Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will give the address at CDSP’s 123nd Commencement on May 19 at 10:30 am at the Chapel of the Great Commission at Pacific School of Religion. The event is open to the public and will be broadcast live online at www.cdsp.edu.
He will also preside at the baccalaureate Eucharist at 5:45 pm on May 18 at CDSP’s All Saints Chapel.
Curry, the first black presiding bishop in the church’s history, is a graduate of Hobart College and the Yale University Divinity School. Since his election in 2015, he was worked to focus the church’s energies on evangelism and racial reconciliation in the context of “the Jesus movement.”
“Our leaders need to know how to help a community of people—a church—to both listen to the ways of faith and share faith,” Curry said in an interview for the upcoming issues of Crossings, CDSP’s magazine. “They need to know how to organize a community to be a community that is genuinely and authentically evangelical in the best sense of that word, in the biblical sense, a community of good news.”
In his Crossings interview, Curry said community organizing training had taught him, “how to provide leadership in a variety of settings, but particularly in a church.”
The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president, said Curry’s visit comes at a propitious time. “The presence of Presiding Bishop Curry among us at this most important time of year of commencement is a great honor. We will be uplifted by his passion and wisdom as we also share with him the steps CDSP is taking to form leaders for the church’s future.
“Our revised curriculum focuses on mission, discipleship and evangelism, and we now require a course in community organizing that equips students with skills in building relationships within congregations, and for leading congregations into the neighborhood.
“It is particularly fortunate that during the Presiding Bishop’s visit, he will demonstrate the power of the church’s leadership in the civic sphere by participating in the Diocese of California’s conference Eco-Justice: Safeguarding Climate, Food and Water.”
At the commencement, CDSP will award the Master of Divinity degree to seven candidates, including the first graduate from its low-residency program, and will also grant degrees or certificates to 13 students who have completed one of the following courses of study: the Doctor of Ministry, the Certificate of Anglican Studies, the Certificate of Theological Studies, the Certificate of Advanced Ministry Studies, and the Master of Arts degree in cooperation with the Graduate Theological Union.
The seminary will also grant honorary degrees to Curry, the Rt. Rev. Martin Barahona, retired bishop of El Salvador, who has been a staunch advocate for human rights in his country and survived a 2010 assassination attempt, and the Rev. Dr. Jae-Jeong Lee, superintendent of education in Gyeonggi province, South Korea, a lifelong advocate for higher education, human rights, democracy and the reunification of the Korean peninsula.
The Rev. Andrew Hybl CAS ’12 will become CDSP’s dean of students in May when the Rev. L. Ann Hallisey DMin ’05 retires from that position, the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, president and dean, announced today.
Hybl has served as director of admissions and recruitment at CDSP since 2014. In his new role, he will serve as pastor to CDSP’s students, foster student community on campus and among low residence students, and oversee initiatives to connect CDSP students with students across the Graduate Theological Union. He will also oversee admissions and recruitment strategy.
Hallisey, who has been CDSP’s dean of students since 2011, is an executive coach, a spiritual director and retreat leader, and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She plans to focus on her coaching practice and organizational consulting work. Hallisey lives in Davis with her husband, the Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner, who is the bishop of Northern California.
“I’m extraordinarily grateful to Ann for her dedicated years of service to CDSP and for the care she has shown our students, especially in their transitions from seminary to ministry around the wider church,” Richardson said.
“We will miss her faithful presence, but we are delighted that Andrew Hybl, whom Ann has mentored for nearly a decade, will step into her role. He has been an excellent director of admissions, and his lively ministry has already made CDSP a better place. I look forward to seeing his sense of fun and passion for faithful leadership at work in this new role.”
Before joining CDSP, Hybl was curate and associate at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, Pacific School of Religion, and CDSP, and is a Navy veteran who served in the Iraq War. He lives in Oakland, California with his wife, Julie, and their children, Oliver and Alice.
When Hybl takes on his new role, Jamie Nelson MTS ’15, who has been CDSP’s admissions and hospitality coordinator since 2015, will become manager of admissions. He will oversee the administrative and organizational aspects of the admissions process, working closely with Hybl.
Nelson, a native of Washington and graduate of the University of Idaho and CDSP, is CDSP’s first out transgender employee. Prior to enrolling at CDSP, he was a newspaper reporter for the Wahkiakum County Eagle in his hometown.
“Jamie’s thoughtful diligence and attention to each applicant’s strengths are a great boon for our admissions effort,” Richardson said. “I am very glad to have this opportunity for him to assume more responsibility for our recruitment and build even stronger relationships with our prospective students.”
What does sexuality have to do with faith? Plenty, says Leslie A. Choplin who is the keynote speaker at the fifth annual CDSP Youth Ministry Symposium on March 18. And the church needs to talk about it.
“Young adults and teenagers today are demanding more and better sexuality education,” says Choplin, co-author of "These Are Our Bodies: Talking Faith and Sexuality at Church and at Home," part of a new curriculum from Church Publishing. “The Christian church has remained quiet and fearful for too long on such an important topic. …We cannot separate our sexuality from who we are; we cannot separate our body and soul.”
Choplin has spent more than a decade as a director of Christian education, sexual misconduct prevention trainer, facilitator, and speaker in Episcopal congregations across the United States. She is currently the program assistant in the Ph.D. program at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work.
“Issues of sexuality are used by political and some religious cultures to divide people,” Choplin says. “I believe we are called to open the conversation about sexuality, our values, morals, and ethics to help unify people and ensure there is space at the table for everyone. This does not mean that we must all agree, simply that we make space and keep ourselves open.”
Sexuality is a gift from God, Choplin says, and should be treated as such.
“God said that all of God's creation is very good. Eroticism, creativity, and desire are part of the beauty of the world,” she says. “The desire to be in the sun, to feel its sensual energy, and hear the peaceful crashing of ocean waves, the warm touch of a friend, the snuggles of a baby. Each of us draws power and energy from God's creation. The world is fragile and needs us to love and care for it, honoring its sacredness.
“In many ways I think this mirrors how we should explore sexuality and faith,” Choplin says. “Our bodies are sacred and should be treated with honor. People still struggle to understand consent and power in sexual relationships. People struggle with power over each other for control of land and resources. My hope is that the more we are able to learn to live in harmony with each other, the more we will learn to live in harmony with the earth, and vice versa.”
In 2014, Choplin was one of several people approached by Church Publishing Incorporated to help develop a sexuality curriculum. The Episcopal Church’s publishing house was fielding requests from across the church, especially for a middle school curriculum on sexuality. Choplin and her co-author, Jenny Beaumont, were part of a group convened by Church Publishing editors to brainstorm possibilities.
The new curriculum, being published in stages, provides church leaders and parents with accurate information and language that can help them create a safe space for talking about human sexuality in light of both Christian faith and progressive, inclusive values.
The program’s foundation book, written by Choplin and Beaumont is available now. It is especially recommended for facilitators, small group leaders, and parents. The middle school age program module—written by Beaumont and Abbi Long—also is available. It includes ten developmentally appropriate, faith-based sessions, a guide for leaders and books for both participants and parents.
Modules for use with children ages three to 11, high school students, young adults and adults are under development.
“Sometimes you’ll hear from people who say, ‘Oh, the school will cover that information, so I don’t need to worry about that.’ I disagree,” Choplin says. “Our parents are our primary sex educators, so equipping them to convey that information in a positive way is very important. ... We’re trying to provide accurate information that allows us to say there is more to this than ‘this is the mechanics’ and ‘this is the plumbing,’ because there’s so much more about our sexuality.”
And while Choplin’s keynote address at CDSP will focus on youth, she says young people aren’t the only ones who can benefit from discussions about sexuality.
“We’re not just talking about the health and well-being and spiritual life of teenagers,” Choplin says. “We need to be able to recognize that there is an intersection in our faith and our sexuality that is lifelong and needs to be addressed in some way.
“I think God wants us to enjoy sex and our sexuality in all its forms. I imagine that God is saddened by our continued struggles to embrace one another in kindness and love. Through programs like “These Are Our Bodies,” we can work toward embracing the light of Christ in each other.”
Less than 48 hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office, CDSP students enrolled in this year’s Organizing for Public Ministry course traveled across the San Francisco Bay to San Rafael to learn about the threats faced by immigrants in the current political climate.
The meeting, which drew more than 300 people, was called by the Marin Organizing Committee, part of the Bay Area Industrial Areas Foundation to which CDSP belongs. Both San Rafael Police Chief Diana Bishop and Dennis Rodoni, a Marin County Supervisor, attended and committed to work on immigrants’ issues.
One woman, reported the Marin Independent Journal, said she was told by a prospective landlord, “We have a new president; you and your people are going to be deported.” Other immigrants reported problems with overcrowding, lack of maintenance, unannounced rent increases, and evictions.
Portia Hopkins, a first-year student in the low-residence MDiv program, said she was moved by the stories of the immigrants at the meeting and impressed at the technique organizers used to share them.
“There was an enormous amount of power in the way they gathered people into circles and encouraged them to share their stories,” she said. Group leaders then gave a summary of each group’s conversation to the entire crowd. The elected leaders who attended were visibly moved by the stories, says Hopkins, as was she.
“There is such power in the voice of the individual,” she says. “These are people who don’t have any power, and don’t feel like people are listening to them. But they have stories.”
For Kathleen Moore ’19, hearing from immigrants about the discrimination they face lent urgency to the community organizing class, required for all MDiv students.
“In the current political climate, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated,” Moore says. “I was inspired by the way broad-based community organizing breaks up the hard work, and encourages us to focus on local, ‘winnable’ fights. It starts with real conversations and it’s all about building relationships. It was inspiring to see families in San Rafael tell their stories and have their concerns acknowledged by the police chief and county supervisor.
“Right now, using the IAF approach of simply getting to know our neighbors in our communities seems like a particularly effective and appropriate way for churches to make a difference and to combat that feeling of helplessness,” she says.
Academic Dean Ruth Meyers, who taught the course in tandem with IAF organizers, says the week-long intensive training develops skills, tools and theoretical capacity for community organizing, and helps students connect community organizing to Christian faith and practice. “What many students come to understand is that organizing is not just for work that happens in the wider community,” she says. “Congregational development is also a kind of community organizing, and through this course, CDSP students are building their ability to make the boundaries between the church and the world more porous.”
For the Rev. Rafael Pereira of the Diocese of Nevada, a student in that diocese’s local formation program, the event had biblical meaning. “The action at San Rafael was exactly living out the Gospel when Jesus fed the 5,000,” he says. “It was a rainy day, especially at the time we traveled to San Rafael, and I could compare my feelings with the disciples, when they questioned Jesus. I thought that just a few people were going to show up due to the weather. When we got there and saw the large crowd, we became one community working together for justice and the needs of our brothers and sisters, for the common good.
“Organizing people and organizing money will lead you to change the world.”
A sermon preached by CDSP student Mia Benjamin in All Saints Chapel on January 30:
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“But Jesus refused, and said to him, 'Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.'”
I was going to preach a very different sermon today. Right up until last Friday, that is. That's when I learned that President Trump signed an Executive Order suspending the entry of refugees and immigrants into the United States. His order affects the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, and it's still unclear whether that applies green card and visa holders. Perhaps you, like me, have spent this past weekend praying for friends abroad who are now suddenly unable to return home. American doctors, professors, students, and business owners facing exile from the homeland they have served and built and taught and healed.
I often wish, and perhaps you do as well, that following Jesus always means going off on a grand adventure and slaying the huge dragons of racism and poverty and all those big, sexy national issues that everyone is talking about. And the thing is sometimes it does. Sometimes following Jesus does mean leaving behind family, friends, and careers to move across the country. Sometimes it means getting arrested at Standing Rock, or shutting down an airport terminal, or even breaking the law. But then there are these other times Jesus refuses us. Times when Jesus asks us to start small and slow, right where we are. With ourselves, with our friends, with our neighbors.
The story we read today from Mark's Gospel is about Jesus casting demons out of a suffering man. It ends with the people of his city deciding to respond with fear. After hearing what Jesus had done, and how much one man's liberation had cost them as a community, the people beg Jesus to leave their town. And as he's getting into his boat, the healed man begs to go with Jesus. But Jesus refuses. The man asks if he can follow Jesus, and Jesus says "no, go home."
This past January intercession, several of us took a course in broad-based community organizing. As I sat through class, literally sitting there knitting hats for the big national, million-person Women's March that weekend, our instructors taught us the incredible power of starting small and slow and local. The basic building blocks of community organizing, we learned, were not taking huge, dramatic, uncompromising stands about our principles, but rather the humble steps of sharing of stories, first one-on-one and then in small groups. Through those stories, we learn what our neighbors really care about, the winnable issues they have the energy to change. In other words, we learn to look for where the Holy Spirit is already agitating folks to transform their community, and we join in with them.
So what happens when big, national stuff hurts our friends and makes us angry? I struggled a lot this weekend, this whole past week really, with not knowing what actions to take. Whom do I call? What petitions do I sign? Where's the march happening? Where can I find Jesus leading a faithful band and climb aboard? Where's the boat, I'll jump right in.
But Jesus refused, and said to me, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you."
So here's the good news. I do have a story to tell. Many, actually. All about the ways that God has worked through Muslims and citizens of Muslim-majority countries to transform and liberate me. All about Iranian professors who taught me to write academic theses and how to make rice with saffron and potatoes. Jordanian Muslim women who taught me how to look patriarchal religious clerics in the eye and hold them to the woman-affirming words of their holy book. A young Egyptian man with a rubber bullet shard in his forehead who taught me what it really means to demand democracy. Palestinian Muslim neighbors who taught me how to love the bend my body makes when I worship God and all about the holy scent of miramiya tea.
You probably have stories, too. Stories of what God has done for you through the work of human hands. Hands that carry the wrong sort of national identification cards, or lips that use the wrong name for God. Maybe you have stories of the ways people, the ones we're told to fear, Muslims, immigrants, and foreigners, have calmed your demons and been your neighbor. Tell those stories. To your friends, to your neighbors, to the world.
Because here's the other good news in this passage. Like many of the other people Jesus heals in the Gospel of Mark, this man doesn't listen to Jesus, not really. He doesn't get in the boat with Jesus, but he also isn't satisfied with just telling his friends. This Jesus-follower travels all around the Decapolis, the region of the ten cities, proclaiming all that God has done for him. The good news, then, is that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. That his refusal may not be a rejection at all, but a calling to the larger gifts of the spirit we never knew we had.
There are many people in this world who are afraid of the power of outcasts with second chances. There are many who have been taught only to look to what bringing a madman in from a place of death might cost us. What does Jesus ask you to do for them? What does he refuse you to do?
My answer came to me from my college professor's daughter, and the words she asked her father to share on social media:
“Salam, Hello. I am eleven years old. I am living for a year in Iran. Me and my family were hoping that this new law would not apply to green-card holders. I was shocked when I first heard of this law. I have lived for 9 years in the U.S.A. Does that make me different from the people who are around me and are citizens? I consider myself just as American. Does it make a difference if I am Muslim? Is that wrong? I have lived and talked and laughed with the people who have supported this law. I cannot believe that they would do this to me. So I ask you to reach out. Reach out to the people and tell them our stories...I ask you all to do something about it, to help these people who have done no wrong to come home. It is not the time to stand at the sidelines and watch other people to do our work for us. And I hope with all my heart that the people that are stuck with nowhere to go, will soon find their way home.” Amen.
Mia Benjamin '19 is an MDiv student from the Diocese of Massachusetts.
Earlier this month, the CDSP Community Leadership Team passed a resolution calling on the entire CDSP community to stand in solidarity with "water protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies, who are defending sacred lands against the construction of the DAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline]." Read the entire resolution.
Phil Hooper, a first-year MDiv student who organized the effort, writes, "Our response was a natural outgrowth of CDSP's commitment to the issues of creation care and social justice. I was inspired by the Episcopal Church's decision to publicly stand with Standing Rock, and there was clearly a desire among the CDSP community to affirm that position. Our formation as seminarians needs to translate into a public witness of faith, and this was a time to speak out."
Alison Fisher, also a first-year MDiv student, compiled a list of national and local public officials and employees of Energy Transfer Partners, LP, the company that owns the Dakota Access Pipeline. At a community Eucharist, CDSP students and community members pledged to advocate on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by contacting legislators and stakeholders.
"The CDSP community is committed to caring for the earth and its inhabitants," says Fischer. "Our priority was to honor Standing Rock with effective protest and we felt that documented communication to government officials would be productive."
The Celtic Cross Mission Society, a student group that coordinates grants for outreach, made a $1,000 donation to the Diocese of North Dakota to assist with its work to oppose the pipeline.
On October 22, more than a hundred people gathered at CDSP for a day of theological reflection, worship and exploration of the church's response to climate change:
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the current St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry, gave an address titled "Creation and the Effective Word: Holy Storytelling, Creation, and God’s Mission." Read her address.
Professor Cynthia Moe-Loebeda gave an address titled "Truth-telling, Inequity, and Christian Action." Read her address.
The day culminated with a liturgy to bless CDSP’s new installation of solar panels led by Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bishop Marc Andrus of California. The panels, installed on Easton, Parsons, and Shires Halls earlier in 2016, make up the largest solar installation of any theological seminary in the United States.
Watch videos of the event: