Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another Seminary Closes

The announcement has come today that Episcopal Divinity School will be shutting down at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. The temptation for grave-dancing at the demise of the chief radical liberal seminary is strong, but instead, in this response from Rod Dreher one may read various entries from the course catalogue and marvel. They do have courses more obviously relevant to the parish priest, but you may peruse the about-to-be-irrelevant last year's catalogue yourself and see that the same kind of contrived liberal speak pervades the whole thing. It is quite a distance to the usual cool academic and administrative prose of Trinity School for Ministry's catalogue, and perhaps an infinite distance from the latter's Statement of Faith, which may be found on page six if one needs to be convinced of their dogged orthodoxy. I cannot imagine such a document having a place at EDS; instead we have this required course:
“Foundations” is Episcopal Divinity School’s way of introducing incoming master’s program students to the understandings and commitments underlying the school’s purpose statement “to form leaders of hope, courage, and vision” who “serve and advance God’s mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation.” Students will consider vocation both as the call to personal transformation and to act as God’s agents of change and liberation in the world. Analysis will consider personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural power dynamics and will focus on race and racism as it informs our understanding of other forms of oppression. Through experiential learning, class presentations, and assignments, students will reflect on how their own social location shapes their actions and thinking while developing tools for theological reflection, social analysis, and engagement in the struggle for the renewal of the church and the world.
Does that mean something? I hardly know, but I do not see in it any much religion. It could just as well be required at Oberlin for all incoming freshpeople, er, first year students.

Likewise, in the comments to the ENS article we have this brave look to the future:

[The decision] is more than economic; the culture has changed and so has our Church. It is time for transforming our understanding of theological education to meet the challenges of today. EDS and its former institutions have always been leaders for social justice and the ethical issues we face in our society. The School must now transition into an innovative and imaginative place that affirms religious pluralism and serves the church and society with love and spiritual vitality for all people. The shape of our institutional future is filled with hope for new life.
Again I ask: does this mean anything? I realize that nobody has any idea what to do with the failing institution's assets, but still, does worshipping God have anything to do with it? What about preaching salvation? Can we at least say "Christ has Died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!"?