Category : Seminary / Theological Education

Regent College Profiles David Robinson, a visiting scholar in theological ethics for the 2017-18 year

You were ordained in 2009 and have worked in both Anglican and Episcopal churches. Can you comment further on how you have tried to balance your pursuits in ministry with your academic pursuits?

I have to confess that I don’t think I do balance very well. That’s partly because my week is mainly spent caring for a rambunctious toddler. But I have also been trained to pursue something other than balance. I remember one mentor, in particular, talking about what it means as a theologian to, before all else, be responsive to the Word, the Word being God’s address to us in our forms of life across different seasons. Sometimes God’s call will provide you a feeling of equilibrium between academic work and other ministry opportunities.

But sometimes it can mean that you have an intense period where life feels a bit out of control—starting a new ministry, for instance, or that final period of “writing up” a thesis. The important thing for me is to be able to say that I’m responding to God at that moment, giving my all where I’m called to serve. Right now, I’m primarily an academic and dad; while I certainly take part in the church, I’m not that active in leadership. That’s the shape of my obedience for this season and I’m finding new clarity and joy here.

Maybe twenty years from now I’ll be able to give you a better answer. Maybe part of it is that I’ve had a period of four years in ministry, then four years in PhD work, now a combination of full-time parenting and writing. Certainly in both cases I sought the other community: as a pastor in Ottawa I was regularly involved on the neighbouring university campus, and as a doctoral student in Scotland, I was regularly involved in the local churches. Then there are times when the communities overlap: a big joy of my time in Scotland was working with Iain Provan and other Regent alum as they founded the Abbey Summer School, where they insist on integration.

Read it all and you can check out his website there.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(AI) Samford’s Beeson Divinity School to Host Anglican Theology Conference in September

The Institute of Anglican Studies at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School will host its first Anglican Theology Conference, Sept. 25-26. This year’s conference, “What is Anglicanism?,” will bring together top scholars and church leaders to probe what it means to be Anglican.

With a membership of approximately 85 million worldwide, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In recent years, its center of gravity has moved to the Global South, where new understandings of Anglicanism have emerged amidst spiritual vitality and dynamic church growth, according to Gerald McDermott, professor of divinity and director of the Institute of Anglican Studies. However, Anglican identity is still contested. The conference will address these issues and more, he added.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Identity, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

(TLC Covenant) Simon Oliver–Episcopacy, Priesthood, and the Priesthood of the Church, the 2017 Michael Ramsey Lecture

The Gospel and the Catholic Church is a complex exploration of the nature of the Catholic Church as the living embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rowan Williams has summed up the core claim of that book very clearly: the Church is the “form” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.[3] Ramsey writes:

The Catholicism, therefore, which sprang from the Gospel of God is a faith wherein the visible and ordered Church fills an important place. But this Church is understood less as an institution founded upon the rules laid down by Christ and the Apostles than as an organism which grew inevitably through Christ’s death and resurrection. The Church, therefore, is defined not in terms of itself, but in terms of Christ, whose Gospel created it and whose life is its indwelling life.[4]

Ramsey is arguing against the view that Church order is secondary to the Gospel. In other words, the Church is not a group of people who come together to share their faith in Jesus Christ and then decide on a structure for the Church that offers the most promising way of spreading the message. Church order in not a matter of expedient strategy, a means of managing resources, the vehicle for the expression of a more original personal experience or — as it had become in the late Middle Ages as its catholicity was compromised — a mechanism for the salvation of souls, the means of establishing good relations with God, or a juridical body that supresses human freedom.[5] The Church is the form of the Gospel, the living mystical body of Christ into which we are incorporated by dying with Christ in our baptism and being reformed as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, to paraphrase the first letter of St. Peter. In other words, our relations as Christians do not rest on a common set of ideas about God and Jesus or an ideology, but something much more essential that is akin to racial solidarity. In St. Paul’s terms, we become a new creation, from top to bottom.[6]

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Ecclesiology, Seminary / Theological Education

JI Packer: Serious Catechesis–One of the Most Urgent Needs in the Church Today

While many Christians are actively involved in devotional Bible study, he laments the lack of formal catechetical study, without which, he says, “Well-intentioned minds and hearts will repeatedly go off track.”

Like Scripture says, we all, like sheep, have gone astray. We need constant shepherding and guidance, and knowing and repeating a catechism can be a way to ground our hearts in unchanging truth. The tradition of repeating established statements of faith helps with that shepherding, and it has a long history. Many modern congregations, however, have allowed a lapse in the practice.

In Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know (Crossway, 2013) Packer says:

As the years go by, I am increasingly burdened by the sense that the more conservative church people in the West, Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, are, if not starving, at least grievously undernourished for lack of a particular pastoral ministry that was a staple item in the church life of the first Christian centuries and also of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era in Western Europe, but has largely fallen out of use in recent days.

That ministry is called catechesis. It consists of intentional, orderly instruction in the truths that Christians are called to live by, linked with equally intentional and orderly instruction on how they are to do this.

Read it all.

Posted in Adult Education, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

William Witt–Eating and Idols: A Sermon About the Church in a Post-Christian Setting

How then might what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians provide guidance for us as we seem to be moving into a post-Christian culture? Should we listen to Rod Dreher or to Jamie Smith?

First, I would say that Paul does not give us clear-cut advice about whether we should do things like bake wedding cakes for gay weddings. He leaves it up to us to figure out how to sort out these kinds of disagreements. However, he does provide us with some basic principles.

Second, we need to be concerned about both Christian identity and Christian mission. In issues that are genuinely connected with basic Christian faith or practice, the church needs to remember who we are, and we cannot compromise. At the same time, we need to remember that the church does not exist for itself, but for those outside the church. If there can be no mission without identity, neither can there be identity without mission.

Third, we need to keep the main thing the main thing. Christianity is about Jesus Christ crucified, what Paul calls the “foolishness of the cross.” To follow Jesus does not mean that we will never have to suffer or experience pain or discomfort. We will. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “The cross is laid on every Christian. . . . The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”6

However, because the cross is the main thing, we can relax a bit about things that are not the main thing. In times of confusion and strong disagreement, we in the church need to live with a certain humility. There is something more important even than being right, and that is to love our brother and sister for whom Jesus Christ died, even if that means that we might have to let someone have their way when we are certain that we are right and they are not.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology: Scripture

(CC) Bruce Marshall–George Lindbeck was the best teacher I ever had

For me the impact of The Nature of Doctrine, and even more of years spent with Lindbeck, was to make real the possibility of being an intellectually responsible Christian in our own place and time. He showed me how the whole ecumenical Christian tradition was a world in which I could be at home. Each generation of Christians has to find its own way of doing that, and for many of my generation Lindbeck pointed the way.

Lindbeck was a person of great but understated learning and a quietly exacting teacher. He was remarkably free of the vanity that easily besets academics. As a teacher, he had no interest in being agreed with. If you thought you could get ahead by tipping your hat to him or to the Yale School, you were likely to find your hat blown off. His interest was that you think better about whatever you were talking about. That meant seeing the topic at hand from many different points of view, understanding the arguments for positions you didn’t like, and looking sympathetically for the underlying concerns of the people who made them. Only when you had done all that would he let you venture your own views on the matter. In my case it was a hard lesson. He might say I never did learn it as I should have, but to the extent that I did, I owe it to him.

Over the years George Lindbeck gave me a great deal of his time. Only gradually did I come to realize the sacrifice that involved for him, a sacrifice he made for a great many others besides me. He was an intellectual and an academic who evidently valued the good he could do for other people, as teacher and friend, above his own status and career. In the last conversation I had with him, I observed that I liked teaching doctoral students but hadn’t realized what a labor-intensive enterprise it is. “Oh,” he said. “I suppose that’s right. I never really thought of it that way.” He was, by a long shot, the best teacher I ever had.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

Professor of Christian History at Duke University Kate Bowler talks to Time Magazine About Her Cancer Diagnosis and Her Faith

You are an expert in the history of health, wealth and happiness in American religion. Why do Americans see tragedies as tests of character?

It is one of the oldest stories Americans tell themselves about determination and some supernatural bootstraps. The double edge to the American Dream is that those who can’t make it have lost the test or have failed. The prosperity gospel is just a Christian version of that.

Did Christianity fail you?

Sometimes it felt like that, in part because of the stuff people said using the Christian faith to be incredibly trite. Christianity also saved the day. You really want a brave faith, one that says, in the midst of the crushing brokenness, there is the something else there, the undeniable, overwhelming love of God.

You’ve said one of the hardest things about being sick is other people trying to explain your suffering. What would you prefer?

People who hug you and give you impressive compliments that don’t feel like a eulogy. People who give you non-cancer-thematic gifts. People who just want to delight you, not try to fix you, and make you realize that it is just another beautiful day and there is usually something fun to do.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Seminary / Theological Education, Theodicy, Theology

(YDS) George Lindbeck, 1923-2018

As a scholar, George is remembered for two major contributions. In the broadest circles he is known for his work on Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue. Four of his books were devoted to this topic: Dialogue on the Way (edited volume, 1965), The Future of Roman Catholic Theology (1970), The Infallibility Debate (co-authored, 1971), and Infallibility (1972). He was a “Delegated Observer” from the Lutheran World Federation to the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1964.

The year that he did not serve on the YDS faculty (1962-1963) he was at the Second Vatican Council. He later served as a member of the international Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican Secretariat for Christian Unity (1968-1987) and was co-chairperson of the Lutheran delegation for more than ten years (1976-1987). He also served in the same capacity at the national level as a member of the official Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue in the U.S. (1965-1989). When Catholicism opened up to the larger world, George Lindbeck was there to welcome and embrace Catholics, not only for the Lutheran Church but for YDS. His work made YDS a place where Roman Catholics could come—and indeed did come—following the Second Vatican Council.

“Throughout his life he sustained profound relationships among Protestant congregations, but also between Lutherans and Roman Catholics,” remembers Margaret Farley, Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at YDS. “He was able to cross what were for some scholars (and Christian believers) too high barriers in thought and action. A very gentle person, and a searcher of truth, he respected and even reverenced the faith and hope in all of the major Christian traditions. And his teaching was reflected in his similar respect and care for his students.”

The second area of Lindbeck’s work was postliberal theology. Perhaps his best known book is The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (1984). He later published The Church in a Postliberal Age (2002). Harry Adams called the former “the most helpful of all the books we used to teach homiletics at YDS.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Seminary / Theological Education

(Church Times) Church of England strategy to increase ordinands takes its toll on dioceses

Dioceses may struggle to cope financially with the national target of adding 50 per cent to the number of ordinands by 2020, a Church Times survey suggests.

A questionnaire sent to diocesan secretaries and directors of ordinands discovered that, although all seemed to support the target, all but one of those who responded were concerned, or very concerned, about how this might be financed. One wrote: “The desire is there, but not the funding.” Some are undermining the strategy by capping the number of people recommended for training.

Financial anxiety is focused on the cost of training, but also what happens after training: many dioceses will struggle to support and house an increased number of assistant curates, and are warning ordinands that they will not be able to return. Other dioceses are looking for cheaper training pathways, or hoping for an influx of self-supporting (i.e. non-stipendiary) clergy.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship

Happy Birthday to Christian Spirituality Author and Pioneer James Houston at 95

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Canada, Seminary / Theological Education

(Church Times) ‘Underfunded’ [C of E] theological training facing ‘collapse’

The people responsible for training the next generation of Anglican clergy — the principals of theological colleges and courses — have said that the system is in crisis.

Just as the Church of England seeks to expand the number of ordinands by 50 per cent, the leaders of the theological education institutions (TEIs) have told this paper that the training process is “totally underfunded”, “starved of funds”, and “quite likely to collapse”.

The Principal of St Augustine’s College, Kent (until 2015, the South East Institute of Theological Education), the Revd Dr Alan Gregory, said in reply an enquiry: “I agree that the financial situation is a critical one. We are like the story of the donkey whose feed was reduced until he dropped down dead. We are almost in the position of the donkey every year.”

Finding funds for clergy training has never been easy, and there is a historical element to the crisis, as too many training institutions have chased too few candidates for ordination. But a new move this year has caused more uncertainty, handing funding decisions from the Archbishops’ Council to the dioceses.

Read it all.

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

(AI) Bp Dan Martins out at Nashotah House

In his on-line diary, “Moving Diagonally” Bishop Martins wrote that the meeting of the corporation had been “fairly routine, save for the results of the election and reelection of members of the Board of Directors, of which I have been the chairman for five years.”

“I was not reelected. This is a shock–to me and to many others,” Bishop Martins wrote, adding: “There are complicated political forces in play, which is probably all I should say in this venue. It will take me a while to process this, but I can say that *part* of what I will feel is relieved of a great burden of time and energy that has gone into my board duties. But it is a shock.”

The acting dean of the seminary, Dr. Garwood Anderson, confirmed Bishop Martins had not been re-elected, and Canon Monk elected chairman in his place. Bishop Martins “remains a member of the Corporation – the larger body that supports the seminary, whence are drawn members for the Board of Directors, and which elects members to the Board of Directors,” wrote Dr. Anderson.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops

Daniel Westberg, Professor of Ethics and Moral Theology at Nashotah House, RIP

Fr. Westberg’s most recent book was Renewing Moral Theology: Christian Ethics as Action, Character and Grace (InterVarsity Press, 2015).  He co-authored Preaching the Lectionary (3rd ed.; Liturgical Press, 2006) with the late Professor Reginald Fuller.

It was exceedingly gratifying to have served as Fr. Westberg’s dean for ten and colleague at Nashotah House for twelve years.  Dan had a brilliant mind and keen sense of humor.  He had a quiet demeanor–a gentle man and a gentleman.  As a professor, he was a friend and mentor who spent time with his students and truly cared about their spiritual as well as their intellectual formation.  But, above all, he was a godly man who truly lived the faith he proclaimed.  Dan’s tragic death is a great loss for Nashotah House.  He will be missed by all who knew him, but especially by his wife Lisa, his father, a brother and three sisters, four adult children, and three grandchildren who survive him.

We commend our brother into the loving arms of God.  May he rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon him.  Our prayers go out for Lisa and Dan’s family.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Death / Burial / Funerals, Seminary / Theological Education

Rod Dreher–Face It, Parents of Faith: There Is No Peace in the midst of the current culture

I write in this space quite a bit about how conservative Christian parents (and others) are largely — and willfully — clueless about what’s going on in this post-Christian culture, and how they ought to be thinking about it and responding to it. When I talk to pastors, educators, and others about what they’re seeing on the ground, I find this view of mine affirmed with depressing regularity. We are in a terrible crisis, but insofar as far too many Christian parents think, it’s a crisis of a threat from Islam, or from liberal elites, or homosexuals, or any number of villains that are easy to identify. I don’t deny that all of these groups, and many others, do pose a challenge to the Christian faith, but by far the most important and neglected challenge is that posed by the widespread failure of parents and church communities to pass the faith on to their children.

This is not a problem you can address by voting, or by judicial rulings, or by restricting immigration, or by watching more Fox News. Nor is it a problem you can address by going to church on Sunday, dropping your kid off at youth group mid-week, and leaving it at that. Nor is it a problem you can address by simply affirming the correct set of propositions.

Over and over, I hear from pastors and Christian educators that the biggest obstacle to forming the hearts and minds of the community’s children in an authentically Christian way are parents. Parents who want to outsource the job to the school and the church, versus working in harmony with the school and the church to accomplish this mission. Parents who get mad at the school or the church for being demanding of their children (and of them). The plain fact, amply demonstrated by the sociology of religion, is this: there is no single factor more important in determining whether or not a child will keep the faith than the example set by parents.

Read it all (emphasis his).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Secularism, Seminary / Theological Education

Anglican Church of Bermuda Launches a New Training Course in partnership with St Mellitus College, London

Saturday, October 21 at 11.00am – St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Paget: Inspired Souls- Reflections on Saints and Holy People from Around the World

“Modern celebrity has become an increasing feature of our media obsessed society. From The Rolling Stones to Rhianna, the phenomena reflects something of a human need for heroes who exhibit an unusual quality. In the history of the Christian faith, can the same human tendency be applied to the veneration of saints?

“What is it about their lives and experiences that attracts interest throughout the ages? The lecture focuses on the stories of saints and holy people from diverse backgrounds and their relevance to modern life.”

Saturday, October 21 at 2.00pm – St Paul’s Anglican Church, Paget: Come as we are: Representation and the Church

“Europe is experiencing a resurgence in a political narrative around nationalism as a reaction to mass migration, terrorism and growing social and economic inequality. In the face of such challenges, how does the Church live out the reality of the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven where an emphasis is on loving others and the stranger is preeminent?”

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Seminary / Theological Education