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Bexley Seabury Stories

This page features stories that capture particularly compelling aspects of our communities. Below, you'll find fascinating people and invigorating ideas, and you will be introduced to our common life and the work of the Holy Spirit among us.

How Do We Glorify God?

As published in the 2015 Bexley Seabury Magazine

{ Roundtable discussion of Fully Alive by Jason Fout

 

THE TEXT | Fout, Jason A. Fully Alive: The Glory of God and the Human Creature in Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Theological Exegesis of Scripture. Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015.

 

In late April, Roger Ferlo and Ellen Wondra reflected with Jason Fout on ideas he presents in his recent book, Fully Alive. Excerpts from their conversation follow.

FERLOWondraFout

L-R: Roger Ferlo, Ellen Wondra, and Jason Fout

JASON | In this book, I took on Barth and von Balthasar in particular because I think they got so much right about God’s glory; they ended up repairing a lot of the received theology to that point. But in their ideas about humanity in light of God’s glory, I think they missed a step. For them, the human response to God’s glory is obedience to commands.

I suggest, as Paul Ricoeur does, that we are radically dependent on God, yet also completely free. I further suggest that God’s glory is relational and is worked out in creation, in part through human relationships. In our obedience to God, we exercise critical faculties, like discernment, judgment, and questioning. These faculties contribute to (rather than distract from) a responsive and creative obedience. Without them we would be less than the fully alive human agents God intends us to be.

ELLEN | In part, Jason, you open up the possibility of talking about the inter­dependencies that pervade human life without compromising human agency, but actually enhancing it.

ROGER | Right. You are never isolated. You’re always acting in relationship, exercising responsive creative obedience, listening to the community around you, watching for an expansive sense of who God is and who you are. Stating the need for us to discern, judge, learn about learning, question faithfully, and perform—that’s very different than what you call straight-line obedience: I say–you do.

ELLEN | Your take not only makes the human-divine relationship noncompetitive, it also makes the individual-group relationship non-competitive. Showing how personhood is inherently relational and not fundamentally individual takes a lot of the anxiety out of the dichotomy between person and group or person and God.

JASON | Exactly right. We are individuals, yes. Still, we have all sorts of debts and relationships that constitute us as persons, apart from which we wouldn’t be who we are.

ROGER | We’re talking about the integrity of a person in relationship and that for me is very powerful—giving and receiving—not incurring or expecting obligation. Creating a culture of reciprocity, of abundance.

ELLEN | To use some of Jason’s language and language from some Trinitarian texts, things are so enlarged by this action of giving and receiving that they just overflow.

It’s that wonderful psalm about oil pressed down, running through Aaron’s beard. It’s so extravagant. Things just keep getting bigger. More, more, more. Fundamentally, it’s just plain joy.

ROGER | Teaching can feel that way. For those who love to teach, it comes down to conveying to students, this work is yours—take it! Teaching does nothing for me, except it gives me the satisfaction that you’ve changed, gotten something new. That for me is a very powerful moment.

At Bexley Seabury, when we talk about forming a culture of reciprocity and teaching-learning cohorts, that’s what we really mean. Especially with adults, teaching only has power in reciprocity. Unpredictable and not in your control. We generate, but we don’t control.

ELLEN | Yes. Simply put, we are saying, this is what we have to offer; now, what are all of us going to do with it?

ROGER | It’s walking in the way of the Torah, rejoicing in wisdom. It’s unmotivated, not instrumental wisdom. Wisdom for its own sake, for its own beauty.

ELLEN | To your point about teaching, Roger, if we say that learning and teaching is all about my having knowledge and pouring it into the student’s head, all kinds of things don’t happen. The same thing happens in church. If we understand teaching about God to be I-know-it-and-you-don’t, the amount that gets missed is just enormous. It’s tragic. It’s horrible.

ROGER | I’m reminded that our national culture has, more and more, translated teaching and learning into completely instrumental terms. Without cash value, teaching and learning don’t matter. This is haunting the liberal arts and defund­ing humanities teaching, and this has long-term effects on the civic culture. Everything gets reduced to a zero-sum game—one winner, no surplus.

JASON | Exactly, and completely contrary to everything in the book. Conversation is so important. It creates expanding circles of access, or overflow. In a conversation you have something to contribute, but it can never be one-way. That’s a monologue.

ROGER | That’s mansplaining.

JASON | Yes. Conversation requires both contributing and receiving what others bring without controlling the exchange. I’m often quite surprised by how conversation goes in the classroom, especially because adult learners bring their own wisdom and experience. Yes, I also have something to contribute and the syllabus guides us, but the students contribute inestimably to conversation, to the learning.

ELLEN | I completely agree. But I want to go back to mansplaining, because I think it’s exactly the right term. The way that we conceive of God, of learning, or teaching is very much from on top. We didn’t always give students a chance to work with the material. Now we do. And if we try to interfere, our students won’t let us. They will tell us to be quiet, so that they can talk and think. So, the discussion opens up. That means congregations open up.

JASON | I don’t address it in the book, but one implication might be that the church certainly has things to say, but the church’s being in conversation might lead to some surprises. At times the church might be most fully itself when asking what God is doing in the world, rather than saying it already knows.

ROGER | I’m reminded of what Wayne Smith, the bishop of Missouri, wrote* about what he did or didn’t do during the Ferguson crisis, a very eloquent, moving statement. He said my job was not to speak; my job was to let others speak and for me to listen. It was not an absence, not an abdication, but an acknowledgment of a conversation into which he came late.

ELLEN | Real listening requires a constant re-opening of the self toward the other. Allowing one’s self to be truly affected, comprehensively, goes back to the thesis of the book—that we are radically dependent on God, and that opens us up, frees us for mutually dynamic relationships with others. That’s the glory of God!

___________

* George Wayne Smith, “Blood Cries Out from the Ground: Reflections on Ferguson,” Anglican Theological Review vol. 97 no. 2 (Spring 2015): 255-263.

Listening to the Powerless: Diversity & Context with Professor Eric Law

law ericStudents who take Professor Eric Law’s upcoming course, Diversity & Context, can expect to wrestle with some pressing issues in today’s ministry:  how to hear the powerless, how to identify and respond to racism, and how to recognize and rejoice in diversity.

Participants can also expect to leave the weeklong intensive course with practical tools to serve congregations, help lead change and resolve conflict. The course is a core class for Bexley Seabury’s doctor of ministry in congregational development program and is also open to seminarians as well as members of the community interested in CEUs or lifelong learning.

“Students discover ways to create a gracious environment to engage people, especially in the congregation situation, to speak the truth about themselves and the organization that is the church,” Law says. “The process of getting at that is the understanding that people with different cultural backgrounds will speak their truth in different ways. In the course, we talk about the powerful and the powerless. If you get to only listen to the powerful in any situation, you won’t get the complete truth. By listening to the powerless, you get a fuller picture of what is happening.”

Law will teach his Diversity & Context course in Chicago from January 19–23, 2015. He has a long history with the seminary, where he has taught courses since Seabury’s Doctor of Ministry program was created in 1995.

The relevance of the course only increases every year.

Read more: Listening to the Powerless: Diversity & Context with Professor Eric Law

Bexley Equips Graduate for New Expressions of Ecumenical Ministry

“Behold, I will do a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19)  

 

Sisters Lunch lower resJon White might not have graduated from Bexley with the intent of pursuing ecumenical ministry, but when the opportunity presented itself, he was ready.

Since his 2012 graduation from seminary and his arrival that July at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beckley, West Virginia, White has created joint services with a local Lutheran parish, started a satellite ecumenical congregation, and spearheaded a weekly, community-building lunch group 40 miles from his parish.

“I don’t know that Bexley did it formally, but I think its atmosphere of how to be two traditions together opened me up to the idea and helped me learn to speak Lutheran,” White said. “I was the sacristan for the Lutheran seminary, so I know Lutheran worship pretty well.”

St. Stephen’s was White’s first call after completing his MDiv at Bexley, where he received the seminary’s Howard Weaver and G. David White Award for the graduating student showing outstanding academic achievement. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and ordained in the Diocese of Oregon, White has seen a lot of the world. He served seven years in the Navy submarine service and later served in the Coast Guard Reserve in Portland, Oregon. Prior to ordination he worked as an engineer in the high tech industry, and lived and worked in Australia, England and Zimbabwe.

White, who began at St. Stephen’s as deacon-in-charge, became priest-in-charge in December 2012 and rector in June 2013, found it sensible and comfortable to explore shared ministries with St. Luke Lutheran Church and its pastor, Wanda Childs. St. Stephen’s is the only Episcopal church in Beckley and in all of Raleigh County, which covers about 600 square miles.

Read more: Bexley Equips Graduate for New Expressions of Ecumenical Ministry

Courage, Insight, Camaraderie, Leadership: DMin Program Continues to Galvanize and Enrich Ministry

Sure, it can be challenging and thought-provoking to pursue a doctor of ministry degree (plus you get an extra title!), but does it have any meaningful influence on day-to-day ministry?

Recent interviews with three Seabury DMin program graduates suggest that their DMin experience has had a profound and lasting impact on the direction and execution of their ministry.

Read more: Courage, Insight, Camaraderie, Leadership: DMin Program Continues to Galvanize and Enrich Ministry

Reimagining Scripture for Those of Our Faith, Their Faith & No Faith

Using sight, sound, and the study of the Word to encounter the Spirit

Forget about the black coffee and energy drinks. Those attending the free Friday afternoon workshops at the Restoring the Biblical Imagination event need not worry about suffering after-lunch lethargy. The two offerings — A Muslim, a Jew and a Christian Walk into a Cafe:  Building Relationships through Scriptural Study and The Bible for "Nones:" Sights and Sounds of Scripture — will fully engage participants' eyes, ears, minds and hearts as they experience new ways to see, hear, understand and express their faith.

The first workshop, A Muslim, a Jew and a Christian Walk into a Cafe:  Building Relationships through Scriptural Study, will introduce participants to the process of "Scriptural Reasoning," which brings together people from the three Abrahamic traditions to study and discuss each other's holy texts. The workshop is being coordinated by the Rev. Jason Fout, a Bexley Hall theology professor who studied at the University of Cambridge with David Ford, a co-founder of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning.

Scriptural Reasoning has been gradually spreading across the United States as, small group by small group, religiously observant people gather to deepen their own faith while learning from and building relationships with members of other faiths.

Read more: Reimagining Scripture for Those of Our Faith, Their Faith & No Faith

Why Didn't I Do This Earlier?

This is not hyperbole: Seabury's DMin program transforms lives, strengthens ministries, and leads students to ask, "Why didn't I do this earlier?"

Recent interviews with two DMin students and one graduate highlighted the many ways the program has helped focus their careers and lead them to a deeper understanding of creating and maintaining dynamic faith communities.

The Rev. Morgan Ibe
Morgan Ibe is in his last year of the DMin program, a program he says has been "a shot in the arm" to his ministry. He was born in Nigeria, the son of an Anglican priest who was in charge of several congregations in the Nigerian countryside. His father had a little scooter that he used to go from church to church, baptising and giving communion. "I'd ride on the back of that scooter and go with him," Ibe said. "I decided then that I wanted to go into the ministry."

Ibe, who has served as rector of Church of the Redeemer in Oklahoma City for almost two years, was drawn to the Seabury program because of its flexibility, its use of cohorts and its faculty. Once enrolled, he found that the program offered much more than he anticipated.

Read more: Why Didn't I Do This Earlier?

The Draw of Bexley Hall

During his junior year at Susquehanna University, Russ Crouthamel piled into a minivan with three other students and visited four Lutheran seminaries, driving from central Pennsylvania to Minnesota and back during his spring break.

Crouthamel had no way of knowing that an Episcopal seminary named Bexley Hall would play a crucial role in his decision to go to Trinity Lutheran.

He describes it this way: “It was a long, long road trip. By luck of the scheduling, we pulled into Trinity Lutheran Seminary on Thursday afternoon. So one of my first experiences of Trinity was the Bexley Hall Common Meal, which is prepared and served by Bexley Hall students and faculty every Thursday night for everyone at both Trinity and Bexley. To be able to see the whole community coming together for that meal—students, families, faculty—for fellowship and the chance to be together outside the classroom and outside the seminary setting, it was wonderful. It was a major factor in my decision to go to Trinity over the other seminaries.

Read more: The Draw of Bexley Hall

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