Generally Speaking: A New Vision for GTS

The Right Rev. Craig B. Anderson, President and Dean

The General Theological Seminary

In the last two issues of The General Theological News, I have attempted to highlight and summarize the important work of our Strategic Planning Committee.  The committee is currently developing specific strategic plans based on the vision statement that I wrote, which was adopted by the Trustees at our meeting last month.  Thank you for your help in shaping this vision.

“Building up the Body of Christ until we all attain to the Unity of the Faith”

A vision for The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church

The mission of the Church is the basis for the vision of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church.  As such, any vision of the Seminary as merely an educational institution in service to the Church must be rejected because the Seminary is in its very essence the Church, the new life in Christ guided by the Holy Spirit.  This new life expresses itself in prayer, study, reflection, service, life in community, and hospitality grounded in the authority of scripture, tradition and reason.

In the epistle to the Ephesians, God’s eternal purpose in establishing and completing the universal Church of Jesus the Christ is set forth.  The epistle provides us with both a contemporary and compelling mission for the Church and The General Theological Seminary today.  It exhorts us to maintain the unity of the faith and also issues a call to ministry:

each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift…that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ…speaking the truth in love, we must grow up…into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:7-16).

The Book of Common Prayer outlines how the Church is to pursue the mission described in Ephesians, “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ…as it prays and worships, proclaims the gospel, and promotes justice, peace and love…through the ministry of all its members.” (BCP, An Outline of the Faith, p. 855.)

Such guidance from scripture and tradition has led the Seminary, since its inception, to discern for each succeeding generation how it is called to equip all baptized Christians for the work of ministry.  Such discernment also requires the use of reason in understanding and interpreting the cultural context in which we exercise this ministry.  Our Anglican credo lex orandi lex credendi (first we pray, then we believe) is basic to The General Theological Seminary’s tradition of the centrality of the liturgy, spiritual discipline, academic excellence, and faithful service to the wider community.

Through prayerful discernment and guidance by the Holy Spirit, a new vision deeply rooted in the Church’s and General’s tradition has been given to the Seminary:  a theological education for ministry is the birthright of every baptized Christian.  Central to such a vision is empowering and enabling the Church to provide such an education for collaborative leadership among all orders of ministry.  Thus, in our secular and pluralistic society in which religion and life have become increasingly individualistic and privatized, formation to foster a secure Christian identity for the ministry of all the baptized is fundamental to the mission of the Church.  The need for such formation is foundational for the vision of The General Theological Seminary and includes the following elements:

“Building Up of the Body of Christ”

Service to the Anglican Communion

Formation of Priests: To strengthen the M.Div. program by addressing the reform needed in theological education in overcoming its present disciplinary fragmentation and theory/practice split.  The goal is comprehensive and integrated theological formation for the informed practice of priestly ministry.

Formation of Bishops: Building on our initial success, to extend the College for Bishops to the wider Anglican Communion and our other ecumenical partners as an international program for the formation of new and experienced judicatory leaders.

Formation of Deacons: Given the technology for interactive learning, to explore the development of educational programs for deacons that would include both residential and distance-learning components.

The Formation of Teachers and Scholars: To expand the Th.D. and S.T.M. programs, drawing on our distinguished faculty and exceptional library, for the formation of leaders and scholars within the Church and for educational institutions.  Such expansion of these advanced degrees will provide the “critical mass” of scholars needed in recognition that theology is a collaborative enterprise.

Formation of Lay and Clergy Leaders Within Congregations and Dioceses: To strengthen the Seminary’s Parish Development Institute, Center for Christian Spirituality and Instituto Pastoral Hispano for the formation of lay and clergy leaders as they attempt to revitalize and provide spiritual grounding for congregations, clusters, regional ministries, diocese, and other organizations.  Within this effort we shall explore appropriate new degrees for these leaders.

The St. Mark’s Library: Building on the efforts already begun, strengthen The St. Mark’s Library to support all of the Seminary’s current and future educational programs.  This will include collaboration with other libraries and the integration of new communication technologies.

“Until we all attain to the Unity of the Faith”

Engagement with the World

To establish new opportunities for multi-cultural and cross-cultural education growing out of the need for global and cultural understanding and drawing on the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of New York City.

To increase our ecumenical collaboration through continued bilateral conversations, ongoing dialogue with worldwide catholic churches, and continued leadership within the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches.

To increase our interfaith dialogue and worship, drawing on the resources of our New York City location and on our own Center for Jewish/Christian Studies and Relations.

To embrace New York City and increase and make more intentional the connection with and the use of the vast and unique cultural, educational, artistic, political, diplomatic and financial resources of the City.

“Speaking the Truth in Love, We Must Grow Up…Into Christ”

Caring through the Stewardship of our Resources

To build on the Seminary’s physical and financial resources and focus on developing our organizational and community life to renew the Seminary and the City.

To restore and renovate our facilities to serve better the educational, formational and residential needs of the Seminary.  This will include exploring the sharing of our facilities with other institutions and upgrading our computer technology.

To increase our endowment significantly while containing our operational costs.

To foster an organizational and community life rooted in our Christian values, which is more diverse, empowering, productive, participatory, communicative and trusting.

It is our hope and prayer that such a vision will enable us to be faithful to our past and open to the Spirit’s leading for the future in embodying General’s motto from the Gospel according to John:  Sermo Tuus Veritas Est (Your Word is Truth).

Craig B. Anderson




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