In Christ, There Is No East Or West

In Christ, There Is No East Or West

12/04/19

 

By James Goodmann
Sim Associate Director

 

Creating a global peerage of leadership and learning, Trinity’s goal is empowering ministry through faith- and values-based leadership for the Church and the world, and building stronger ties between churches and communities through their leaders.

 

A significant sign of the shifting landscape of theological education appeared this spring with the formation of an alliance between Trinity Church Wall Street and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley, CA. A surprise Monday morning announcement on March 4th to students, faculty, and staff gathered in All Saints Chapel at CDSP was the occasion for breaking the news. The West Coast seminary is viewed by Trinity as having a “historic strength as a seminary that responds to the challenges of contemporary society” (CDSP website, June 2019). The Dean of CDSP, Dr. Mark Richardson, and the Rector of Trinity, Dr. William Lupfer, shared their elation with all gathered and invited their response to a move that they characterized as answering a challenge to the Church now. 

Lupfer especially invited the CDSP student body to partake in the same challenge. “I think we are on an adventure that is a true adventure. A true adventure doesn’t have a map. There is no one we can go ask what to do, so we have to figure it out ourselves. So, I think that is what Mark and I are asking today. Are you ready to go for it and take an adventure and seek the new wisdom?” – with regard to preparing leaders and renewing the mission of the Church of the 21st century. The Morning Prayer reading from the Wisdom of Solomon and the singing of the seminary hymn, “Wisdom from On High,” seemed to further flavor that invitation. 

Dean Richardson also directly addressed students gathered in the Chapel that morning, “You have chosen a vocation of ministry in a time of trouble and flux in our Church and world, and you are not naïve to this challenge. You have an eye open for transformational moments. Well, you’ve just found one. You’re right in the middle of it.” Adding that “this partnership is mission-driven. The school you know is the school we want to build upon for the future.” 

The shared adventure of these two institutions began with a chance airport meeting of The Rev. Winnie Varghese of the Trinity Church staff and Dean Richardson. Richardson sought Trinity’s wisdom in a property development challenge of CDSP’s in the middle of the Trinity staff’s series of consultations with its various global partners. Those conversations, related Lupfer, kept orbiting around two priorities, “leadership formation and building capacity for ministry…and we were hearing this from [partners in] Korea and Japan to Central America to Southern Africa.” Trinity and CDSP soon recognized they each possessed desirable expertise that could serve the other’s mission and the conversation swiftly acquired a surprising depth. It was, Richardson said, a meeting that blended coincidence with unanticipated purpose. “Our surprise [came] at some common ground in our mission at our two respective institutions, as different as they are.” 

When asked about the adventurous nature of this undertaking, Dr. Richardson related that some of the groundwork for the meeting of these two institutions was occurring through CDSP’s curriculum which, he said, was formed with the anticipation that clergy and their congregations move “outside the parish gates” and form “more porous relationships” with their immediate neighborhoods. This new partnership, he added, “has expanded that neighborhood rather dramatically,” while at the same time expanding the horizons of CDSP seminarians of both regular residential and low-residence affiliations. With regard to prospects of further curriculum development, Dean Richardson said that it would be “a very careful crafting,” mixing the classics across the theological disciplines with other domains of leadership development that are more contemporary – a blend of traditional practice and learning with more lately-developed practices engaged in the corporate and non-profit sectors (some of which contemporary practices, re: mindfulness and meditation, have actually more ancient roots). 


Dean Richardson also characterized this merger of institutions as “informed risk-taking,” with a pedagogical attitude of adventure wherein, “you are not seeking failure but are prepared to make the best use of it when it occurs.” He cited the example of the recently named Nobel scientists as sources of hope and inspiration: they saw apparent failures and shortfalls in their research and experiments as natural indicators of the next steps, as guides to modifying their hypotheses. 

Robert Garris, Managing Director for Leadership Development at Trinity and formerly at Schwarzman Scholars, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference and Research Center, and Columbia University, offered that the partnership move between Trinity and CDSP must of necessity be seen in “the larger context set by Trinity around leadership development and planning,” and that “the serendipity of timing could not have been more perfect.” Dean Richardson and Dr. Lupfer, he said, engaged their conversations at the exact point of Trinity’s readiness to move forward with a more global strategy with regard to leadership development and sustaining ministry among its partners, in Trinity’s immediate neighborhood, and across three continents.

As for characterizing the nature of the adventure for this partnership and for Trinity’s leadership work as a whole, Garris added that it was a matter of “stepping into the unknown and being open and adaptable to leadership challenges around the world.” His own experience with the Schwarzman Scholarships and other programs have taught him that, “young people have a very different idea of leadership and its embodiment: less hierarchical and more lateral and collaborative,” and that those understandings are factors about which Trinity and its global partners will need to be especially mindful. 

Mr. Garris said that the consistent focus of Trinity’s approach is on “faith- and values-driven leadership,” integrating faith and values across the gamut of leadership skills as they occur in professions and precincts beyond those frequently associated with the Church. Faith formation and leadership development are, neither one, to be engaged in isolation but very much inter-related: “faith and strategy; faith and making difficult organizational decisions; faith as both an inspiration and a tool for strategy.” He hoped that the merger would further develop leadership formation as a way of building effective bridges to other professions and forms of leadership that could inform and refine seminarians’ vision as they prepare to reach “a world that very badly needs spiritual leadership and guidance.” Seminarians could hear how people in other professional pathways are also engaging faith and imagination to create new pathways of knowledge and expertise as well as alleviating suffering and creating unique solutions to human problems. 

By a vote of the seminary board of trustees in December 2018, there was unanimous approval of the pact, with the board thereby dissolving itself. Trinity Church’s Vestry will now constitute the trustees of the seminary. In joining Trinity Church Wall Street’s global family, CDSP receives a significant and ongoing investment from Trinity to help enhance its faculty, programs, scholarships, and physical plant and ensure CDSP’s financial stability.

In addition, the seminary becomes an important star-point for Trinity’s global efforts in innovative leadership formation, an initiative that has a reach encompassing Trinity Church’s immediate New York City neighborhood and global partners across Africa, Latin America and Asia. Trinity characterized this work as “a response to the need to gather, train, and network future leaders of the Church,” to provide educational resources both to traditional and innovative divinity sectors as well as drawing upon learnings from the business and organizational development worlds. As well as providing an outstanding seminary education, Trinity envisions CDSP’s role as “a platform and location for other leadership trainings and convenings, aided by its proximity to both Silicon Valley and Asia,” and to California’s diverse populations and standing as the world’s fifth-largest economy. 

The late Camaldolese monk and spiritual director, Bruno Barnhart, in his last work, The Future of Wisdom, characterized wisdom as “participatory knowing: a knowing that is personal, experiential, and tending toward union with that which is known; ultimately centered in identity” (FW, p. 8). For the past three years, Trinity has been convening its global partners in search, with them, for a common wisdom for forming leaders and sustaining ministries across the Anglican Communion, from the Sudan to New Zealand to the Philippines and East Asia to the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of Trinity Church in New York. Trinity and its global partners are forming an alliance built not on traditional models of charitable giving but rather one that fosters sustainable inter-dependence. This model infuses its leadership and ministry initiatives with an economy that capitalizes on what could be called “marketplace ministries,” a model first engaged by the Church in the Middle Ages, whereby partners participate directly in their local economies in the trade of goods and services and the leveraging of land and other assets as part of maintaining a sustainable posture. 

Trinity plans to convene clergy and lay leaders across the world map of their initiatives, training them to gather and deepen spiritual communities in a changing world and empower their ministries, ultimately “network[ing] them in a global cohort of learning.” Creating a global peerage of leadership and learning, Trinity’s goal is empowering ministry through faith-and values-based leadership for the Church and the world and building stronger ties between churches and communities through their leaders. 

The impact of this partnership on theological education in the Episcopal Church, while not altogether knowable, is certain to be seismic. The Trinity-CDSP partnership is an experiment that aligns with the quest of the Greater Church, across denominations and communions, to find a more sustainable and life-giving model for leadership development – both for lay and ordained leaders. The Church in this post-post-modern world is challenged to re-think its pedagogy around leadership and to re-think the stages and occasions of leadership formation and practice, as well as an economy for the same. The world, the marketplace, far from being the “problem,” maybe THE important resource of learning for the Church in our century. 

Asked about the significance that this move has for the Episcopal Church and its mission in the 21st century, Dr. Richardson asserted that “each of the seminaries of the Episcopal Church have their unique contributions to make to the mission of the whole” – and that each must engage their immediate surroundings, their constituencies and the needs of the whole Church. He remarked that he was especially mindful of the contributions of the other seminaries and that “I would never wish NOT to be a part of the conversation among our seminary deans.” Nevertheless, the shifting ground around theological education, he said, asks what kinds of unique contributions that CDSP can make around leadership development. He hoped that both the Church at large and Bishops discerning where to educate their postulants and candidates can see CDSP’s contribution as “adding strength” to the Church as a whole. 

 

Spiritual writer and playwright, Paula D’Arcy, says, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” Or one could otherwise render it as, God comes disguised in the era in which we find ourselves, with all its complexities and inscrutability. We are on a pilgrimage. One thinks of that inaugural video by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in 2016 – where he is seen emerging from the church doors and engaging a walk through the neighborhood and into the wider world – a world which not only waits to hear the Gospel proclaimed but also embodies its own share of the Good News and of wisdom. The suggestion of that visual is that there is an interchange of the wisdom of which the Church has yet to take its fullest advantage. This latest happening in the world of theological education is an important projection of what may be not only possible but of impending necessity if the Church as an institution is to have continuing relevance in this era and in the future of the faith. 

The shape of this story owes much to the NEWS/EVENTS section of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s website (cdsp.edu/email-newsletter), to Trinity planning documents and to an interview with Dean Richardson and Dr. Garris. 

Click this link for the full Journal.


Return