General Voices: Seminary Plus – Prof. Clair McPherson

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The Rev. Dr. Clair McPherson '82

Professor of Ascetical Theology

Many years ago I was working on a Ph.D. in St. Louis, Missouri, and I began to feel a strong sense of priestly vocation as well as an academic one.

I talked this over with my wife Connie, and we agreed: let’s explore that.

So, I spoke with the Bishop, the Dean of the Cathedral (which was our parish), and many clergymen in the area (in those days, they were all clergymen, though that was about to change). And with many laypeople who loved the Church.

And I discovered something.

There were several venerable, and magnanimous, and good-hearted, older ladies from the South. They heard of my plan to attend Seminary, and they said, well, of course, you’ll go to Virginia Theological Seminary.

Either that, or General.

I also had some radical, progressive intellectual friends from the University. They said, you’ll definitely want to go the EDS. That’s where it’s at. That’s where the leadership of the Church comes from.

That, and General.

St. Louis is really not a Midwestern town, despite what some say; it is a crossroads of several cultures, and, church-wise, it comprises many traditions. So there was also a definitely Anglo-Catholic party. Baretta Belt representatives. And they said naturally, you will want to go to Nashotah House.

There, or General Seminary.

All this told me something about GTS. No matter your churchmanship, no matter your ideology, no matter your priestly goals, General was the one seminary everyone agreed: you cannot go wrong there.

So, I visited GTS.

My grandfather was a newspaper editor, my uncle a Mad avenue man, and so I had known New York all my life, and I liked it.

I still like it, but that’s not what really grabbed me in the late 70s.

For me, then, and now, GTS had it all together: academic excellence (that was important to me, as a newly-hatched Ph.D. from an increasingly rigorous university). A serious communal spiritual life: classroom, Chapel, Refectory.

So, my wife and I committed, and we have never regretted it.

But that is what brought me to GTS.

Why I stand by GTS is another matter, not quite so personal.

I believe very strongly that institutions have vocations, just as individuals do. I believe General Seminary’s vocation—her mission, demanded and declared by Almighty God—is to serve the world-wide Anglican Communion as the incomparable educational and formational matrix.

GTS offer a matchless M.Div. program to equip and form presbyters from here to Calcutta and Lagos and Tokyo (I mention those simply because when I studied for my own M.Div. I had classmates from those places.) And a M.A. to equip curious scholars not seeing ordination. An S.T.M. for those who wish to test their vocation to advanced studies.

GTS had it all—everything anyplace else had to offer—plus.

That plus is for me the defining factor—what sets us apart. We offer everything a great grad school offers—plus. Everything a good Seminary should have—plus.

Plus an intentional theological community.

Plus common meals that are of a quality unmatched in institutional cuisine.

Plus the best theological library in the Anglican Communion.

Plus the spectacular opportunities—chaplaincies, the arts, sports, the world’s best pizza restaurants—because of our setting in New York City.

Plus, above all, daily, regular Chapel—the Daily Office, and the Eucharist. The Chapel and the classroom—those are the right and left ventricles at the heart of our community

In recent months, a few people have predicted the demise of this holy place. I hope they enjoy the taste of those words.

But Connie says it best. As long as anyone is knocking at the doors or rattling the gates of GTS, we have a vocation here.

So, we are here to stay.

I stand by GTS because I love GTS, and I always shall. Sermo tuus veritas est—and that is a truth by which I am proud to stand.