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A message from Acting President Therese DeLisio

Image by Frank L Junior, 123RF Stock Photo

Bexley Seabury Seminary sees itself as a Seminary Beyond Walls. This self-characterization, in part, refers to our low-residency/high-context model of theological education that allows people from around the country to study with us from their places of residence and ministry. They do this by participating in our “hybrid” courses that mix weekend or weeklong intensive classes held on campus with online learning in between. They bring their ministry experiences and the realities of their local communities with them.

Being a Seminary Beyond Walls demands more of us than just offering an innovative non-residential educational model. We aim to form leaders who will come to appreciate ministry as a beyond-walls, boundary-shattering activity that provides glimpses of that for which we refuse to give up hope: God’s reign of love and justice in the world.

We in this seminary community of learners, lay and ordained, are teaching each other to look beyond the walls of church and academy to see what is happening in our local, national, and global communities, and to hear what God is calling us to do and to be in response to that call. Lately, we don’t like much of what we see. We see blatant discrimination, exclusion, and rejection of God’s beloved. We see truth-denying disregard for the health and wellbeing of our planet and of its creatures. We hear unapologetic hate-filled and judgmental rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims, and undeserved blame cast upon those who are sick, poor, and most vulnerable.

In the summer months of July and August, classes are not in session at our seminary. The campus is quiet but we are working hard to welcome our new and continuing students and classes in the fall. In many workplaces not unlike ours, colleagues gather together to share conversation over lunch. Several of our faculty and staff members at Bexley Seabury do, too. In recent weeks, we have shared our deep concerns about the looming loss of health care coverage for millions, and our horror at how the LGBTQ community has been singled out by the Department of Justice and the White House for renewed discrimination and deprivation of their dignity.

We have found it deeply disturbing — no, heartbreaking — to witness yet again the politics of division and the theology of exclusion that picks on transgender individuals, especially those in the military. These are people who only want “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They are willing to lay their lives on the line to fight for this right on behalf of many, both in the U.S. and abroad. How is this degradation of human rights policy in any way consistent with American values or with the teachings of Jesus? How can we, as a Seminary Beyond Walls, respond?

At the very least we can reach out and speak out in support of our brothers and sisters who have been pushed to the margins of society, who are “yearning to breathe free” within and beyond our borders, and who have been labeled by some as “sinners” on account of twisted biblical interpretations. We must educate and spiritually form well-equipped leaders for a Church Beyond Walls that is also committed to embracing those who have been marginalized or excluded because of what they do not have, how they look, who they are, or how they love. We stand with Presiding Bishop Curry and other leaders in the Episcopal Church who have spoken up in support and solidarity with our transgender brothers and sisters serving in the military.Click here to learn more.

I am pleased to report that the Bexley Seabury faculty is about to announce its first award of the Saint Marina Scholarship to a new student who will be entering our Master of Divinity program in the fall. Made possible by the generosity of anonymous donors, the St. Marina scholarship provides a full three-year scholarship to an openly LGBTQ first-year MDiv student who has demonstrated a commitment to social justice ministry within the Episcopal Church.

The St. Marina Scholarship is offered as part of our Bexley Seabury Scholars program that aims to support Master of Divinity students who are from or who plan to  serve underrepresented or underserved communities of faith. As we continue to live out our mission and vision, we hope to be able to expand the range of students to whom we are able to offer this opportunity.

This Seminary Beyond Walls has far more work to do.  We welcome your help and ask for your prayers, as always.