Trinity College, University of Toronto – Day 3 of meetings of the Society of Scholar Priests.
For the last two days, the Board of Directors of the Society of Scholar Priests (part of the Scholar-Priest Initiative) has been meeting in the precincts of Trinity College (University of Toronto) and Church of the Redeemer (just up the street) to assess the progress of the society over the last two years and to make some determinations concerning the future of the organization.
One of the things that struck us all is the phenomenal progress that has been made in such a short period of time. What that says to me is that the work for which we have set ourselves answers a need in our respective churches (the Society encompasses The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada) but more importantly is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in fitting our churches for the challenges awaiting us in this century.
The work of the society is built on three pillars or core values: being rooted in Scripture and Tradition, post-partisanship, and being ordered to right action. The first of these may seem self-evident as priests of the Anglican way gather to discuss matters of theology and ministry. The second is a little less so. “Post-partisanship” is simply a way to describe how, once we establish our common ground in Scripture and Tradition, that we can learn to “disagree in love.” In other words, that our theological reflections need not always be fully aligned with one another, or, that we can “agree to disagree.” We hold this is a core principle because theology is, after all, our carefully reasoned reflection on the meaning and application of divine revelation – it is not divine revelation itself. Disagreements have been part of the life of the Christian Church from the beginning. The gospels themselves relate how The Twelve had differing viewpoints and how, once St. Paul came on the scene, those differences deepened and almost split the infant Church. The work of the Spirit, however, helped early Church leaders come to a compromise (a dirty word in our day and age) whose result was the spread of the gospel throughout the known Gentile world. Our aim is to recapture that spirit – not to try to find a false peace, but to have deep, reasoned discussions (yes, even arguments) that end not with rancor but with a sense of mutual respect for our differences.
The third core principle is the theme of this year’s annual conference, which begins in earnest later today. It is “ordered to right action.” All the talking in the world is without value if it does not put us on a road to more deeply understand, and so to live, the way of Jesus. Without this third principle, our work leads to mere speculation and empty theories. Our aim to take our deliberations and reflections and see how they inspire and move our ministry in our respective communities of faith – especially parishes. That’s the focus of our mission: to “welcome theology home.” In other words, all of our careful thought, conversation, reflection, and arguments must ultimately lead us to good decisions for the people of God entrusted to our care.
Being a “scholar-priest” is not so much about academic degrees and intellectual niceties as it is about becoming leaders of spiritual communities that reflect deeply on the mysteries of God and how God is working out God’s mission in the world. In that way, members of this society hope to provide the Church with a more profound sense of God’s abiding invitation to bring the world into God’s kingdom. As our conference begins later this afternoon, hold us all in prayer so that we may all return to you a bit wiser, more humble, and better equipped to walk the way of Christ with you.
In the heart of our loving Savior,