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. Read more…