Bishop Willimon on theological education and pastoral leadership
Bishop Will Willimon is usually a provocative and thoughtful writer and speaker. He has posted an important article on his blog. "Between Two Worlds" is an extended reflection on the challenge faced by seminary graduates as they try to make the shift from the world of the academy to the world of the church. In the first they learn and talk and write about the church as it ought to be. In the second they are confronted with the church as it is. Of course, the two are irreconcilably different.
I particularly appreciate this comment on the disconnect between the academy and church with regard to Biblical studies:
"I recently heard Marcus Borg of the errant “Jesus Seminar” chide us pastors for protecting our congregations from the glorious fruits of “contemporary biblical scholarship.” There’s a brave new world of insight through the historical-critical study of Scripture! Don’t hold back from giving the people in the pew the real truth about Jesus as it has been uncovered by contemporary biblical scholarship and faithfully delivered to you in seminary biblical courses. He implied that even the laity, in their intellectual limitations, can take the truth about Jesus as revealed by Professor Borg and his academic friends.
"Yet it seemed not to occur to professor Borg that contemporary biblical scholarship, because it is asking the wrong questions of the biblical texts, and even more because it is subservient to a community that is at odds with communities of faith, may simply be irrelevant both to the church and to the intent of the church’s Scripture. Sometimes the dissonance between the church and the academy is due, not to the benighted nature of the church, but rather to the limited thought that reigns in the academy.
"It took me a long time to learn this. As I said, I remember experiencing that dissonance in my first days in my first church in rural Georgia. I was the freshly minted product of Yale Divinity School now forlorn and forsaken in a poor little parish in rural Georgia. My first surprise was how difficult it was to communicate. If was as if I were speaking a different language. As I preached, my congregation impassively looked at me across a seemingly unbridgeable gulf."