Recently, I have talked with those considering calls to the priesthood who were turned away because they also happened to have a call to an academic vocation as well. They were told that they were too academic to pursue a call to priestly ministry and that they would have to choose either a vocation to the priesthood or an academic career.
One of them was told that the church needed to find people who were interested in doing things not just thinking about them. Others on another committee mused that they had professors in seminary who were priests as well and just couldn’t understand why they were priests (because they worked as full time academics).
When I went through the ordination process, we were literally told to hide any hint of an academic vocation from the committee so that they would not hold it against us. When I did let slip that this might be something I was considering, I was told dismissively, “We don’t ordain Jesuits in this diocese.” In other words, I had better choose.
In my opinion, this is an incredible waste and a disturbingly shortsighted view of priestly ministry. We need priests and pastors with an academic background just as we need academics with the training and experience of priestly ministry. We are off in a dangerous place when we decide that some of those coming forward are too smart to be made priests.
There is a general anti-intellectualism in American life. Of course, in the Episcopal Church, we pride ourselves on being exempt from such a thing. We are all too happy to talk about not having to “check your mind at the door” when you come to our churches. Yet it seems that you better be ready to do just that if you want to enter the ordination process in some of our dioceses.
We scoff at those who read Scripture literally. Yet we are going to create a Church where the only fundamentalism we embrace is that of individual feelings.
Doctrine – and sound training in doctrine – is essential for priestly ministry. It is part of what differentiates us from the spiritual but not religious. I think poor training in doctrine is at the root of why so many are now calling themselves spiritual but not religious. We need a generation of clergy ably trained in doctrine who can articulate what it is about our particular faith tradition that is unique and life-giving. Moreover, this cannot be done in isolation from training in other fields like psychology, philosophy, the arts, science, and more.
We simply cannot offer any answer worth hearing if we do not have priests trained to think theologically and who can delve into our tradition in creative ways to answer complicated questions and profound doubt.
How do we answer questions of life and death with no grounding in eschatology? How do we talk about our understanding of ordination and ministry without preparation in ecclesiology and sacramental theology? How do we defend our view of baptismal ecclesiology without adequate training in incarnational theology? How do we talk of Body and Blood without using all of our gifts of history and theology to articulate where we stand as Anglicans?
These are not esoteric questions being asked only on the close or the quad at our seminaries. These questions are at the heart of pastoral ministry.
When someone asks you, “What happens when my mother dies?” When someone asks you, “Why is this happening?” When someone asks you, “Why should I baptize my child?” When someone asks you, “Am I a bad person for seeking a divorce?” from an abusive spouse. When someone asks you, “Why all this sacrificial language?”
There are innumerable questions and there are those hard stories we all hear that challenge our faith.
When a gay teen is beaten in the name of religion, when our fellow men and women are tortured in our name, when women are profoundly mistreated, when poverty is allowed to grow unchecked and unquestioned – when these and countless other sins abound, the only answer we have is sound doctrine. This is the kind of teaching that throws down the mighty from their seats – and we need priests and pastors who can offer just such profoundly grounded wisdom.
When someone faces these deep questions, the only thing we have to rely upon is the faith we have received. The faith that is the product of the movement of the Holy Spirit over generations of believers and is ours to offer – yet we have to work to understand what it is we are offering. Just as we might agree that faith without works is dead – faith without inquiry, study, reflection, and intellectual engagement is just as dead.
These questions are profoundly theological ones and sound theology is the most pastoral thing we can offer. Of course this does not mean a dry recitation of Augustine on just war. Nor does it mean vague, wan sharing of our feelings about things that make us sad. It requires a meaty answer that is simple in its articulation and deep in its grounding – it requires the kind of answer that Jesus or his disciples would have given.
Doctrine is not about right answers – it is about right relationships. Doctrine is that which encodes our relationship with the Triune God and with one another. It is our ultimate guarantee of dignity for it lays out our compact as the beloved of God. Sound doctrine defends and defines the fullness of human nature and worth. Without it, we only have human perception to rely upon which too quickly turns to manipulation and capitulation.
We need priests passionate about asking deep questions about doctrine and dignity. We need academic priests.
Especially in a time when we are wrestling with just how many parishes can afford a full-time priest – we are almost deranged to turn away those who might have a gainful way to support themselves while at the same time enriching the lives of their faith communities by their learning. We need many other kinds of priests as well but we are doing serious harm to our Church’s future and our ability to have any kind of relevant voice in the theological questions of the future without raising up a generation of scholar-priests who are faithful, curious, and spiritually grounded.
We should be seeking out faithful academics to call into priestly ministry and supporting priests who might have an academic vocation in every way possible. We cannot afford to have an academy divorced from the day-in and day-out practice of ministry and we cannot afford to have priests who are not devoted to faithful inquiry.
As the bumper sticker says, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
Wright, J. Robert said:
Very well said! JRW+
Timothy Connor said:
Increasingly as seminaries feel the impact of the weakness of the churches (insert here the litany of woes) and find their own life constrained and programme offerings curtailed clergy with academic vocations will be deployed as teachers and preachers in parishes serving their catechetical needs and also offering their gifts as mentors to other clergy in formation. Thank you for this encouraging piece, Father.
Fr. Aaron Orear said:
“We scoff at those who read Scripture literally. Yet we are going to create a Church where the only fundamentalism we embrace is that of individual feelings.”
“We don’t ordain Jesuits in this diocese.”? Wow. That’s really sad.
I would like to say thank you very much for this; it’s something I’ve been talking about for quite a while now.
I’m fairly new to the church – but I’ve had, since I came to know about it, a very deep respect for the massive intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church. Even when I think some of its conclusions are wrong, I admire its willingness to argue its position carefully and rationally. This, to me, is even more important in today’s culture – and will be extremely important from now on, I believe. If we can’t talk about the rational theological basis of the faith, many people in the world today simply won’t hear us or bother with us. It’s true that Christian faith is often “caught, not taught” – but there are other ways of communicating it, too. I’m afraid that our inability, in the Episcopal Church, to talk theologically about our faith will leave us as we are now: a church that mainly attracts refugees from other Christian traditions, but has nothing at all to say to people outside Christianity. That is: a closed circle.
The “responsible freedom” of Anglicanism is a wonderful thing – but there’s that word “responsible” there. That clearly says, to me, that we need to do some of the work ourselves. But we don’t have the words, it seems, to explain ourselves to others – and this has come about, I think, partly as a result of the “liturgical renewal” movement. Our focus on liturgy as our main (and now often our only) teaching tool has, I believe, left us nearly mute about commending to others “the hope that is in us” – i.e., what this means, where it comes from, how it works – and, BTW, has given rise to all the other mute movements that seem to be springing up everywhere, such as Communion Without Baptism and “Ashes to Go.”
It’s partly come about, too, because in fact there is new work to do, as James Alison argues. EFM has helped quite a bit, I think, for laypeople who’ve been involved in it. (Note too that this is a product of Sewanee, the University of the South! That’s no accident.)
Whatever Rowan Williams’ failings may have been as Archbishop, there can be no doubt that he’s a great, great theologian. He’s exciting to read; he makes fantastic connections; he breathes a wonderful life into the faith. There’s Alison, too, who can also help us. “Responsible freedom” doesn’t have to mean anti-intellectualism or ignorance or “a fundamentalism of individual feelings.” “Not checking the brain at the door” doesn’t have to mean “each person his or her own Pope.”
In fact, I have been thinking for a couple of years now about starting a lay Anglican group or society devoted to prayer, study, and discussion – and you are giving me a bit of a push in that direction. We will need help and guidance from seminary-educated people, too, BTW….
Thanks again. So glad to see you talking about this.
Danny Cutting said:
As a non priest but a deeply committed person of faith and lover of the Episcopal Church, I so agree with your comment. Some of us sitting in church are LONGING for a more scholarly aspect to our faith life! (And sermons!) The best I have found so far was to attend , twice, the full Living the Questions programs, where some useful stuff is discussed by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg among others. It opened my eyes to so many ideas about Christianity . I WISH more priests were able and WILLING to teach and discuss the theology with greater scholarship. We remain pretty ignorant if not!
I’m so glad to hear you say this! And I very much agree. People – all kinds of people – have been writing about this story and these ideas for 2,000 years, which in my view points out the tremendous depth and breadth of the faith. It’s really very sad that – as somebody here said – many people don’t even know what Christianity actually teaches anymore. To me, these are the most interesting, exciting, and even outlandishly shocking ideas – but very few people seem to think so these days. I think what’s needed is to re-awaken to these ideas and to see them again in a fresh way. (This is why I really like Rowan Williams, who does this pretty consistently.)
I haven’t heard of “Living the Questions,” but will Google it when I’m done here. I would also recommend EFM (Education for Ministry), too; it’s a great course and if there’s not one near you you can take it online.
(Also I would really recommend taking a look at James Alison’s website. He posts all his papers and talks there, so it’s free; I’ve been going through each of them, one by one, for the past couple of years.
He’s fantastic! He’s a Catholic, but he doesn’t talk about anything an Anglican can’t understand or relate to. He’s got an amazing mind and an encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture as well.)
This was my experience when going through The Process. I was seriously considering an academic vocation and was told I’d better not talk about it with either the bishop or the COM. I was shocked and disappointed since Anglicanism has such a strong intellectual tradition, but I took the advice I was given. As it happened, God directed me into parish ministry anyway, but the idea that priest-academics were somehow a waste of ministry (as one of my COM shepherds charmingly put it) was very discouraging as it sent a strong message that priestly ministry was not to be squandered on serious theological study,
One of the things that most attracted me to the Episcopal church (I was brought up an atheist) was the depth of intellectual tradition. Our willingness to let that tradition slip away in favor of “I” statements about experiences and feelings has not served us well (although there are good reasons to learn to make “I” statements and recognize feelings too.) Whether or not we are willing to ordain actual working academics is an important question, but even more important IMHO is whether we generally expect that our leaders should be familiar enough with classical Christian doctrine and the writers who have articulated it to be able to deploy this heritage effectively and compassionately in debate, analysis, and pastoral care. It seems to me that as Western culture increasingly loses all sense of what Christianity actually teaches, the more, not less, we need to be able to major on communicating that.
Greta Getlein (@MotherGreta) said:
Amen, my brother.
Fr. Jody said:
Thank you for this. What you’re describing is, of course, not only an anti-intellectualism, but also a profound narrowing of the priestly vocation.
Fr. Jody said:
Thank you for this. What you have described is, of course, not only an anti-intellectualism, but also a profound narrowing of the priestly vocation.
This is a truly, truly fine piece. Every discernment committee in Christendom ought to read it.
Three of my favorite college professors were also Episcopal priests, and two of the best preachers I’ve ever heard had also been professors. (Now that I think about it, although I met both of those great preachers through their work in parish ministry — one was working as a professor but also served as a supply priest, though later he was the rector of a parish; the other had been a rector for 20-some years — they both taught at my college, though one was only there for a year, and none of us overlapped.) Part of what made those two preachers so spectacular was the depth and breadth of their knowledge, which added immeasurably to their sermons. (One of them also taught Sunday school classes on subjects like Dante’s “Inferno” and Shakespeare.) And anyone who thinks teaching has nothing to do with ministry must never have been either a teacher or a student.
Robert Robert Robert . . .
Or should I say, Cassandra Cassandra Cassandra.
(Oops! I swear I’m not trained in Greek literature. It was just a BA in English. Promise.)
Your humble musician priest.
Stephen Fowl said:
Thank you for this. I am a lay person, an academic theologian and the examining chaplain of my diocese. This is a very sad state of affairs. It seems only set to get worse as it becomes increasingly difficult to ask people to undertake the expense of a residential seminary with little hope of a full time post at the end of things. I would love to hear from any and all who know of things we can do to remediate this situation.
Sudduth Cummings said:
First, a hearty “Amen.” This is a necessary observation well made. Those seminary professors who were scholarly priests were inspiring and worthy models for ordained ministry. I remember Powell Mills Dawley, Pierson Parker, Robert Dentan and Robert Wright and Robert Bosher who were all godly examples for me at the General Theological Semianry from 1968-1971. At the same time, I regret to say that TEC and the mainline liberal Protestant denominations have already chosen and idolized the fundamentalism of individual feelings. It’s the faith that has guided General Convention for years. It’s a tragic loss of “true and lively faith” in the Faith Once Delivered but it’s the present reality. We have reproduced the moralism that dominated the 18th century Church of England whcih led to the Wesleyan renewal and its tragic rejection by the estbablisment and later, the 19th century Tractarian renewal which, after great struggle, achieved purchase in the life and soul of the church only to lose it in the late 20th century. I pray that your wise and timely essay will reach the ears and willing minds of bishops, priests, deacons and lay people on discernment committees! We have to cling to hope for God’s intervention and a renewal of the faithful mind.
Mother Kaeton said:
Well, Father, your bias is showing.
Where we agree, in good Anglican fashion, is that it’s not either/or but both/and. We need academic priests and good old fashioned parsons. Indeed, I know several bishops who have not only insisted on academic excellence from their candidates, but have also actively supported those candidates who felt called to an academic expression of their priestly vocation.
I think it was James Lowery who wrote the book, “Peers, Tents, and Owls” which expressed that we need all three kinds of clergy – parochial, worker, and academic – for a healthy church.
Here’s where we disagree: I don’t think that the reason people are “spiritual but not religious” is due to the “fact” that we do not have enough “academic priests”. I know you didn’t intend it in that way, but that feels really insulting to me and many other clergy as well as many of the very fine professors we have in our very fine seminaries. The answers to that question are as many and as varied as their are Christians who have left the church.
If anything, the people I have met who say they have left the church say they have done so because they had questions that were answered in a way that didn’t make any sense to them. It’s not that they didn’t have the intellectual capacity to understand, it’s that – as it has been explained to me – they felt they were being asked to accept something as “fact” that couldn’t be proven. The response they got from these “academic priests” was, well, it’s a matter of “faith” – which was not only heard as anti-intellectual, it was also heard as “you will know that you have faith if believe what I and hundreds of years of theologians (mostly Western European men) have thought.”
Here’s the thing: I don’t believe Doctrine will transform the church. That’s not what I learn from reading the teachings and wisdom of Jesus, that Great Rabbi. The transformation of the church – as in the world – lies in the human heart.
Thanks for a very provocative piece.
Isn’t the formation you’re describing at the heart of MDiv programs? Why assume priests need PhD’s to be Christian intellectuals?
Your response, Mtr. Keaton, is actually an argument for what Fr. Hendrickson has written. If a priest can’t give a response to about how Christianity – a faith that has helped literally billions of people over the course of 2,000 years – can make real sense to real people in their real lives, it’s because he or she has not been given the tools to do so.
I can say without hesitation that I’ve learned far, far more on my own – on the internet, mostly, in fact – about the Christian faith than I’ve learned from clergy in the Episcopal Church, who often seem more interested in arguing with each other than in anything else. I wouldn’t be here, either, I’m quite sure, if I hadn’t done some reading and thinking on my own.
I do believe Anglican Christianity has much to offer the world – and yet the Episcopal Church continues to shrink, most likely because nobody seems to find anything very valuable in it. I think it’s time to do something about that, don’t you? As they say: the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results.
BTW, what “bias” do you think this piece shows, and why in the world is it at all “provocative”?
Mother Kaeton said:
There is not a thing in the world wrong with arguing from one’s bias. That’s precisely what you and I and the author of this post have done. My particular bias is pretty Anglican: That we need all three – in Lowrey’s schema – of Peers, Tents and Owls for a robust, vibrant church. I experience the author of this post lifting up the “owls” as a particular frustration of his where he lives and works and tills the Vineyard soil.
We need Peers – who live as leaders in and of community; those who “think out loud” and wrestle with angels publicly from the pulpit or in Adult Forum Class about how scripture and doctrine and history and liturgy inform our faith and challenge us (and themselves) to do likewise. As St. Francis is credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel always. When necessary, use words.”
We need Tents – who work a part or full time job outside the institutional church and raise families and pay bills and educate their children and mow the lawn take out the trash and pay taxes as well as preach and preside and lead. St. Paul is a model for that ministry. It is an excellent model, indeed, one that the church seems to be using as a default setting – a reaction to the aforementioned decline in membership – rather than an authentic model of ministry.
We also need Owls – the “academics” and otherwise learned, wise clergy who help us remember our treasured and precious scripture and tradition and history and doctrine and call us to higher learning so that we may, as our baptismal covenant says, attain “the full stature of Christ”.
I could be wrong, but my bias is that it is laudable but naive to think that just because someone has been given the knowledge about doctrine he or she also possesses the skills and tools to teach that knowledge to others. I know very learned, scholarly men and women who are as dry as burnt toast in the classroom and in the pulpit, who pretty much present what they know but not how to apply it. They seem more invested in the audience marveling at their knowledge than making certain that the central core of importance about that which they are teaching inspires the next generation to learn it and live it. Teaching is a special gift, a charism which has not been bestowed upon everyone – ordained or not.
As for the shrinking of the church, well, that can be applied across denominations. Roman Catholic Churches and Schools are closing across the country but the NE Corridor seems particularly hard hit. Even Saddleback Church – the non-denominational phenomenon with thousands of members – has experienced a loss of membership. More and more people, from all walks of life and every religious background – Christian and other – are experiencing this decline in membership and a growing chorus of them are declaring themselves “Spiritual but not religious”. The book “Bowling Alone” provides some clues as to this phenomenon in American life.
I will continue to maintain my own bias that doctrine will not transform the church or the world. Transformation lies in the human heart. My own, particular bias is that we need Peers, Tents and Owls to assist the church in the work of transforming the world.
I hope this is helpful to the reader.
It seems to me that Fr. Hendrickson spent the first half of the article describing scorn for “Owls” in the Episcopal Church. So I completely disagree with your analysis. And I think you are missing the general point here – which is that if priests can’t teach, then laypeople won’t learn – as I didn’t. When I was confirmed, the clergy leaders didn’t even think to go over the Catechism with us, let alone teaching from it. A layperson brought it up at one of our meetings.
Teaching is part of the charism of the priesthood; it’s in the ordination vows. (“Now you are called to work as pastor, priest, and teacher, together with your bishop and fellow presbyters, and to take your share in the councils of the Church.”) If priests can’t teach, they’re not being taught to teach; more importantly, they’re not fluent in the language, by definition.
I have to point out that people outside the church really, really don’t care about “Peers, Tents, and Owls”; that’s a vocational discussion without any relevance to 99.99% of people on earth. The “spiritual but not religious” might like to know, though, what Christianity is actually for – what it actually consists of, and how it can help them. The Roman Catholic Church – yes, it’s shrinking, too, but still has a billion or so adherents worldwide, something tiny TEC can only dream of (and should, in fact, aspire to) – has its Catechism, which clearly explains its teachings. It issues encyclicals and teaching documents on a regular basis. It thinks out loud, IOW. This is “The Year of Faith” in the RCC, in fact, and many people are reading the Catechism online, a page or so at a time. The effort to teach is being made on the grand scale.
Of course, if Christianity isn’t for anything – if it has nothing to offer the world – then it should die, along with all its priestly vocations. If it does have something to offer the world, then it needs to be able to speak about that in plain English so that anybody can understand it.
Mother Kaeton said:
Bls – Ah, and now I fear you have provided an excellent example of why so many people leave the church. It’s not necessarily that we don’t have enough “academic priests”. It’s more that, if we don’t agree to every single word, we have obviously not read correctly. Something is clearly wrong with or deficient in us. We are “missing the general point.” We somehow reject the assertion that “Teaching IS part of the charism of the priesthood” and quote the ordination vows but conveniently ignore St. Paul’s teaching that there are different gifts but the same Spirit.
All of that can be argued without making it personal and demeaning. When that happens, two things can happen: An exchange which becomes more and more heated until it is reduced to ad hominem attacks OR one person leaves, deciding that the argument is simply not worth it.
For the record: Yes, we need “academic priests” in the church. Yes, the church – especially the ordination process – needs to support them. And, yes, we need a rich variety of manifestations of the priesthood of Jesus, but we shouldn’t expect our priests to be all things to all people. There are, in fact, different gifts. A wise parish priest who is a better pastor or community organizer than teacher will often invite “academic priests” to speak to him/her and the faithful. And, a wise “academic priest” who is rector of a congregation will often invite pastors and prophets into the community to challenge and inspire the faithful in the application of their knowledge and faith.
All I’m saying is that It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. If that disturbs or angers you, I am truly sorry. From my obviously biased perspective, that’s the best of Anglicanism.
PS. The Episcopal Church does have a Catechism, also known as “An Outline of the Faith”. It’s in the BCP, p. 845. Check it out.
Hmmm. Can I point out again that you started out your first comment here with an entirely unexplained assertion about the writer’s “bias”? ie., pot: meet kettle.
But I do agree that there’s absolutely no way to have a reasonable discussion if it’s considered out of bounds to say “I think you’ve missed the point of the post” – or to disagree with somebody about whether or not teaching is part of a priest’s charism.
Here’s another thing you’ve gone wildly off-track on, while we’re at it: the fact the the Episcopal Church has a Catechism on p. 485 has absolutely nothing to do with my argument above, where I spoke about a concerted effort in the RCC to teach the faith. Especially when you’ve completely ignored what I explicitly said about the Episcopal Catechism in my first paragraph.
So, no: I don’t think you’re infallible. Sorry if that bugs you, but there it is.
The Rt. Rev'd William O. Gregg, PhD said:
Robert+, Many thanks for a well-written, thoughtful analysis and argument for thinking and the intellectual life as essential to living effectively our faith. How can we possibly expect any of us, clergy or laity, to be effective proclaimers of the Gospel or effective participants in ministries that are grounded in the missio Dei, if in fact, all we have is bits of data (bible stories) and the techniques of social services, community organizers, and political processes (important as those are), and a good feeling? How can we really live the faith if it is not deeply and thoughtfully appropriated in order to ground and shape our proclamation and our ministries?
As one who has lived in both academia, it is always been important to me to live in both arenas at the same time. Paying attention to both makes abundantly clear that they are profoundly mutually informing and shaping contexts for living our faith. We have, as Episcopalians, placed much emphasis on the Baptismal Covenant. It can be a wonderful bridge between theology and daily living, but not without a rich, balanced blend of thinking and skill-building. We have to attend to the whole Covenant and not just the last three questions. St. Benedict reminds us that daily life is is ora ET labora. The Rule of St. Benedict is clear also that both work and prayer require study.
Being “thoughtful” is not simply about academic knowledge. It is about thinking, knowing, and applying knowledge and the fruits of our reflections on that knowledge to the ways we live our lives, say our prayers, and do our ministries. Being thoughtful includes growing in wisdom. Most priests I know are intelligent, thoughtful, thinking people. What I do not understand is why so often their insights and understandings are hidden under a bushel…. We expect, even demand, that doctors, lawyers, teachers, among others, be demonstrably competent, i.e., know their fields and be able to apply their knowledge accurately and effectively. Should we require less of ourselves? Is it possible to do faithful, effective ministry in the Name of Jesus if we do not?
We need to recover that charism of Anglican balance among thinking, feeling, and doing. It is possible, with God’s help. And it is urgent It will also be hard work. Not all of us are gifted and called to be academics. Nor are all of us called to be outstanding pastors, or social activists, or community organizers. But we are all called to something. As Paul reminds us, we are all, by Baptism, part of one Body, and all of the parts are necessary. I think that ultimately, the grace to be found lies in the tensions between the parts on at least two levels: it is the dynamic connection among us that reminds us that we are all connected, are gifts to one another, and all are necessary; and, (2) it is a powerful place where we encounter and engage the Spirit in the ongoing work of discerning how we need each other and how the fruits of our connections are to be lived and applied in daily life.
Again, Robert+, thank you and well-done.
Fr. Jody said:
In response to Sosacarolinas, I would say that yes, academic formation of this sort *ought* to be at the heart of an M.Div program, along with practical learning, however, I had a number of classmates who took pride in their ability to avoid the library, and who got rid of their books as soon as possible for fear of being shaped too much by what they were required to read.
In a more general way, we have to understand that people are coming to an M.Div program from a variety of backgrounds and that some may have only just received the necessary academic credentials to attend graduate school after years attaining very useful practical skills in other fields–but skills that, while translating well into interpersonal relationships, do not necessarily prepare one for academic reflection.
So no, even when folks in an M.Div program are not anti-intellectual, the program ought to and does embrace people of diverse academic abilities who have a call to priestly vocation. The call to be a scholar priest is a particular nuance to the priestly vocation, and one that has not found particular support in many cases.
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James Morgan said:
One of the things I feel has been left out, or at least minimized, in Anglican praxis is that of individual confession and spiritual direction. of course to promote this implies that there are experienced confessors and spirritual fathers out there (as well as spiritual mothers!) The old celtic concept of anamchara or ‘soul friend’ might ring a bell.
As an Anglican most of my adult life, until I in my 50s entered the Orthodox church, i found this was something I had lacked, the need, obligation, and opportunity to regularly bump up against someone more experienced than I was in the spiritual life, and show me where I was heading into the rapids or the shallows of the stream.
I think Fr. Martin Thornton had the right ideas here. I hope that some will read, learn, and inwardly digest what he was trying to convey.
God bless you all, and may we merrily meet in heaven!
Mother JoAnne said:
Why must education and priesthood be exclusive of one another? There’s no reason. I’m married to a wonderful parish priest who works hard and lovingly for his people and their spiritual life and who also teaches at our seminary. Good grief! He even has an advanced degree! Aren’t we supposed to use the gifts that God has given each of us?
Jay Moore said:
This is a very enlightened position and well described. As a freethinker with atheistic tendencies and anti-church opinions, I find this to be a rational presentation. Unfortunately, the amount of change required in the institution and in individuals within the institution to integrate such a rational position across the organization is great. Good luck with that.
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Amen. In my tradition (which I will leave unnamed here for now), there is a move towards “alternative paths” for ordination; ordination for people for whom seminary is deemed too difficult or ‘culturally inappropriate’, whatever that means. It’s true that in our tradition, there are many small churches that cannot afford seminary trained pastors. But this is the wrong solution to the problem. I have often felt like a lone wolf howling at the wilderness to say that what we need to do is alleviate the crushing seminary debt that we all incur, and that we figure out away to have standardized compensation across the board, so that small churches have an equal shot at pastoral service as larger churches. All of us need to be exceptionally well educated, precisely for the reasons articulated here.
The Rev. Dr. James J. Olson.
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Do you have any photo credit for the Thomas Aquinas picture, or know who made the original mosaic? I’d like to credit the artist. Thanks!
I will see if I can track that down!