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From December 5-10, the Very Rev. Mark Richardson, dean and president of Church Divinity School of the Pacific, attended the Conference of Parties, the international climate change conference in Paris. He was part of the official delegation funded to represent the Episcopal Church at the event.

 

December 5:  A Wound in Paris

I arrived in Paris and there was little sign of extra security, but who knows what is behind the cameras?

Paris memorial with Oakland signAfter getting through security and to the hotel it was early afternoon, with little chance to get to the COP21 pavilion for a session. I walked the streets near the hotel instead and only three blocks away was one of the major memorials for those who died in the attack of a few weeks ago.  Flowers and pictures lined a park wall for at least two blocks, across the street one of the cafes that had been the site of this attack.  It reminded me of living in NYC when memorials popped up all over NYC after 9/11. NYC continued the affairs of daily life but people carried inside a sadness they could not sweep away; it took time. The people of Paris do not seem to be paralyzed: sidewalk cafes still open and bustling, people shopping, but one feels the wound in their presence, and the memorials bear testimony to this.

Tonight our delegation meets for dinner and we will hear instructions about our deployment over the next several days. I heard from Bishop Marc [Andrus] and received his warm welcome. He was up at the conference today right on schedule to gather people for prayer in the heart of the pavilion.  I look forward to joining him and others in the days ahead.

December 6:  How Do We Have Conversations About Climate Change?

Sunday was a great day of being with the church in Paris. Our delegation gathered at the American Cathedral in Paris, first to hear a forum presentation by George Marshall, a social anthropologist who is renowned internationally for his work on public conversation skills especially for discussing issues of great concern. He was there to help us address the question: “How do we have conversations across our deep cultural polarization on the issues of climate change?” This seemed so important to share with our seminary community. Soon we will build into our curriculum at Church Divinity School of the Pacific the learning of skills of conversation.

According to Marshall, we will not communicate with those who hold differing points of view from our own on issues of climate change until we listen deeply to the values and identity issues that motivate them. When we listen for these things we begin to build trust, and this personal and relational level is essential to forward progress. We need to learn from each other those things that will motivate change in us. He had some wonderful anecdotes to illustrate his point.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of Greenfaith, an important player in the climate change conference, preached at the principal service. I loved being back at the Cathedral after my visit with my wife, Brenda, this summer and renewing connection with friends there.  Bishop Pierre Whalon and Dean Lucinda Laird were wonderful hosts.

The Cathedral is impressive for the kind of leaders in the congregation. I met an international lawyer in the congregation who was on his way to meet with theEgyptian representatives at the Climate Change conference who are his clients. Before he left, he shared some fascinating stories and his hopes regarding the activities at the conference.

Paris group

This afternoon, the delegation was left to some leisure, and to prepare material on specialized topics we have been assigned for our participation tomorrow in the “green zone,” the location of non-legislative bodies. It is where important networking and learning goes on, and bottom-up organizing that has impact we cannot measure on those who must sign the agreements.  In my leisure I enjoyed the company of John and Julia McCray Goldsmith, and Grace Aherne, who formerly lived in California and is now chaplain at the University of Virginia. A very good day for this jet lagged dean and president!

December 7:  Learning About Renewable Energy

Our day as delegates from the Episcopal Church to the Climate Change conference began with early morning edits of an official letter from the Church to the representatives in the legislative sessions. It had to go from our hands back to NYC for approval and then return before delivering this afternoon.  It is in response to some goals already set, and encouragement of certain actions yet to be taken.

We arrived for our first day at the Pavilion, the gathering place of thousands of non-legislative delegates from many organizations. I attended a meeting on “North American climate collaboration” with an interdisciplinary group attempting to integrate efforts across a wide range of science, technology, and business.

Then at noon, Bishop Marc Andrus gathered us in a public space under “the prayer umbrella” for singing, prayer and meditation. We are centering our mediation on one of the four themes each day:  reverence, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. Our goal in this short time is to fill the space with this prayerful spirit which really comes from many people back home as well as within this huge space. Imagine singing with all kinds of activity and chaos around you, hundreds of people walking by wondering who you are and what you are doing. (A parade of people dressed as penguins came marching by with their own tune at one point.) Some stopped in curiosity to listen to our singing, others to joined the circle.

IMG 1455In fact, in just five minutes I met with two who stopped: Mohammed El-Hadi Khalifi, president of an investment bank in Sudan, who came solely to connect investment funds with groups pursuing green technology solutions in sub-Saharan Africa; and Vincent Powlowski from Arizona, who founded the Association for the Tree of Life, dedicated to organizing in response to climate change.

Since we at Church Divinity School of the Pacific are new participants in solar energy, in the afternoon I attended a panel presentation on “Renewable Energy and Intermittency.” The idea of intermittency is that in the diverse menu of renewable energy sources--hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, ocean currents, wind, and bio-mass--there will be fluctuations and times of unpredictable fluctuation. Solar is a case in point: it is a very powerful source, but there are times when it is not easy to predict excess production on the one hand, or insufficiency in meeting demand on the other hand (in contrast to geo-thermal, for example, which is constant). 

The point is that we are headed toward an era when societies will cooperate in producing a variety of renewable energy integrated into a single system. This really took me out of a certain kind of isolation in my attitude about producing solar at CDSP: “we'll produce for ourselves and sell a little to the grid.” What if we began to think of our production as fitting into a larger system where diverse sources of renewable energy were feeding into a public grid to meet the public demand?

Mind-opening meetings like this are happening all over the pavilion all day, every day, for two weeks. It is not only a privilege to hear these presentations; it is also impressive to encounter very bright engineers, social psychologists, city planners, ecologists and others who have dedicated lifetimes to realizing outcomes that are essential to our future on this planet.

I discovered in the evening that this is truly not the work of heroic individuals, but of collaborating communities and leaders. At a concert event in downtown Paris, we paid tribute to heroes from all over the globe who were saving forests, protecting communal lands and being leaders in global adaptation. In each case, it was communities, not individuals, being honored, and communities accepting those honors. It was quite a moving event, emceed by Alec Baldwin.

December 8:  The Inner Dimension of Climate Change

Today I met today with a pastor in the Swedish Church who wrote that church’s document titled “A Bishops’ Letter About the Climate.” Sweden is largely regarded as a world leader in the march toward a carbon neutral economy. By contributing their share to a global fund to support island peoples and other poorer nations, they are also leading in the effort to assist the people most vulnerable to climate change. Compared to the United States, their per capita contribution is staggering.   

Traveling to the pavilion, I had a chance meeting with Bill McKibben among the hundreds loading onto buses. We talked on the way to the conference. I'll hearMcKibben him speak tomorrow. Once we arrive, we pass through a checkpoint that is like those at the airport. Bags are x-rayed, belts come off, and all the rest.

At our Episcopal worship today, we marched with musicians around the pavilion singing hymns before going to our gathering place for reflection and prayer. This offends my natural shyness about such things, but I must admit it drew some to join us.

Would you ever expect to hear Inuit rap music? Today at lunch I heard it for the first time. It has kind of had an Arctic Indian twist to it.  

After our prayer gathering today, I attended a session on "Adaptation in urban contexts worldwide,” which included health experts, city planners and others who have attempted over the years to prepare cities for fatalities from heat or floods in light of the inevitability of climate change. These climate extremes first impact the most vulnerable people: infants, elderly, the poor. Proactive urban planning, education, and communication have achieved remarkable results; for example, a record heatwave in Ahmedabad, India in 2010 killed 1300 people.  After coordinated, proactive planning, the next heat wave of comparable duration and temperature killed 20.

In this same session, it was interesting to hear from Governor Brown's top planning official, Ken Alex, who made a case for why California is so far ahead of most states in the U.S. in planning for climate change and in initiating mitigation of carbon emission. Since 1970, particulate pollution in California has been reduced by 95% and by 2030 the goal is 98%.  This success, Alex said, is due to the time and expertise that California devotes to identifying the problem and providing a regulatory response. The state regulatory bodies press the business community to meet higher standards, and eventually business innovation follows. From there, requirements to meet environmental standards tighten in increments.

Many remember Los Angeles of the 1970s as the Beijing of today. You couldn't see more than a block on bad days. I remember competing in a track meet at UCLA then and having to adjust warm ups to avoid sickness before the competition. So California has changed. Today, whereas many states in the U.S. are very anti-government and anti-regulation, California is not afraid of regulation, and is a case study in why it matters.  (Okay, that's as political as it's gonna get in this communication!)

The point from this panel was that climate change resilience is “win-win.” Change does not mean sacrifice, which is the great fear of those who resist. Change toward renewable energy sources and lifestyle change lead to better quality of life, better health, money savings, and in many cases, job creation.

The next panel, led by Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu leaders, was titled, "The Inner Dimension of Climate Change.” Their question: "What is the Connection between Social Violence and Violence Against Nature?" The message shared among the speakers was that change in technique, finance and governance in response to climate issues will change nothing—mere band-aids—if we do not motivate a spiritual change of heart in all of us toward others and the natural world. We are in pain and we are inflicting pain, creating deserts of the heart as we create natural deserts globally, to paraphrase Pope Francis.

The message was consonant across all the traditions represented on the panel. The internal root of this violence is separation from ourselves, from others, and from the natural world. We are attached to our subjective ideologies and attached to our desires, and things that threaten this insular individualism lead to violence. But this alienation is a trap. The message of all the traditions is that we need compassion, reverence for the ground of our being, and reconciliation. Our Episcopal worship this week has centered on these three themes, among others. I was moved by the clarity, depth, and common voice coming from many religious traditions of the world. It reminded me of the richness of our context in the Graduate Theological Union.

I ended the day by traveling back downtown to the American Cathedral for interfaith prayer, singing and testimony which took the message of the session I’d just attended and placed it in the context of prayerful practice. We ended in music led by a group of pilgrims who had walked the 1500 kilometers from Rome to Paris for this conference. Their goal was to leave the message of love and hope with each step, and they discovered along the way that it was they who were given love and hope by those who received them. You could feel in their words, in their music, that this had been their experience. This was a wonderful prayer of gratitude to end the evening.

December 9:  Prayer, Debate, and a State Department Briefing

I am impressed with the chance meetings and unpredictable conversations at events like this climate change conference involving thousands of people. As I traveled by train to the day's events, I conversed with Arif Rahman in the Pakistan government's delegation on environment and development. He shared a momentary doubt about the value of the conference: "I think of the investment Pakistan made to send its delegation. We could have built a school. We must be serious about what we are doing." 

We talked about family, and he lit up telling me about his children and how his parents who live in the same village in northern Pakistan were doing in old age. Basic human and personal things linked us. We both were reminded of the loves and longings that bind us,reminded of the simple but deep needs that make life on this globe so precious. We were ready to go to work.

ens 120815 popupworship mainRight on time, our noonday prayer group gathered, marched and sang accompanied by accordion, clarinet, string instrument, and drum. Yes, you read it correctly. Quite a combination! As we marched through the pavilion, more began to join us: participants from the Micronesian islands threatened by inundation as the globe warms and waters rise, a Kenyan reporter, young people from the U.S. who are religiously unaffiliated, and more. Bringing prayer to a space of debate and technical discussions was uniquely moving. Later, the Kenyan reporter interviewed me, and in tears stated that he needed this time to pray with others in the midst of serious and frightening challenges.  

Each day, the noonday prayer ends in a lunch gathering, and I have enjoyed this time with friends and fellow delegates before launching into our several paths for the rest of the day.  In my case, the afternoon began in a meeting on “free trade and climate change” that examined some of the ways in which international trade agreements are apparently at cross-purposes with new directions needed to face climate challenges. It was essentially an urgent plea for a re-balancing of interests and power and for regulatory measures that protect against the excesses of a fossil-fuel based economy.

There is debate over differences in this pavilion. Should nuclear power be in the energy future or not? Is carbon trading the best method toward a policy of a carbon neutral future, and, if so, what should the caps be? Is a multinational agreement worth anything without enforcement? What are the developed world's obligations in the face of loss and damages experienced in the developing world?

Late in the afternoon, Jessie Young, a State Department representative, visited our delegation to brief us on the status of the climate change negotiations and timetable for reaching an agreement. Our conversation with her lent perspective on issues including the complexity of bi-lateral discussions with India, whose interests run counter at times to near-term carbon reduction; transparency among nations and the monitoring of their commitments; how to determine developed-world contribution to adaptation in the face of current climate disasters; setting goals for the future; and the unpredictable path toward meeting them assuming the will, intelligence and commitment is in place to do so. 

To learn more about the Episcopal Church’s presence at the Paris conference, read Episcopal News Service coverage.

On October 8, CDSP held its annual alumni convocation in All Saints Chapel. The Rev. Dennis Tierney '02 preached at the service, and the Rev. Canon Robert J. Brooks '73, Dr. Ronald C. Johnson and the Rev. Eliza Linley '90 were awarded honorary degrees: 

The Rev. Cn Robert J. Brooks ’73

Canon Robert Brooks is a priest of the Diocese of Connecticut and Canon for International Affairs of the Diocese of El Salvador. He is President of the national Episcopal Urban Caucus, and member of the Executive Committee of APLM. He was appointed to the Standing Liturgical Commission (1985- 1988) that produced the first expansive language Eucharistic texts which are still in use; chairing the Committee on Initiation that enhanced the liturgies for the catechumenal process. He represented The Episcopal Church on the Consultation on Common Texts, making contributions to the development of the Revised Common Lectionary. Among his many accomplishments, Canon Brooks was elected to the Bretton Woods Committee to honor his role in the funding of debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. As Director of Government Relations of The Episcopal Church (1988-1998), Canon Brooks worked with Archbishop Desmond Tutu on democratic transitions from apartheid systems, and has worked with leaders in the Middle East in search of peace. Canon Brooks played a definitive role on the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National and Community Service Act (Americorps), the Omnibus Crime Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the International Religious Freedom Act. He organized religious community support for ratification by the Senate of the treaty banning chemical weapons. For his work around the world in conflict resolution, Canon Brooks was invested by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a Commander of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

Dr. Ronald C. Johnson

Band raised in Philadelphia, baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church in my teen years. After completion of military service and pursuit of a career in science, I earned a doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. Following graduation, I was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship position at the University of California, San Francisco, and after a two-year period was invited to stay on as full time staff. I am currently retired from the University after a 30 year career as a research biochemist. 

In retirement I have been involved in tutoring and mentoring young people. I have served in both leadership and participatory capacities in several governance and service positions in my parish, Grace Cathedral, and in the Diocese of California, where I was appointed to the Commission on Ministry and elected to the Standing Committee. I have also functioned for many years in adult Christian formation and have assisted those in their discernment to calls to lay and to ordained ministry.

The Rev. Eliza Linley ’90 

After beginning her professional life as an artist and architect, followed by a detour as a caterer and refectory manager at CDSP, Eliza received her MDiv with Distinction from CDSP in 1990. She then served various Bay Area parishes as Priest-in-Charge and Interim and returned to CDSP as Visiting Chaplain to Students in 1997-9. She joined the CDSP Board of Trustees in 2001 and, in 2007, became the first ordained woman to chair the board of an Episcopal seminary until her term ended in 2013. She has taught as adjunct professor at the GTU in the area of Worship and the Arts and has led numerous congregational workshops on sacred space and the building process. Eliza was a founding member of the Episcopal Church in the Visual Arts and has served on the boards of the Church Building Fund, the Center for Arts, Religion and Education at the GTU, St. Dorothy’s Rest and the Bishop’s Ranch. She is also an artist whose work hangs in collections across the country including Stanford University, the Episcopal Church Center in New York, and Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago. 

Blow trumpets and horns, and shout for joy to the Lord our king. Psalm 98:6

Even if you haven’t yet met Devin Rodgers on the CDSP campus, there’s a chance you may have heard him.

When Bishop Marc Andrus joined the CDSP community October 1 to bless the campus buildings and the ministries they support, Rodgers helped lead the parade.

“I played trumpet and we had a drummer,” he said. “We walked around campus singing and playing music between the places we were blessing. It was kind of cool.”

Rodgers is this year’s recipient of the Norman Mealy Music Scholarship, given to encourage skilled musicians with an interest in church music to attend and enrich the musical life of CDSP and the church at large. Rodgers is thrilled with the seminary and is grateful for the scholarship.

“I love it here,” he said. "It’s a great fit.”

Rodgers spent a year at Bexley Seabury before arriving at CDSP in September as a second year MDiv student, a move prompted when his husband, Philippe Terrasson, got a new job in California.

Church music has been an integral part of Rodgers’ life since he was a little boy attending the Lutheran church. In grade school he learned to play the clarinet and the trumpet, which is his primary instrument. He went on to major in music education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was the principal chair of the symphony band and was trumpet section leader in the marching band. Following graduation, he taught instrumental music for four years to students in grades six through twelve in North College Hill, Ohio. While serving as a band director, “I began to see the ways music-making could be translated into service and community. How could this be translated into a formal church structure?”

At Bexley Seabury, Rodgers was in a brass choir and took piano lessons as an elective.

“As a musician, I recognize that there’s a spiritual aspect of music connecting with worship and prayer. Music, by its nature, is an expression of who we are. If we are created in the image of God, then music gives us a glimpse of God’s nature, particularly as creative and life-giving.”

The Norman Mealy scholarship is given in honor of Norman Mealy (1923–1987), who was professor of church music at CDSP from 1952 to 1987 and at the GTU from 1965 to 1987. He also served as the director of music at Saint Mark's Episcopal Church in Berkeley from 1947 to 1961 and was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1960.

Mealy was active in developing new music within the Episcopal Church and served on several commissions on service music and liturgy. The scholarship bearing his name requires proficiency in music leadership and helps to pay the tuition of recipient, who also serves as an assistant to George Emblom, the director of chapel music and CDSP’s assistant professor of church music.

At CDSP, liturgical and ritual music has long been considered an essential part of liturgy, and everyone is encouraged to develop their own musical skills and appreciation. Sixty years ago, a May 14, 1955, article in the Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard newspaper announced a 10-day summer school of church music at CDSP, run by Norman Mealy.

According to the article, “This school will provide the only intensive training in the music of the Episcopal Church that is available to church musicians west of the Rocky Mountains. It has been designed to offer training in the practical aspects of church music and to help musicians understand the profound relationship of music to the worship of the church.”

Rodgers understands that relationship.

“Music is so tied into our liturgical traditions. Our liturgy and scripture are full of images of music-making, both on earth and in heaven,” he said. “I particularly like Psalm 98, verse 6, which talks about praising God with the sounds of trumpets. When I was confirmed, each confirmand got to choose a favorite piece of scripture. That was the passage I chose.”

Rodgers became an Episcopalian in 2008, while he was in college.

“I went to an adult forum at Holy Trinity Church in Oxford, Ohio, to discuss how the church could be more supportive of the LGBT student community. I was so impressed that the parish was so supportive and receptive that I stayed for the Eucharist, and then I was kind of hooked.”

Rodgers said he looks forward to working with Emblom and exploring how sacred music can involve the use of a variety of instruments and music selections.

“One of the things I talked to George about is that, traditionally, we think of church musicians as selecting music for organs or pianos or choosing hymns. It was cool to talk to him about using other instruments and about music selection. As we strive to be the Episcopal Church in a more diverse society, I hope our musical tradition continues expanding and evolving to reflect the culture of the people, while also holding on to our traditional and rich music background.”

Whatever instrument or style is used, “music is one way that humans make theological connections and understandings,” Rodgers said. “As church leadership and musicians, it is our job to ensure that the liturgy and music is in the language of the people. It is my hope that our musical offerings would add a level of understanding and insight to the mission that we are called to in the world.”

The Rev. Suzanne Guthrie, a noted author and spiritual guide, will be CDSP’s second St. Margaret's Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry.

Dean Mark Richardson announced that Guthrie, author of “Praying the Hours” and “Grace's Window,” will offer a course on spiritual practices, devotions and praying during the spring semester next year.

“Our students will be able to get a taste for 'practices' of spirituality, varieties of prayer practice, and ministries of spiritual direction on their own campus with one of the leaders in our tradition,” Richardson said. “Suzanne Guthrie will be able to present students with the genius of Anglican spiritual traditions, while also offering a still larger diversity of practices in other traditions.”  

Guthrie has served as a parish priest, a Christian education consultant and in chaplaincies at Vassar College and Cornell University.  She and her husband, Bill Consiglio, are the parents of four grown children. Guthrie traces her interest in mystical theology to the “Autobiography of Teresa of Avila,” which she read at age 22.

"Christian leaders need to have a deep spiritual practice in order to sustain themselves in the ordinary stress of ministry,” Guthrie says. “Also, the world is changing very, very fast, and I think ministers have to be ready for catastrophe. So I think it is important to develop a vibrant theology of prayer out of which to live an active life and be able to respond to people who are suffering, with empathy and compassion, even if not in words."

Guthrie’s course will focus on a wide range of spiritual practices including monastic practices, lectio divina, body prayer, intercessions, rules of life, and devotional lifestyles. 

"I've been having fun crafting this course because there's an unlimited number of ways it can be done,” Guthrie says. “It's like creating a palette of colors and textures for a painting."

Richardson said that as the visiting professor of women in ministry, Guthrie will have “the flexibility to work with students in groups and one-on-one, and both in classroom settings and informal contexts.”

The St. Margaret’s professorship was inaugurated last fall at CDSP on the 40th anniversary of the ordination of the first women to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church. The professorship was made possible by generous support from women who taught or studied at the seminary. The chair is named in honor of St. Margaret's House, a Berkeley-based institution that trained deaconesses and laywomen for ministry in the Episcopal Church from 1909-66.

Joey Courtney traffics in understatement.

“I kind of always had a connection to service when it comes to the church,” says Courtney, 26, who began classes at CDSP this month as the recipient of the seminary’s Presidential Scholarship, which covers tuition, room and board.

A cradle Episcopalian who grew up at Good Samaritan Church on Cedar Bluff in Knoxville, Tennessee, Courtney started bagging groceries for the parish’s food pantry in the first grade after his mother, Meg Rutherford, took over the operation. “When I was 6 year old I didn’t want to do it, but as I got older I saw the importance of it and the value of it,” Courtney said. “It became part of my spiritual practice. It was something I learned to love.”

Courtney worked among prisoners, the poor, the hungry and the homeless throughout high school and at Maryville College, where he was awarded a community service scholarship. One summer, while working as a chaplain at a Boy Scout camp, he read “An Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne and felt he had found a kindred spirit. Claiborne founded a neo-monastic community in a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia, and Courtney was inspired by his teaching that “the poor are holy, and that living in solidarity with the poor was a central part of Jesus’ message.”

After college he spent two years with the Episcopal Urban Intern Program (EUIP) in Los Angeles, a branch of Episcopal Service Corps, a nationwide program that offers college graduates in their twenties the opportunity to live in a prayerful community and work in innovative social service agencies. Courtney worked first in children and youth programs at the Salvation Army Alegria in the Silver Lake neighborhood, and then at Chrysalis, an organization that helps poor and homeless people become self-sufficient.

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, Courtney found his way to Holy Spirit, an emerging Episcopal congregation not far from Salvation Army Alegria. There, he helped launch a local chapter of Laundry Love, a nationwide movement to assist people who are struggling financially by helping them to do their laundry. Courtney, the Rev. Nat Katz of Holy Spirit and Garrett Klindt of Founders Metropolitan Community Church in Los Feliz say they were inspired by a similar initiative in Huntington Beach started by thom’s, another emerging Episcopal ministry.

“I think it is important to do things that build relationships with people who are different than us,” Courtney says. “Laundromats are places everyone has to go to even if they don’t talk. Giving back to the community in a way that is very non-judgmental. You don’t have to sign up. You just have to show up.”

Katz, who in addition to being a leader in the Holy Spirit community is director of communications for Claremont School of Theology, says Courtney “takes Jesus at his word in Matthew 25 when he says that when you care for ‘the least of these’ you care for Jesus. 

“Joey does not go about his ministry with fanfare but with a tenacity for improving the lives of those who live on the margins. His encounters on the margins draw him deeper into his calling and deeper in his relationship with God. He is remarkable in his ability to make human connections with people who are routinely ignored by our society.”

After finishing his internships, Courtney went to work as a job developer for The Los Angeles Youth Network, which works with abused, neglected and homeless adolescents, and began contemplating his future. He had enrolled in college as a chemistry major, but he was also the recipient of one of the Lilly Endowment’s Isaac Anderson Fellowships, which are awarded to “students contemplating lives in the field of ministry.” In Los Angeles, he entered the diocesan discernment process and soon found himself choosing a seminary.

“I was kind of blown away by the program [at CDSP],” Courtney said. “I didn’t realize it was so connected with the other seminaries [through the Graduate Theological Union]. I loved learning from other traditions about their theology, where they are coming from, their perspective. That made CDSP even more impressive to me.”

He continued mulling his choices until February when he visited campus another time. “That just reaffirmed what I was feeling,” he said. “I could talk to them very candidly about questions I had. Everyone was really welcoming and warm. The other schools I talked to weren’t as proactive.”

The Rev. Andrew Hybl, CDSP’s director of admissions, says the seminary was impressed by Courtney’s long record of service and his openness to following God’s call. "Joey has proven his leadership capabilities in numerous settings prior to attending seminary,” Hybl says. “His compassion for the poor and marginalized in our society is humbling. Joey will be a great addition to CDSP's residential community and I look forward to seeing his further development over the next few years."

Thanks to alumni and donors who have contributed to funds through estate plans and endowed gifts, CDSP has expanded its range of scholarships and financial aid for the 2015-2016 academic year, Hybl said, and that has allowed the seminary to make generous offers to students like Courtney.

Courtney arrives at CDSP with few preconceptions about where his seminary training will lead him. “I could see myself working with the homeless and the disenfranchised, or doing an environmental ministry doing things in the wilderness,” he says. “I could see myself doing prison ministry, hospital chaplaincy, doing something outdoors like being at a summer camp.

“I really rely on the spirit,” he says. “I try not to nail down an idea of what it will look like when I am done.”

Scott MacDougall, a scholar who has taught at Fordham University since 2010, has been named visiting assistant professor of theology at Church Divinity School of the Pacific for the 2015-2016 year.

MacDougall, who earned his PhD at Fordham, is the author of the new book “More Than Communion:  Imagining an Eschatological Ecclesiology” and has written for Huffington Post and Religion Dispatches as well as academic publications. He earned his master of arts in theology at General Theological Seminary in 2007, where the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, now dean and president of CDSP, was his advisor.

While at CDSP, MacDougall will teach two required theology courses as well as electives titled “Contemporary Theologies of Church” and “Eschatology and Christian Practice.”

“Scott’s theological voice is clear, focused and timely. He interprets the contemporary context and the kind of leadership needed to serve the church in our day. I am confident that students will feel his passion for theological dialogue and reflection as well as the depth of his preparation,” Richardson said.

MacDougall, an experienced grants manager who has worked for the Rockefeller Foundation and consulted for the Open Society Foundations, is married to Michael Angelo, founder and creative director of the prestigious Michael Angelo’s Wonderland Beauty Parlor in New York.

On June 7, President Richardson preached at the American Cathedral in Paris:

The story of human origins in Genesis is one of the most often read scriptures in the Bible. It is an ancient people’s understanding of moral awakening, the joy and sorrow of coming into our humanity as moral and spiritual beings. We in the West turned it into a story of rebellion against God so grievous as to cause a fall, a fall so deep it ruptured the harmony of creation altogether.

But if we look at the story with fresh eyes what do we really see? It is an account of the transition from innocent dependence on the gods (in ancient polytheism), to acting on the basis of meaning, and pursuit of the knowledge of good, with all its attractions, dangers and confusions.

If we enter the story once again through contemporary eyes, knowing our evolutionary roots in the story of the natural world’s unfolding, then we see ourselves as built upon the shoulders of millions of year of life and death and extinction. We are not actors on nature’s stage, we are fruit on nature’s tree. And we arrive with a certain kind of moral innocence but certainly not immune to the hardships of sheer existence. Wouldn’t this feel more like the complexity of an entangled jungle than an ordered garden?  The beginning of our moral and spiritual capacity that defines us as human beings must have been fragile, and in a complex environment already containing life and death. Adam and Eve do not appear deliberately to thwart God—through trial and error they are experiencing the confusion of moral awakening as mere children of a species coming into its own.

Imagine, just to illustrate, a 3 year old child momentarily alone in the living room; the child goes over to the fish bowl, sticks a hand in to grab the gold fish, wanting to see how the fish lives outside the water.  The child is not rebelling against the parent who most certainly had said on occasion ‘careful with the fishbowl;’ the child is exploring. But the action still has consequences because the fish most likely dies.

So let’s look at each character in this Genesis story. We encounter a deity who knows in advance the risk of creatures growing into a capacity for meaning making, which so easily twists into orienting all value into self-concern. Innocent obedience seemed safer to the deity than risking a creature liberated to connect desire and attraction to the discerning of the moral good. 

But now picture curious Eve: she hears the voice of the serpent, and is enticed by the possibility of merging her desire (this apple is edible), her attractions in the world (it is beautiful), with a pursuit of wisdom will knowledge of good and evil. Is it worth the risk? What would it be like if I were empowered by the capacity to know the good, she wonders? Will I really die? She is confused by the mixed messages the world outside herself is giving her. So she acts at a cost, but she acts.

The serpent urges Eve to take the risk—to explore—but it’s voice is deceit by half truths for the serpent does not communicate the cost. “You won’t die,” (which ends up being true to a point), but the serpent is silent on the matter of consequences, the danger of a spiritual quest, the risk of distorting good and bringing pain.

Then finally there is the simplest character, Adam, who just doesn’t want to wake up morally, preferring to pass the moral question backward onto Eve: “She gave it to me.  I didn’t do it. I’m a victim here.”

Coming into a capacity for moral and spiritual engagement with our world was a breakthrough, but it was a bumpy road, a risky undertaking even as it is exhilarating. No wonder Eve tried but in the end felt tricked, and Adam wanted to walk away from the prospect of good and evil altogether.

We have wrestled and conversed with the text and it raises a fundamental question: How do we keep our eye on the true Good, the reality of God, in the process of coming into the knowledge of moral and spiritual possibility? How do we move from innocent obedience to our own consent to the way of God?

Spiritual Awakening and Rite 13

This Sunday we celebrate Rite 13, the onset of adulthood in our young people.  And I wonder whether we might find analogy in what we have said so far as we think about what lies ahead for our youth.  And adults, take a moment to remember your own pathway in life along with them.

The church as a community wants our young people to find their own spiritual ground; we launch them into this venture not on their own but surrounded by a community that prays for them and encourages them spiritually. We know there will be trial and error in the quest for finding the good, coping with the awakening of attractions of many kinds along side the awakening of moral wisdom, and our obligation is to be with them when they stumble and fall.  In fact one of the charisms of the church community is being a place of grace in difficulty.

I think about this and recall a childhood experience. Our home in Oregon was on the edge of a forest, and as I walked up into the wood one day I spotted a tree on a high point, and wondered what the view would be like from the top.  The climb would be risky but I decided to go up the 20 ft tree to get the view from above. Suddenly as I reached the spindly top I lost my grip and began to tumble backward, each bow of the tree softening the fall, one by one, until I hit the ground. Without the branches my fall might have been life threatening. Our church community, an extended family, can be like the branches of the tree that bear the tumbling we go through.

From our experience of adulthood we can say we do not expect this day to mark your perfection, Mathilde, Samuel and Quinn—it is not magic, and Dean Lucinda does not take a wand and strike you with a new power. It is an important moment along the way between an earlier life of innocent dependence, on the one hand, and your own accountability as a human being on a spirit filled journey, on the other hand. You will explore and grow; you will be excited and sorrowful along the way. We want you to recognize and learn from the sadness and joy alike, and to know that God’s spirit is in you to hold you up.  It is all part of discovering freedom to be not unlimited choice, infinite possibility, but rather freedom as consent to the good.

The gospel story presumes that God desires creatures capable of responsive love, capable of finding the will of God in one another. Oh, most likely you will be like Adam in my story telling—who isn’t sure he wants to claim his adulthood yet, and you will be at other times like Eve who wants to connect curiosity about the attractions of life to knowledge of good and evil, and sometimes misreads the context and consequences.   The only way freely to give ourselves to the will of God is to risk this moral agency and to live into our humanity.

The new human family

Now as we close, fast-forward from Genesis to the story of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. We began with the family of our human origins set in ancient Mesopotamia, and now we turn to the refashioning of family on wholly other terms as the family of our destiny.  It is a radical message, it is Mark’s insinuation of Pentecost wherein the new global reality that is anticipated will be formed by those whose freedom is turned toward consent to doing the will of God.  

When Jesus’ family called upon him as he was out with the crowds and they passed on the message that his family was outside asking for him.  He turned to the crowd and replied:  “Who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my mother and brother and sister.”

Notice there is no belief orthodoxy, no biological or tribal orthodoxy, no socio-economic, territorial or language orthodoxy in this reply.  Family consists in those who do the will of God, full stop. It is those who consent to this ultimate Good. Like the Pentecost spirit reaching out to all nations, the family Mark’s gospel envisions is potentially globalized through the key of grace found in doing what Jesus is modeling when he cares for the neighbor with his whole life, through healing, casting out demons of distortion and confusion, and feeding the hungry. This is the interpretive key to knowing what it means to will the will of God.  So, for example, when Trinity Cathedral offers hospitality and a meal on Fridays it is a sacrament in action of doing the will of God.

On the other hand, when we treat with indifference the suffering of others, from travails at home and wars that plague so much of the world, we place at risk our very humanity.

Jesus advocates for us by pioneering, inspiring and encouraging a different way into the experience of grace. He is the moral high point of our humanity by being his brother’s keeper, keeping watch over the neighbor, gathering as family those who would take this to be the will of God.

And now in this Pentecost season we expect to find him not in Jerusalem or Galilee, but in his spirit everywhere God’s will is sought and done on earth as in heaven.  This prayer in action becomes the mark of Jesus’ family.  Amen.