(E)pistle: Stupor Mundi

A pope of the 17th Century in commenting on the exceptional learning of  Church of England clergymen, referred to them as “Clericus Anglicanus, stupor mundi.” (The Anglican clergyman, wonder of the world).  A pretty high compliment coming from a religious enemy!

I thought of this description while watching one of our present day Episcopal clergy, David Sibley of Walla Walla, WA, defend his title as Jeopardy champion tonight.  Here was an Episcopal priest, whose great store of knowledge (not just churchy knowledge) won him a place on this popular national quiz show, not to mention a considerable amount of cash (which his Bishop reminded him was subject to the tithe!).  He is indeed a modern “stupor mundi.”

At CDSP our mission is to create well-educated clergy, although they are pretty smart group to begin with, many coming to seminary with impressive academic degrees as well as work experience.  But by the time they are done, they haven’t just excelled in the traditional disciplines of 

Scripture, theology, history, and ethics, they also have had the kind of exposure to the knowledge of the real world that will serve them well.  Fr. Sibley didn’t answer questions about the Bible, but about jazz, asian geography, literature, and science fiction (although he missed the question about the registration numbers of the Starship Enterprise).

The English clergy of earlier centuries were not just faithful pastors, they also used their leisure time to learn, teach, and write about secular topics as well.  One thinks here of people like James Bradley, John Robinson (astronomers) and Edward Stone (discover of aspirin). Even Charles Darwin started out as a seminarian!*

The Episcopal Church has long believed that its leaders should not just know their Bibles, but also be able to relate that Biblical message to the world in which we live.  When it comes to such “street smarts” even the rector of Walla Walla can be a stupor mundi!

*In all fairness, Roman Catholic priests who are scientists are also plentiful: