Having worked at a seminary for almost a decade, I have long since learned that seminary life does not shut down between May graduation and the Tuesday after Labor Day. This was especially true for me this summer, as I began my work as president of the new federation uniting Bexley Hall to Seabury Western Seminary.
In mid-June, I was able to join the more than forty participants, lay and ordained, who gathered at the Kellogg School of Management's Center for Non-Profit Management in Chicago to wrestle with vital issues of Christian leadership in a time of radical adaptive change. Radical, because what is at stake are the very roots of our identity as Anglican Christians in a polarized religious world. Adaptive, because small-scale technical adjustments (better public relations, or a change in service times) are no longer adequate or appropriate responses to the challenges before our seminaries and congregations in what our Kellogg colleagues call a VUCA world--volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
Donna Markham is a Dominican sister who, as leader of her embattled order of Catholic nuns, knows a lot about complexity and ambiguity. In her presentation at the Seabury-Kellogg conference, she described in stark terms the challenges before us as frontline leaders of the church: the continued devolution of authority; the resistance to the reallocation of resources; the growing numbers of disaffected Christians; the weaker base of Christian knowledge.
It is a sobering assessment. But what was most striking about her presentation was a deep hopefulness, expressed in her clear commitment to rethinking everything, not to lament the need for change but in fact to embrace it. She posed two key questions to us:
What do we want to change in order to respond to the needs of mission? How will the world be better because we are willing to address these challenges together?
As I move into my new role as president of Bexley Hall and Seabury Western Seminaries, writing pieces for this e-newsletter, and visiting congregations, dioceses and Episcopal church leaders throughout the Midwest and beyond in the coming months, these are the key questions I will ask myself, my new colleagues, and all of you--alumni, supporters and friends of the seminary enterprise. As we live into the "reboot" of our two historic institutions, what do we want to change to respond to these new needs of mission, especially to the erosion of basic Christian knowledge? How will the world be better because we are willing to make common cause as a newly joined Bexley-Seabury community, for the sake of the Gospel?
I look forward to hearing from you.