Canadian theological schools that receive major funding from their denominations will be getting less because of recent court rulings—and large numbers of upcoming ones—holding churches partially responsible for the abuse of students in church-run schools for Indians and Inuits, known in Canada as “First Nation.”
The first suits—and the first to come to settlement—stemmed from sexual abuse of students, though subsequent cases also allege abuse of other kinds. Last autumn the Anglican Church of Canada and its Diocese of Cariboo were ordered to pay 40 percent of a $200,000 (Canadian) settlement awarded a man who had been sexually abused as a child at the St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, British Columbia, in the 1970s (the federal government is responsible for the remaining 60 percent).
The United Church of Canada has settled its first case, involving two former students of Alberni Indian Residential School on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The church did not disclose the amount of the settlement, which it paid out of cash reserves. It said more payouts involving two dozen other suits arising at the same school were certain.
The lawyer in the Alberni cases, Peter Cook, also represented the plaintiff in the St. George's suit.
The Anglican Church’s general synod has appealed the decision, but hundreds of other suits have been filed, mostly citing loss of culture and language rather than sexual abuse. The United Church of Canada alone has 265 lawsuits pending.
Where the money will come from to pay such judgments and the related lawyers’ bills remains to be seen. Will congregational assets be seized? The United Church Observer is saying very likely yes. The Anglican Journal, on the other hand, is telling its readers that the money they put in the offering plate won’t go toward court costs, which it says are being paid from reserves and other assets. For all of that, the Anglican Church is projecting a $1 million (Canadian) deficit next year, and the UCC is including a $2.5 million (Canadian) draw from the church’s general reserve. The Diocese of Cariboo has been talking seriously about declaring bankruptcy, and some bishops have suggested that the national church use its assets to pay the judgments, declare bankruptcy, and then set up new structures.
Response to Violence
The Right Rev. Steven Charleston, president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and former Episcopal bishop of Alaska, is urging the world’s Anglican bishops to join him in denouncing violence against homosexuals. He has published the Cambridge Accord, a document he describes as, “intended as an international response to increased violence against homosexual persons around the world,” regardless of the signers’ theological opinions about homosexuality. Charleston, chair of the Episcopal Church’s National Committee on Peace, Justice, and the Integrity of Creation said that the catalyst for the Accord was the news being reported out of Africa, especially Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda. (Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe has characterized homosexuals as “lower than pigs and dogs,” and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the president of Uganda, has ordered the arrest of homosexuals with the possibility of life in prison.)
Charleston said the Accord came to him whole one night after he had prayed for those in danger and for understanding about what he might do to help. He presented the idea at the seminary during worship, and describes the response of students, faculty, staff, and trustees as “wonderful support.” The text of the accord follows:
In the name of God, we, the bishops of the Anglican Communion who have affixed our names to this Accord, publish it as a statement of our shared opinion in regard to all persons who are homosexual. We affirm that while we may have contrasting views on the biblical, theological, and moral issues surrounding homosexuality, on these three points we are in one Accord:
That no homosexual person should ever be deprived of liberty, personal property, or civil rights because of his or her sexual orientation.
That all acts of violence, oppression, and degradation against homosexual persons are wrong and cannot be sanctioned by an appeal to the Christian faith.
That every human being is created equal in the eyes of God and therefore deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
We appeal to people of good conscience from every nation and religious creed to join us in embracing this simple Accord as our global claim to human rights not only for homosexual men and women, but for all God’s people.
The case of John Pollard v. The California Province of the Society of Jesus can proceed, according to the December ruling of a San Francisco federal appeals court. The case, brought by a former seminarian who is suing the Jesuits for sexual harassment (he claims to have received unwelcome advances from at least a dozen priests during his time at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley), had been dismissed last year on the grounds that it violated church/state separation. The Jesuits had argued that a religious order should not be considered an employer. Bollard’s lawyers argued that since Bollard had left the order and did not seek reinstatement, no such lines were crossed by the suit. Judge William Fletcher ruled that since a jury would not be asked to evaluate the Jesuits’ religious practices, but to make judgments about the nature and severity of the harassment, the case could continue.
The case was the subject of a “60 Minutes” segment last spring. The priests accused have denied the allegations.
The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States asserted a new control over Catholic colleges and universities in a vote taken November 16. The action responded to a request from the Vatican to legislate more stringent oversight over institutions of higher education pursuant to Pope John Paul II’s 1990 decree “Ex corde ecclesiae” (“From the heart of the church”), which was a plea for preserving the Catholic identity of church-related schools. The Vatican rejected a version approved by the bishops in 1996 as too weak.
The most controversial point in the new document is the requirement that teachers of theology receive a “mandate” from the local bishop, a document certifying their suitability as teachers of Catholic doctrine. Academics have expressed fear that this will curtail academic freedom and the possibility of dissent. The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Catholic Theological Society of America wrote to the bishops seeking a delay on the vote and more conversation on the issues at hand. The bishops, however, approved the draft 223 to 31.
Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee was one of the few to speak against the draft. His statement read, in part, “Theologians also have souls and must be the object of our concern. Their reputations and their livelihood are at stake. They are also not just afraid of being at the whims of individual bishops, but also the object of vigilante groups. I can tell you, my fellow bishops, that it is not easy to find out or monitor what is being taught in our church. Having been chancellor of San Anselmo in Rome for ten years, and having to deal with several cases where a student denounced a professor to the Holy Office, I can assure you it’s not easy to find out what is being taught and bring justice to the situation.”
Other provisions of the document, which now requires Vatican approval to come into force, is a rule that presidents and a majority of board members of Catholic colleges be Catholic, and that Catholics be recruited as professors “to the extent possible.”
A fire in the early hours of December 15 caused an estimated at $1 million in damage to Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. The three-alarm fire began in the fourth-floor dormitory of the school’s theology wing and was confined there by concrete floors that are up to a foot thick. It was discovered by a seminarian who was up late finishing a term paper. All of the eighty seminarians and faculty in residence escaped safely and were sent home four days before the scheduled end of the term.
The fire took three hours to extinguish, the slate roof causing particular problems. Although fire damage was confined to the fourth floor, lower floors were heavily damaged by smoke and water. The bookstore was soaked, as was the organ in the chapel. The tabernacle was encrusted with soot, but the blessed sacrament was retrieved intact the next morning. Within days, the damaged roof beams had been removed and the building covered; a new roof will be put on in the spring. In the meantime, the focus is on the lower floors.
The Reverend Brian Moore, acting rector, noted the generosity of the community’s response and said the Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio offered to “provide housing, prepare food, or do anything else that was needed.” Reports on the fire and updates can be found on the Josephinum web site at www.pcj.edu.
Holter Dies at 94
Bishop Don W. Holter died September 11. He became the founding president of Saint Paul School of Theology (then known as National Methodist Theological Seminary) in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1959. From 1940 to 1945 he served as president of Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines, where he and his family were held in an internment camp. Holter, at age 94, was the oldest bishop in the United Methodist Church.
Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Evangelicals for Social Action have agreed to devise a closer working relationship that will strengthen Eastern’s ability to offer students training in “a balanced ministry of evangelism and social transformation,” according to Scott Rodin, the school’s president.
In an announcement from the school, Rodin said the move flowed directly from Eastern’s motto, “The whole gospel for the whole world through whole persons.”
Ron Sider, professor of theology and culture at the Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, seminary, was one of the founders of the evangelical action group in 1978. ESA, said Sider, focuses on “helping evangelicals develop a more biblically balanced approach to ministry,” by bringing the gospel light to bear on such things as issues in structural economics.
“After several decades of secularization,” he said, “there’s a rise of interest in the churches in playing a role in setting public policy. We feel we’re in a moment of opportunity.”
Details of how the partnership will work in practice remain to be spelled out, but they are likely to include joint course offerings and joint grant proposals seeking funding for common projects.
“I believe the partnership between an educational institution and an advocacy organization with the same core values can do nothing but strengthen both institutions,” Rodin said.
Changes at the Top
Robert Edgar has resigned the presidency of the Claremont School of Theology, a California United Methodist institution, after nine years in order to become general secretary of the National Council of Churches. The position is described by the NCC as equivalent to chief executive officer. Edgar will share leadership with Andrew Young , newly installed non-salaried president of the NCC. The two once served overlapping terms in the United States Congress, where both were members of the clergy caucus. Edgar was elected during the NCC’s fiftieth anniversary celebration in November. He describes himself as a “salvager” who can “help institutions re-envision themselves.” He cited Claremont as an example, describing it as “just a hiccup away from going out of business” upon his arrival. Such a skill is likely to be useful in leading a group that is going through massive restructuring in response to a multi-million-dollar deficit and depleted reserve funds. And, as Edgar noted, few of the nearly 52 million congregants in the NCC’s thirty-five member communions know anything about the legacy and ongoing ministries of the NCC.
James Donahue, a Roman Catholic layman will become president of the Graduate Theological Union in July. The board of the Berkeley, California, consortium of nine schools, three institutes, and seven research centers voted him in last November. Donahue, currently dean of students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., earned his Ph.D. from the GTU in 1984 and will be the first alumnus to serve as president. He has an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He will also hold appointment as professor of religion and society. John Dillenberger, a founding father of the consortium, came out of retirement to serve as president for the last year.
G. Edwin Zeiders is the new president of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He comes to the post from the council on ministries of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, which he has served as director since 1995. He holds an M.Div. from United. The school has historic ties to central Pennsylvania; it came into existence in 1954 as a merger between Union Biblical Seminary of Dayton and Schuylkill Seminary of Reading, Pennsylvania.
Philip Krey was elected president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in October. He has served on the school’s faculty since 1990 and served as dean for three years since James Echols left the post to become president of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. Krey’s predecessor, Robert Hughes, will maintain faculty status at the 135-year-old school.
The Reverend Earl Boyea has been appointed president/rector of Pontifical College Josephinum by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. Boyea, currently academic dean at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, will assume his post at the Columbus, Ohio, school on February 1. His predecessor, The Reverend Thomas Olmstead, was named coadjutor bishop of Wichita, Kansas, last spring.