The faculty of The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church met on retreat in January, 2014, for prayer, reflection and discussion. The consensus of the faculty was that the most serious problems in theological education, congregations, the structural organization of the church, and the relationship of Christianity to the society at large emerge from a common root. This is the separation of theological reflection from the life of prayer and spiritual transformation, from Christian action and outreach. As a result, they have published a declaration, “The Way of Wisdom: A Challenge to Theology and the Life of the Church.” It acknowledges the current state of affairs and provides a proactive way forward. Read a summary below. Download the full document here.
Summary of the Way of Wisdom Declaration
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” John 17:17-18
The faculty of The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church believes that chief among the problems of organized religion is that it has neglected the serious incorporation of theology into the life of the church. With all the discussion of the “nones” forsaking organized religion, as well as the “clinging to guns and religion,” attitude toward those viewed as holding onto long cherished, but not modernized religious traditions, theology gets lost in the muddle.
The early Mothers and Fathers of the Church, who we call “theologians”—churchpeople like Macrina, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine of Hippo—understood that “theology” (from the Greek, the “science,” or the “study” of God) was a way of life. Indeed, theology meant aiming every dimension of life toward God and bringing all of creation into harmony with God’s purposes. These early churchpeople were not just profound critical thinkers, they were insightful interpreters of scripture, eloquent preachers of the Word, and loving pastors, who with great spiritual wisdom led the course of the Church in their time.
Unfortunately, the training of pastors for the Church today has become too much like secular academia. It is now largely divorced from the goal of discipleship. Instead of following the clarion call to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” [Micah 6:8], the Church asks its priests and bishops to conform to a bureaucratic model of efficiency and service-delivery. It is as if the Church has become convinced that by disguising itself, taking on the mannerisms of secular institutions, it will draw the world back through its doors.
Sadly, this strategy only makes the Church more irrelevant, chiefly because it makes the true way of wisdom meaningless. After all, wisdom is not simply “knowledge.” Wisdom is the practice of truth shared by the whole people of God, who walk with one another, listen to one another — and most especially to the “least among you” [Luke 9:48]. Like the Mothers and Fathers of the early Church, the bishops, the priests, the laity, and the un-churched come together in their yearning for a greater share in the life of God.
The faculty of the General Seminary is, therefore, challenging all Christians, and especially theological educators and the bishops, priests, deacons and laypeople of the Episcopal Church, to renew their commitment to a way of wisdom that we believe will renew the life of the church.
To that end, we make the following call:
- We call on all Christians to renew their commitment to the Way of Wisdom and their appreciation of the depths of Christian tradition, especially learning from those who are least among them.
- We call on seminaries and the wider Church to commit to supporting sustainable levels of high-quality theological education for all levels of the church (laity, priests, deacons, and bishops) and for all levels of study, from catechesis through doctoral study.
- We call for greater cooperation between the seminaries in realizing this goal of theological education for the whole Church.
- We invite the bishops of the church to re-commit themselves to their teaching role as listening theologians to work to revive and reform the catechumenate for our time, and for church-wide support of the formation of catechists and other church teachers.
- We call on all members of The Episcopal Church to more deeply appropriate the vision of the Church as a community of all the baptized, as found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
- We call on all clergy to more deeply appreciate the Wisdom found in the people in their congregations.
- We call on theologians and theological educators to make Wisdom their paramount priority and to seek to integrate all aspects of theological inquiry as a coherent whole.
- We as the faculty of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church pledge to follow the Way of Wisdom more deeply in our own lives and to change our courses and our curricula to better enable our students to encourage and help others on the Way of Wisdom.
Download the full document, “The Way of Wisdom: A Challenge to Theology and the Life of the Church,” here.
Read Dean Kurt Dunkle’s article, “Diving into the Deep End,” about The Way to Wisdom which appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of GTS News Quarterly here.
For the latest news about The Way of Wisdom go to www.gts.edu/wisdom.