The Spring House of Bishops Meeting drew to a close with further conversation about young adults, this time focused on theological education. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the deans of all eleven Episcopal Seminaries joined the bishops for a conversation about seminary education. The good news is that nearly all of the seminaries have taken strong and positive steps to address issues of enrollment and finances. All are discovering new ways to deliver theological education and most are financially stable. That said, the seminaries still face many challenges, most particularly the challenge of forming clergy and lay leaders for a church that is very different from the church of just a few years ago.
The last session of our meeting was a brief business meeting during which we heard commentary from the visiting Primates, elected members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, and approved a letter in support of the Bishop of Jerusalem.
Since returning home, I’ve reflected a bit on the bishops’ time together. It seems to me that part of what it made it feel so jam-packed was that what we were discussing – ministry with young adults and conversations with Islam – is so very challenging. Our assumptions about the value of the church are not shared today by many in Western culture. Indeed, many young adults have no experience of or interest in the church at all. And in our increasingly pluralistic communities, Christianity no longer corners the market on meaning or morals. Other religions/philosophies have passionate adherents. Like the early church, we are in the position of having to show the world our good news, to take what we believe on the road, and to risk the encounters of the marketplace. And, frankly, we don’t know how. We have some ideas. There are successful programs in a number of places. But a lot of our congregations are stuck in a manner of life that no longer serves.