Two young women whose careers as innovative leaders in the Episcopal Church are already well underway will receive CDSP's 2016 Excellence in Ministry scholarships.
Mia Benjamin, 24, an Episcopal Service Corps (ESC) fellow in the Diocese of Massachusetts and Kathleen Moore 35, communications minister in the Diocese of Vermont, were selected for the scholarships which include full tuition and a $1,000 stipend.
Benjamin, a native of Fairfield, Connecticut and an alumna of Middlebury College, has conducted research on Christian-Muslim relations in Jordan on a Fulbright grant and developed several ministries at Grace Church in Medford, Massachusetts during her two-year tenure in the Life Together program, which is part of Episcopal Service Corps (ESC).
Moore, a native of New York City and an alumna of Kenyon College, was a television scheduler and social media manager before joining the Diocese of Vermont, where she settled because of her commitment to rural ministry. She also works with Canticle Communications, whose clients include CDSP.
“CDSP continually seeks out applicants who possess the character, leadership, and creativity that are required to lead the church in new directions,” said the Rev. Andrew Hybl, director of recruitment and admissions. “Both Mia and Kathleen embody these characteristics and more. We are excited to welcome them to CDSP this fall and witnessing their further development as leaders.”
Benjamin was 10 years old and living 60 miles from New York City when planes struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and the attack had an immediate effect on her. “I wanted to work on reconciling Islam and Christianity,” she said. Deeply influenced by the example of a local pastor, the Rev. Alida Ward of Greenfield Hill Congregational Church in Fairfield, she went to Middlebury assuming she’d enroll in a seminary soon afterwards.
A collegiate crisis of faith caused her to rethink that plan, but she never lost her interest in Islam or in interfaith work. With a Fulbright Research Grant, she spent a year “doing research on Muslim clerics who worked in the Jordanian government and their opinion and reactions to the women’s rights movement,” Benjamin said.
She also worked for the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, an interfaith organization headed by the Rev. Nabil Haddad, a Greek Melkite Catholic priest intent on improving relationships between Christians and Muslims in his country.
“We were working on a project between Jordanian Muslim military chaplains and American Christian military chaplains, trying to work on an interfaith cross-cultural exchange,” Benjamin said. “A lot of American soldiers who come to the Middle East don’t know much of anything about Islam. So how can chaplains play an important role in how to have peaceful relationships with people of different faiths?”
All the while, she was hearing a call to ministry that she “didn’t quite know what to do with.” On her return to the United States, she applied to Life Together, which, like other ESC programs, blends life in a small, intentional community, with service work with local non-profits.
“I found God again almost right away through the Eucharist and experiencing the sacraments,” Benjamin said.
In her first year in the program she began a ministry at a local nursing home, and helped convene local interfaith clergy in the wake of the fatal mass shooting at an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and began a young adult evangelism program that became the focus of her second year. “I have been really focused on how we bring in young adults who either have no experience of church or who have been really hurt by church in the past,” she says.
“Mia has a quick intellect and a contagious passion in following Jesus,” said the Rev. Noah H. Evans, the rector at Grace. “She has many gifts to bring to ordained ministry, especially in a changing and more pluralistic world.
Benjamin and Moore both said CDSP’s distinctive identity as an Episcopal seminary in the ecumenical and interfaith context of the Graduate Theological Union was a key factor in their decisions to attend the seminary.
“As a relatively new Episcopalian, I am really looking forward to being part of a community that prays together,” Benjamin said. “CDSP provides an ecumenical and interfaith environment while still having community for each faith where each person could be shaped in their own identity. The communities are in dialog and I just thought that was so incredible.”
Moore has experienced firsthand the kinds of seismic cultural changes that are shaking the church in another industry: television. In her teens she became fascinated by the work of television schedulers, especially Preston Beckman, the architect of NBC’s famous “Must See TV” lineups. But no sooner had she landed a job working with Beckman at Fox, then the advent of the DVR and streaming video made it possible for everyone to be their own scheduler.
Technology closed some doors in the entertainment industry, but it opened others. A few years later, Moore was working for TheWB.com, a website that streamed programs from the defunct WB network. Only a limited number of episodes could be made available at the time, so Moore and her colleagues used nascent social media to solicit viewers’ stories about why they wanted to see a particular episode of a given show.
“It was kind of wonderful, because I could respond to what people were actually asking for,” she said. “I could say, ‘I love that story about you and that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that you love, and it will be available for you to see on Monday.’ It was an incredible experience to actually be able to talk to people about things that they loved. And even back then I was thinking, ‘Oh boy should the church be excited about this.’
“That was the moment, because of the industry I was in, when I could see that one-way communication just wasn’t going to be a thing anymore. Everything was going to have to be multi-directional.”
A cradle Episcopalian, Moore was attending All Saints Church in Beverly Hills when the call to explore ordained ministry, which she’d been aware of since college, became stronger. Working in social media meant she was no longer tied to Los Angeles, and, with an interest in rural ministry rooted in childhood summers spent in Arlington, Vermont, she moved back east to a job with The Orvis Company, that she eventually left behind as she moved more deeply into the church.
“Kathleen has a real understanding that there is a need for a traditional way of being the church because there are people in our congregations who need that, but there are others who are not drawn to that or feel themselves left out, and for those people, there are new ways that have to happen,” said the Rev. Scott Neal, who was Moore’s rector at St. James, Arlington when she began her discernment process.
“The people I talk to really don’t have any impression of what it is to be Christian or a follower of Jesus,” Moore said. “It isn’t necessarily negative, which is kind of new, but it isn’t necessarily positive. It is the coolest place to start because it is scary: ‘Let me literally introduce you, for the first time in your life, to Jesus Christ.’
“I wanted a seminary that would understand that context, and was preparing people for ministry in the world as it is now and as it is going to be. I got that message more loudly and clearly from CDSP than any other seminary I talked to.”
Sermon for CDSP Baccalaureate Service
20 May 2016 Acts 17: 24 -31
John 1:1-5, 9-14
I once heard John’s Gospel described as ‘a paean to the unlimited beauty, eternal creativity, and breathtaking presence of Christ in this world’.
I believe that indeed it is and therefore what a truly magnificent sending out scripture this surely is for those of you about to fully and finally take your leave of this wonderful institution, this place of your shaping and forming, this place which will variously have angered and frustrated you, challenged and enriched you, encouraged and enlightened you, taught and enabled you, fed you and blessed you . . .
I cannot begin to express just how incredibly humbled I am to be with you all in this moment of transition from student to servant, in this moment of richly deserved celebration, in this sacramental moment of thanksgiving for all in God’s creation that has been and is yet to be in all of our lives. Thank you for inviting me to share in this very precious occasion. It is very, very special to be back home again.
Two weeks ago I was in Fiji at a high level gathering of church leaders, political leaders and academics drawn from across the Pacific region. We were charged with developing an inter-faith communiqué for presentation at the upcoming G20 Summit meeting to be held in China later this year. The idea being that faith communities have a unique and important perspective and dare I suggest, an irrefutable responsibility to contribute into that globally influential essentially secular gathering of the leaders of the worlds leading nations. Or perhaps I should say, to that globally influential essentially secular gathering of the worlds leading economic players.
High on the Fiji agenda was the challenge of getting the G20 to take seriously the crucial Pacific wide issues of climate change, economic development, social justice and education – four of the distinctive aspirational goals, which now comprise the United Nations SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) or what is now the expanded version of the tragically under-realised MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals).
These newly minted SDG’s, as I am sure you all well know, are ultimately the noble goals seen as essential to achieving world peace with justice and the prospect of flourishing for all humanity. These are the goals, which were assented to late last year by 193 of the countries represented in the UN General Assembly. Present also at that Assembly were many of the world’s most prominent and well known faith leaders and certainly I commend to you the speech made by Pope Francis at that time. Following on from Pope Francis extraordinary public witness it has been heartening to see how many people of all faiths across the world are seeing movement toward the fulfillment of the SDG’s as a missional matter, as a matter of God’s justice.
‘Thus says the Lord, do what is right, for soon my salvation shall come, and my deliverance shall be revealed . . .’
The problem however in the case of the Fiji gathering is of course the monumental disconnect between the outwardly honorable nature of the SDG’s and the outwardly and inwardly dubious, utterly self serving nature of the G20!
One is to do with the care of God’s creation by responding tenderly and with abundant generosity of spirit to human need; the other is to do with abetting the disfigurement, the crass exploitation of God’s creation. One is incarnational and thus redemptive, the other is disembodied and thus life denying.
To my graduating class, your ministries are now set to be within the global village whether here in Berkeley, California or in Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand. Here in each one of the public squares into which you are now authorized to step, fully equipped, fully aware, fully certificated for the myriad challenges likely to be set before you, you will find the same juxtaposition of critical factors which inevitably impede the rightful progress from blessed creation to blessed redemption.
Key among these impediments is what George Bernard Shaw described as the greatest of evils and the worst of crimes imaginable and that is poverty . . . and by poverty I am adopting Amartya Sen’s definition of poverty as being the inability to lead a decent and dignified life or indeed what Robert McNamara so poignantly described as a condition of deprivation that falls below any rational definition of human decency. A decent and dignified life, a life of human decency, a life, which knows fulfilment of deep spiritual hunger, surely these things are the birth right if not the human right of all human beings?
And yet today’s tragic reality is that none of us need look far before we bear witness to the antithesis to dignity and decency – daily we are confronted with countless human lives battered, happiness stifled, creativity destroyed, freedoms eradicated, human dignity crushed, spirituality derided.
This then as most of you have already experienced, is your new occupational vineyard, the public square, the sphere within which you and I each, daily, have our call to serve the Christ we seek to emulate, the Christ we promise to follow.
How then are we to most effectively leverage ministries of light and life when so much is pressing in from the dark side, poverty, unjust wars, nuclear threats, rising oceans, human trafficking, corruption, racism, the stark raving lunacy of Donald Trump and so on and on it goes.
Well it is at this point that I want to return again to what I earlier mentioned as ‘the breathtaking presence of Christ in the world’ . . . for here in John’s Gospel is the solemn promise that what is going on when Jesus shows up on earth is somehow mysteriously part of what is and was always true about God. Thus before we meet Jesus in Galilee or in Bethlehem, we meet him ‘in the beginning . . . with God’. John is showing us that Jesus Christ is the embodied plan of God that existed from before his birth.
We also learn the basic plot of the gospel: creation no longer knows its Creator and is in darkness. But the Light has arrived in the world. The Light will make the Father known to the world, as the divine Word of God. All of this is matching and expanding what was revealed in the Old Testament, though now God has been ever more gracious.
John is reassuring us that nothing at all therefore can make a difference to the eternal truth about God. God’s welcome, God’s joy, God’s light – all of this is eternal, not fixed in time or space but eternally occurring, eternally seeking, eternally knowing and therefore there is theoretically no way that the darkness can ever, could ever, completely overwhelm or overthrow God’s people.
The challenge therefore before each one of us really is quite simple. We are to be courageous; we need not fear the dark. We are to endeavor in all we say and all we do to exemplify what we really mean when we confess to believing in Him in whom we live and move and have our being.
We are called inexorably to prophetic action and in this respect I want to say that I have every confidence in the graduating class that you will continue to be unafraid in your public witness, that you will continue to be unbowed in your pursuit of justice for the downcast and the marginalized, that you will continue to act always with compassion and kindness, that you will temper your outrage with critical analysis and strategic action, and crucially that you will continue to practice the art of patience with others and with yourself – after all you now have a whole lifetime of selfless, sacrificial ministry ahead of you . . . yes there is urgency but so too is there time, God’s time for you and for me to be continually blessed by knowing, by ever more deeply knowing, that because we believe, we too have become the children of God, entrusted, empowered, enlightened.
Let us then move on from this day with greater certainty, greater clarity and greater confidence in attending to the multiple tasks that lie ahead. Be always as I so lovingly remember you all to be - so incredibly grace filled and so wickedly good humoured.
In closing, may I just share a very short but I think a superb poem by Mary Oliver. Some of you may already know it. It is called The Song of the Builders,
On a summer morning
I sat down
On a hillside
To think about God
A worthy pastime
Near me, I saw
A single cricket;
It was moving the grains of the hillside
This way and that.
How great was its energy
How humble it’s effort.
Let us hope
It will always be like this
Each of us going on
In our inexplicable ways
Building God’s universe.
© Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel
Proudest Alumni of CDSP!
(If you’ve been directed to this page by CDSP’s 2017 Easter Appeal and would like to support our work, you can donate here.)
Two years ago, when the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers began to think about CDSP’s new Master of Divinity curriculum, William Temple was on her mind.
Temple, archbishop of Canterbury from 1942–1944, reportedly said, “The church is the only institution that exists primarily for the bene t of those who are not its members.”
“Today we recognize even more clearly that we must articulate and embody the good news of God in Christ not only within the church but especially in our pluralistic world,” says Meyers, CDSP’s academic dean and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics. “Our revised curriculum is organized to form students who learn to do that by studying the core Christian concepts of mission, discipleship and evangelism, and practicing the core leadership skills of contextual awareness, critical reflection and public conversation.”
CDSP’s faculty began designing the new curriculum in 2014 with the initial assistance of the Lilly Endowment’s Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. From the outset, says the Very Rev. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president, the goal was to build on CDSP’s historic strengths.
“As founding members of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), CDSP has always provided rigorous academic and spiritual formation to leaders who understand the distinctive gifts that the Episcopal Church offers to a diverse world,” Richardson says. “The West has always been rich with religious and cultural pluralism, and so in some ways, we have had a head start in preparing people for Anglican ministry in a post-Christian culture. Our new curriculum builds on that historic strength by focusing on the ancient features of mission, disciple- ship and evangelism interpreted for Chris- tian life today.”
The GTU is a consortium of eight theological schools and eleven centers and affiliates that includes Lutheran, American Baptist, Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish institutions. CDSP’s membership in the GTU allows students to cross-register for a much wider variety of electives than are typically available to seminary students. The opportunity to seek theological breadth, however, is matched by a requirement to study deeply in the Anglican tradition. CDSP’s residential and low-residence Master of Divinity students take most or all of the courses covering the six canonically required areas of study for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church at CDSP. Those areas are Holy Scriptures, history of the Christian church, Christian theology, Christian ethics and moral theology, Christian worship, and the practice of ministry.
They’re learning in a thoroughly Anglican environment,” Meyers says. “However, it’s not unusual to have GTU students from different faith traditions in those classes. So from the very beginning of their academic preparation for ministry, they’re learning to articulate Anglican perspectives and explain Anglican traditions to people who come from other contexts, just as they’ll need to do in the congregations and ministries they serve after graduation.”
The Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer, associate professor of ministry development, helped develop the new curriculum and is enthused by its focus.“For me as a teacher, centering on mission, discipleship and evangelism is really exciting, because I can see how I can make my course design more effective. It helps me sort the wood from the trees. There are lots of things I can teach, but this helps me narrow it down and helps me assess my courses’ effectiveness.”
The new MDiv curriculum will be instituted during the June intensive session that includes low-residence students. The curriculum includes a new cornerstone class for students in the low-residence program. Residential MDiv students will take the same class during their first semester on campus.
This summer, Singer and Jennifer Snow, assistant professor of practical theology, will teach the cornerstone class, in which Singer says students will “learn how to think like an Episcopal ministry leader.” The reading and writing intensive class is designed to introduce students to spiritual practices and traditions from across the Anglican Communion and help them to articulate where their own ministry fits into the Anglican landscape. Along the way, students will undergo something of a boot camp experience in academic writing, systems theory, critical theory and core com- munity organizing concepts. “We’re putting it all in the context of developing yourself as a leader,” Singer says. “There’s tons of writing, spiritual practice, hymnody and prayer.”
Singer has also piloted CDSP’s com- munity organizing course, which has been taught as an elective in partnership with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) since 2013 and is now required for all MDiv students. Faculty will rotate teaching the course in collaboration with Joaquin Sanchez, lead organizer at the Bay Area Industrial Areas Foundation. Snow taught the course last winter.
“Part of the community organizing course is to go see an action,” Snow says. “An action is a very well-planned event by a group of people who are already com- mitted. When I taught the class last January, the action was full of people who were eager to be there. It was full of people who had relationships and wanted to go deeper. I compared that to so many of our congregations, where people don’t sit together and don’t have a clear sense of why they are there.
“Community organizing training isn’t just for outreach or community work. It is to build those kinds of relationships— that kind of relational power—that can be part of the entire institutional structure,” Snow says. “It’s about building power with instead of power over.”
The new curriculum’s focus on mission and contextual awareness is particularly well-suited to Snow, who studies 19th and early 20th century missionaries in Asia and Africa. In spring 2017, she will teach a class on missionaries and the Anglican Communion.
“I want people to understand how our contemporary global Christian context has been shaped by missions and the work of missionaries,” she says. “When we don’t understand it, we can be blind to the ways that our history has shaped the debates we’re having now in the Anglican Communion.”
In particular, Snow hopes to help students understand the complicated role of colonial missionaries, who are sometimes regarded more as agents of empire than servants of Christ. They shaped Anglican churches in many parts of the Global South where today Episcopalians strive to nurture partnerships across vast theological and cultural differences and inequities.
“There’s a tendency to blame missionaries for our dominant society’s complicity in colonialism and imperialism. I want students to begin to grasp that while missionaries have often been implicated in structures of oppression, they frequently struggled against them as well. Students are having similar experiences today as they discern how to teach, talk and share about Christianity in a society that is very aware of the colonial and imperialist past,” she says.
Richardson thinks that the new curriculum, with its focus on ministry in a world of pluralism, will help CDSP continue recruiting energetic students who will build the church of the 21st century.
“Christians today have to invent practices of ministry that meet the world on its own terms with a distinct voice,” says Richardson. “But invention can only succeed over time if it is borne out of deep and faithful grounding in the tradition. Our new curriculum will help students become the inventors of the church of tomorrow.”
The Most Rev. Dr. Paul Kwong '82, archbishop and primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui and bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong Island, will speak at the 122nd commencement of Church Divinity School of the Pacific on May 20 at 10:30 am in the chapel of the Pacific School of Religion.
The event is open to the public and will be broadcast live online at www.cdsp.edu.
Kwong, who was elected chair of the Anglican Consultative Council in April, was ordained a priest in 1983 and became bishop in 2007. He was brought up in an Anglican family in Hong Kong, and his great-grandfather was one of the first Chinese Anglican priests in the 19th century. Kwong holds a bachelor degree from Lingnan College, a Master of Divinity from CDSP, and a PhD in theology from the University of Birmingham.
At the ceremony, CDSP will award the Master of Divinity degree to 10 candidates and will also grant the Doctor of Ministry degree, the Certificate of Anglican Studies, and Certificate of Theological Studies, and the Master of Arts degree in cooperation with the Graduate Theological Union.
Kwong and two retired CDSP faculty members, the Rev. Dr. Linda Clader ‘88 and Dr. Donn F. Morgan, a former dean and president, will receive honorary doctorates at the ceremony.
Clader, who was the first ordained woman on the CDSP faculty, holds a Ph.D. in classical philology from Harvard and taught classical languages at Carleton College, from which she holds an A. B., for twenty years. In 1988, she received her Master of Divinity from CDSP, and in 1991, she returned to the seminary as professor of homiletics. She also served as dean of the chapel for several years and as academic dean for a decade. She retired from full-time teaching in 2013, but continues to offer occasional preaching courses.
Morgan taught Old Testament at CDSP from 1972-2013 and served as president and dean from 1995–2010. He also taught biblical studies, Christian education, homiletics and other multidisciplinary courses and topics. He holds an A.B. from Oberlin College, a B.D from Yale Divinity School, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate School. He is currently editor of “The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible.”
Students enrolling at CDSP in 2016 are receiving a hefty new summer reading list designed by faculty to prepare them for their studies. Two titles on the list will introduce students to some of the significant intellectual work done by CDSP faculty in recent years.
In a 2015 review of this 1999 book by L. William Countryman, Sherman E. Johnson Professor Emeritus in Biblical Studies, Israel Galindo wrote: "Countryman's book is a worthy contribution to the study of ordination and the issue of the nature of clergy vs. laity. His framework of interpreting clergy as priests among priests is a helpful corrective to overly strict sacerdotal polarities between clergy and lay." Galindo, of Columbia Theological Seminary, was the consultant to CDSP's recently concluded curriculum review process. Read the review.
Shortly after the 2014 publication of her most recent book, Dean of Academic Affairs and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics Ruth Meyers said in an interview: "In the book, I propose that missional worship isn't a matter of particular techniques but rather an approach to worship and to all of congregational life that places God's mission at the center. Having memorable models invites people to think creatively about a missional approach to worship. ... Look outside your doors. See who is in your neighborhood and ponder how God is at work in your context. Ask how your worship can more fully express the needs and hopes of your community and how your congregation can respond to the needs in your neighborhood."Read the interview.
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."