Way of Wisdom

Ivory Towers –Harry Nicholson on Liberal Education

I saw a Facebook post by Harry Nicholson which seemed so insightful about education, theology and the

Harry Nicholson

Harry Nicholson

church that I wanted more people to see it.  To me it has much in common with the concerns of the General Theological Seminary faculty, when we published our Declaration on The Way of Wisdom in February of 2014. In any case, we share a common Christian faith and an appreciation of the importance of depth and breadth in education, especially theological education.

With Harry’s permission, I am re-posting.

 

 

Ivory Towers

No doubt ivory towers, whether they are pillars of David or monoliths of Mammon, are constructs of the entitled. Nonetheless the popular idea that business is better suited to rule a university, seminary or parish is worse. A mature common sense, sometimes capriciously called wisdom, leads to the appreciation of best as less than ideal; Socrates tells us that Democracy is the second worst form of government (since it so resembles Tyranny in the majority’s reign over the minority) but is nonetheless the only option. Can scholarship in community produce the best priests? Only in a romantic fit of Anglophiliac longing for the good old days can we possibly believe that a residential seminary is bound to guarantee delivery of fit priests and even that lunacy would require, of course, a deliberate abjuration of English literature which plays, rather delightfully, on tropes of inept vicars and pompous bishops.

Those of us who have been subjected to or who embraced a liberal education, that is, an education whose primary goal is the production of women and men who are more skilled at asking questions than answering them, will understand that one goal of any community of learning that actually embraces question, dialogue, dialectic, and most curiously and absurdly, and necessary in the case of seminaries, prayer, is the trying of students in that fire of thinking. The idea is not to produce scholars. The idea is to produce citizens of the state or clerics of the kingdom.

I speak with the bias of one who actually did suffer a liberal education. My college was distinctly liberal which to outsiders often looked extreme, even fanatical. There were no majors. All students took what basically amounted to one class which took four years to complete and comprised among others inculcation in philosophy, music, math, and Greek. Every student was required to learn music theory in order to be able to have a reasonable discussion of the Bach Matthew Passion. Although my college had no religious affiliation and was adamantly non-Christian, we all read the Bible, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Kierkegaard, Spinoza (just to mention a few of the “religious” authors). It did not make us all into scholars, certainly not me. But I don’t know anyone from my college who doesn’t have a worldview built from a lifetime of careful questioning. Our minds, and our souls, were forged in that liberal education. My experience of the priests from General is that their priesthoods were forged in a similar way by their education at the seminary. This became abundantly clear to me the first time my husband, Wayne, and I were discussing Matthew one night after Evening Prayer, and he offered an explanation for something I asked and I asked, “Yes, Wayne, but what does the text say?” and he responded, “Oh Lord, I’ve married my New Testament professor!” (My question was not pedagogical.)

I have had three parish priests formed at General. They were all completely different. One was a fiery activist. One is a renowned scholar. And my current rector (if you can count your husband as your parish priest, which you really can’t), is almost an eidetic pastor who is only peripherally scholarly. All three have had profound parts in the development of my Christian core. I think all three experienced General in completely different ways. I’ll speak about my husband only briefly, and in doing so, I am somewhat telling a tale out of school.

One of the things that, I think, made him a very good priest indeed was a personal crisis he had when trying to survive coursework, especially in Systematic Theology. Surrounded by younger students whom he stills considers to be far smarter, and feeling woefully incompetent, he sought both spiritual and psychological guidance, and both were necessary to the formation of his priesthood. He also learned a great deal, but to get there, he had to wrestle with an angel. While it may seem that Jacob is most alone when wrestling, Jacob’s struggle is both supported by communal history and about community in the future. And that certainly was the case with my husband. Two things come to mind: (1) the curriculum was challenging, and (2) he couldn’t escape the learning community, that is, the constant presence of the students who challenged him was confounded by the necessity of living with them, of some of them becoming bosom friends. He is a good priest today, a very good one, beloved by his congregation and at the same time actually effective by “business” standards. In the decade he’s pastored the only Episcopal church in our county, it has steadily grown, if at a glacial pace. Meanwhile, application of business standards has wreaked havoc and the probable end of General. You simply cannot serve God and Mammon. Five-year plans are not appropriate in the church or in liberal academia by which, of course, I mean the most conservative, and best, kind of intellectual and spiritual institutional schooling.

We can construct as many ideas for an “ideal” seminary as there are stars in the sky. We can base them on ideas of sound business principles, modern real-world training, huzza huzza missional fervor, or ease of access (among many possibilities), but to my mind two things are absolutely necessary: scholarship and spiritual practice, both of which depend on the good faith of a community in which trust (which is how I translate the Greek “pistis”–usually translated as “faith”) is paramount.

Ultimately, the ivory towers do turn out to be the places where truly liberal aspirations bear fruit. The struggle to embrace diversity is born in them, for instance, precisely because they provide the luxury of thought and debate.

Robert Cromey, from General, taught me how to fight for my rights as a human being. Bruce Chilton, from General, taught me that one could be scholarly and Christian, and he gave me many tools to do it even while agreeing to play Gabriel in my play, “Brave Christmas,” a Gabriel who spends most of the play trying to prevent God from incarnating. My husband, from General, a far better and kinder human being than I even strive to be, teaches me, even from the pulpit, that most of us are lucky enough to experience God’s kindness, something I did not even consider until late in life.

For the last 35 years, in other words, General has supported my life as a Christian, and more importantly, as a human being, in unfathomable ways. The demise of the seminary is, for me, who never attended anything there other than Evening Prayer, a bit like the destruction of the temple, a grief beyond measure.

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October 10, Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS OF THE
GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY FACULTY

For news and documents go to www.safeseminary.org

In the past two weeks, both legitimate questions and erroneous information have surfaced
about our work stoppage. This is an attempt to set the record straight on some of those.
Q: What precipitated your communication with the Board of Trustees about
conditions at GTS?
A: There was no single event that “broke the camel’s back” but rather the accumulated
frustrations of the past 14 months over matters ranging from the curriculum to the
scheduling of chapel services. In a short period, an atmosphere of collegiality and
collaboration had become one of management by fiat where the views of the faculty were
no longer invited and were, in fact, grounds for reprimand. Unprofessional and
inappropriate comments by the Dean and President – made in public and in private – also
contributed to making the situation intolerable.
By September, an accelerating series of exchanges between individual faculty members
and Dean Dunkle demonstrated that our climate had become adversarial, prompting us to
seek legal counsel and to begin the process of collectively organizing.
Q: Many people resist change in the workplace. Could it not be the case that Dean
and President Dunkle was faced with some towering challenges when he came to
GTS and is simply doing his best to meet them?
A: We are sympathetic with the financial challenges the Board and the Dean and
President face. Our issues, though, are not about financial cutbacks or cost-saving
measures but rather an environment in which students feel intimidated and unfairly
scrutinized and faculty members are disrespected and have no voice in matters that are
important to them including patterns of teaching and learning.
Q: Did you make a sincere effort to express your concerns and complaints with the
Dean prior to going to the Board?
A: From the time of his arrival, Dean Dunkle has said he wanted “healthy
communication” from faculty and students. In reality, however, he stifles not only any
kind of dissent but even normal questions about policies and practices. Some areas of
dissatisfaction, such as the completely disruptive moving of daily Chapel to 10 a.m., were
raised in nearly every faculty meeting. Because of the breakdown in our communication
with the dean, the faculty prevailed upon him to engage in a day-long meeting in May
with a professional facilitator who specializes in communication and conflict resolution.
But it had no lasting effect.
Q: Did the eight faculty members resign or not? Why is there a dispute about this?
A: There was never any intention to resign and we never used that word in any
communication. Our goal was to have a businesslike conversation with the Board. We
just wanted to be heard, which most leaders recognize is a fundamental human need. We
have made it clear that we are prepared to return to the classroom as soon as we are
allowed to, but the Board has effectively fired us. We believe the Dean and some
members of the Board of Trustees have used our letter of complaint as an excuse to clean
house, undoubtedly with the intention of bringing in a compliant faculty.
Interestingly, the Board has retained a nationally prominent law firm to conduct an
investigation into the allegations made concerning Dean Dunkle’s behavior. If that
investigation does produce evidence of inappropriate conduct by the Dean – and if 80
percent of the faculty has been fired – where will that leave the board and GTS?
Q: You have said many students feel intimidated and unfairly scrutinized. What
does that mean?
An example would be Dean Dunkle’s chastising students for meeting to discuss a series
of issues they wanted to raise with him. Rather than invite them to speak with him, when
he learned of their meeting, we understand that he chastised them for having a “secret”
meeting and was dismissive of their concerns. GTS is a “close,” where students, faculty
and the dean live, study and worship together, so contact among all members of the
community is constant. More than once, including when having lunch with students, the
dean has said that if people have trouble with authority at GTS, they should go
somewhere else to study or work.
Q: One Board member has said that you were planning this current job action as
long ago as June. Is that correct?
A: No. We did begin having conversations last spring and summer about the best ways to
express our concerns, and we did draft a letter addressed to Dean Dunkle. But we reached
no decisions at that time and did not send the letter. In August we decided to instead
address our concerns directly to the Board, and we used some parts of the letter we had
begun in June.
Q: Board Chair Bishop Sisk’s letter to GTS students on October 7 says that he and
the Executive Committee only recently became aware of the severity of the crisis
and that they are “working non-stop behind the scenes in an effort to move as
swiftly as possible toward reconciliation of the current crisis…” Are you actively
engaged with Bishop Sisk and the trustees in a reconciliation effort?
A: We have accepted Bishop Sisk’s invitation to meet with him and the Executive
Committee on October 16.
As to when the Chair realized the seminary was in crisis, we leave it to others to decide
whether he missed or ignored obvious signals. For certain he was informed in late May
via a letter written by Dr. Good to Trustee Bishop Eugene Sutton and then in a follow-up
phone call with Bishop Sisk that we anticipated a major crisis with the Dean unless the
Board intervened. It is correct, however, that before communicating with the Board, the
faculty made every attempt to resolve the issues directly with the Dean. We, of course,
were not privy to his communications with the Chair or Executive Committee.
For the October 16th meeting, we still have hope. It has become clear to us that we have
tapped into a huge public conversation—an emerging movement, even, for a new and
creative approach to theological education for a new model of being the Church. We
think General Seminary can have a real and remarkable future as a center of theological
education. How amazing it would be if our efforts toward reconciliation could include
conversations for what is possible on the other side of this very difficult conflict.

NY Times photo GTS8

The Way of Wisdom and the Keller Library in the GTS News

I may have blogged this before, but General Theological Seminary published it on their website yesterday, so I guess that means it’s true.

http://news.gts.edu/2014/06/the-way-of-wisdom-faculty-voices-the-rev-andrew-g-kadel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-way-of-wisdom-faculty-voices-the-rev-andrew-g-kadel

Kadel13-161x225The Rev. Andrew G. Kadel
Director of the Christoph Keller, Jr. Library

The Way of Wisdom is, in fact, the calling of all Christian people to grow in understanding and deeper participation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who are called to attend seminary prepare to lead, teach, accompany, and assist others on this Way. Our goal at seminary is not to produce priests who have pre-made solutions to pre-determined problems. The faculty works along with the students to provide for the church wise, resourceful people who know how it feels to struggle to live on The Way of Wisdom and who know how to be companions to others following alongside.

The faculty introduces the students to voices they have never known existed—from the church of the second, third and fourth centuries, from the Middle Ages and the Reformation, and from more recent times. The community critically reflects on scripture—for instance, how it impacts women in the present and in the past, or how we might sort through the controversies of the present day and how the church has done so in many critical times in the past. Even philosophical, theological, and theoretical thinkers who might be more distant or abstract are engaged, so those voices are heard and understood, and their insights incorporated into the way of wisdom that is our life together. But none of this is just an academic or scholarly exercise, no matter how exciting that might be for some.

The Keller Library provides an opportunity to explore and listen to all manner of these voices—a cloud of witnesses far more diverse than any institution could have in person. The Library is a place of engagement with worlds of thought and spirit outside of one’s own head or feelings. We have designed the Library with places for quiet study and for lively conversation, so that those who use it can interact not only with texts, but with living people. The library staff is skilled at listening, understanding and explaining what the resources are and how to use them. We are a community that travels The Way of Wisdom together and the Christoph Keller, Jr. Library is a joyful part of it.

 

Study as a practice of spiritual development

This is the introduction I wrote for a forum at Trinity Church Wall Street. The forum was for parish reflection on its congregational library in preparation for transition into construction of a new building for parish offices and activities.

Trinity Parish Forum on Library

May 18, 2014

 

Introduction: Study as a practice of spiritual development

We use books and other reading materials as tools, ways to get something done, to understand something better, to figure out how to solve a problem.  But reading can also be, of itself, worship—attending to and praising God through listening to some voices besides the ones that are already in your head. This can happen, in fact it frequently happens in the process of reading for one of these utilitarian reasons—things are changed because in God’s presence we come into contact with God’s transforming word.

This certainly happens with scripture, and there is even a well worked out practice of reading scripture in this way called Lectio Divina. But study as worship does not only have to be from reading scripture, anything you read can bring you out of yourself—and listening to something new—and perhaps falling into the abyss of the loving arms of God.

Let us pray.Rare Book Reading Room

Blessed are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scoffers.

 

Their delight is in the law of the Lord,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

 

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

 

The first three verses of the Psalms, the prayer book of the Bible.

The Way of Wisdom

Mary Robison, blogging for the Keller Library, on the Way of Wisdom

Keller Library News & Blog

“So our goal at seminary is not to produce priests who have pre-made solutions to problems and who are solely focused on fixing things. What we are here to do is to provide wise, resourceful people who know how it feels to struggle to live on the Way of Wisdom and who know how to be companions to others following alongside.” –Rev. Andrew G. Kadel

And just how exactly do we do this at the General Theological Seminary? Our Dean and Faculty went on retreat in January to consider these questions, and then returned to the Northeastern winter to come back and preach at the Feast of Jesus’ Presentation at the Jerusalem Temple (and also Theological Education Sunday, a day* to honor those involved with Christian education).

Faculty members visited parishes all over, from New Mexico to South Carolina to Brooklyn, and the Rev. Andrew Kadel, Director of…

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The Way of Wisdom

The Way of Wisdom

A Challenge to Theology and the Life of the Church

A Declaration by the Faculty of
The General Theological Seminary of The Episcopal Church

The faculty of The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church met on retreat during the week of January 20-25, 2014 for prayer, reflection and discussion. The consensus that emerged was that the most serious problems in theological education, congregations, the structural organization of the church, especially The Episcopal Church, and the relationship of Christianity to the society at large emerge from a common root. This is the separation of theological reflection from the life of prayer and spiritual transformation, from Christian action and outreach.

“God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
–Micah 6:8
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
–John 17:17-18

Way of Wisdom

I. The Problem: The Decline of Theological Education and the Health of the Church

The stewards of the Church have impaired its health. Our neglect and confusion, evident around the world in various denominations, has led to grave problems of decline in the number of faithful disciples among all mainline churches—not least in The Episcopal Church in the United States. As theological educators, we are acutely aware of the role we have played in this decline.

We have shaped and worked to reproduce a system of theological education that is estranged from the living ministry of the whole Church and its wisdom of spiritual transformation and mission to the world. We have been complacent, serving as a mere facsimile of secular education, validating our vocation in the church’s teaching office only with reference to academic specialization. Having lost our intimate connection to the Church’s ministry and mission, our work within the seminaries also has become fragmented. We find that we can no longer articulate how our disparate disciplines and specialties hang together or offer to our students or supporters a cogent vision of theological education as a vital and essential aspect of the Church.

Theological students do not have an holistic experience of theology. They are discouraged and unsatisfied with the increased separation of learning from formation and ministry. They are unsatisfied with their inability to integrate learning with spiritual practice and the work of ministry. All are looking for alternative solutions. Many believe that our congregations today most need priests with the so-called “practical” skills of liturgical, pastoral, and managerial know-how. Others, with the intent of addressing the diocesan needs of the church economically, have attempted to form spontaneous and self-governing bodies that can equip ordinands locally with basic skills for ministry. Yet, these have not overcome the fragmentation that fuels our decline. They have merely swapped the disciplinary fragmentation of our seminaries with the treacherous triviality of business management theory and the inertia of bureaucratic administration, or they have further divided the church from the resources it needs to carry out its ministry with wisdom and understanding.

These are illusions. They are more destructive to the health of the Church’s ministry and mission than the system we now have. Instead of unifying theological education and the church, they set out to redefine the meaning of ordained ministry entirely in terms of its functions, tasks, and public acts. They abandon any reference to the theology of Church’s ministry and mission. As a result, the fragmentation we now witness in the seminaries is perpetuated in our parishes and dioceses. As Edward Farley wrote prophetically thirty years ago, “The more the external tasks of ministry themselves are focused on as the only telos of theological education, the less the minister becomes qualified to carry them out.”

As a challenge to ourselves, our fellow seminaries of The Episcopal Church and those responsible for theological education in the Church at large, we declare:

Because of the confusion and neglect perpetuated by our disconnection from the Church’s ministry and mission and by our internal fragmentation, the only solution to the decline of the Church is a renewed commitment at all levels to affirm the necessity of theological education to Christian discipleship and for formation in a way of life that desires “the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33) for all things.

II. The Solution: The Way of Wisdom

Our present system of theological education, the only one any one of us has known, is a novelty in Christian history. For the majority of its life, “theology” was not an academic specialty. It was the path walked by all Christians in their desire to bring the whole of their life into unity with God’s; it meant the participation in the ever-deepening practice of Christian discipleship that we all share. The idea that education in this way of life could be separated from the ministry and mission of the Church or that the study of scripture, theology, salvation history, ethics, pastoral care could be isolated from spiritual practice was inconceivable. The Fathers and Mothers of the Church, whom we call “theologians,” were at once biblical scholars, pastors, and critical thinkers of great spiritual wisdom who drew deeply from sophisticated philosophical reasoning as they guided the course of the Church in their time. Preaching the Gospel was integral to the transformation of the lives of all Christians. Responsible preaching required study and study was also worship.

We are not calling for a return to the past. We are troubled by the present. Where study has been separated from the goal of discipleship, theological education has been sequestered from the whole Church, reserved for those preparing for ordained ministry. The unintentional result has been unchecked clericalism and widespread biblical, liturgical, and theological ignorance in the church.

Though we are troubled, we are hopeful for the future. We are acting creatively now. We call the whole Church at every level, to live in this hope, to focus its energy on integrating the depths of the Way of Jesus Christ into every aspect of its life, and to work with us to imagine ways to revitalize theological education as pursuit of and formation in the depth of the riches of the Wisdom and knowledge of God. We cannot do this work alone.

Many theologians and teachers have recognized the need for this transformation of theological education. We have learned from them and many work beside us now. Up to now, however, their wisdom and efforts for reform have been frustrated by both the academy and the Church, neither of which has been able successfully to reorder the content, structures, and institutions of theological education toward the goal of spiritual transformation. They have instead retained the models and goals of secular corporations and bureaucracies.

The faculty of the General Theological Seminary now commits to reordering the content, structures, and institutions of its ministry to this goal according to what we call “The Way of Wisdom.” All Christian disciples walk in the Way of Wisdom, all encourage one another in the Gospel and share the wisdom found in their own unique life circumstances and gifts. Some become leaders, encouraging and helping others to grow in the depth of the Christian life. Some are commissioned to the special ministries of presiding over the assembly of disciples, overseeing their spiritual health, and instructing them in the knowledge of God. Theological education is vital to these ministries of the Church because it guides and forms leaders in critical reflection on the Gospel, enables these leaders responsibly to care for the community of disciples, and preserves the truth of the Church’s witness to the gospel in our time and place.

The Church can and does fall into error, and yet we have been promised that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Thus, theological education is an awesome and humbling service. As a theological faculty we are called to listen—to listen to that Spirit and to the needs of God’s people. We must not only approach our work with academic expertise, but as theologians, we must be accountable to one another and our students: to teach in ways that enhance development in the practice of the Christian life in the living ministry of the Church for the benefit of the world. The teaching office of the Church is particularly invested in its bishops, and we invite the bishops to join with us in this ministry of listening and mutual accountability.

The Way of Wisdom begins with the practice of attentive listening. It cannot be a narrow set of prescriptions. In a seminary, students are exposed to new and challenging voices. Sometimes those voices are the traditions and history of the church, or the beginning of serious study of the scriptures. Sometimes the voices are from the margins: the poor, the differently-abled, those suffering from discrimination and oppression. Sometimes the real surprise is to discover that the mainstream of scripture and tradition are those on the margins. We commit to teach so as to cultivate practiced spiritual attention in tandem with critical theological reflection and in this way to reshape theological education as integral to our shared life in the Body of Christ. Intellectual problems, disagreements and problems of privilege and oppression will not be wiped away or resolved by directing our work to this goal. They will, however, be illuminated by our common commitment to the Way of Wisdom. In the light of our common goal, we will be drawn closer together rather than further fragmented.

III. A Way Forward

The Gospel amplifies the prophet’s call to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” This summons is addressed to the whole church, all its members. It is of the essence of the Way of Wisdom. It is a ministry for those who are in need, those who suffer, those who seek the wellbeing of their neighbor. It is not a way to serve ourselves or preserve any institution.

The Way of Wisdom is the way of those who love justice and kindness, the Way of those who walk with God together with their fellow Christians.

• We call on all Christians to renew their commitment to the Way of Wisdom and their appreciation of the depths of Christian tradition, especially learning from those who are least among them.
• We call on seminaries and the wider Church to commit to supporting sustainable levels of high-quality theological education for all levels of the church (laity, priests, deacons, and bishops) and for all levels of study, from Catechesis through doctoral study.
• We call for greater cooperation between the seminaries in realizing this goal of theological education for the whole Church.
• We invite the bishops of the church to recommit themselves to their teaching role as listening theologians to work to revive and reform the catechumenate for our time, and for church-wide support of the formation of catechists and other church teachers.
• We call on all members of the Episcopal Church to more deeply appropriate the vision of the Church as a community of all the baptized, as found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
• We call on all clergy to more deeply appreciate the Wisdom found in the people in their congregations.
• We call on theologians and theological educators to make Wisdom their paramount priority and to seek to integrate all aspects of theological inquiry as a coherent whole.
• We as the faculty of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church pledge to follow the Way of Wisdom more deeply in our own lives and to change our courses and our curricula to better enable our students to encourage and help others on the Way of Wisdom.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)

The original draft concluded with the following version of this collect, in which the petition is much clearer:

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who declarest thy glory and showest forth thy handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men; for the sake of him who came among us as one that serveth, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer, p. 44

Way of Wisdom – a summary

Summary of the Way of Wisdom Declaration

by the faculty of the General Theological Seminary
Drew Kadel & Josh Davis, March 26, 2014

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:17-18

The faculty of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church believes that chief among the problems of organized religion is that it has neglected the serious incorporation of theology into the life of the church. With all the discussion of the “nones” forsaking organized religion as well as the “clinging to guns and religion,” attitude toward those viewed as holding onto long cherished, but not modernized religious traditions, theology gets lost in the muddle.

The early Mothers and Fathers of the Church, who we call “theologians”—churchpeople like Macrina, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine of Hippo—understood, that “theology” (from the Greek, the “science,” or the “study” of God) was a way of life. Indeed, theology meant aiming every dimension of life toward God and bringing all of creation into harmony with God’s purposes. These early churchpeople were not just profound critical thinkers, they were insightful interpreters of scripture, eloquent preachers of the Word, and loving pastors, who with great spiritual wisdom lead the course of the Church in their time.

Unfortunately, the training of pastors for the Church today has become too much like secular academia. It is now largely divorced from the goal of discipleship. Instead of following the clarion call to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God,” [Micah 6:8], the Church asks its priests and bishops to conform to a bureaucratic model of efficiency and service-delivery. It is as if the Church has become convinced that disguising itself, taking on the mannerisms of secular institutions, it will draw the world back through its doors.

Sadly, this strategy only makes the Church more irrelevant, chiefly because it makes the true way of wisdom meaningless. After all, wisdom is not simply “knowledge.” Wisdom is the practice of truth shared by the whole people of God, who walk with one another, listen to one another — and most especially to the “least among you” [Luke: 9:48]. Like the Mothers and Fathers of the early Church, the bishops, the priests, the laity, and the un-churched come together in their yearning for a greater share in the life of God.

The faculty of the General Seminary is, therefore, challenging all Christians, and especially theological educators and the bishops, priests, deacons and laypeople of the Episcopal Church, to renew their commitment to a way of wisdom that we believe will renew the life of the church.

To that end, we make the following call:

• We call on all Christians to renew their commitment to the Way of Wisdom and their appreciation of the depths of Christian tradition, especially learning from those who are least among them.
• We call on seminaries and the wider Church to commit to supporting sustainable levels of high-quality theological education for all levels of the church (laity, priests, deacons, and bishops) and for all levels of study, from Catechesis through doctoral study.
• We call for greater cooperation between the seminaries in realizing this goal of theological education for the whole Church.
• We invite the bishops of the church to recommit themselves to their teaching role as listening theologians to work to revive and reform the catechumenate for our time, and for church-wide support of the formation of catechists and other church teachers.
• We call on all members of the Episcopal Church to more deeply appropriate the vision of the Church as a community of all the baptized, as found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
• We call on all clergy to more deeply appreciate the Wisdom found in the people in their congregations.
• We call on theologians and theological educators to make Wisdom their paramount priority and to seek to integrate all aspects of theological inquiry as a coherent whole.
• We as the faculty of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church pledge to follow the Way of Wisdom more deeply in our own lives and to change our courses and our curricula to better enable our students to encourage and help others on the Way of Wisdom.