Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

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."


Anonymous Ron Anderson said...

Willimon is perhaps overly critical of theological education, but he does get some things right in his discussion of the relationship to tradition and the pastor's responsibility to it. Nevertheless, he might be rather surprised to find not only that theological educators (not just Bible scholars) are more concerned about "thinking with the saints" than the local churches and their judicatory leaders seem to be, but also that many of us are actively engaged in conversations with those local communities.

2:07 PM


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