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CDSP First Year M.Div. Elizabeth Ashman Reports from the NCC and Church World Service

November 28, 2010

by Elizabeth Ashman, CDSP  M.Div.

Growing up with a Jewish sister and father, and being a former Catholic now studying to be an Episcopal priest, I feel a strong call towards ecumenical and interfaith work, but what shape that will take is still unknown to me. So when the opportunity to spend a week in New Orleans as a young adult representative for the Episcopal Church at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches and Church World Service I took it in hopes of answering some of these questions. There I engaged in a young adult gathering of ecumenical leaders from across the denominational spectrum. For two days we shared in community and conversation, I built friendships across denominations and seminaries and discovered we are all more alike then we originally thought. All of us bonded and planned for the future in that idealistic way that only youthful energy can bring, certain that we could solve all the worlds problems if we all just love one another and get along. But in all seriousness, we focused on the importance of our common denominator, that we are Christians, and that needs to become more important then denominational lines. The majority of us also attended the General Assembly by sitting in on meetings, participating in conversations, and promoting the young adult voice for those denominations and communions that did not already have young people presence.
My time in New Orleans gave me an opportunity to reflect both on my future goals as a minister and my time at CDSP. It can be difficult to focus on the next three years after experiencing what is happening right now in the ecumenical and interfaith movement. Yet, I must recognize the importance of my education so that I can fully understand the world that I want to work in. So what can be done while I am here? Though the Graduate Theological Union is unique in its structure of having so many denominations present, it is not truly as ecumenical as it could be. We do have an advantage over many other seminaries in that we are a consortium of seminaries and are able to take classes with one-another, but we still find ourselves identifying first with our denomination both inside and outside the classroom. There is a unique opportunity here to build a generation of leaders in the Christian church who are already ecumenical and go into their parish, diocese, or classroom understanding the importance of that attitude. In all of our futures there will be interactions with people of other Christian and religious traditions. Therefore our training at seminary should be reflective of the world we are trying to enter. Yes, we need to understand our own denomination. As Episcopalians we need to know the Book of Common Prayer, the history of the church, and how to preach a sermon. However, once we understand our own perspective we must strive to understand the other Christian perspectives and then build from our common ground.

Elizabeth Ashman is a first year seminarian from the Diocese of Alaska.

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CDSP M.Div. Student Martin Elfert writes on “Godly and Decent Order”

August 9, 2010

A third-year student in the MDiv program, Martin Elfert comes to CDSP from the Diocese of New Westminster (Vancouver, BC). Martin and his family are enjoying living, studying, and worshiping within the Episcopal Church.

Godly and Decent Order: Compromise in Theory and in Praxis, as Modeled in the Preface to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

Martin Elfert

The celebration of compromise in the Preface to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer stands in tension to the history surrounding the its publication. The Preface is a love letter to the Via Media, repeatedly congratulating the Savoy Conference, called to amend the BCP, for rejecting partisan extremes. History tells us, however, that that compromise played little actual part in the Conference: it all but entirely sided with royalist bishops against reform-minded Presbyterians, thereby setting the stage for the latter to leave the Church of England. The task of “spinning” this inconsistency between theory and praxis in meeting conflict fell to the authors of the Preface. The authors did so by implying the existence of a third voice in the argument, repeatedly contrasting the demands a nameless this party versus an similarly anonymous that party, both of whom were extreme and unreasonable. Wisely, the Preface tells us, the Savoy Conference avoided the extremes, thus preserving that most Anglican of things: “Godly and Decent Order.”

Were the authors of the Preface disingenuous in their motivations, seeking to misrepresent themselves as fairer than they actually were? Or is this document an example of what psychology would dub cognitive dissonance? My guess is that the latter comes closest to the truth. The Preface reads like a document written by individuals with a deep need to understand themselves, their government, and their church as fair and reasonable. The notion that these individuals were party to an essentially partisan document was antithetical to their self-understanding. Thus the primary goal of the Preface is to make it clear just how balanced and sensible the new BCP is. To synopsise the Preface’s argument, the nature of the BCP is such that anyone who studies it seriously cannot help but conclude that it is a reasonable document. Perhaps this is true: one could argue that no concessions would have been adequate to prevent the Presbyterian departure from the Church of England and, therefore, that the near wholesale rejection of their demands was wise. What one cannot defensibly argue, however, is that the authors’ theory of compromise translated into praxis in the BCP.

The Preface has many echoes in contemporary Anglicanism. Our communion’s tired conversation about sexuality, for instance, is overwhelmingly comprised of consecutive monologues disguised as debate. While these monologues are generally less eloquent that the words found in the 1662 BCP, they are very much its descendents. Most of us, regardless of the position that we take on this question, share one characteristic: we believe that the case we have outlined is, above all, reasonable and balanced. There is, therefore, no way that anyone who honestly and faithfully examines it could conclude otherwise. This claim made, the accusation that follows it is all but inevitable: we have compromised, we have listened, but you neither compromise nor listen. (Were much the same words of hurt and anger spoken at the Savoy Conference?) We insist that we walk a middle way between two poles, judiciously avoiding the extremes, holding forth a way to unity. Our argument is half right: there really are two extremes, a this party and a that. But when we reduce the people with whom we disagree to caricatures, railing against their impetuous assaults on our middle way, we soon find that they are far from us, marooned on their personal extreme. In the midst of our communion’s perennial argument, then, let us allow ourselves a moment of honesty: let us stop our frantic entreaties for compromise, for reasonableness, and for the Via Media long enough to look at our surroundings. Should we do so, we might just come to the same startling and uncomfortable conclusion that, deep inside, the authors of the BCP must have reached. We might just realise that the party standing at the opposite extreme to our theological opponents is none other than ourselves.


The Virgin of Guadalupe and Pastoral Outreach in the Episcopal Church

July 13, 2010

by Kevin Sparrow, Certificate of Anglican Studies,  ’10 

The emergence of devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe in early modern Mexico shows a clear affirmation of place and culture operating within a robust Catholic identity. A similar dynamic may serve as a pastoral model for Latino congregations within the Episcopal Church to affirm cultural identity as well as speak to divine regard for concerns specific to their community.

The account of Juan Diego’s vision of Virgin of Guadalupe featured the lived concerns of native Mexicans in the period directly after the Aztec conquest The Virgin specifically states she is the compassionate mother for all people of Mexico. She declares “I am the compassionate mother of you. . . and of the other various people who love me, who cry out to me, who seek me, who trust me. There I will listen to their weeping and their sorrows in order to remedy and heal all their afflictions, miseries, and torments.” (The Story of Guadalupe, Sousa translation). Juan Diego’s account seeks to provide a sense of God’s favor to a people in a specific part of Mexico. Later texts expand that interpretation and give it a political connotation – the Virgin becomes a symbol not only of Mexico, but of faithful native people in all of South America within the context of a vibrant Catholicism.

Within the Episcopal Church, Guadalupe devotion can serve a dual purpose: it could provide a way of entrance for Latino people drawn to the Episcopal Church as well as a distinct mark of continuity with countries of origin. Likewise, within a larger cultural context, the Virgin as a symbol of Mexico is quite well known.  Increased devotional practices within the Episcopal context could serve as a reminder of the (increasing) diversity of the larger Episcopal Church.

Emphasis on the Virgin as a means of assistance for those in need has specific pastoral implications within the Episcopal tradition.  A connection can be made between the experience of societal dislocation after the conquest in Mexico and the physical and societal dislocation of immigrant communities in the United States. The Virgin suggest that she will, “will listen to their weeping and their sorrows in order to remedy and heal all their afflictions, miseries, and torments…” (The Story of Guadalupe, Sousa translation). As immigration remain important within Latino communities, the Episcopal Church could provide for devotion to the Virgin as an entrance into a pastoral response to immigrant communities as well as a sign of God’s abiding concern for the land and people of Mexico – even within a new and different cultural context.

While it is primarily a Roman Catholic devotion, the Episcopal Church – perhaps alone among Protestant churches – could provide an atmosphere where this devotion could flourish. Inclusion of images within the majority of Episcopal congregations is no longer controversial. To provide an image or shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe within a parish with a substantial Latino population is one way to allow for the devotion within the Episcopal Church in that it would be, at minimum, an image of Mary that provides an instant connection for Latino congregants.

The Episcopal Church could provide a pastoral space where a much closer identification with the Virgin and issues of justice could emerge through Episcopal Church’s understanding of sainthood and what constitutes an “official devotion.”  As the Episcopal Church does not include the apparition in its official liturgical calendar, any devotions would be by necessity local and by the permission of the bishop. This locality and “semi-official” status may allow local and pressing pastoral concerns to find specific identification with the Virgin of Guadalupe and her preference for the poor and needy. Such a freedom of identification was actually a component of the original account of the apparition and remains a hallmark of local celebration. This pastoral opportunity exists in connection with earlier traditions surrounding the Virgin, yet is specific to current lived concerns on one hand as well as the specific theological positions and polity of the Episcopal Church on the other.

Kevin Sparrow received his Certificate in Anglican Studies from CDSP in May 2010. He holds an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School and a BA from the University of the South. He has served as Director of Christian Formation at Christ Church, Somerville, MA. Most recently, Kevin taught English and NGO Capacity Building in the Republic of Georgia as a Peace Corps volunteer. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is a member of Holy Innocents’, San Francisco.

Epiphany West 2010 Highlights Faith & Sustainability

November 17, 2009

 

EW2010; Sacred Elements--Creating Sustainable Earth Communities

© Cari Ferraro. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the artist. http://www.proseandletters.com

Now in it’s second decade, CDSP’s annual, ecumenical and interfaith conference, Epiphany West, is known for gathering a diverse community of scholars, writers, practitioners, and artists into vibrant conversation on the CDSP campus in Berkeley. The upcoming conference, which will be held from January 25-29, 2010, continues this tradition with an engaging rosters of speakers and conference workshop leaders who will facilitate engagement with issues of economic and environmental sustainability as they are influenced by religious belief and action. Sacred Elements: Creating Sustainable Earth Communities, coordinated thematically by CDSP Associate Professor of Theology Marion Grau and directed by Elizabeth Drescher, director of the Center for Anglican Learning & Leadership, offers an interreligious and interdisciplinary exploration of approaches to sustainability in the context of religious faith.

Conference details and green, online registration is available on the CDSP website.

 

 

Notes from a Roving Professor: Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgy Ruth Meyers on the Road to CDSP

October 7, 2009
Prof. Meyers enjoy a few moments of casual collegial bonding with Sue Singer, Asst. Prof. of Ministry Development, during the annual faculty retreat.

Prof. Meyers enjoy a few moments of casual collegial bonding with Sue Singer, Asst. Prof. of Ministry Development, during the annual faculty retreat.

What a joy to be at CDSP! It’s been about as smooth a transition as I could have imagined. The timing of my move was dictated by two major summer commitments: teaching my last course at Seabury – a weeklong intensive in the joint Doctor of Ministry program with CDSP in congregational development – and General Convention. The D.Min. course, “Missional Liturgy,” is one I taught regularly in the Seabury program. Since I spent my 2008-2009 sabbatical working on a book about liturgy and mission, the course was a good opportunity to develop my thinking in conversation with students who are church leaders from around the U.S. and Canada.

In a nutshell, “missional liturgy” means understanding worship as an essential aspect of the church’s participation in the mission of God. By the end of my sabbatical, I had completed an article entitled “Missional Church, Missional Liturgy,” to be published in Theology Today next spring, and an article for Anglican Theological Review on leadership for missional liturgy. Eventually, that book will be complete! Soon after the course concluded, I travelled to Anaheim as a Deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Chicago. As secretary to the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music Committee, I spent many hours in committee meetings, typing furiously to keep up with debate on the 63 resolutions assigned to our committee.

Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music Committee leadership: me; Sam Candler, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, and chair of the deputy committee; Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, and chair of the bishop committee. Episcopal Life General Convention Daily, July 14, 2009

Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music Committee leadership: me; Sam Candler, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, and chair of the deputy committee; Wayne Smith, Bishop of Missouri, and chair of the bishop committee. Episcopal Life General Convention Daily, July 14, 2009

The Convention approved some very interesting new liturgical materials – Holy Women, Holy Men (a much expanded calendar of saints, to replace Lesser Feasts and Fasts, at least on a trial basis), and Rachel’s Tears, Hannah’s Hopes (prayers and liturgies for healing from loss related to childbearing and childbirth). Since I served on the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music last year, it was good to see this work to its completion. Most gratifying for me at Convention, though, were the steps we took toward more fully including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life and ministry of the church, while also reaffirming our commitment to full participation in the Anglican Communion. Over the past triennium, I have worked on these issues with a network of theologians, bishops, and other church leaders called the Chicago Consultation. I was particularly impressed with the generous and respectful conversations over the course of the convention. And it was a special joy to host events with guests from overseas.

After the excitement – and grueling pace – of General Convention, I had about 2 weeks with my husband Dan Prechtel to finish packing our home in Evanston, Illinois, and prepare for the move west. Somehow, it all got done – sorting, organizing, multiple trips to various recyclers, and countless trips to the dumpsters.

Dan Prectel checks out petroglyphs on the way to CDSP

Dan Prectel checks out petroglyphs on the way to CDSP

Our drive west was a good opportunity to recover. Though I’ve spent a little time in the mountain West, I saw parts of the country I’ve only flown over. The desert landscapes were amazing, and the petroglyphs at Grimes Point in Nevada were awesome.

And then, we arrived! I have been warmly welcomed by faculty, staff, and students, and we are learning our way around the East Bay, and around CDSP.

Editor’s Note: Professor Meyers hardly took a breather once she got to Berkeley. You can see her in action in the MDiv classroom in two short video clips on the origins of confirmation below or by clicking here to visit CDSP’s new YouTube channel.