The Pacific School of Religion, a United Church of Christ-related school that is one of the nine member schools of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, will open a Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry in July.
It is believed the center will be the first such unit in a theological school.
PSR’s announcement is the latest development in the hotly contested easing of strictures against homosexuality in some religious groups, especially in North America. Recently the Reform rabbis of the United States voted to authorize their members to officiate at ceremonies linking persons of the same sex in covenant relationships.
William McKinney, PSR’s president said the new center “will witness to the Christian belief in justice for all people and challenge the injustice of institutional homophobia and the prejudice surrounding different sexual orientations. This kind of careful scholarship has long been characteristic of our faculty and academic programs, and we strongly affirm and embrace that ideal in all of our work.”
In addition to its connection to the United Church of Christ, PSR also maintains close ties to the United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a predominately homosexual denomination.
The school graduated its first openly gay student in 1971, opened its married student housing to same-sex couples in the early 1980s, and provides domestic partner benefits to homosexual faculty and staff. Members of its faculty played a central and successful defense role in last year’s United Methodist Church court proceedings against several dozen West Coast ministers who officiated at a covenant ceremony uniting two California women.
The new center, which is funded by a $950,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, will be directed by Mary A. Tolbert, PSR’s George H. Atkinson professor of biblical studies.
Who Do You Say I Am?
by Bob Bettson
A theological educator from the United Church of Canada’s St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton, Alberta, sparked an angry reaction from students of her own denomination when she avowed a “low Christology” at a national ecumenical students conference recently.
Dr. Fran Hare, echoing recent statements of the Very Reverend William Phipps, the UCC’s moderator, said the denomination has room for many views of Christ. “We do not expect our moderator or anyone else to express definite views.... There is space for a variety of understandings,” she said.
But most of the UCC students present at the gathering of the Canadian Theological Students Association disagreed with Hare’s views. And they objected to her representing the UCC on an ecumenical panel reflecting on the theme: “2,000 years since what? Jesus Christ, Yesterday, Today and Forever.”
Hare told students, “We believe in Jesus Christ as the son, or child of God. That is enough. There is no one neat answer. There are a variety of answers.” She said the UCC is a socially active church that believes Christology is part of all its ministry. “For us there is an inherent sense of puritanism. Like John Wesley, we don’t believe in gate-keeping.”
Ned Garstad, of St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, said Hare “did not speak either for or to myself or the church that I know.” He accused her of supporting an “urban, liberal and theo-politically correct” approach to Christology.
“Those of us in the United Church that have been born, raised and re-born into a community of faith that bears witness to the radical and transforming love of and in Christ, do believe that there is a pivot and circumference to our life as believers. . . . We are a people that is confronted and comforted, renewed and affirmed by the lively word of God. There is a God in Israel, and that God’s name is Jesus Christ.” Garstad’s comments were published in a daily newsletter circulated to the sixty participants in the ecumenical gathering.
This was the forty-sixth annual gathering of the CTSA, which is sponsored in part by the Canadian Churches Forum for Global Ministries, an ecumenical church coalition. The CTSA is also supported by the Churches Council for Theological Education, which recently launched the Howard M. Mills Memorial Fund to support the annual conference. Mills was formerly president of the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The keynote speaker at the week-long gathering of students was the Reverend Christopher Duraisingh, a priest of the Church of South India now teaching at the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The conference took place in Edmonton, hosted by Newman College, a Roman Catholic seminary and college.
Two United Church of Canada theological schools are coming together to create a new institution. St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, have served differing but overlapping roles, with St. Andrew’s providing education for pastors and lay leaders and St. Stephen’s offering continuing and postgraduate education—in part via distance education (“Limitless Horizons,” In Trust, Autumn 1999). Both schools will retain their character and, at least for the time being, their names as well.
St. Stephen’s had been looking for a partner for at least five years and had been in touch with St. Andrew’s early on. Those negotiations didn’t work out, and, when the current heads of the schools discussed what had happened, they realized that the versions of the story they’d heard didn’t match. A new round of conversation began last fall with an emphasis on how the church might best be served, according to Christopher Lind, president of St. Andrew’s, and a consensus emerged that having the schools work together on a regional basis would be most helpful.
The new institution will come into existence July 1, at which point Lind will be president of St. Andrew’s and principal of St. Stephen’s. Both schools will be administered from Saskatoon. In the meantime, a transition team is hard at work on the details. St. Stephen’s bottom line was academic autonomy. The school was willing to give up financial and governance autonomy in exchange. “Academic autonomy is never absolute,” said Lind, noting that finances play a role, “but we’re working on it.” Current plans allow for each school having its own academic committee; in the case of St. Stephen’s, this involves separate degree committees.
The schools are incorporated by their respective provinces, and changes must be approved by the provincial governments. Saskatchewan currently has a minority government that might fall at any time, not a good moment for the school to attempt a change of status. So the general council of the United Church of Canada is expected in its April executive session to make all the members of St. Stephen’s board of managers and St. Andrew’s board of regents members of both groups. “It’s not a permanent solution,” said Lind, “but it will allow us to move along.”
The amalgamation comes just as both schools are involved in self-studies for the Association of Theological Schools: St. Andrew’s for reaccreditation and St. Stephen’s for first-time accreditation. “We’re doing separate self-studies,” said Lind, “and each will be a snapshot of its school on June 30. Then we’ll have a shared chapter with our shared plans.”
In contrast to the popular perception of decline in religious vocations, the nineteen priesthood candidates entering Aquinas Institute of Theology next fall represent the largest incoming group of Dominican men at the school in nearly 40 years. They are part of a larger class of nearly forty women and men new to the Order of Preachers, and the largest novice group to come to the St. Louis school in twenty-five years, according to the Reverend Charles Bouchard, O.P., president of Aquinas.
The Reverend James Walsh, executive director of the Seminary Department at the National Catholic Educational Association, reported that the numbers of novices are increasing among the schools of religious orders. Enrollment in such schools this year (1999-2000) is up more than 18 percent from the previous year—from 793 to 938. Diocesan schools, however, show a slight decline—down fifteen students from 2,551 to 2,536.
Questioned about the motivation behind such numbers, Brother Douglas Greer, one of the Aquinas novices, observed, “Many among the twenty-to-thirty-something generation are ready to commit to the church. We see the reality of the church in all its promise and all its brokenness. We have discovered meaning in the church that compels us to preach.”
The Reverend Michael Kyte, O.P., Central Province novice master, added, “The Holy Spirit is at work, through us. We have an increased confidence in who we are, and are awakening to the fact that we can be assertive and make direct invitations to a way of life.”
WES’s New Name
George Fox Evangelical Seminary is the new name of what formerly was Western Evangelical Seminary. The Portland, Oregon, school made the change at the turn of the year, four years after the seminary became a graduate school of George Fox University.
The change will eliminate the confusion in some minds between the school and Western Seminary, a Conservative Baptist Association of America school also located in Portland. (Western is the larger school, with 750 students to George Fox Evangelical’s 250.) Sheila Bartlett, a George Fox admissions counselor, tells of a prospective student who came to an information meeting carrying a Western Seminary catalogue. “She brought it because that’s where she was coming,” said Bartlett, “but she also thought she was interested in the school associated with George Fox.”
The seminary identifies itself as evangelical and multidenominational, while the university describes itself as “Quaker-founded” and includes in its values statement a commitment to “preserving our Friends Heritage.” That tradition dates from the school’s 1891 founding by a group of evangelical Friends. Currently just 9 percent of the school’s undergraduates are Quakers; Baptists form the largest group.
The Association of Theological Schools has awarded Lilly Theological Research Grants for 2000-01 to eighteen faculty members. Eleven, who were named fellows, will receive support for extended research while on sabbatical. Seven other faculty members will receive Small Grant awards to pursue research projects while not necessarily on leave. The eighteen are the fourth class of scholars to be appointed since the program’s inception three years ago. The 2000-2001 Lilly Faculty Fellows are:
Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, Columbia Theological Seminary—“Latin America for Christ,” Discerning Mission with the “Cultural Other”: Inter-cultural Theory and a History of Protestant Christianity in Latin America, 1916-1960
Richard J. Clifford, Weston Jesuit School of Theology—A Rhetorical Commentary on the Psalms
Mary Catherine Hilkert, University of Notre Dame, Department of Theology—Imago Dei, Imago Christi: Theological Anthropology from a Feminist Catholic Perspective
Charles E. Hill, Reformed Theological Seminary—The Rise of the Johannine Corpus
Rodney J. Hunter, Candler School of Theology of Emory University—Personal Commitment: A Metapractice of Moral and Religious Life
James F. Keenan, Weston Jesuit School of Theology—The Unique Achievement of Early English Puritan Practical Divinity
Jonathan N. Strom, Candler School of Theology of Emory University—The Reception of Pietism in Northern Germany
Linda E. Thomas, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary—Ritual Process Among Black Christians on the South Side of Chicago
Richard Valantasis, Iliff School of Theology—Fashioning Christians: Asceticism in Formative Christianity
Sondra Ely Wheeler, Wesley Theological Seminary—Children of One’s Own: The Moral Foundations and Limits of Parental Power
Beverly A. Zink-Sawyer, Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education—From Preachers to Suffragists: Woman’s Rights and Religious Conviction in the Work of Nineteenth-Century American Clergywomen
The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. have named seven scholars from ATS schools as Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2000-01. This is the seventh class of scholars since the program’s inception in 1993. They were selected on the basis of their proposals for conducting creative and innovative theological research and will engage in year-long research in various areas of theological inquiry.
The Luce Fellows and their topics are:
John J. Collins, Yale University Divinity School—The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: An Ecumenical Introduction
Stanley M. Hauerwas, Duke University Divinity School—With the Grain of the Universe
Scott H. Hendrix, Princeton Theological Seminary—Rerooting the Faith: The Reformation in a Christian Culture
Luke T. Johnson, Candler School of Theology of Emory University—The Future of Catholic Biblical Scholarship: Lessons from a Pre-Modern Tradition for a Post-Modern Church
Andrew D. Lester, Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University—A Pastoral Theology of Anger: A Context for Pastoral Care and Counseling
Cheryl J. Sanders, Howard University School of Divinity—Healing and Health Practices in African American Churches and Community: An Ethical Perspective
Jeanne M. Stevenson-Moessner, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary—Womb-love: The Practice and Theology of Adoption
Changes at the Top
Richard J. Wood, who left the presidency of Earlham College to become dean of Yale Divinity School in 1996, announced he would retire at the end of his five-year term in June 2001. Wood’s term was marked by a contentious battle mounted by some divinity school faculty members and alumni against Yale University to block demolition of much of Sterling Quadrangle, the divinity school’s long-time site. The university ultimately adopted a revised rebuilding plan that capitulated almost entirely to the insurgents, after they had blocked construction work for months with court orders.
Wood becomes the second Yale Divinity School dean in a row not to receive the usual second five-year term. YDS is unusual among nondenominational university-related divinity schools in that it continues to emphasize preparing students for the ministry in the churches rather than for teaching. But it has been under continuing pressure from the university in recent years to reduce the size of its student body and upgrade its academic quality.
The Reverend Lawrence T. Reilly will assume the presidency of Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon, July 1. He comes to the school from the pastorate of St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church in Grand Coulee, Washington. From 1977 to 1993, he was moral theologian and ethicist for Providence Health System throughout the Northwest. His predecessor, the Reverend Patrick Brennan, will leave after ten years as the school’s head to take an as-yet-unnamed post in the Archdiocese of Portland.
George W. Murray is the new president of Columbia International University and its Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions. Murray comes to the evangelical, multidenominational school in Columbia, South Carolina, from a seventeen-year stint as executive director of the Evangelical Alliance Mission, a group sponsoring 1,000 missionaries in forty countries. He is a graduate of Columbia. His predecessor, Johnny V. Miller, is now pastor of a church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.