Saturday, February 22, 2014

Claim: “Schori discouraged attendance at Nashotah”

As more information becomes available about the invitation of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to preach at Nashotah House on May 1 of this year, Bishop Salmon has made the claim that the invitation stems from a concern that the Presiding Bishop, either directly or through representatives, tried to discourage three students (a male deacon who serves on the Episcopal Church's Executive Council and two women students) from attending Nashotah House.  The thought seems to be that this invitation might improve relations between the House and Bishop Jefferts Schori and cause her to say nice things about the House in the future, or at least not discourage students from attending.

As I pondered this claim, several observations occurred to me:

1.  In 15 years on the faculty of Trinity and 12 years at Nashotah House, I met many postulants for holy orders who had been told by their bishops or Commissions on Ministry they would not be ordained because they were too conservative.  Most of those students moved to more conservative dioceses and succeeded in coming to seminary anyway.  (Many of them became very fine priests.)  There were others who were told they would be dropped from the ordination process if they chose to go to a conservative seminary (or refused to go to the liberal seminary where the Bishop or COM wanted them to go).  These, too, usually succeeded in being adopted by a more conservative bishop and coming to TSM or Nashotah anyway.  But, in 27 years, I never met a student who had directly or indirectly received career advice from the Presiding Bishop as to which seminary he or she should or shouldn’t attend. 

2.  Over the years, I met a lot of liberal bishops and COM members who said they would not send students or give money to the seminary I represented unless we ___________.  (Fill in the blank.)  The truth is that they were never going to send students or give money to the seminary I represented anyway.  They just wanted to put pressure on us to change to fit their liking.  Which leads to a third observation that governed my deanship at Nashotah:

3.  A seminary that is intent on being truly orthodox is never going to give Episcopal liberals the "warm-fuzzies" the way General, or Virginia, or any of the other TEC seminaries will.  So stop trying!  Stop trying to play the Episcopal game!  Try being a faithful evangelical and catholic seminary that honors our Lord and that can serve the larger Anglican tradition and beyond.  Go fish in ponds where conservative students can be found.  Go to the Forward in Faith Assembly, the AMiA Winter Meeting, the ACNA Assembly, and meetings of CANA, PEAR, the REC, and the continuing Anglican churches.  Recruit on the campuses of Wheaton College, Gordon College, Taylor University, Asbury, Biola, and other Christian colleges.  Reach out to those Evangelicals who are still on the Canterbury Trail.  Reach out to those orthodox Anglo-Catholics who can’t possibly find another seminary in North America that will meet their needs.

At the rate the Episcopal Church is shrinking, you aren’t going to have that pond to fish in much longer anyway.  So concentrate your energies on the vibrant Global South and those expressions of North American Anglicanism that are associated with them.  Think long term.  Think what your seminary is going to look like 20 years from now.  Think about whether it will still glorify God 20 years from now.  Because, realistically, a seminary that tries to appease the Episcopal Church will not only have a liberal PB preaching in the chapel 20 years from now, it will be performing same sex marriages in the chapel 20 years from now (or much sooner)—and engage in a lot of soul-destroying, heretical teaching along the way.

So “Schori discouraged attendance at Nashotah.”  That’s an outstanding recommendation if ever I heard one.

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