Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “theological education”

Manifesto for Learning

by Donn Morgan

Education in our church is not in a very good place. It is clear enough that change is needed, and many of us talk a lot about it. We sometimes perceive this change as something that we have no control over, and cast ourselves as victims playing out a tragedy. For example, when we attempt to understand and address huge financial challenges confronting us, we are often left in paralysis. We simply don’t seem to have sufficient resources to continue our mission of providing the best education at all levels of the church in the traditional way.

There is a way to look at change, however, embracing the opportunities it offers and lifting up lessons learned and progress made. And educational study group in the Episcopal Church has produced one very good recent example of this approach, tracing the highlights of education and formation over the past forty years. It is entitled Legacies, Lessons and Lifelines.

The place and role of learning in the church, then, represent a systemic issue and raise questions of mission and purpose. This is true at all levels: for congregational Christian education; for dioceses, synods or conferences; for national offices; for seminaries; for schools and colleges; and for much more. It is among the whole church and all of its educators, Protestant and Catholic, conservative and liberal, traditional and emergent, small and large, rural and urban, that this vision of learning – and the conversation it engenders – must take hold. Only when all of us are involved in addressing these larger issues will we indeed be able to live faithfully and successfully into the church’s mission.

At the church-wide level, there is a diminution of the infrastructure once devoted to education. Whether speaking of curricular support for Sunday Schools or other educational programs for the young, or ministry in higher education, or seminaries – there are fewer connections between these important areas of ministry at the local or regional levels and the national, primarily because sufficient funds are not allotted to make these educational endeavors a top priority for support. Read more…


Legacies, Lessons and Lifelines

“One faces the future with one’s past,” or so American author Pearl Buck once wrote.

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…

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