February 12, 2019
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Rowan Williams and Michael Curry Visit General Seminary in Memorable Paddock Lectures, Convocation Ceremony
Two primates of the Anglican Communion made a historic visit in New York City yesterday on the campus of General Seminary. The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and the Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church both attended the seminary’s Convocation, receiving the degree of honoris causa. Williams lectured to the community earlier in the day and Curry preached at Evensong.
The Paddock Lectures, Rowan Williams
Williams gave the annual Paddock Lectures, 45 Years of Being Christian: Rowan Williams at General Seminary. 45 years ago, the 23-year-old graduate student Rowan Williams travelled to General Seminary in New York City for his first lecture overseas in the United States. Throughout the next 45 years, Williams has visited the seminary many times as priest, professor, and Archbishop of Canterbury, and returned to Chelsea Square yesterday.
Williams focused on the lived, cultural implications of theology, offering the question: “How does theology move and grow during intense social and cultural change?” Insistent on theology’s practical application, rather than mere philosophy, Williams posited: “Theology happens where lives are transformed” going on to state, “theology is given for the world’s healing.” Challenging the audience to live faithfully, Williams argued, “Authenticity is more than sincerity. It is the practice of responding from your center.”
The Paddock Lectures were founded in 1880 by General Seminary benefactor George A. Jarvis and named in honor of The Rt. Rev. Benjamin Henry Paddock, Class of 1852. The lectures have brought to General’s campus a remarkable group of Anglican scholars, from William Temple to Sarah Coakley. This year’s Paddock Lectures were particularly special, as they were offered in cooperation with Convocation.
The Convocation Sermon, Michael Curry
During Convocation, Bishop Curry preached a riveting sermon on the Way of Love, identifying increasing concerns of American racism and other forms of bigotry and division, using the violent white nationalist march in Charlottesville in August 2017 as an example. “Hatred of ‘Jews will not replace us’ - in America. Hatred of Muslims - in America. Hatred of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people - in America. Hatred of race. Hatred of class. Walking through the streets of Charlottesville.”
Curry offered the ecumenical and interfaith prayer service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Charlottesville as a nonviolent example centered on Jesus. “They were walking, in contradistinction, to the Way of Love.”
Curry made several comparisons between contemporary social and political divisions with the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Comparing Heather Heyer, the young counter-protester killed in Charlottesville to Jonathan Daniels, during the Civil Rights Movement, and other witnesses, Curry stated, “Heather, let her be accounted a martyr. Let us remember her on All Saints.” He then urged the crowd to remember Martin Luther King’s “Rule of Life” for nonviolent resistance. From scripture, Curry reminded the crowd of Peter in the Matthew’s Gospel, who, when watching Jesus, walked on water. Then offering an impassioned plea to those gathered:
“Church, before you march, before you preach, before you meet, before you go out as witnesses in this world: Meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus. Focus on him. Fixate on him. And you will walk on water.”
The Honorary Degree Ceremony
General Seminary conferred the honorary degrees on the two primates and their lifelong work and dedication to ministry during Convocation. In describing Curry, the seminary stated: “Bishop Curry’s ministry has been consistently marked by passionate action in areas related to social justice, reconciliation, and mission. He has been a vocal advocate for immigration policy reform and marriage equality and he has been a force for renewal and revival in The Episcopal Church, most recently through his teachings on the Way of Love, which calls the people of this church back to a Jesus-Focused Life.”
Upon the bestowing of Williams’ degree, the seminary announced, “For his contributions as scholar, priest, poet, bishop, and archbishop, as one whose work has shaped a generation of Christian minds and hearts and whose words will continue to deepen the church’s love and knowledge of God for generations to come, this seminary is pleased and honored to bestow on the Rt. Reverend and the Rt. Hon, the Lord Rowan Douglas Williams the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa.”
Williams continues to stay at the seminary’s campus for another day, visiting classes, interacting with students and preaching at the Eucharist this evening at 5:30 p.m. Faculty, staff, and students alike were inspired by the many moving events of the day. Senior Master of Divinity student, the Rev. Allison Burns-LaGreca, deacon, stated: “Every day is a gift, but some days are really, really big gifts. Today was a really big gift day. By the grace of God I was present to hear the wisdom of Rowan Williams, served as crucifer for the Convocation, listened to our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry preach, met up with some old friends and had the most wonderful dinner and conversation with Bishop Chip Stokes and my colleagues from the Diocese of New Jersey. My heart is overflowing with gladness.”
Located in the heart of New York City, General Seminary was chartered by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 1817. The mission of The General Theological Seminary—to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world—has been a central focus throughout its long history. General seeks to be and to become a community in which ongoing and deepening conversion to new life in Christ is a constant goal. Our purpose is to invite and call others to that life of conversion by our own understanding of the Christian faith—biblical, historical and theological—and our ability to reflect on that faith.