During seminary I had several discussions in one of my professors about the future of theological education in the Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion in the US. One of the things we discussed was the likelihood of a strong orthodox presence at the University of the South or the possibility of the founding of an orthodox seminary in the southeast (should Sewanee “side” with the reappraisers). All of this seemed irksome to me primarily because it meant one of two things, either A) trusting in an institution
that is becoming less and less inclined to spend effort or thought on it’s church affiliation, seemingly keeping it primarily for the benefit it brings and for nostalgic purposes or B) somehow financing the construction of an entirely new seminary at a time when money is in short supply, church attendance is down across the board (generally speaking), and it is more and more clear that the foundation of a viable institution is extremely difficult these days (simply consider the struggles Trinity School for Ministry
has went through). Considering the current situation, I couldn’t help but think back to the various party conflicts in the Church of England and to the university system there. Traditionally there have been the Universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge, to which everyone of varied allegiances went. Within those institutions there were founded colleges and houses of study that leaned in one direction or another, but maintained connections to and access to the resources of the larger universities–Wycliffe
Hall, Oxford is a good example from the evangelical side of the spectrum, Pusey House from the Anglo-Catholic.
So it occurred to me that the orthodox were barking up the wrong tree… rather than set their sights on the establishment of entirely new schools, why not instead funnel resources into the creation of houses of study attached to inter-denominational divinity schools that are, though sometimes having liberal faculty, too large to be caught up in the denominational politics that now abounds in Episcopal seminaries. Additionally, rather than writing off Episcopal seminaries as lost to the reappraising side,
why not sponsor endowed chairs at such institutions in order to bring in orthodox faculty–don’t simply look at how to oust entrenched liberals, look at how to expand the range of opinions at the seminary through the inclusion of orthodox faculty members. And finally, why not look at the establishment of scholarships for orthodox students, tutoring houses wherein they could establish a rapport with orthodox tutors and fellow students etc…
Well, so that’s my manifesto…and it seems that Duke has done something that, while obviously not motivated by a desire to provide a place only to orthodox/conservative students, seems to be on the right track as far as facing the reality of divided allegiances and teh task of spiritual formation in our current ecclesial climate.. Good for them… Consider the following article:
As director of Duke Divinity School’s new Anglican Episcopal House of Studies, Jo Bailey Wells is keenly aware of the theological and political divisions roiling the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church USA.
“There’s no doubt that we’re in a stormy season,” says Wells, an Anglican priest and associate professor of the practice of Christian ministry and Bible at the divinity school. “There has been a great deal of turmoil.”
Since the Episcopal Church USA’s General Convention approved the ordination of an openly gay bishop three years ago, divisions have threatened to splinter the church. Talk of impaired union and potential schism has become commonplace among the communion’s 38 global provinces.
Yet Wells, who came to The Divinity School in 2005 following 10 years as a professor, chaplain and dean at English universities and seminaries, is optimistic. She hopes that the Anglican Episcopal House—a program developed to help support and spiritually form the 40-or-so Anglican and Episcopal students at The Divinity School—will play a role in the healing process.
“I’m hopeful because a time of turmoil can offer a profound opportunity for growth,” Wells says. “Often it is in times of challenge or humiliation that we fall to our knees and learn more about God and ourselves.”
Wells reminds students and colleagues that the Anglican Communion has been tested before. For example, the Communion weathered upheaval and protest in the early 1990s when the General Synod of the Church of England ruled—by a single vote—that women could serve as Anglican priests.
“Some people predicted that this would be the end of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion,” says Wells, an English citizen who was among the first wave of women ordained in the Church of England. “Protestors carried out a mock funeral with a coffin representing the Church of England. But the Communion eventually learned to live with different practices in different places.”
Now in its first full academic year, the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies can contribute to that growth in several ways, Wells says. It can promote healthy dialogue by sponsoring church-related speakers from across the political spectrum. It can encourage student exchange programs that allow Anglican and Episcopal seminarians from around the world to learn and pray together. And, perhaps most important, it can assist in the spiritual formation of future clergy who themselves will pursue common understanding.