ATR Home
The Anglican Theological Review Winter Issue Spring Issue Summer Issue Fall Issue

Editor's Notes

Ellen K. Wondra

The primary topic of this issue, theological education in the Anglican Communion, is not the most obvious choice for a publication anticipating the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops and others. Yet, as Archbishop Rowan Williams has underscored at various points, theological education is vital to the life and mission of each church, each province, indeed, to the very fabric of the Communion. What we believe, how we witness to it, and how we live together: these are all things in which Christians must be formed and educated. In Romans 10, Paul wonders about Gentile Christians, “How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?” (NRSV). We might well ask the same. And how is faith to seek understanding if resources are not made available?

Around the North Atlantic, at least, the immediate referent of “theological education” is often taken to be the seminary--a formal, generally residential educational institution with a definite curriculum and program of formation, in which postulants, candidates, and even aspirants for Holy Orders study canonically described subjects, undertake some supervised practice of ministry, and live in intentional community while they earn an accredited degree and are evaluated as to readiness for ordained ministry. When they graduate, they are generally sent to a first ministry assignment, ordinarily as a curate or assistant working with the supervision of an experienced priest. Or at least that’s what most of us think.

But that is not the sole model of theological education in today’s Anglican Communion. Far from it. Theological education is something much broader, much richer: the ongoing learning, reflection, and formation in faith in which every baptized Christian engages. The world of the idealized seminary is a small, brief part of it--even, it is to be hoped, for seminary-trained clergy. Today, in parochial, regional, diocesan, and provincial programs for children, youth, and adults; in diocesan schools and programs for ministry training; in a wide variety of continuing education programs for church leaders; on the internet, through correspondence, in conferences--in all these places and more, theological education is taking place.

The sheer range and diversity of these programs raises certain questions. What makes a program appropriately or adequately theological? To what ends is education organized? What is the appropriate range of diversity of positions and methods within a global church that is seeking to be a Communion? Anglican provinces all over the world have developed means for studying and asking these and other questions, but the means and the answers vary widely among provinces. And within recent years, that has become a conversation among provinces as well as within them.

An international effort of particular importance is Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC). Established as a Working Group of the Primates in 2003, TEAC has developed a series of reports and documents that tend to be called by the group’s name. These texts include general principles for theological education, overall aims and objectives, and carefully plotted grids that present TEAC’s vision of theological education for all baptized Anglicans. The grids include two concerning formation in “The Anglican Way.” Taken overall, the range of materials TEAC has developed outline a comprehensive approach to theological education and formation that can guide the Communion in marshalling and deploying its resources for this important part of our common life.

TEAC is of such significance and promise that we begin this issue of the ATR with prefatory comments by Clare Amos, Director of Theological Studies at the Anglican Communion Office, a position developed as a result of TEAC’s work. Next, J. Eileen Scully discusses TEAC in some detail, and at the end of the issue, Fred Hiltz discusses how bishops might be informed as well as formed by TEAC’s work.

Much of TEAC’s language is strongly directive, even normative--a way of calling attention to an area of our common life that is easily overlooked or taken for granted. The TEAC grids are sufficiently general and the wording is adequately sensitive to make the grids adaptable to most contexts. As a theological educator in North America, I can find plenty of places where I wish TEAC had said more, or less, or other. This fact in and of itself reminds me that I pursue my vocation in a context of abundant educational resources with relatively adequate means to make them widely available. That observation pushes the question of the extent to which we in North America or around the North Atlantic are indeed making these resources widely available not only to those being theologically trained globally, but also to all members of the church in our own context. It’s been widely observed for decades that Christian education is lacking in the Episcopal Church. TEAC gives us some concrete suggestions about how to remedy both the global and the more local situations.

TEAC has decided to take an outcomes-based approach to theological education, after hearing very compelling testimony from theological educators in South Africa. The advantages of this approach center around the ability of leaders in a local context to flesh out various outcomes in a contextually appropriate way, keeping in mind available resources and mission needs. An outcomes-based approach can be quite helpful where theological education is available in a variety of models and intensity. Presumably, whether trained in a seminary, a diocesan school, or online, all church leaders can be expected to exhibit certain characteristics and skills. An approach that begins with desirable content may make multiple tracks seem impossible. See, for example, the rather daunting document designed to help seminarians and others prepare for the General Ordination Examination, “A Short Summary of What Candidates Ought to Know in Each of the Seven Canonical Areas.” At the same time, as has been widely discussed among educators, an outcomes-based approach alone seems inadequate when education is concerned with training in critical reflection, with habits of heart and mind, and with formation of character. Theologians note, further, that an outcomes-based approach is often premised on the notion that persons and groups can plan and predict what it is that they do, obscuring two things: the need to adapt to often rapid and unexpected change; and the confidence that it is God--the one who makes all things new--who is, in fact, sovereign.

An important study of theological education in Canada and the US approaches theological education in a way somewhat different from TEAC’s. It builds from a widespread, highly influential, and somewhat problematic model in North America of the religious leader as a professional, with an identity structured not unlike the identities of engineers, lawyers, nurses, and physicians. Educating Clergy studies how seminaries go about developing “pastoral imagination,” that “pastoral, priestly, or rabbinic imagination that integrates knowledge and skill, moral integrity, and religious commitment in the roles, relationships, and responsibilities [students] will be assuming in clergy practice.” In other words, theological education ought to teach skills that can be demonstrated in specifiable outcomes and knowledge that can be mustered and used critically by the “reflective practitioner.” Along with these, though, theological education must inculcate those dispositions and habits that are appropriate to a vocation that is both profoundly personal and highly public. By bringing to the fore the importance of the formation of a public identity, the study highlights the notion of profession specifically as vocation, that is, the calling which one accepts and professes.

Educating Clergy focuses on seminary education. But its emphasis on the integration of knowledge, practice, formation of identity, and critical thinking may in fact help bring what has been developed in highly effective local education models into seminary education which, in the US at least, has at times found it difficult to locate itself between academia and “trade school.” Further, the model advocated here also makes clear that the formation of all the baptized for their life in Christ and their participation in God’s mission through the church involves not inculcating the formation of the habits and dispositions of faith, but also the appropriation of knowledge of Scripture, tradition, and reason, and the development of skill in reflective and communicative practices. Theological education addressed to any group and using any model must be characterized by integration, reflection, and responsiveness to context.

The need for adaptation and responsiveness becomes even more evident in the seven articles in this issue on theological education in particular contexts. The ATR invited reflections from specific educators around the Communion, and each has written about the particular challenges and gifts available in her or his context. Guen Seok Yang examines the relation of church and predominant society in present-day South Korea, noting how that relation has contributed to a lack of peoples’ trust in churches and a skewing of the church’s mission. This situation arises particularly as globalization continues to be a stimulus to change, wanted or not.

Jenny Plane Te Paa, from her perspective as a Maori lay woman deeply involved in Communion-wide matters, argues for the necessity of connecting local contexts and identities with each other without erasing differences that matter. She sees this as critical for the future of the Anglican Communion, and for the survival and thriving of marginalized peoples and cultures in a world now enmeshed in transnational economics and politics that affect even the most seemingly isolated areas. Later in the issue, Joseph Duggan makes a similar case in his review article of a number of recent works on postcolonial Anglicanism. Both authors recognize that keeping a workable tension between local identity and global connection is a constantly challenging task, but an unavoidable one as well.

Brazilian theologian Carlos Eduardo Calvani sets out the history of efforts to provide theological education in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB), efforts made difficult by scarce financing, sociopolitical realities, and sheer scale. The IEAB is a small church that must provide for ministry in a huge geographic area, and the current model--diocesan schools, two national seminaries with a variety of programs, and focused local and regional conferences--responds to that situation, but not without gaps and strains. Donn Morgan describes somewhat similar challenges facing theological education in the US Episcopal Church, which, to some extent driven by necessity, is now in a period of offering theological education in a variety of modes. The official seminaries of the Episcopal Church must take into account the soaring costs of education, the tensions between the advantages of residential seminaries and local education and formation programs, and changing understandings of the nature of ministry that supports the mission of the church.

Theological education for the First Nations of North America has to contend with a complex history of marginalization and oppression in which education has been a major factor in the suppression of cultures. Martin Brokenleg describes theological education as a mode of healing and appropriation of traditions for the sake of the future. He also notes the possibilities that technology makes available for the connection of indigenous peoples globally, echoing some of the concerns and suggestions made by Te Paa in her article.

Martyn Percy focuses on the formational component of theological education, carefully examining how it is that residential theological education has provided the necessary time and space for persons to develop the dispositions and the wisdom needed for effective ministry. By highlighting the particular character of such training, Percy opens up the possibility that such education can take place in many locales and with varying foci and degrees of intensity. His approach helps bring to the fore some of the elements underlying the work of TEAC, and of theological education more broadly, whatever the context.

Each of these articles is, among other things, a reflection on how the church might respond to the relentless changes and chances of human existence. Here, it is important to acknowledge an absence as well as to underscore a presence. Esther Mombo of St. Paul’s United Theological College in Limuru, Kenya was unable to contribute to this issue because of the ongoing political and social unrest in her country. We hope to publish her thoughts in a future issue. The journal’s editorial staff is particularly grateful for the willingness of Martin Mgeni, Corresponding Secretary of the African Network of Institutions of Theological Education Preparing Anglicans for Ministry (ANITEPAM), and Leon Spencer, the first Corresponding Secretary of this important group, to provide the ATR a discussion of the history and program of ANITEPAM, and to do so at the very last minute. Their article not only gives an overview of the significant work of this group since its inception in 1993; it also shows how theological education can make use of a rich diversity of cultures and an array of, at times, conflicting beliefs and positions.

The final two articles on theological education have been written by two authors who have put the needs and concerns of the larger church in the forefront. The first--by Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada--considers how bishops and theological educators at all levels can participate in God’s renewal of the church and transformation of the world. Bishops, he recognizes, have significant responsibility for theological education, and they are assisted in this work by a dynamic cooperative relationship with theological educators as their peers in this area.

In the second article, C. K. Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, traces the discussions of theological education at Lambeth Conferences over more than a hundred years, showing how the bishops’ ongoing concern for unity, cooperation in mission, and ecumenical relations has been expressed in their concern for adequate and appropriate training for mission and ministry.

Following the articles on theological education is a study of the theological significance of the hymns of Charles Wesley, whose tercentenary was in 2007. Hymnals have been called “the people’s theology book,” and Jason Vickers looks in detail at how Wesley’s hymns connect the doctrine of God as Trinity--often seen as incomprehensibly abstract--with the immediate and pressing problem of how we are saved. This vital theological integration is accomplished in the communal setting of public worship, and through the means of the embodied practice of singing. And the doctrinal elements are brought together in their primary context of praise and thanksgiving. Thus are “ordinary Christians” both educated, formed, and inspired.

At this year’s Lambeth Conference, conversations and resolutions may not turn directly or explicitly to theological education. There may be little discussion of how knowledge, formation, and practice are brought together for the baptized and for church leaders. Even so, it is glaringly evident that the current conflicts in the Anglican Communion and between various Anglican churches and their ecumenical partners have in common disagreements and disputes about the content of the Christian faith and the kinds of mission, reflection, and daily life impelled by it. It would be at best naive to imply that proper theological education--whatever that is--can, alone, adjudicate or even mitigate these difficulties. But, this ATR issue makes clear, without careful and critical attention to the inculcation and integration of “knowledge and skill, moral integrity, and religious commitment,” living into communion becomes incalculably more difficult and even unlikely.

Anglican Theological Review • 1407 E. 60th Street • Chicago, IL 60637 • (773) 380-7046