Close to 100 students, staff, and faculty members of General Seminary were joined in Seabury Auditorium by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for a town-hall-style meeting on the evening of May 2. “This is a wonderful opportunity, not only to hear from the Presiding Bishop about what is facing the Church and the Communion,” Associate Dean Patrick Malloy wrote to the Seminary community earlier in the day, “but also to show her the vigor of General and the importance of Episcopal seminary formation.” The questions during the 75-minute-session, nearly all of which came from members of the student body, ranged from the future of residential seminaries, to new modes of evangelism, social networking, racism issues, the role of the diaconate, the state of the Anglican Communion and the proposed Anglican Covenant and this summer’s General Convention. The Presiding Bishop addressed each question, often with eloquence and humor, and was thanked by those present with a standing ovation at the conclusion. A lovely candlelit reception followed, during which the conversation continued. Questions began with a rather light-hearted exchange when the Presiding Bishop was asked whether any budgetary constraints at the Convention this summer might endanger the future of the General Ordination Exams (the daunting series of examinations which so many GTS students are required to take). The discussion quickly moved into a more serious consideration of future models for ordained ministry. “The fields are still plentiful,” said the Presiding Bishop, “but the ‘combines’ are rapidly changing.” Expressing her belief that there would always be larger parishes that could employ one or more clergy full-time, she emphasized the multi-vocational, “tent-maker” model as one that would become increasingly prevalent. She also commended Commissions on Ministry throughout the Church that had moved beyond simply identifying new potential ordained ministers and had fully embraced the ministry of all the baptized.
Addressing international issues, Bishop Jefferts Schori praised the continuing indaba process currently being employed throughout the Anglican Communion and said that it had borne fruits of increased understanding between provinces. The proposed Anglican Covenant, she said, was perhaps an “Enlightenment solution to a postmodern situation.” Rather than the path of confrontation and arguments about differences within the Anglican Communion, she suggested that a better road forward was to see them as “contextual gifts as opposed to problems-to-be-solved.” Similarly, she suggested that up-or-down votes taken at some of the Church’s recent General Conventions, while having achieved some good things, had sometimes produced unfortunate discord. Her hope was for increased reconciliation and mutual understanding.
Introduced by Associate Dean Malloy, the Presiding Bishop stood in the center of the large audience arranged in a U-shaped configuration. She had no prepared remarks but first thanked the GTS community for the invitation and then answered questions from students in a very relaxed and candid manner. The enthusiastic applause she received at the conclusion confirmed the Seminary’s appreciation that she had made room in her very demanding schedule to spend time with the Church’s future lay and ordained ministers and to address their questions with such seriousness and candor.
To see more pictures from this event go to media.gts.edu/photos.