May 18, 2009
In a conversation with the Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, the Very Rev’d Joseph Britton, he said something very helpful to me about Anglican Formation in an ecumenical context. He wants students to have ‘Anglicanism’ as their mother tongue and be bilingual in ecumenical and interfaith languages. This means that those being formed for priesthood at BDS/Y are asked to be regular in Episcopal worship and take a number of courses in Anglican history, practice and polity while also paying attention to the life and work of other Christian expressions represented in the community of Yale This seems to me to be a fundamental difference between an Episcopal Seminary and the significant variety of Anglican Studies programs that exist in many non Episcopal Seminaries.
I am not saying that one or the other reality is necessarily better for the future of the Church but it is something to which we should pay attention in a time when roughly half of all Episcopal clergy are being trained outside of Episcopal seminary life. It is not clear to me that an Anglican student at The Candler School of Theology at Emory would graduate with ‘Anglican’ as his or her ‘mother tongue’. That said, much more has gone on in the past than taking a seminary degree with a couple of courses in Anglican polity. Students have spent three years in a single Episcopal parish, have met regularly together (sometimes with their parish supervisors), have formed an Anglican community within the larger community and have shared a significant worship life together once each week of term. I do not know that this is a more full Anglican program than would be found in many places, but it getting closer to the idea of developing a ‘mother tongue’ than simply taking a course in The Book of Common Prayer might achieve.
This image of language could be useful for the conversation about what we need, want and expect in and out of theological education.