Saturday, September 01, 2007

Clergy Education Part II

The last time we took up this subject, I had mentioned that two needs exist. 1) A practical way to deliver the advantages of a seminary education to men who cannot quit their jobs and run off to school, and 2) defining acceptable standards that go across the current jurisdictional lines.

At this time only one seminary exists in the Continuing Church movement, namely, St. Joseph of Arimathea Seminary in Berkeley California. This seminary serves the Anglican Province of Christ the King exclusively, and the credit for its building goes mostly to now retired Archbishop Robert Morse. In a previous post I stated that all of the good qualities that, in the past, were associated with Nashotah House, are found at this seminary. The academic program is excellent, and the life that a student is expected to live, centered on the daily life of prayer that begins and ends in the chapel (with a Mass in the middle of the day), is as fine as can be.*

In general, throughout Continuing Church bodies, the priests who did not transfer from ECUSA, have needed education that is as fine as the standards once held by the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican churches in other countries. From what I have seen of the quality of seminary education in the Episcopal Church in the United States, I can safely say, it is not what it once was. Along with spiritual decline has been intellectual and academic decline. The current standards of the Episcopal Church seminaries have become pathetic, and that includes Nashota House (and, I do not know how much this is the case in other countries. I do suspect that many of them, C of E, Canada, etc., have been in decline as well). It is not enough to say that we must equal those seminaries: We must surpass them.

And, here again is the problem that most seminarians are not young men straight out of college, but men in their late thirties, usually already in their forties, with wives, children and mortgages. In the APCK, such men are expected to find a way to live in Berkeley, no matter where they have been living. The archbishop was a combat veteran of World War II, and a young college graduate who was ordained in the 1950s. The model he was accustomed to does not fit these times in a practical way. The trend today, clergy who are older and more experienced in life, is a good trend; but, it means we must deliver clergy education by the older model: Reading for Orders under the guidance of the Bishop Ordinary, with as much hands on training as is required. Yet, we must have standards that are generally known and accepted.

In comments from an earlier post, a reader from Down Under, Sandra McColl, mentioned the areas in which clergy must be educated. Her list was so good that I am breaking the commandment and stealing it (well, not exactly. She consented to this appropriation of her intellectual property back in July).

1)"...a subject dedicated to the best of the Anglican theological tradition (Hooker, the Caroline divines, the non-jurors, the Oxford fathers, assorted chunks of Mascall and Farrer)..."

2) "Greek and Hebrew..." The Bible languages (most seminaries in the Episcopal Church never taught Hebrew by the way, just Greek. My knowledge of Hebrew has made me the odd man out, especially as I was taught S'phardic Hebrew at a Jewish college.)

I will add, some Latin, the liturgical language of our Western tradition.

3) "...music: both a survey of the Anglican musical tradition and practical training in basic skills such as singing the note that the organist has just played for you, reading chant and modern musical notation..." This may seem unimportant to a few Low Churchmen; but St. Bede records just how important this instruction was considered to be in his day.

This third point leads to a bigger one: A very detailed knowledge of liturgy, both the liturgy of the Mass and of the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer that come from the Benedictine tradition and that are of the essence of the Anglican life of prayer (the Prayer Book is not just a book of services: it is a simplified Regula for all of life).

I add these:

4) Church history (Not just Anglican history).
5) Pastoral ministry, including the practical instruction it takes to be a good confessor, a good instructor for confirmands, etc.
6) Sacramental theology
7) Practical business matters of church administration and finance.

Furthermore, the student must be instructed in his own spiritual formation through daily prayer and his pursuit of holiness and the formation of godly character.

Now, how do we go about the practical business of making this education available to men where they live? How do we set in place the confidence that high standards are being applied as a norm that crosses the current jurisdictional lines?

* I have been critical of the APCK in general, despite its orthodoxy and the fine spiritual quality of most of the clergy that I have known. My criticism has never been about the seminary program, but about the unpredictable behavior of bishops. My statements should serve as a warning to any man who is seeking Holy Orders in the APCK, that he must be prepared economically. He must be ready for any sort of capricious decisions that will, if he is not financially secure, suddenly and without warning remove all of the support that a postulent should expect from his bishop and diocese. He is on his own, and the needs of his wife and children must come first.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

I do not know whether it would be useful or not, but U London (yes, _that_ London) offers an external B.Div that seems to include most of the subjects you mention. It is a respected university and the course can be undertaken anywhere. I am sure that the degree would need to be supplemented with other studies, but the subjects in the prospectus seem to be solid and of broad applicability.

Here:

http://www.londonexternal.ac.uk/prospective_students/undergraduate/heythrop/divinity/index.shtml

is a quick link.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Powerful post! I was a student at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, a very good school instruction wise but, there was no way of dealing with older students who could not make the classes there on site. As a matter a fact, like most continuing churches, the students going to that school were all older men who where married. If you did not live by the school, you were pretty much out unless you could move there.
The RES had about 13 full time students and a small building to call home. there instruction was mostly low Church evangelical Anglican but they did seem to be moving towards a little more liturgy/catholic view of things. I was told that the REC Seminary was one of the only Orthodox Anglican Conservative Seminaries left and so, they were hoping to accommodate ECUSA refugees.
As for your "Reading Program" that is a great answer. I am married with Children and a full-time job and find it extremely hard to find quality schooling that wont take a toll on myself and my family. Nashotah House has just developed a distance Master of Sacred Theology/Doctor of Ministry program with 2 week residential for three summers. NOW THAT WOULD WORK!

At least someone is trying to work out a program for the older students.

Timotheus

Drew Miller said...

Fr. Hart, I'd like to let you and your readers know that St. Joseph of Arimathea Seminary is also available to postulants of the ACC and the UECNA, as I mentioned earlier this month on my 'blog (http://anglicangeek.blogspot.com/2007/08/apcks-st-joseph-seminary-opened-to-acc.html). I asked for and received Archbishop Provence's permission to release this information on my 'blog because I thought it was great news (though I fear that some will probably cry foul and find something to complain about).

I know that the seminary's web site doesn't reflect this, but I believe this is due to the site not being updated.

Fr Richard Sutter said...

Father, there are two incorrect statements in your article, where you state that the only seminary in the continuum is SJA in Berkeley. In the ACA there is the recently formed Holy Cross Divinity School. (Although political mischief prevented it from being listed as more than just one alternative among three.) The second mistake is in calling SJA a seminary: it is not an accredited seminary nor does it offer a real seminary degree. HCDS is also not itself accredited, but it does provide the Anglican formation portion of a real seminary degree from a real seminary, and in the case of the primary partner, Beacon University, provides adjunct faculty for the Anglican Studies courses there.

Fr Richard Sutter said...

It's a commonplace in the continuum to suggest that our postulants can't be asked to uproot their families and go to a real seminary, but as is the case with many commonplaces, it is dead wrong.

When I went to seminary, I went with a wife and four children, one of whom was an infant. We moved 200+ miles from our nice house in the woods to a tiny apartment in an urban area.

The argument "I have a family and can't just move to a seminary," is prima facie evidence of a lack of vocation, pure and simple.

Sandra McColl said...

Now, how do we go about the practical business of making this education available to men where they live?

Now, let me see:

1) Course materials written by one suitably qualified person or (horror!) a committee, made available online for download, with examination to be administered centrally.
2) As for 1), although some tutoring by local experts in these languages would be a good idea.
3) Anglican musical tradition as for 1); practical training: that's what organists are for (and no doubt some of them are limbering up for the opportunity to cause a bit of grief to aspiring clergy).
4) As for 1).
5) Private mentoring, retreat workshops, etc. It's not a subject I know (or need to know) anything about. If there are good books out there that it's worth testing a man's knowledge of, then something as for 1).
6) As for 1).
7) As for 1), as well as private mentoring and practical experience.
Liturgy: combination of 1) and 5).
Spiritual formation: the parish priest, any other priest appointed by the bishop or chosen by the candidate with the bishop's approval, a lot of help from the Holy Ghost, and assessment by the bishop.

I'm not 100% committed to the idea of central examination, nor to making it a quasi-degree course. Especially for older men, who are not likely to progress up in the hierarchy, and who, in some parts of the world at least, are probably doomed to non-stipendiary ministry, some sort of local oral examination by the bishop or bishop's delegate might be sufficient. We have to balance the need to have well-educated priests (a good thing) against the need to have priests at all. For young men, who are also more recently out of formal education, a more formal and centralised assessment system would be better.

Perhaps it's my suspicious mind, but I am deeply distrustful of theology faculties and think that the initial theological training of Continuum clergy should be done in-house, with course materials prepared by Continuum bishops, clergy or qualified laity or with the close scrutiny and approval of Continuum bishops and suitably qualified clergy. (Not so urgent with the languages, although even then I would be willing to suspect that the wrong people could wind up teaching our candidates that the only correct rendition of Hebrew, for example, is in so-called 'inclusive' English. Everything these days is ideologically at risk.)

Alice C. Linsley said...

I humbly submit that any seminary that does not introduce the latest research on Genesis fails to lay a strong foundation for apologetic conversation with post-moderns. People today want empirical evidence that Cain, Seth and the like actually lived. (Readers may be interested in the latest essay at Just Genesis: "Is the land of Nod the Region of Nok?"

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The news in Drew Miller's announcement could be a very healthy thing for the APCK, which needs to be less ingrown, and needs to be accountable to others. Maybe this will help- we shall see.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Richard Sutter
Welcome,and please continue to comment. I must take issue with two points however.
You wrote:
The second mistake is in calling SJA a seminary: it is not an accredited seminary nor does it offer a real seminary degree.

I will stack it up against accredited institutions, such as the pathetic ones in ECUSA, any day. What it offers is the right kind of education, accredited or not.

You also wrote:
The argument "I have a family and can't just move to a seminary," is prima facie evidence of a lack of vocation, pure and simple.

I do not see how anyone can be so bold and confident as to make such a hard and fast rule. In some situations it may indicate a lack of vocation, that is, if it is no more than an excuse. In some cases, where a vocation is clearly evident, it is simply a fact of economics. Otherwise, you are saying that the Church lacked this means of correctly identifying a vocation for about 1900 years, but stumbled onto an infallible method in modern times.

Fr Richard Sutter said...

Dear Father,
Thank you for the welcome. I'm not saying anything of the kind, and of course there may be a few, very few, instances where the desire not to go to seminary is justified.

I've never seen any, mind you.

What I have seen are so very many instances of men not wanting to give up two cars and a house in the suburbs, wives not wanting to give up jobs (or take on jobs, as the case may be), and both simply not wanting to leave a comfortable parish.

You and I especially, just like every priest I know, can give many examples of how the priesthood is an uprooted life. If a would be postulant doesn't want to uproot his existence and GO to a real seminary (even if it's just a formation centre for a mostly DE program from elsewhere) then how in the world could such a man become a priest who will have to be called to GO to a parish?

This is what I mean by prima facie evidence of a lack of vocation.

"Can't go to sem?" Sorry, then you can't go to a cure. God's people need priests who count themselves after counting his people.

"Reading" for orders has been proven a failure, as have provincial "seminaries" that are not accredited. That does not have anything to do with your comment about ways of preparing ordinands from before the rise of the universities in the 13th century. What it does have to do with is pointing out that the uneven and inadequate preparation proved a failure long before the laity let the continuum get away with it, which is why theological faculties came into existence to begin with.

Continuing Home said...

Fr. Hart, I can confirm Drew Miller's announcement -- I heard the same straight from Archbishop Provence during our Diocesan Camp-out.

poetreader said...

With regard to accreditation of seminaries. I actually oppose having them accredited by any authority outside the communion they serve. This, over time, always leads to a lessening of standards important to the communion in question and a gradual imposition of standards not appropriate to the communion by the accrediting body. I see this as very likely a part of what has led ECUSA so far from its Anglican roots.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Sutter wrote:
"Reading" for orders has been proven a failure, as have provincial "seminaries" that are not accredited.

The historian in me cannot let that pass. I do not know why you make these statements with such confidence, as if you had some sort of documentation at your finger tips. Reading for orders was the norm in the Church of England and Anglicanism in general until the 19th Century, with a few exceptions for the wealthier folks. Even in the 19th century it was not done away with. An example of this allegedly failed system was Francis Hall.

PrayerBookCatholic said...

I believe that one of the best ways forward is to encourage our future clergy to get an M.Div. (or at least an M.A.) from a conservative evangelical seminary (such as Fuller, Trinity Evangelical, Regent in Virginia Beach, etc.) coupled with hands-on training in Anglican liturgy, music, ethos, spirituality, church history, etc. from an experienced priest or bishop in a parish setting.

The ideal would be to ultimately establish an Anglican house of studies at one of these schools. Nashotah House also offers an Anglican studies program that I’m sure would be very good; the only downside is it probably offers nothing in the 1928 BCP.

Actually, an M.Div. (or even an M.A.) from a bona fides, accredited school of any sort would be better than nothing since students are going to learn how to think and function theologically, learn something of Scriptures, homiletics, pastoral care, etc.

Distance education now makes it possible to do a lot of the work without having to relocate, which means that the candidate can continue/begin to do ministry in their own parish and community setting. The advantage of these evangelical schools over the mainline Episcopal, Roman, Presbyterian, or whatever places is their emphasis on and classes in evangelism, church growth, missions, church planting, etc., which are absolutely vital in the Continuing Church context as opposed to the caretaker, already established church model of the mainline seminaries.

The conservative evangelical schools have typically insisted on learning both Greek and Hebrew, unlike the Episcopal schools in which Greek alone was required, and the mastery and in-depth knowledge of the Bible that goes along with this is something we sorely need in our setting. They have also been good at things such as apologetics and some of the basics of psychology and counseling that are essential to parish ministry today. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is also extremely beneficial if not mandatory.

We also need to recognize that we don’t have the kind of parish and denominational infrastructures in place to support the kinds of full-time ordained ministries that those typically coming out of the mainline Episcopal/Anglican seminaries will come to expect. This can and has set up expectations that later cause great disappointment once the man is functioning in parish ministry.

This plays into whether we can ask candidates, and especially older men, to uproot themselves and their families to attend seminary. It's one thing if you have a denominational infrastructure and parochial opportunities in place for them after they get out; quite another if you don't. Since we really don't, I think the entrepreneurial model of the evangelical schools is actually a better fit for us.

Finally, the ideal foundational education at the undergraduate level is a B.A. in English, history, philosophy, languages, etc.—that is to say, a classical liberal arts education. Without this, the seminary education can only take a person so far.

poetreader said...

Prayerbookcatholic offers a program that is interesting in many ways, but with some caveats. He writes:

Actually, an M.Div. (or even an M.A.) from a bona fides, accredited school of any sort would be better than nothing since students are going to learn how to think and function theologically, learn something of Scriptures, homiletics, pastoral care, etc.

An MDIV from an 'accredited school' of any sort can sometimes prove to be a serious detriment. Why? Becauuse they do indeed tesach the student how to think theologically, but often in ways not entirely acceptable. I knew a good, reliable Anglo-Catholic who went off to an Episcopal seminary, had three years of learning how to poke holes in Scripture and Tradition, and what not to believe. He returned with a modernistic and secular world-view, trimmed with all the haberdashery, but out of accord with the historic Faith. Sad, and common.

At the same time there are those who attend cpnservative Evangelical schools who learn there to treat the Bible in a literalistic fashion and to subject all of Tradition to criticism by these literalistic terms. This produces enthusiastic Protestants.

There is a mindset not taught by these schools, but which lies at the foundation of Catholicism, the way in which the Fathers thought theologically, the very mindset that identified the Canon of Scripture and developed Creeds and liturgical expressions. Accredited schools are not likely to be guiding the students in this direction, as the standards of accreditation, in themselves tend in another direction.

If our postulants are to be educated in an established institution not under our control, then, it becomes essential for the church to provide solid mentoring specifically geared to display the weaknesses and errors of the programs they are undergoing, and to build the kind of theological thinking on which Anglicanism has historically been nurtured.

ed

PrayerBookCatholic said...

Ed,

We don't really disagree, we're just looking at different facets of the same problem. Okay, maybe "accredited school of any sort" goes too far. For 30 years the Continuing Church has been focused on making sure that we don't send our postulants to schools that teach heresy as well as on setting up various institutions of our own that keep the Faith. The results have been mixed, to say the least. I'm more concerned about the many clergy I've known who don't have the basics to really do the job in our rather unique set of circumstances.

Since most of our postulants tend to be middle-aged or older, I would hope that they would have enough foundation in the Faith to be able to reject heresy and nonsense when they come across it. I also should stress that I was thinking of a) a few select accredited conservative evangelical seminaries, who are not fundamentalists but on the cutting edge of faithful Biblical interpretation, scholarship, and research, combined with b) an Anglican house of studies and/or oversight by solid, well-educated bishops or other clergy who could both help fill in the gaps not addressed by these schools and also provide a counter to any nonsense they might pick up.

The problem with establishing our own schools is, we simply don't have the numbers and resources to pull it off. It's been tried.

Of course, each postulant is a special case and what works for one (i.e., some combination of reading for orders with training in Biblical languages, interpretation, preaching, pastoral care, leadership, etc., etc.) may not work for another. In the rare case of a young man just out of college, we have to be more careful since his foundation in the Faith may not be solid enough to withstand the nonsense at the mainstream places. In that case, a Nashotah House, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, St. Joseph of Arimathea, or St. Vladimir's might be more appropriate, with the understanding that there's still going to have to be supplemental studies to fill in the gaps.

Plus, a priest, and especially an Anglican priest, should be a lifelong learner, and seminary is only the beginning of what should be a lifelong process of study in the Holy Scriptures, the Fathers, the saints and ascetics, etc., etc.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The problem with establishing our own schools is, we simply don't have the numbers and resources to pull it off. It's been tried.

Another reason to come together in unity, and combine our resources.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Imagine a seminary sustained by the combined resources of all orthodox Anglicans in the USA! One that would offer all the fundamentals for effective ordained ministry and life-long learning. I'd certainly support it (even as a member of the Orthodox Church).

John A. Hollister said...

1. Sandra McColl said, "I am deeply distrustful of theology faculties and think that the initial theological training of Continuum clergy should be done in-house, with course materials prepared by Continuum bishops, clergy or qualified laity or with the close scrutiny and approval of Continuum bishops and suitably qualified clergy."

Right on, Ms. McColl! The problem with places like Nashota House and Trinity Evangelical School for Ministry is that they are IN the Episcopal Church, they cater to the women's "ordination" philosophy, and thus they cannot be trusted to provide postulants from the Continuing Churches with an orthodox outlook or understanding of theology.

2. Fr. Sutter said that "[St. Joseph of Arimathea] is not an accredited seminary nor does it offer a real seminary degree."

a. Anyone who worships at the shrine of accreditation has never been a faculty member at an institution going through the accreditation or reaccreditation process or he/she would know that accreditation has absolutely nothing to do with academic quality or effectiveness of teaching. After all, there are no known ways of actually measuring such things, certainly not any known to the accrediting bodies, who only count books and chairs in the library, review the paper credentials held by the faculty, make sure that the institution under scrutiny is financially sound, and assure that the institution being studied does not do anything to threaten the financial interests of the other schools that belong to the same accrediting body, such as by offering too many "distance education" courses or "non resident" degrees.

Rather, acreditation is a bureaucratic straight jacket designed to assure that no accredited institution will depart very far from the methods and procedures that are the current fads among the academic establishment. Just remember what happened when William Bennett was Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. The Association of Theological School in the US and Canada tried to yank the accreditation of a conservative Presbyterian seminary because "its institutional governance did not display sufficient diversity".

What that meant was that the Board of Trustees was made up only of men. Of course, the seminary's charter required all Trustees to be ordained ministers and that branch of the Presbyterians only ordained men. Nevertheless, its governance wasn't sufficiently politically correct and its accreditation was in danger until the Secretary told the ATS that if it fooled around with any issues other than academic quality, HEW would yank its "accreditation" as an accrediting body.

The actual fact is that NO institution in this country has every lost the basic "regional accreditation" for ANY reason other than financial difficulties. Academic issues are simply immeasurable and thus beyond the bureaucrats' reach, although they do a lot of pointless talking about them.

b. As to the degree itself, it was traditional in the Church of England for the theological colleges not to be degree-granting institutions at all. If an man wanted a degree, he could enroll in a university course and read for, and be examined for, his degree, as in the excellent University of London program cited by one of the Anonymice.

The only reason a clergyman of the Continuing Churches needs a degree, at least an accredited degree, is (i) if he is going to pay for his schooling with the GI Bill; or (ii) he is planning on a career as a chaplain, either in the military or under some other governmental aegis such as the VA or the various departments of corrections. These are all worthy objectives, but they should not necessarily drive an entire jurisdiction's educational program.

So I'm 100% with Mr. Pacht on this one.

3. And Fr. Hart is absolutely correct that one of the first and best reasons for the various Continuing Church bodies to cooperate among themselves is to combine their resources -- and student bodies -- to support one joint and solid institution. However, in the long run such an effort can only be successful if it is operated and run by a joint Board of Trustees drawn from all of the church groups to be served. Otherwise, experience suggests, and rightly or wrongly, there will be too much reluctance for one group to send its men to be instructed by a faculty and administration drawn solely from a competing group.

John A. Hollister+

LP said...

I wonder if it would be profitable to make a distinction between:

(1) Vocational testing
(2) Academic knowledge
(3) Clerical mentoring
(4) Spiritual formation


Some of these -- e.g. academic knowledge -- do not required "seminary residence". A comparable and suitable academic degree or coursework -- even a distance-learning program (if properly structured and supervised) can do all this.

Some of these four require oversight, but not necessarily at one central place. A competent local priest, for example, might take on a part-time lay "assistant" whom he could "show the ropes" of parochial and liturgical management while testing that man's vocation. Of course, given the nature of the Continuum at the moment, not every community has such a local priest -- but, then again, I imagine the majority of men who would be considering a CC vocation would have discovered anglocatholicism at a local parish, rather than be coming out of the blue.


In short it really is only (4), spiritual formation, for which a central "clearing house" is needed, allowing bishops/priests to vet the postulants.



I wonder, then, if a distance model might be combined with a "local" model in this way (taken as the "archetype" which is adapted as necessary to individual circumstances):

(1) Someone interested in ordination is interviewed by the local clergy.

(2) They go to a 1 week "retreat" where the diocesean officials get to meet them and they get to learn more about the church and the priesthood.

(3) If still interested, they spend a year "shadowing" a local priest in their free time, seeing first-hand what being in a parish is like.

(4) Perhaps at the stame time, they start a program of academic study, either through CC-run distance learning program or through an approved program at some local university/college/seminary.

(5) After an examination, they are ordained to the diaconate and serve at their local parish, gaining more experience, and continuing to study (both, perhaps, part-time, as they're likely not getting paid for this).

(6) At some point, they go off to a CC seminary for 2 semesters for the "spritual formation" and more training/study. As a fair bit of learning has already happened, more of the focus during this year could be on spiritual, liturgical, and pastoral formation -- giving the deacon the experience and tools he'll need to competently be in charge of a parish as a priest. After a final clerical examination (both personal & academic) this deacon is ordained to the priesthood.



---
We also need to recognize that we don’t have the kind of parish and denominational infrastructures in place to support the kinds of full-time ordained ministries that those typically coming out of the mainline Episcopal/Anglican seminaries will come to expect. This can and has set up expectations that later cause great disappointment once the man is functioning in parish ministry.
---

Absolutely. While a bishop has authority over his priests, it seems to me that only very _very_ rarely should a man and his family be relocated unless he can be offered both a reasonable income and contractual job security (something it sounds like was lacking in cases alleged on this blog). If for no other reason than you're just begging for loss of clergy, otherwise, as genuine vocations are smothered by abuse or poverty.

If most parishes can pay their clergy little or nothing -- and while clergy shouldn't be money-grubbers, neither should they and their families be living on the streets -- then those parishes are relying on them to have income from a secular job (or a wife's secular job) and to be, essentially, giving their time _pro bono_.

In these circumstances, taking a man and his family away from the circumstances which enable him to have that time to give in the first place makes no sense.

Sure, arguably that's not ideal... but until there are CC parishes in every city and community, and they all can pay their clergy and staff a reasonable salary, that's the situation we face.


pax,
LP

poetreader said...

Thank you, Canon Hollister!

As usual, when we are speaking on the same side of an issue, you've stated what I wanted to say more clearly and precisely than I could.

ed

PrayerBookCatholic said...

We need to add to Father’s and Sandra’s list at least the following:

1. Evangelism, missions, church planting, and parish revitalization
2. Leadership training
3. Organizational development
4. Basic pastoral counseling and conflict resolution
5. Outreach to the local community
6. Homiletics and hermeneutics
7. Small group dynamics

poetreader said...

Prayerbookcatholic,

Thopugh you make some good points, some caution has to be used in implementing all of the 7 items you've listed.

All of them tend to be taught as 'how-to' programs, and all of them tend to be very trendy in what they advocate.

I've seen what sounded like perfectly good programs in all these areas turn out to be the vehicles of endless harm. If the candidate is to be taught how to do any of these things, he'd be better off left to find out by himself. If, however, he can be shown what kinds of needs may exist and be given some minimal tools to help him learn by experience, then all 7 of those are indeed important. Basically, what I'm saying is that I hate the concept of a seminary as a trade school. That doesn't work.

ed

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have rejected a comment for its ad hominem attack on another commenter. That person may resubmit something that does not violate the rule.

PrayerBookCatholic said...

The problem with places like Nashota House and Trinity Evangelical School for Ministry is that they are IN the Episcopal Church, they cater to the women's "ordination" philosophy, and thus they cannot be trusted to provide postulants from the Continuing Churches with an orthodox outlook or understanding of theology.

It would be interesting to see some of the faculty at Nashotah House respond to that; I’m sure they wouldn't agree. Nor are the faculty at TESM of one mind on WO. For example, their NT professor, the Rev. Dr. Rodney Whitacre, is opposed to WO, has written a very good defense of the traditional practice of the Church from a Biblical perspective, and is a priest in the REC. But if even Nashotah cannot be trusted, then probably no Anglican seminary anywhere in the world is going to be acceptable. FWIW, many bishops in the Continuing Churches (APA, ACA) have and are sending their postulants to Nashotah.

Anyone who worships at the shrine of accreditation has never been a faculty member at an institution going through the accreditation or reaccreditation process or he/she would know that accreditation has absolutely nothing to do with academic quality or effectiveness of teaching.

Of course, as you say, accreditation doesn't really prove academic quality or effectiveness of teaching, but that’s not the point. The exact same argument could also be used for any undergraduate or graduate college, university, or professional school as well; and I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my child going to an unaccredited institution, or my physician or surgeon with a medical degree from an unaccredited medical school, or my lawyer with a law degree from an unaccredited law school. Why? Because most of the outside world as well as most educated and reasonable people view accreditation as one important factor in determining the value of the education being offered by a particular institution as well as the competence of the person who graduates from that institution. It provides some basic degree of accountability and assurance. Is it the whole picture? Of course not. But the place that isn't accredited better have some truly outstanding other credentials or it won't be taken seriously by most educated people. And in this day and age, how's a person to know that an unaccredited seminary isn't just another degree mill?

The only reason a clergyman of the Continuing Churches needs a degree, at least an accredited degree, is (i) if he is going to pay for his schooling with the GI Bill; or (ii) he is planning on a career as a chaplain, either in the military or under some other governmental aegis such as the VA or the various departments of corrections. These are all worthy objectives, but they should not necessarily drive an entire jurisdiction's educational program.

There are good and substantial reasons why the U.S. military and government require a chaplain to have an accredited degree. That's a topic for another time. But let me offer a few other reasons for a degree (including an accredited degree). First, most people in the U.S. today (and I suspect other Western countries as well) simply expect a clergyman to have a seminary degree. It's often the first thing educated people ask when meeting a clergyman: "Oh, and where did you go to seminary?" If the response is, "I didn't," first impressions of that clergyman are likely not going to be 100% positive. Second, the need for a seminary degree is not dissimilar to the need for an undegraduate degree: it demonstrates a person’s education in (or at least familiarity with) a certain body of knowledge (as well as a certain degree of socialization). Third, having a seminary degree helps assure those outside the Continuing Churches (and particularly those we might be trying to evangelize) that we're not a bunch of kooks. In other words, it can help establish our academic and professional bona fides. And that's not a bad thing in a society that puts a huge premium on degrees, certification, and accountability. Of course, if we want to follow an alternative model—like, say, the Amish—we can, but we need to realize that in doing so we're also going to reap certain consequences as a result in terms of who will be attracted to us and how seriously we're going to be regarded, etc. Finally, having an accredited seminary degree means that the person has spent some time thinking through and defending his theological positions with and among others who have some level of theological competence. This is important not only for developing one's own method of apologetics, but also to be able to answer questions and inquiries that will certainly come up in pastoral and parochial settings.

Please note that I'm not arguing that every clergyman must have a seminary degree; simply that, as a general rule, our clergy ought to have one. There have been and always will be exceptions to this rule, but they need to be exceptions and not the rule.

As to the degree itself, it was traditional in the Church of England for the theological colleges not to be degree-granting institutions at all. If an man wanted a degree, he could enroll in a university course and read for, and be examined for, his degree, as in the excellent University of London program cited by one of the Anonymice.

I’m not sure what period of time you’re talking about here (before WWII?). If a man actually graduated from a C of E theological college, that fact in and of itself would have been good enough to assure his basic knowledge and competence, and everyone knew it. Plus, he had the entire institution and respectability of the C of E to back him up—which is completely unlike our situation, where very few people have ever even heard of us. As to that University of London program, I looked at it and it's only 10 courses (30 hours). That might be fine for a Sunday School teacher or a catechist, but not for a priest, where the standard M.Div./B.D. is 90 hours.

Michael said...

This week I begin my MA in Theological Studies at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba; I'm hoping to write a thesis in early Church history, as well as to take some general theological and pastoral ministry courses. (I would happily recommend studying in Canada to any financially challenged seminarians from the States! It's a heck of a lot less expensive.)

The school, like many theological faculties these days, is part of a network or co-op of sorts, involving various theological schools throughout Winnipeg (affiliated with the University of Winnipeg), and also has connections with Evangelical schools in Manitoba and the United States. The most recent school to become connected to the U of Winnipeg's program is an Eastern Orthodox theological institute affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America. Through this sort of model, it is possible to receive a well recognized masters degree that includes a wide variety of options. A number of these schools offer distance education (including both evangelical colleges and seminaries, as well as the aforementioned Orthodox seminary).
There are two REC Seminary programs available through distance education as well, one leading to an MDiv (although I'm unsure of its accreditation).

I don't think the biggest problem is finding suitable theological education, but rather appropriate hands on training in Anglican sacramental ministry and spirituality, as well as personal formation.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

PrayerBookCatholic gave reasons why it may be useful for a seminary such as SJA too seek accreditation. These do not, however, answer the substance of Fr. Hollister's factual statements about the real process and measure of the accrediting institutions; nor does it answer the question of whether or not a good education for orthodox priests is provided just because of the world's system of recognition. One thing that would help is for any seminary of any sort to require the student to have a B.A. At least then a student understands what he is getting into much better, and we know that he is educated.

Frankly, all this is, if you will excuse the pun, academic. Before we get to the subject of accreditation we must have our own standards, our own curriculum, and a willingness to work across jurisdictional lines.

Drew Miller said...

The University of London External Programme BD, whatever else its problems are, is not a 30-hour program. Yes, it's 10 units; however, these units do not correspond to a standard, 3-hour course. The program requires a minimum of three years of study, and ths assumes the student studies full time.

I've been researching the program for the last few days and while it falls far short of a seminary education (no distance program can compete with the daily life and worship and collegiate atmosphere of a good seminary), it's a reasonable academic program. At least, that's my opinion.

I know that I personally hope to attend St. Joseph even if I am accepted to the University of London program.

poetreader said...

If I were evakluating even secular institutions, I, for one, would not even ask about accreditation until I had sought out its principles of education, its commitment to sound standards, and its freedom from so-called 'political correctness. I have the suspicion that a lot of accreditation rests on the enforcement of actions and emphases that I would deem to be a negative influence upon students. In following the news I seem to see this as an 98inctreasingly strong tendency. A school that is intolerant of a pro-life stand or of an insistence on traditional sexual morality or the like is not made a worthy institution by possessing credentials. A school that refuses such credentials as a witness to the unacceptability of those viewpoints merits more respect, at least on many levels.

There is no spiritual value to having our clergy respected becuse of the credentials they possess, the letters behind their name, or the accreditation of the institutions granting those credentials. ECUSA has a well-deserved reputation for meeting those criteria, and look what spiritual good that has accompliushed. We need holy men who know their Lord and pour themselves into following Him. Part of holiness is a hunger and thirst for the knowledge of truth, but the knowledge follows from the character. If we have holy priests and their holiness is reflected in the growth of holiness in their people -- then we have what we need, and it will be seen. Will it always get us respect and acceptance? It didn't do that for the martyrs of the early Church, nor does it do that for the martyrs of this century. But it will lead us, and those open to seeing, to the Lord Himself. If we do not have holy priests, then proper and acceptable credentials only serve to mask that very real need.

Before we wrangle over what kind of institutions or programs we should have in place, we need to identify what kind of priest we want to produce. I don't think we have a clear idea of that.

ed

John A. Hollister said...

1. Prayer Book Catholic said "It would be interesting to see some of the faculty at Nashotah House respond to [my assertion that it caters to the women's 'ordination' philosophy]; I’m sure they wouldn't agree."

Whether they agree or not is irrelevant in the face of the fact that they have women postulants for "orders" on campus.

2. P.B.C. then said, "FWIW, many bishops in the Continuing Churches (APA, ACA) have and are sending their postulants to Nashotah."

For what it's worth, many bishops in the Continuing Churches have made many decisions over the past 30 years that have proven to be drastically mistaken. We are fortunate that the Holy Spirit has so often seen fit to save us from the results of our own, and our leaders', folly, but as Our Lord told us, we are not to tempt God needlessly which we would be doing by repeating those errors mindlessly.

3. When I wrote, "it was traditional in the Church of England for the theological colleges not to be degree-granting institutions at all", P.B.C. responded, "I’m not sure what period of time you’re talking about here (before WWII?)."

No, I'm talking about today, to the extent that the C of E has any of its former theological colleges left (for forty years, they've been closing one after another nearly at the speed of light).

4. P.B.C. also said, "a seminary degree ... demonstrates a person’s education in (or at least familiarity with) a certain body of knowledge...."

Does it? I well recall a long car trip some years ago when I was travelling on non-church business with a man whom I knew only as a licensed professional in one of the mental health disciplines. With nothing better to do as we drove, I asked him about his background and learned he was an ordained minister in a respectable Protestant denomination and that his professional licensure was based upon a Ed.D. degree he has received from a famous divinity school attached to a very highly-regarded private university.

When I asked him about his M.Div. experience, I was startled when he said he had only three courses in Scripture and two of those were electives; most of his classmates had only the one required course, he said. When I wondered how candidates for the Christian ministry could be trained with so little reference to Christianity's most basic resource, he said, "Oh, N.'s philosophy was that it gave you the tools and then it was up to you to use them if you wanted to."

Huh. And just where in that is the assurance that the student has grappled with a basic body of essential material?

John A. Hollister+

John A. Hollister said...

Mr. Pacht observed that "There is no spiritual value to having our clergy respected becuse of the credentials they possess, the letters behind their name, or the accreditation of the institutions granting those credentials. ECUSA has a well-deserved reputation for meeting those criteria, and look what spiritual good that has accomplished."

I would go even farther and say that it has accomplished a great deal of spiritual damage because the possession of prestigious academic credentials from Ivy League institutions has given a specious credibility to the inane utterances of so many of ECUSA's spokesfolks.

Thus these credentials have actually contributed to the endangering of the well-meaning but ill-informed souls who have given credence to the ecclesiobabble about "the baptismal covenant", "full inclusion" and the like.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

I must admit, I am not opposed to accreditation per say, but....it does bother me that the root word in that is CREDO (I Believe). I think that is what we are saying with regard to the "states" standards.
Mentoring, Reading, and examinations by the Examining Chaplains seems a most profitable way of going about this.
1. Mentoring takes care of the "Practice" aspect.
2. Reading under Episcopal guidance should take care of the 'Knowledge" part of it (if done properly).
3. Examination by the Chaplains should confirm that the "knowledge" and the "practice" have taken root and are active in the student/clergyman.

So.......when do we get started?

Timotheus

PrayerBookCatholic said...

I believe LP is making some very useful and important distinctions between

(1) Vocational testing
(2) Academic knowledge
(3) Clerical mentoring
(4) Spiritual formation

Most of my comments are really directed to 2 (academic knowledge), and to a lesser extent, 1 (vocational testing). I believe that our Churches can and should do 1, 3, and 4 on their own. It would be great if we could get all four functions in one place or institution, but it’s simply not possible in our context today. This is why the idea of a house of Anglican studies situated near a good conservative evangelical seminary would be ideal; failing that, let the individual dioceses handle 1, 3, and 4 on their own. And, as LP points out, much of 2 can be done through distance education, of which there are many, many opportunities today.

If most parishes can pay their clergy little or nothing -- and while clergy shouldn't be money-grubbers, neither should they and their families be living on the streets -- then those parishes are relying on them to have income from a secular job (or a wife's secular job) and to be, essentially, giving their time _pro bono_. In these circumstances, taking a man and his family away from the circumstances which enable him to have that time to give in the first place makes no sense.

Absolutely right. And it has been the death of many a priestly vocation in the CC when the true reality of the situation comes crashing up against what seminarians had been taught (or not taught) in the provincial seminary or headquarters.

Basically, I believe we need to approach this whole issue of clergy education in a new way. I would argue, as have many others, that our postmodern world is not at all like the 1950s or the 19th century; rather, it’s much more similar to what the earliest Church faced in the 1st century A.D. We find ourselves in a largely pagan (or anti-Christian) world with pagan institutions, mores, and beliefs. The Christendom of the Middle Ages, Reformation, and later centuries is long gone. To survive as a distinct body of Christians, we’re going to need to become much more radically missionary and evangelistic in our approach and training, truly soldiers for Christ taking advantage of what we can in the current environment but always realizing that “here we have no abiding city.” Should anyone doubt this, I invite you to go visit the great Church of North Africa, which produced the likes of St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, and many other great saints and Fathers of the Church. (Hint: It doesn’t exist any more, having been overrun and destroyed by Muslim conquerors over a thousand years ago.)

Alice C. Linsley said...

Trinity does have faculty who support ordination of women to the priesthood, but not all do. It seems to me that the evangelicals simply don't know or understand the institution of the priesthood. If they did, they would recognize that priests are of necessity and natural order men. I have on this here:
http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/08/primeval-origins-of-priesthood.html

and here: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2007/08/priesthood-and-genesis.html

Fr. Robert Hart said...

TESM (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry) is radically Protestant. Recently it was headed by Paul Zahl, a poor scholar and very much a modern Evangelical. It is not a trustworthy institution just because it is better than some others.

Sandra McColl said...

Prayerbookcatholic: While most people in the USA appear to require an ordained minister to have an accredited degree, just as they expect medical and legal practitioners to have them, well, perhaps they ought to be taught that being a priest in the Church of God isn't the same thing as being a medical or legal practitioner. You can learn an awful lot of bovine manure at law school--I don't doubt for a moment that even the best schools in the US, like those in Australia, spend a lot of time teaching Lesbian Legal Theory in one guise or another (and it's of no real use in practice). I dread to think whether they teach the medical equivalent as well--probably not, it's a different sort of discipline. It remains, however, that the obsession for 'if you want to be a such-and-such, you've got to have a degre in such-and-suching' is a recent phenomenon in relation to many professions, and a very recent phenomenon in relation to the priesthood--which isn't a profession of that sort. I am positively afraid of what they are likely to be teaching in accredited theology faculties. It was more than 30 years ago that Eric Mascall wrote a whole book devoted to a plea to turn the theology being produced in universities back into the kind of theology that would help the ordinary parson in a parish. At the time he wrote it, Tom Quad was stuffed nearly full of Arians. Alice might be able to say what is expected of the generality of Orthodox seminarians in originally Orthodox countries--my memory is something to do with 'the Bible and the Fathers'--sounds like plenty to me.

After reading this thread and becoming disheartened and then cheered up again, I still want to see the Continuum pool its resources into producing a distance education program that will teach the 'academic' subjects, and leave it to local bishops to decide matters of selection and formation as best suit the candidates. There is no accredited degree that I know of, or could imagine, that could ever measure a man's love of Jesus or of souls.

Oh, and isn't Elaine Pagels teaching at an Ivy League institution? I think I'd better rest my case.

John A. Hollister said...

Commenting on the value of an "accredited degree" for priests, Sandra McColl wrote,

"I don't doubt for a moment that even the best schools in the US, like those in Australia, spend a lot of time teaching Lesbian Legal Theory in one guise or another (and it's of no real use in practice)."

Good on you, Ms. McColl!

When I was in law school 30 years ago (a "late vocation"), it wasn't Lesbian Legal Theory but, in the trendiest places, "Socialist Law", "History of the Chinese Judges", "the Soviet Legal System", and the like.

The state Chief Justice for whom I clerked told me about a meeting of the national association of chief justices at which the late Chief Justice William O'Neill of Ohio, an outstanding jurist, described for his colleagues his startling conversation with a very bright young clerk, fresh out of one of the two top Ivy League shops. This young man revealed that he had taken so many trendy Marxist electives that he had never actually had a course in substantive American law.

The result was that O'Neill, C.J., proposed a syllabus of required courses to be taken before anyone could sit for the Ohio bar exam.

While an extremely bright kid, with the aid of an outstanding "crammer" or bar review course, could probably pass the bar exam. under those conditions, I shudder to think what damage he'd do over 40+ years in practice.

As Ms. McColl pointed out, if that sort of thought is scary when it's a lawyer under discussion, who at most can cost you your life in a capital criminal case, how much scarier is it when we're talking about a priest? The inept lawyer's client "only" faces the untimely termination of life in this phase. How many souls are currently being sent to everlasting perdition because well-degreed priests in the Lambeth Communion -- often out of sheer ignorance -- are telling their flocks abject falsehoods about what Christianity is and what God demands of them?

John A. Hollister+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Oh, and isn't Elaine Pagels teaching at an Ivy League institution?

A perfect example. The academic world treats her as a fraud, and the butt of many a joke. She is held in the utmost contempt- behind closed doors. Because she sells well, the public is led to believe she is a serious scholar. Not only does this show the danger of trusting the "ivy league" accreditation system; it shows their hypocrisy too.

Our churches deserve better in the formation of priestly vocations. As I said, we do not want to equal the best of the contemporary seminaries; we must surpass them. That includes the currently pathetic state of Harvard Divinity School, and what we reject as their low standards, not only spiritually, but also academically.

PrayerBookCatholic said...

This whole discussion about accreditation is getting out of hand. I think we can all agree that theological liberalism, heresy, and downright insanity run rampant throughout much of the higher education, university, and seminary systems and institutions in the Western world today. What I’m concerned about, and what I thought the topic of this discussion was, is the actual situation faced by the Continuing Churches today in terms of educating their postulants for Holy Orders. And here the problem is not, as it is in ECUSA/TEC and the Anglican Communion, theological liberalism or Ivy League inanities, but a lack of adequate Biblical and theological education, preparation, and training altogether.

There is also a serious problem in terms of men getting ordained who don’t know the Anglican tradition and heritage as well as the specifically and uniquely Anglican approach to matters theological and eccelesiastical. Couple that with the fact that the laity in our Continuing Churches (as well as those who are typically attracted to us) tend to be highly educated and professional, and you’ve got a real “disconnect” problem.

This problem is in my view part of the reason that the Continuing Churches have not grown much in the last 30 years while, at the same time, the population of the US has increased by some 75 million (more than 35%).

Can we not open our vistas to a few select conservative evangelical seminaries, which offer high quality and theologically sound distance education (as well as residence) programs? Couple this with hands-on teaching and training in the BCP, Anglican liturgy and history, sacramental theology, and pastoralia by a godly, experienced, and diocesan-approved CC priest or bishop in an actual CC parish or house of studies.

Oh, and you might also have to include some Roman Catholic seminaries or schools where these men could get better and more in-depth classes in area where the evangelicals tend to be weak: church history, patristics, mystical and ascetical theology, spiritual direction, etc.

Incidentally, the canons of some of the Continuing Churches, such as the ACC and the ACA, already delineate the subject matter that needs to be learned prior to ordination. While I might like to see some supplementation there in terms of evangelism and church growth, counseling, and few other things, there surely is no need to reinvent the wheel. The structure is already in place; it just needs to be enforced and put into practice.

What I’m providing are simply some ideas on ways and means of educating our clergy right now. There could be many others, which I’m sure many of the bright people who read and post on this blog could provide as well.

agrarian said...

Fr. Hart wrote:

Reading for orders was the norm in the Church of England and Anglicanism in general until the 19th Century, with a few exceptions for the wealthier folks. Even in the 19th century it was not done away with. An example of this allegedly failed system was Francis Hall.

Outstanding! I was not aware of this. In this age when the evil one has known such tremendous success in creating rackets and erecting financial barriers, we need to restore reading for orders as the norm. The very thought that something so base as money should stand between a man and his vocation should turn any Christian's stomach. We are in this world, but not of it. Money counts for nothing in the Kingdom.


prayerbookcatholic wrote:

The advantage of these evangelical schools over the mainline Episcopal, Roman, Presbyterian, or whatever places is their emphasis on and classes in evangelism, church growth, missions, church planting, etc., which are absolutely vital in the Continuing Church context as opposed to the caretaker, already established church model of the mainline seminaries.

Every time I read something like this, it causes me to wonder how men like Sts. Alban, Patrick, and Columba could know such success without benefit of training in the latest evangelistic fads. Like them, we need not rely upon gimmicks. Any relative failure in the evangelism department is a function of our relative failure to serve as effectual vessels for the Holy Spirit. Those great saints of yore knew such success because they were set apart, not of this world, and, thus, they drew people feeling the weight of this world inexorably toward them and into that grace.

On an earlier thread which was locked, I was prepared to say that apologetics in the absence of spiritual formation is dead. If we desire effective evangelism, then we first need to pursue effective spiritual formation. We need to restore contemplative prayer practices largely abandoned in the Christian West, and this must be done corporately. By pursuing the "acquisition of the Holy Spirit," we will make that clean place within us for the Holy Spirit to reside such that it might work wonders on those who come into contact with us. By transcending this world, we lift up those around us.


prayerbookcatholic later wrote:

We need to add to Father’s and Sandra’s list at least the following:

1. Evangelism, missions, church planting, and parish revitalization
2. Leadership training
3. Organizational development
4. Basic pastoral counseling and conflict resolution
5. Outreach to the local community
6. Homiletics and hermeneutics
7. Small group dynamics


Trust in the Holy Spirit, my man (or woman)! This is not about "training," but Love!

poetreader said...

Agrarian,
What a wonderful statement you made! ...

... apologetics in the absence of spiritual formation is dead. If we desire effective evangelism, then we first need to pursue effective spiritual formation. We need to restore contemplative prayer practices largely abandoned in the Christian West, and this must be done corporately. By pursuing the "acquisition of the Holy Spirit," we will make that clean place within us for the Holy Spirit to reside such that it might work wonders on those who come into contact with us. By transcending this world, we lift up those around us.

Yes, we do need a properly educated clergy. Yes, it is a valuable thing for them to have the tools to do their job. But, if the development of holiness is not the be-all and end-all of priestly formation, none of the rest of it matters at all. The sacraments may be indubitably valid, the preaching may be doctrinally accurate, but, if the priest is not walking closely with God, any good results of his ministry are pretty much in spite of his efforts. God is sovereign and indeed does assure that His Word does not return void, but it is all too common that His ministers are more barriers than aids. Lord, give us holy priests and teach us where they may be found.

ed

John A. Hollister said...

prayerbookcatholic suggested the Continuing Churches' training programs needed to include, among other things, "Evangelism, missions, church planting, and parish revitalization". To this, agrarian responded, in effect, that in these endeavors, the Holy Spirit is more important than academically-inclucated principles and techniques.

It is unquestionably true that the Holy Spirit must animate any successful evangelistic or revitalization effort. It is equally true that the "resource person" guiding any such effort would be better off if he were equipped with some basic information and tools.

What concerns me is the suggestion, made earlier in this thread, that this information and these tools should be acquired at "evangelical" seminaries. Some of those may be very good at this, but before we can determine that, we need to take a very close look at the content of their offerings in these areas.

All too often, what is being taught is the currently-fadish "seeker-friendly" theory of church growth. This amounts to turning the church into an entertainment venue rather than a worship center; for where that leads, see the excellent comment from the "Mist on the Mountain" blog that Mr. Pacht posted.

We are still in the business not of bending God into the forms that men wish but in trying to conform men to God's will.

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

Thank you, Canon Hollister.

I am not really interested in the best techniques for promoting an inadequate, or, indeed, a false 'spirituality'. Might it not be that the methods being taught sometimes lend themselves to no other outcome than that?

ed

PrayerBookCatholic said...

I think some on this blog have misunderstood my promotion of a few select conservative evangelical seminaries as one way of giving our postulants a decent background in the Biblical languages, interpretation, hermeneutics, preaching, counseling, and so on. I have not done this to undermine our tradition; quite to the contrary.

What I’m actually most concerned about is the Continuing Church “going out of business.” There has been stagnation at best in terms of CC communicant strength in the US for the past 28 years, and if you take into account the 35% increase in population, real decline. (I don’t know what the situation is in other Western countries, but suspect it may not be all that different.) I personally know of states and cities in the US where the CC used to be strong (or at least have a presence) and now has disappeared or shrunk greatly.

We are not alone in this matter. All of the Churches which are historically based and follow traditional Christian faith, practice, liturgy, etc. have lost ground over the past two or three decades. The Orthodox Churches, for example, are facing similar problems to ours in the CC. It's because fewer and fewer people are going to church in our radically postmodern age. For us to simply “march in place,” let alone grow, will require highly aggressive missionary approaches. We are in fact a missionary Church in a highly missionary setting.

By the way, this perspective is something that Fr. Peter Gilquist and his former comrades in the Campus Crusade for Christ and the Evangelical Orthodox Church have brought to the Antiochian Orthodox Church of North America. And the Antiochians have responded by putting him in charge of their evangelistic efforts. If the highly conservative and Tradition-loving Eastern Orthodox find value in and even implement some of the evangelical approaches and ideas, why can't we?

The benefit of some of the conservative evangelical approaches for us today is that they have been following a missionary model for a long time. Many of the things they have discovered and perfected would be useful to us (and I don’t mean seeker-friendly worship, which many of them abhor). Of course these techniques and insights must be adapted, modified, and tailored to our unique Catholic and Apostolic framework. This may be more difficult than I stated. It does assume a thorough grounding in our Anglican, Catholic, and Apostolic framework.

One huge problem we have is our small size and complete absence of infrastructure. While the Roman Catholics have large parishes in every city and town, we are lucky to have any parishes at all within a 200-mile radius (and those are mostly tiny). I have seen time and again people who were good Continuing Anglicans move to places where there was no Continuing Anglican church—and they were forced to become Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or Evangelical Presbyterians, or Orthodox if they wanted to attend and be part of an actual local church.

If we can start planting churches and growing by having our postulants read for orders or go through St. Joseph of Arimathea or the equivalent, I’m all for it. But I haven’t seen that happen very much over the past three decades. Why would it work now when it hasn't for 30 years? And the longer we wait, the smaller we’re going to become. Meanwhile the “new” Continuing Anglicans (AMiA, CANA, Southern Cone, Bolivia, etc.) will be growing and filling in the gaps. Those looking for “orthodox Anglicanism” will quite naturally turn to them rather than us since they have the "troops on the ground." Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe the CC is an experiment that has failed or that God doesn't want to continue to exist. I don't know. What I do know is that any Church or body of Christians that fails to follow the Lord's Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) doesn't deserve to stay in existence.