Archive for the ‘Episcopal Church’ Category

Mystery, Marketing, and the Mess at General Theological Seminary

October 19, 2014

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whatgodwantsforyourlife/2014/10/when-mystery-becomes-product-the-case-of-general-theological-seminary/ The link is to a blog by Frederick William Schmidt about the conflict at General Theological Seminary in New York City.  In recent weeks, from what I can make out on the Quaker sidelines, several faculty members registered complaints with the Board of Trustees about the dean. Matters got to a point where eight faculty members wrote to the trustees saying that they would stop teaching until matters were resolved. The trustees took this as a letter of resignation from the eight faculty members, accepted it as such, and relieved the eight of their positions on the faculty. The eight faculty members said it was never meant as a resignation. Questions about the right to organize, the right to strike, freedom of speech, and academic freedom are swirling around.

On Friday, October 17, the trustees reaffirmed that the dean was the dean they wanted and the eight faculty members could apply for provisional reinstatement on an individual basis—which I’m told is a classic union-busting technique. I’m posting about this on Among Friends because there are things in Schmidt’s blog and in the comments on his blog that got me thinking about Quaker life and New York Yearly Meeting. For example, Schmidt says that seminaries were created by the Council of Trent to be “seedbeds.”

“Over time, seminaries have become something very different.  They are no longer seedbeds, they are dispensaries, sources of information, places where commodities are sold, factories. . . . And, now, as numbers and money begin to become acute issues for seminaries, boards and seminary leaders without any deep sympathy for that seedbed model are beginning to ask themselves, ‘How can we distribute this information and collect tuition for it in a more efficient fashion?'”

In the last paragraph of his post, Schmidt talks about mystery— “Therein lies the message to the seminaries left standing: Consider your purpose.  If you are simply dispensing information, your days are numbered.  The product can be codified, recorded, and dispensed.  A seedbed is a different matter.  It is baptism into a mystery – an experience of God – a relationship with God and those who have been touched by the Divine.  Mystery is not something that is simply learned, it is absorbed and the few that choose to offer that gift have a future.  For those that don’t offer that mystery, there isn’t one.”

Those last two sentences opened to me why effective Quaker religious education is so difficult. How do you teach a mystery? How do you teach the mystery that is Quaker meeting for worship? Schmidt’s words help explain to me why we leave so much to the notorious Quaker ‘process of osmosis.’ Maybe it’s not such a bad thing. But is there a way to engage people in that osmotic process more effectively in our monthly meetings? 

I got more explanations—these about yearly meeting life—as I read the comments on Schmidt’s blog. In one by Roy Herndon Smith, I found this— “As Bernard Brandon Scott observes, in any age, the dominant institution in society becomes the model for churches and church-related institutions. In sixteenth-century Europe, the feudal court was the model for the church. In twenty-first century America, the corporation is the model.”

And there we are: the ‘priorities’ models of marketing that New York and Philadelphia yearly meetings (are there others?) adopted this summer. To adapt Schmidt’s quote, I heard my yearly meeting asking of itself: ‘How can we . . . collect [money] in a more efficient fashion?’”

Early Friends witnessed against the feudal court–model of the church and “the dominant institution” of society. Friends today are falling nicely into step with the wisdom to be found in the life of the successful capitalist corporation. In another comment, I learned about Juergen Habermas from someone going by his Twitter handle of frharry. Frharry has a somewhat heavy style that needs a little ear-of-the-heart translating. Bear with it—

“Juergen Habermas spoke of the colonization of the lifeworld by its business quadrant as early as the 1980s. With the political quadrant neutralized, business construction of the lifeworld based in business values of profit and the commodification of all aspects of that world (including its human “resources”) no longer had any checks. As a result, all social institutions and cultural values become colonized, taking on business values and goals. Education becomes knowledge fluency, higher education becomes job training, students become consumers. It is an impoverishment of the lifeworld that ironically sells itself to the public as the best of possible worlds, a la Pangloss. Most of the time we are so voluntarily distracted that we don’t notice.”

I lift up for your attention the concept of becoming colonized, taking on business values and goals.

The mention of Pangloss with its reference to Voltaire’s Candide was especially meaningful to me. As part of the summer’s Priorities business, New York Yearly Meeting Friends are being urged to contribute to the Make Our Garden Grow web page: http://www.nyym.org/?q=MakeOurGardenGrow

I keep wanting to post the Leonard Bernstein–Stephen Sondheim song there.

‘Father Jake Stops the World’ Stops

July 3, 2008

As the FUM Triennial approaches I have been somewhat aware, through the pressure of my editing deadlines, of the continuing struggle in the Anglican Church. I also saw the news (but didn’t study it) that the assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has voted to ordain non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy and will now go through a year-long process of having its individual congregations ratify the decision–or not.

Thinking to catch up on some of this news before I leave for the Triennial on July 8, I checked into ‘Father Jake’ after a long hiatus and found, in a post dated July 2, that Jake is closing down his blog. I’m sad about that, but Jake sounds clear and rightly led in his decision.

I encourage you to explore the site before Jake takes it down. There are many, many links on it to interesting and informative sites. And there are some thought-provoking essays.

These are the words from Father Jake that I want to take away with me:

Am I abandoning the struggle? Some might see it that way. But, as I’ve said before, even though there are most likely many more difficult years ahead of us, I am no longer as concerned about the end result as I once was. In the long run, there is simply no way that the extremist perspective will become the dominant one within Anglicanism or Christianity. Their exclusive view, which insists on separating humanity into groups of “us” and “them,” simply cannot survive in a world in which we are all becoming more and more connected each day. A global perspective will not tolerate their kind of elitist mentality. Nor will such a perspective tolerate the same kind of rhetoric here. So, I think it is time for me to do the responsible thing.

Yes, we must continue to speak out against those who will use the name of God to oppress and imprison the innocent. But, it seems to me, that cannot be our sole focus.

The Pews Forum survey still has me reflecting. 92% of Americans believe in God. That is astounding! We’ve got some great conversations just waiting to happen beyond the walls of the Church. For me, at least, I think it is time to end this focus on internal squabbles, and begin to look outward.

As I prepare to leave the FUM board on July 13 after representing New York Yearly Meeting for six years, I am wondering what looking outward will mean. I know that I am burned out. And I know that I am to take a sabbatical from New York Yearly Meeting.

Great conversations waiting to happen beyond the Church walls . . . .

 

What Quakers Would You Most Like to Be Rid Of?

October 25, 2007

Over on “Father Jake Stops the World,” I found this quote from the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, Katharine Jefferts Schori:

One of my predecessors was fond of saying, “in this church there will be no outcasts.” I concur, and I challenge each one of us to consider who it is we would most like to be rid of. That person, my friends, is the image of Christ in our midst. There will be no outcasts in this church, whether because of sexual orientation or theological perspective. God has given us to each other, to love and to learn from each other. May God bless each and every part of this body.

What Quakers would you most like to be rid of?

Are they the image of Christ?

What does it mean if they are? 

And who am I the image of Christ to? Who are you?

The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, and FUM

September 26, 2007

It’s featured news in the New York Times for September 26 that the Episcopal bishops in North America have disagreed with the worldwide Anglican Communion on LGBTQ issues and are coming closer and closer to schism.

Thanks to Father Jake I found a blog called Anglican Resistance. There a priest named Bill Carroll has posted “My Word to the Church.” It’s a message that feels like vocal ministry to me.

Yes. I do understand that this Anglican Communion is the one whose liturgical church services George Fox kept busting up. And yet. . . . And yet. . . . I keep hearing a cry for faithfulness, for humility, and for unity in God’s love from these hireling ministers that calls to me. 

What can I learn from these priests and bishops?

Can I come to see my own struggle with the diversity of worldwide Quakerism more clearly by walking beside them for a while?