and writing a story. I wonder then, can writing stories function as a practice, like meditation?

NP: Yes, of course. I think it was Paul Auster who said that he is a common everyday neurotic until he is holding a pen. That’s absolutely true. I meet my maker when I’m writing, and my best self.

But in the quote you mentioned earlier, about finding the words “God” and “tree” insufficient, what I was speaking to was a kind of cultural hegemony. It’s a metaphor, for me. I need to explain this, I’m realizing now: There was a moment in my life, when I was out walking my dog, that I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was surrounded by trees, but that all I had to understand them was a singular category, “tree.” As in there’s a tree, and there’s another tree. It made me sad. And yet, in spite of the fact that these life forms were not only sustaining life on our planet, and the most ubiquitous form of life there is, I had no way of differentiating one from the next. It occurred to me that I would like to be able to call them by their names.

In many ways, this is the experience of Christians in the South, where the culture is saturated but not centered, in religion. They are offered one modality of faith, and it flattens the world. It propagates and prosecutes willful blindness, in the same way I once looked out onto a forest and just saw trees, trees, more trees. It’s not that I have a problem with the word “God” but that I wanted the experience of God to not be essentially gnostic, as in, God is in heaven and I need him in order to get there. I wanted to understand all the facets, the various ways God can be experienced, here and now. I wanted what the speaker in Maurice Manning’s Bucolics experiences:

“…I can’t

keep track of you Boss you’re just

too many things at once…”

Please tell me you’ve read that book?

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Energy, Natural Resources, Poetry & Literature, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology