Someone asked a retiring seminary president what he was going to do with his time once he retired. "Well, for one thing," replied the president, "I am looking forward to getting back to my book." His friend looked surprised and said, "I didn't know you were writing a book." "No," said the president, "I mean the one I was reading."
I have told that story a number of times because it fits my life to a tee. I have spent 31 one years in graduate theological education, ten of those as a seminary dean/president. For much of that time, I was involved in administration. My PhD program required two minors (in my case, New Testament and Missiology) and even my major was a double major: Historical and Systematic Theology. I have taught in all these areas, as well as Church History, Christian Spirituality, Liturgics, and Christian Education. But it was never enough to concentrate on my subject area; I always had a concern for creating a learning environment, recruiting good faculty, providing the infrastructure to make learning possible. So it was almost inevitable that, at some point, I would become a seminary president. At the same time, being involved in administration has meant that I have missed being able to immerse myself in research and writing to the degree I would have liked.
Even though the last three houses where we have lived have had a study where I could work, it didn't prevent books, computers, and a work area from overflowing into the master bedroom. In our current house, we devoted the room that could have been a study to other things, so our master bedroom now has two desks, three computers (1 PC, 1 Mac, and 1 Linux) and enough floor to ceiling bookcases to hold roughly 2,000 books. It looks more like a large study with a bed in it than a master bedroom. (I have a very understanding wife.) The remainder of our books (more than half ) are on shelves elsewhere in the house or still stored in boxes because there isn't enough room to unpack them. Of the books in the master bedroom, I have read slightly over half of them. So I lie in bed sometimes and look at all the books and think to myself, "If I knew everything that was in all these books... Wow!"
I didn't retire as a seminary president; I left and became rector of a very wonderful congregation. I am blessed to have in this congregation three other Anglican priests (in addition to myself), a Foursquare Gospel minister, and a Lutheran pastor who is also a psychologist. Then there are three professors (Fuller Seminary, Biola University, Trinity School for Ministry) who are members, and a fourth (from Westminster Seminary) who owns a condo in the area and worships with us when he is in town. Then there are few more MDs and PhDs--in total I would guess that more than a quarter of the congregation has one or more advanced degrees. If you were to think that makes us a stuffy or pretentious bunch, you'd be wrong. The congregation (aptly named "All Saints") embraces everyone from the wealthy to the homeless, from high IQ individuals to the developmentally challenged, and is the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming congregation I know.
The transition from seminary president to pastor has been a very natural one in some ways and monumental in others. I have been here 18 months, and it has taken me almost that long to learn to read again. I mean really read--seriously, deeply, enjoyably. Maybe I'll get to read the rest of the books I own after all.
My life today is far from devoid of academic pursuits: I helped found the St. Benedict School for Ministry in the Diocese of Quincy, to make quality theological education accessible online. In addition to teaching Church History and Theology, I am the Dean and President of the School. I continue to serve on the boards of Anglicans for Life, the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders (SAMS), and Anglican Frontier Missions, in addition to serving on the Commission on Ministry, the Diocesan Council, and the Committee on Constitutions and Canons in the Diocese of Quincy. I served as one of the writers of the new Catechism for the Anglican Church in North America, and I currently serve on the ACNA's Ecumenical Relations Task Force and the Theology Working Group of the newly-appointed Task Force on Marriage, Family, and the Single Life.
(I didn't realize how busy I was until I typed that last paragraph. No wonder I am tired sometimes.)
As a member of the ACNA's Ecumenical Relations Task Force, I wrote the paper on the Filioque (the phrase in the Nicene Creed translated as "and the Son") that was received by the College of Bishops and has influenced how the Filioque is treated in the Nicene Creed in the ACNA's Texts for Common Prayer. For Forward in Faith North America, I wrote a paper entitled "An Anglican View of the Seven Ecumenical Councils that has been reprinted as one of their position papers. Both of these papers are available at academia.edu.
At All Saints, our mission statement is: "Reaching Out With the Transforming Love of Jesus Christ." We are exploring what it means to be a "place of healing" to all who come to All Saints and a "place of blessing" to those in the community around us. By the grace of God, we are growing at a time when many congregations are finding that to be a challenge.
I am growing too--not always in the ways I would have chosen if it had been solely up to me. But one of the challenges we all face in life is learning to "bloom where you are planted." And again, by the grace of God, it is happening slowly but surely. And it is good.