During her nine years leading the Episcopal Church’s nearly 2 million members, the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori spent a good deal of time representing the church on public issues ranging from caring for the poor to caring for the planet. Next fall, CDSP students can engage with her firsthand when the former presiding bishop returns to campus as the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry to teach a course entitled The Public Square: Engaging Emerging Opportunities.
“We are going to consider a variety of ways in which pastoral leaders might engage the public square, in partnership with others, and including such areas as public policy, human flourishing, scientific discovery and artistic creativity,” Jefferts Schori says. “Climate change would be an excellent example. I expect us to focus on how people of faith can flourish in their baptismal vocation of reconciliation. We will consider how to balance this work with reflection, Sabbath, silence, and re-creation.”
Jefferts Schori, who was a teacher long before she was a preacher, has advanced degrees in both science and religion. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford in 1974 and a Ph.D. in oceanography from Oregon State University. Prior to her ordination to the priesthood in 1994, she was a visiting assistant professor in Oregon State University's Department of Religious Studies, a visiting scientist at Oregon State University's College of Oceanography, and an oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle.
Jefferts Schori received a Master of Divinity from CDSP in 1994 and an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. She served as bishop of Nevada until 2006 when she became the first woman elected as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Her term ended last November.
The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, Ph.D., CDSP’s dean and president, had long hoped to recruit Jefferts Schori to spend a semester at CDSP. “This is an opportunity for Bishop Katharine to return to the classroom where she is so gifted, and to share with us the wisdom of her experience gained over a decade of episcopal leadership,” says Richardson, who co-taught seminar sessions on theology and evolution with Jefferts Schori several years ago at General Theological Seminary. “The Women in Ministry experience is also a time set apart for one's personal research, reflection and writing, and that is something she richly deserves.”
Asked what she loves about teaching, Jefferts Schori says, “Watching and experiencing fertile minds making leaps, discovering things, making new connections, and being invited into that creative ferment.”
All of her multi-faceted experiences with religion in the public square will come to bear on the Tuesday evening course at CDSP.
“We’ll consider how to encourage constructive and elevated public dialogue that is at once civil and earnest, evangelical and thoughtfully critical, and energetically focused on a vision of the beloved community – God’s peaceable kindom of all creation,” she said.
"This is a good book for people who are new to this stuff of reading the Bible and asking questions that are outside of their own experiences of marginality, poverty, and solidarity. For example, in my country [Colombia], there are no clear demarcations between who is white and who is black. Divisions based on skin color are not the same, because we see ourselves as mestizaje. So we ask how we can bring class to the reading of the Bible."
The Rev. Tripp Hudgins, a doctoral student in liturgical studies and ethnomusicology at the Graduate Theological Union, has been named the 2016-17 Bogard Teaching Fellow at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, academic dean at CDSP announced last week.
“We’re pleased to welcome Tripp, who has an energetic presence, a lively mind and a deep understanding of how music and culture affect one another and how both shape our experience when we gather to worship,” Meyers said.
Hudgins, who has been serving as director of admissions and an adjunct professor of liturgy at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, will serve as a teaching assistant in the fall term, then offers a course during the spring semester. He succeeds Stephen Shaver as the Bogard Fellow.
“It is a privilege to have an opportunity to learn and teach within a community I already know well,” Hudgins said. “I look forward to deepening the relationships that already have a profound influence on my work.”
The Bogard Fellow participates in CDSP worship and community life and attends monthly colloquies at which faculty discuss one another's scholarly work.
Hudgins, a native of Ashland, VA, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond and master’s degrees in both divinity and theological studies from the former Seabury-Western Seminary in Evanston, IL. He was ordained in the American Baptist Churches, USA, in 2004.
After serving two congregations as pastor, Hudgins and his wife, Patricia Austin, moved to Berkeley where they live in community with their infant son, Elias, as part of All Souls Episcopal Parish near CDSP.
His Ph.D. focuses on the history of American Protestantism and music as lived eschatology.
Watching war movies, reading science fiction and examining Zen Buddhism aren’t your typical seminary fare, but they are among the many innovative, online continuing education courses available at CDSP.
The Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership (CALL) offers online courses during winter, spring and fall sessions that allow students to go at their own pace and learn at a time convenient to them. Courses are seven weeks long and are open to everyone, lay or ordained.
David Cunningham, a member at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley, and former director of planned giving at the University of San Francisco, is effusive about the CALL program.
“My wife, Claire, and I have taken two courses, Brian Taylor's ‘The Empty Way’ and John Kater's ‘Anglican Theology,’" Cunningham said. “Both were very rich in content and most stimulating and inspiring.”
Taylor’s course, “The Empty Way: Contemplative Christianity and Zen Buddhism,” was offered in the fall of 2015 and will be offered again in the spring of 2017. It explores the spiritual practices of contemplative Christianity and Zen Buddhism, including an openness to life as it is, compassion towards others, and freedom from anxiety-producing habits of mind.
“This course is not specifically Episcopal,” said Taylor, who served for 30 years as rector of an Episcopal congregation in New Mexico and has studied and practiced with a variety of Zen Buddhist teachers in San Diego, Albuquerque and Chicago, where he now resides. “This course puts together a Christian and Buddhism landscape and looks at the overlap. Today there are just so many people interested in Buddhism.”
Cunningham said the course helped further his and his wife’s own Christian formation.
“We found the course content a powerful tool for another approach to our Christian faith journey,” Cunningham said. “Brian showed us, via a video, how to sit in Zen meditation and why. He then guided our work to connect this contemplative experience to our spiritual learning.”
As part of the class, students were required to meditate each day. The Cunningham’s devoted 20 to 30 minutes a day to meditation, and “we still meditate now several months after the course ended. I wish Brian would teach another class. He is an excellent teacher.”
In an upcoming class titled “War in Film and Faith,” participants will explore whether it is possible for disciples of Jesus Christ to participate in or approve of war. And if so, under what circumstances? The course, taught by Dr. Bradley Burroughs, will approach these questions through the lens of contemporary films—both fiction and documentary—that portray key aspects of war. The films will be augmented with readings that deepen students’ understanding of the rich history of Christian reflection on war.
“The films ideally are intended to open up certain questions and issues related to the ethics of war,” said Burroughs, a former CDSP professor who now lives in Dayton, Ohio, and teaches at United Theological Seminary. “For instance, the first film we watch is ‘Glory.’ When I had full-time students in Berkeley, most were inclined toward a form of pacifism. ‘Glory’ is intended to open up the question, might there be a time when war is just? This film portrays a war that has as strong of a claim to justice as any, in my opinion.”
In addition to “Glory” (1989), students will watch and reflect on one movie per week, including: “American Sniper” (2014); “Defiance” (2008); “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012); “Wag the Dog” (1997); “Selma” (2014); and “Restrepo” (2010).
Burroughs had an abundance of films from which to choose. So he chose ones that were easy for students to access online and that best addressed the questions he had in mind.
“For instance, I wanted to consider moral injury, which is not just PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but also war injuries in the larger framework—the idea that by participating in a certain act, you feel that you have damaged your own ability to do good or be good. This is of immense significance for those ministering to soldiers and returning soldiers.”
For that issue, he chose “Restrepo,” a documentary that chronicles the lives of men from the beginning of their deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan (at the time, regarded as one of the deadliest places on earth) until their return home.
“It’s a really powerful movie about how the ways the effects of war continue long after the general public has stopped thinking about it,” Burroughs said. “When soldiers come back, we’re not so good at thinking about the enduring consequences of what we have asked those people to do on our behalf.”
Burroughs said courses that deal with contemporary issues challenge the faith formation of laypeople and clergy alike.
“What I would say about my courses is there are right or wrong answers, and we are too quick to say there is no right or wrong. I certainly hope when you walk away from this course that you can make your case in a way that is faithful to Christian scripture, tradition and reason.”
Looking ahead to the fall of 2016, science fiction writer Michelle Murrain will teach a course called “Sci-Fi Faith.” A primary text for the course will be “The Sparrow,” by Mary Doria Russell, a book about the first Jesuit mission to a planet inhabited by intelligent life. The course will also include short stories and non-fiction readings.
“We’ll be talking about the themes in science fiction that have to do with God, creation, the ways in which religion manifests in human beings and may manifest itself in the future,” said Murrain, who lives in Healdsburg, California. “There’re lots of ways in which religious concepts have made their way into science fiction since the beginning.
Murrain, who has a Ph.D. in biology and a certificate of theological studies from the Pacific School of Religion, has written numerous science fiction books and currently works as a relationship coach.
She said the Sci-Fi Faith course will consider existential questions about the universe and human nature.
“Most of religions are human and earth bound—Jesus came to earth to save humans,” Murrain said. “So what does it mean if there are aliens and what is God’s relationship to them? So it forces us to think a little bit bigger than we may have before. It will really expand our sense of who is God and what God is responsible for.
“We’ve never seen aliens, but the universe is very large. Chances are there are other living creatures out there. So what is God’s relationship to them?”
Taylor, who teaches the contemplative prayer and Zen Buddhism course, said the CALL program answers a very specific need faced by many people of faith today.
“It’s not always easy to engage a lot of your parishioners in significant adult formation,” Taylor said. “You can offer courses on weeknights, Saturday programs, or Sunday forums, and often the only thing possible in these settings is a ‘101’ level of formation. It is difficult to go deeper. In a congregation, there will only be a small number of people who want to or can participate.
“On a national level, such as in CALL courses, you can go into depth in a way you can’t do in a parish,” Taylor said. “ There are people spread around all over the church who are looking for more in-depth experience but they can’t get it unless you go online.”
As a past participant in two of the CALL courses, Cunningham said, “I think this is a very vital way to the future for our church. It is easy to log on; the conversations make you really think; and the new experience learned, especially via the Zen experience, changes attitudes and bad habits. I breathe first before getting upset in traffic. Claire is most pleased about that!”
For more information about upcoming CALL courses, go to http://cdsp.edu/center-for-anglican-learning-and-leadership/call-online-spring-2016/. Continuing Education Units are offered for CALL courses at the rate of 2 CEUs per course. Spring courses run April 11 through May 30
CDSP’s plans for the largest solar installation of any seminary in the United States took a big step forward in January when the institution received an anonymous gift of $250,000 over five years toward the project’s $560,000 cost.
“At CDSP, we believe that moral accountability in our relationship to the environment is an essential component of quality theological education,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, dean and president. “We strive to be good stewards of the resources we have been given, and with this generous lead gift for solar energy, we will be able to reduce CDSP’s carbon footprint and model sustainable living as a Christian community.”
CDSP committed to reducing its global warming pollution by 50% by 2030 when it signed the Paris Pledge developed by Interfaith Power and Light, an anti-global warming advocacy network. The pledge was launched at the United Nations-sponsored Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015, which Richardson attended as a representative of the Episcopal Church.
The planned installation of more than 400 solar panels on three buildings is a key part of the seminary’s plan to fulfill the Paris Pledge. The panels will be installed first of the roofs of Easton and Parsons Halls and later on the roof of Shires Hall.
“We are blessed with an active, supportive community of donors and alumni who share our vision of environmental sustainability as an integral part of theological education,” said Laurel Johnson, director of alumni affairs and major gifts officer at CDSP. “This generous lead gift makes that commitment tangible and provides alumni and friends with the opportunity to join this important movement to make CDSP more sustainable for generations to come.”
In January, CDSP’s solar panel plan was given a boost by the California Public Utilities Commission which voted to allow solar panel owners to sell the excess power they generate back to their utility at full retail rate. The practice, known as net metering, is seen by solar advocates as essential to making solar installations affordable because it allows solar users to get credit for the excess energy they generate in the daytime and draw on that credit during peak usage times when solar energy is not being generated.
The solar installation project is now being reviewed by the City of Berkeley, and CDSP hopes to begin work this spring.
This year, CDSP has a new summer reading list for incoming students. Each month between now and the official start of the summer reading season, we'll highlight some titles on the new list chosen by our faculty members.
This month, Visiting Assistant Professor Scott MacDougall discusses two books that he hopes will help incoming students understand the purpose of studying theology. “People studying for ordained ministry aren’t training to become a theological Delta Force,” he says. “They’re training to facilitate other people’s theological exploration.”
“I am convinced that we as a church need to rediscover theology as the work of all people. It’s not optional, it’s a requirement for being a Christian person,” says MacDougall, who, like Thompsett, is a lay theologian. “Those of us who teach in seminaries are not an aristocratic class of professional theologians.
“The way Thompsett frames her case is deeply Anglican. She attends really closely to the ways in which Anglican people through time have done theology and what the concrete results of that work have been, especially the ways in which theologically sophisticated laypeople have led movements for social justice and changed from within the way the church looks.”
“This book is an introduction to systematic theology from the perspective of someone who believes that the task of doing theology should be deeply troubling and painful,” says MacDougall. “He does this in narrative form, using examples from philosophy, literature, scripture and the lives of the saints, and raises thorny theological issues that we will investigate more fully in my courses.”