Momentous Monday: A new era begins at CDSP

By Jim Naughton

The Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones, the Rev. Dr. Bill Lupfer, the Very Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson, and the Rev. Winnie Varghese during a question-and-answer session in Denniston Refectory. Photo by Thomas Minczeski.

It was not your typical Monday service of Morning Prayer. All Saints Chapel was almost full. The worshippers  included almost a dozen people from New York City who had arrived the night before. Two dozen low-residence students from around the country had tuned in to participate via live stream. And when the final strains of CDSP’s school hymn, “O Wisdom  from on High,” died, no one left the chapel.

A flurry of activity ended with two lecterns at the front of the assembly. The Very Rev. Dr. W. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s president and dean, stood behind one, and the Rev. Dr. Bill Lupfer, rector of Trinity Church Wall  Street, stood behind the other. Smart phones were in abundance as students and visitors took photos and recorded videos. Lupfer, at one point, produced his own phone from a jacket pocket, snapped a photo of Richardson, then took photos of the people who were taking photos of him.

It was unusual, Richardson acknowledged, for him to insist that the student body, staff and faculty attend the service that March 4 morning, but he had big news to share.

“You are on the front lines of a momentous change in the life of the school,” he said. “You have chosen a vocation of ministry in a time of trouble and flux in our church and world, and you are not naïve to this challenge. You have an eye open for transformational moments. Well, you’ve just found one. You’re part of it. Right in the middle of it.”

CDSP, he said, was becoming part of Trinity Wall Street’s global family. Under an agreement between the two institutions, Trinity will invest heavily in CDSP’s faculty, program and physical plant and the members of Trinity’s vestry will constitute CDSP’s board of trustees. CDSP’s previous board of trustees had approved the pact unanimously in December, dissolving itself in the process. The partnership had been contingent on approval by the Association of Theological Schools, whose assurance of continued accreditation had arrived just a few weeks before.

The outlines of what the new arrangement will mean for the seminary and its students began to emerge over the remainder of the next 36 hours as Richardson, Lupfer and Trinity staff members talked with CDSP’s faculty, staff and students at meetings around campus.

In the near term, Trinity will invest at least $1 million in CDSP in the next budget year to help enhance its staff and ensure its financial stability. In the years ahead, Lupfer said, Trinity plans to increase the size of CDSP’s faculty, expand its curriculum, and integrate it into a global network dedicated to developing leaders and increasing the church’s capacity for ministry.

“This is a partnership that is mission-driven,” Richardson said. “The school you know is the school we want to build upon for the future.”

The conversations that led to the new relationship between CDSP and Trinity began by accident and progressed through happy coincidence. Richardson ran into the Rev. Winnie Varghese, Trinity’s director of justice and reconciliation, and the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson ’94, Trinity’s vicar, in an airport in 2017 and they introduced him to Lupfer, who became Trinity’s rector in 2015.

Richardson had been contemplating how CDSP could use a campus parking lot, one of the last pieces of undeveloped land north of the University of California, Berkeley campus, to help ensure CDSP’s financial future. He thought Trinity, with its extensive experience in property development, might offer some guidance. Lupfer and his senior staff, mean-while, were in the midst of a lengthy series of consultations with leaders from across the Anglican Communion regarding their greatest challenges.

Those talks, he told the crowd in All Saints Chapel, kept returning to the same two priorities. “Leadership formation and building capacity for ministry. And we were hearing this from Korea and Japan to Central America to Southern Africa,” he said. Each institution had expertise in which the other was interested, but the conversations quickly went deeper than either had anticipated.

“Our surprise [came] at some common ground in our mission at our two respective institutions, as different as they are,” Richard-son said in the chapel on Monday morning.

“We looked at your curriculum and it aligned right with what we were thinking [about leadership development],” Lupfer said. “You built it a couple of years before. So it looked to us … like, ‘Hey, good alignment.’”

There were a variety of devils amongst copious details, but they were exorcised by extensive conversation among CDSP’s trustees, Richardson, the Rev. John Dwyer, CDSP’s vice president and chief operating officer, and Lupfer and Trinity’s senior management team.

“I think we are on an adventure that is a true adventure,” Lupfer told those gathered in the chapel. “A true adventure doesn’t have a map. There is no one we can go ask what to do, so we have to figure it out ourselves.”

The theme of wisdom ran through the morning’s readings (The Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 7) and music, he noted. “So I think that is what Mark and I are asking today. Are you ready to go for it, and take an adventure and seek the new wisdom?”

If Monday morning was for exposition, Monday afternoon was for deeper exploration. The CDSP community gathered for lunch and a question-and-answer session in Denniston Refectory with Richardson, Lupfer and two members of what Lupfer refers to as his “wisdom team,” the Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones, director of core values and Latin America and Caribbean relations, and Varghese, who spent two weeks at CDSP last summer as the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry.

Questions were many, but among them were: How much does Trinity’s leadership want CDSP to change? What is the theological basis for Lupfer’s emphasis on the importance of students learning basic economic and managerial principles? And how will the new relationship affect students financially?

The Rev. Phil Hooper, a senior from the Diocese of Nevada, asked whether Trinity would respect the ways in which CDSP was shaped by the experience of the church in the West, where Christianity has a much smaller institutional footprint than it does in the eastern United States.

Lupfer, who spent 11 years as dean of Trinity Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, reassured Hooper that he had an affinity for the decision making style of the western church, which he described as “col-laborative and reflective,” and said he’d been trying with uneven success to infuse some of this ethos in the eastern church.

Varghese said the church in the West was “ahead of the curve” in developing leaders for a post-Chris-tendom church in the U.S. “We are not here by chance,” she said. “We are here because we think this place has a lot to teach the church and is an important site of formation.”

“We treasure the scrappy nature that you bring to theology,” said Bozzuti-Jones, a graduate of the Jesuit School of Theology, just up Le Conte Avenue from CDSP. “We see you journeying with us with likeminded values.”

When the panel had finished, Jackson, who as a CDSP alumnus and Trinity senior staff member could speak knowledgably about both institutions, rose from his lunch table and asked for the microphone. “Well, first of all you are going to have to wear a suit every day,” he said. “That’s just a requirement.”

When the laughter died, he continued. “You will actually bring more challenge to us than we to you. Because this is going to stay Berkeley. The school is going to stay the same, the way it is, continue to have that feel. People are going to be attracted to come here because of that feel. And it is going to be a benefit to us. You are going to help us loosen up a little bit.”

For much of the morning, informal conversation on the CDSP campus had focused on Lupfer’s suggestion that the church needs a better understanding of market economics and a deeper appreciation for the contributions that creative business leaders could make to it.

“New leaders will need to be conversant in scripture and history, theology, pastoral care, liturgy and homiletics, as well as community organizing … and at least the basic principles of the economy so that God’s economy can be brought into that,” he had said in chapel.

During the question and answer session, Scott MacDougall, assistant professor of theology, asked him to expand on what he meant by the wisdom of the market, whether he was referring broadly to the market-place of ideas, or public square, or whether he meant financial markets and economic systems.

Lupfer’s answer suggested that he meant both. “Your liturgy this morning was bathed in this image of the feminine image of God moving through the marketplace,” Lupfer said. “God is not afraid of the exchange of values,” whether intellectual or material. “God is at the center of that, and we want God to be at the center of that. So we talk about mission through marketplace, but also bending God’s economy into the material economy and how that can work.”

Senior Daniel Pinell of the Diocese of Central Florida returned to this issue in his question, asking whether the language of the marketplace might alienate Latinos and other marginalized groups who were struggling in the U.S. economy.

“We don’t mean everything that happens in the marketplace is of God,” Varghese said. “We don’t mean that subsidizing huge corporations that come in and destroy neighbor-hoods is of God.”

However, she added, “The way we structure church is to rely on the patronage of people. … someone is paying for it. What we are thinking about internationally, and what has been brought to us by international partners is, ‘If we can make our own money, we can administer our own agendas, not yours, however good you think yours might be.’ And that’s a profound learning.”

That understanding has implications for the church in the United States as well, she said. Clergy are taught to raise money, but “it is a different model to imagine what would be an income-generating source with integrity.”

First-year student Will Bryant from the Diocese of Western North Carolina asked Lupfer if Trinity had “certain stance toward student loans” that are “predatory toward youth and students.”

“We don’t like student loans,” Lupfer said. “We’d like to work toward them not being necessary.”

On Tuesday morning, Lupfer, Varghese, Bozzuti-Jones and the Rev. Canon Benjamin Musoke-Lubega, Trinity’s director of Anglican relations, joined Richardson for a Q-and-A style homily at the Tuesday morning Eucharist before heading back to lower Manhattan for Ash Wednesday services the next day.

The visit had been brief, and densely packed, and the CDSP community in Berkeley and beyond was still discussing the new partnership well into the following week. But, as Richardson said at Monday’s prayer service, CDSP’s students understood the importance of institutional change  before this opportunity presented itself.

“Many of you speak openly about how we need more creativity today than we have ever needed in our  church in order to be faithful to  our ministries,” he had said. “We need, in other words, to be bold for the sake of the gospel, to basically take informed risk knowing that we can’t know the details of the future … I am convinced that we are doing something very exciting not just for ourselves, but for the church and the world.”