Go to the World! Go Struggle, Bless, and Pray: Bishops, Theological Schools, and Mission

Article excerpt

These words are from a hymn entitled "Go to the world" written by Sylvia G. Dunstan. It appears in the mission section of Common Praise, a 1998 hymnal of the Anglican Church of Canada. The words capture the very essence of theological education for the future church, a future into which we are being drawn even now.

At its Anglican Way Consultation in Singapore in May 2007, the Commission for Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (TEAC) identified signposts for the Anglican Way, emphasizing that we are "formed by scripture, shaped through worship, ordered for communion, and directed by Gods mission."1 Paragraph 12 reads:

As Anglicans we are called to participate in God's mission in the world, by embracing respectful evangelism, loving service and prophetic witness. As we do so in all our varied contexts, we bear witness to and follow Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Saviour. We celebrate God's reconciling and life-giving mission through the creative, costly and faithful witness and ministry of men, women and children, past and present, across our Communion.

The March 2006 Report of Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (TEAC) is encouraging in its effort "to take seriously the relationship between mission and theological education."2 The post of Director of Theological Studies at the Anglican Communion Office is, as the report says, "a kind of first fruits"3 of the work of TEAC. Suggestions for further work include fostering and supporting the ongoing development of regional Anglican theological education networks; nominating theological education officers in all provinces; and setting up a permanent Anglican Communion Theological Education Commission to succeed TEAC. I am convinced that this emerging priority of theological education in equipping the church for God's mission in the world is of the Holy Spirit. I believe that bishops have a critical role in highlighting this priority and enabling it to mature fully.

First and foremost, bishops must engage in conversation with heads of theological schools on a regular basis. I became aware of the importance of this as the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The Atlantic School of Theology, founded in 1971, is an ecumenical school, training and forming men and women for ordained and lay ministries in the Anglican Church and in the United Church of Canada, and for lay ministries in the Roman Catholic Church. On an annual basis, the heads of churches met with the president. He reported on enrollment statistics in the various degree programs, curriculum revision, changes in faculty, funding issues, and other matters of an administrative nature. More importantly, he engaged us in conversation centered around the needs of the church. He called us to consider and name the context in which ministry was being carried out, and the kind of leadership required of those whom the school would be graduating and the churches ordaining. He was calling us to visit afresh our understanding of mission. That president was certain that, in the task of training and forming men and women for ministries, ordained and lay, the school was serving a servant church dedicated to Gods mission in the world.

The Ontario Provincial Commission on Theological Education (OPCOTE) in the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario is an umbrella organization representing the Provincial House of Bishops, the Provincial Synod, the four colleges, and each of the seven dioceses as well as the Toronto School of Theology and the Church's Ecumenical Commission on Theological Education. The work of this body has done much to enhance relationships between dioceses and schools. Bishops and principals are determined to work in partnership in preparing men and women for service in God's mission in the world. Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones, the outgoing chair, wrote in a November 29, 2007, e-mail:

OPCOTE has been a major factor over the years in enhancing the progress of Anglican Theological Education in Ontario, and is a model for other parts of Canada. …