Legacies, Lessons and Lifelines
As Christians and as Episcopal educators, we are clear that how we attend to history matters. In order to find out where we are going in theological education and Christian formation, we need to know where we have come from. We know that there are lessons to be learned. We recall the well-worn saying that those who forget history’s lessons are doomed to repeat them.
For those of us concerned about the future of Christian formation and theological education, we ask: what are the lessons to which we must attend? How might we best be informed by the Episcopal Church’s involvements in Christian education and formation? Are there particular lifelines that might sustain us in days ahead, especially if they are well attended to and furthered? What clues might we find about strategic moments, movements, and messages that we may pass on to strengthen our Church’s educational witness and daily practices in days ahead? Are there new directions we should pursue?
These are daunting questions. They underscore the purpose of this short document focusing upon “legacies, lessons and lifelines” in Christian formation and theological education as we have discerned them over the past half-century of the Church’s life. A study of theological education in 1967 – entitled Ministry for Tomorrow and known as the Pusey Report — called for major changes. It focused primarily on educating male clergy in ten seminaries, using a scholarly university model. Since that time, significant changes in church and society have prompted a need to reconsider the state and direction not only of theological education but of Christian formation as well.
Our current focus on history grows out of a mandate from the 2003 General Convention for a task force – which has subsequently been named PEALL, an acronym for Proclaiming Education for All – to undertake a comprehensive review of Christian formation and theological education in order to present recommendations to the 2009 General Convention. This is the first time the Episcopal Church has called for a systematic look at the broadest spectrum of its educational resources and practices. This includes education designed to advance the mission and ministry of members of every age cohort in a wide variety of cultural contexts. Today Christian formation is centered in congregations, diocesan program and schools, theological seminaries, ministry development groups, continuing education centers, and other initiatives.
At the foundation of the desire to attend to this big picture is a growing awareness of the importance of lifelong Christian formation. We are aware of growing financial pressures, a wide diversity of approaches to strengthening the church’s mission, as well as increasing calls for institutional coordination and cooperation. This brief document seeks to provide a historical base for strategic decisions by looking at educational undertakings over the past 50 years. This text is designed to provide grounding for the vision, strategies and recommendations, which PEALL will present to the wider church in 2009.
The writers of this document represent the diversity of perspectives in theological education and Christian formation in the Episcopal Church. We represent a seminary, ministry development initiatives, and congregational and diocesan education. We are representative of all orders of ministry: lay, bishop,1 priest and deacon.
Our intent also is to show that understanding the historical context will encourage everyone to move forward in wiser and creative ways as together we learn from past educational legacies, lessons and lifelines. We invite readers to bring their own experiences, past and present, as well as their hopes for the educational mission of the church to their appraisal of this document.
We will recount to generations to come the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, and the wonderful works he has done. Psalm 78:4
Read the entire paper “Legacies, Lessons and Lifelines” which was distributed to every bishop and deputy at General Convention in 2009. While written almost 4 years ago, this report continues to speak to the Church today. Bishops and Deputies as well as the present Executive Council should re-read the entire PEALL report, of which this article is just a portion. “Legacies, Lessons and Lifelines” was researched and written by Edward deBary, Susanne Watson Epting, James Kelsey, Joanna Leiserson, Sharon Ely Pearson and Fredrica Harris Thompsett.