glory of god

glory of god

Monday, June 5, 2017

Where is God? A Sermon for Pentecost

As we gather to celebrate Pentecost today, I find myself asking lots of questions: the most important of which is probably, “What is God up to in this crazy, messed up, broken world of ours?” What is God the Holy Spirit up to, with so much pain and division, discord, disagreement and even hatred among people, among God’s beloved, cherished, holy people? You may well be asking these same questions, too. What is God up to? Because it certainly doesn’t make sense.

Yesterday’s horrific news from London—a van running into a crowd of people at 50 miles per hour, and then people stabbed on London Bridge and elsewhere in the city—only reinforces how profoundly broken and discordant human life is today. And, of course, that’s just the latest example. There are many places that are far, far worse, in which regular violence is an expected reality of life. Where is God today, in this mess? That’s what I am wondering. That’s what I want to know. And, I think, that’s what the world wants and needs to know. Where is God when we need him, where is God when we need her?

Sometimes, especially lately, it seems that all we hear is a cacophony of voices and languages, much like that first Pentecost day. Only in that case, we read that although the languages spoken were many and varied, they miraculously could be understood. Today, unfortunately, understanding is a lot harder to come by. Perhaps that’s because we prefer to listen only the voices in our own heads—or the voices on our favorite cable news station—and so we don’t hear, and we certainly don’t understand voices and languages that differ from ours.

But even that can’t be the whole answer. It can’t explain why life is treated so expendably. It can’t explain why hatred is so rife, or what God is doing to transform the world from this mess into something that more closely resembles the Kingdom of Peace and Justice, the Kingdom of wholeness and abundant life that Jesus envisioned and taught us about.

Thankfully, despite all the discord and confusion, our scripture readings for today can probably help, if we consider them carefully. First, let’s recall the powerful reading from the Acts of the Apostles. In it we heard: “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like a rush of violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ....”

Like the rush of a violent wind. Not hesitantly or wimpy. But forcefully. Revealing the power of the God. You may know that although we focus on the gift of the Holy Spirit especially at Pentecost, we find references to the Spirit throughout scripture–in both the Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, while in the church we have often used a gender neutral pronoun (it) or male pronouns (he, him), for the Holy Spirit, in the Old Testament and in the Hebrew Tradition, the Spirit is called Sophia, and referred to using feminine pronouns—she and her.

This is the same Spirit who enlivens and inspires the prophets, speaking through them to call God’s people to work for justice and peace. This is the Spirit who descends on Jesus in his baptism and drives him into the wilderness. And, of course, the Spirit blows in on the disciples at Pentecost. In fact, the Spirit doesn’t just blow in on them. The Spirit fills them, scripture tells us.

The second source for encouragement and understanding in our complex world situation is the gospel reading from John. In terms of the timeline, this gospel passage comes earlier. It actually takes place on Easter day. But we are hearing it again for its description of Jesus sharing the Spirit with his friends. What’s especially interesting is that these friends of Jesus are doing what a lot of us would like to do when our hearts and souls are filled with fear. They are in a locked room. They are trying to stay safe in a society that to them feels increasingly dangerous.

In their case, so long ago, they were worried that they might be arrested and crucified like Jesus. In our case, we might want to lock ourselves in out of fear of terrorism and violence. We may convince ourselves that it isn’t safe to go outside, to walk city streets, to take trips to London, Paris, Munich, or Stockholm. We may even start to believe that we can’t trust the people around us. Like the disciples, fear often grips us as well.

I remember after both 9/11 and the Boston Marathon Bombing I was uneasy about going out. On 9/11, I was working in Boston for Episcopal City Mission at the diocesan offices and I worried about riding the subway home from work downtown to Jamaica Plain, especially since two of the planes came from here. Once I was home, I didn’t want to leave the house again. I felt the same following the Marathon Bombing. Not the day of the attack so much, but the Thursday evening and Friday after, when the brothers reappeared in Watertown and the younger was at large.

Do you remember that bizarre day, when large swaths of the of Boston area were in lockdown? Quincy wasn’t, so we were able to go out for lunch and a walk, but I was nervous doing so. It was eerily quiet, with just the sound of sirens ringing through the air. Tanks rolled through city streets and SWAT teams knocked on doors in Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown, until the younger brother was found in a man’s boat. Thinking of it again, 4 years later, makes me a little uneasy. I just wanted to be home, with the door locked. I have no doubt that today people all over the world feel much the same.

But scripture tells us that it is precisely into those same locked rooms, and into our own locked and fearful hearts, that the Holy Spirit breaks in, breathing life and fire, power, strength, and courage into human souls. What’s more, and this is the truly challenging part, we read that from their locked rooms and from their locked hearts the disciples, the friends of Jesus, were in fact sent out. Do you notice how Jesus says, “’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

They receive the Holy Spirit and then they are sent out, maybe even driven out, much like Jesus was driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness following his baptism, to confront demons and temptations, and to contend with fear, uncertainty and a world of pain and loss. On Pentecost the disciples were sent out into wildernesses as well. They were sent out to be the Body of Christ, to be Christ’s presence, to be God’s presence—God’s living, breathing, loving presence—in a wilderness world that desperately needed them.

And, by now, you’ve figured out where I am going with this. We—who have likewise been filled with the Holy Spirit—are being sent out as well. God’s Spirit empowers us to unlock our doors—whether to our homes, our church, or our hearts—so that we can let God in, and so that we can go out, like the first disciples, to be the Body of Christ, to be Christ’s presence, to be God’s living, breathing, and loving presence, in a wilderness world that desperately needs us.

To return to my opening question, where is God in this crazy, messed up, broken world? God is right here. Right here with us, and in us. Alive in us. Propelling us forward, to confront evil. Propelling us onward, to transform cold and hardened hearts. God is right here, burning in us, giving us the power to heal and hope, to love and make whole.

On Pentecost, God’s power becomes our power. On Pentecost God’s life becomes our life. And on Pentecost God’s love becomes our love. It’s not the end of an ancient story, typing up the loose ends of Jesus’ life long ago. Rather, it is the beginning of an ever new story, and ever new reality—inspired by the life of Christ, in fact continuing his life, in new ways and in new places. Pentecost is the story and reality of God’s presence in and with and for the world now and today. It is nothing less than God’s Spirit, alive in us, that gives us the power and strength and courage we need to take on this messed up, broken, painful reality that we know, and transform it into something better, something whole, something alive. Because if we don’t do it, who will?

Where is God? God is right here. Can you feel him? Can you feel her? Alive in you, burning in your heart, taking hold of your soul? “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like a rush of violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ....”

To God be the glory: Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Thursday, April 20, 2017

On Resurrection, Star Wars, and Special Effects: A Sermon for Easter Morning

Those who are regular parishioners at Emmanuel Church, and those who visit us often for big festival days—like Easter and Christmas—know that I am a major Star Wars fan. They know because I talk about it lots. In fact, I think some parishioners even place bets on whether (or how often) I will mention Star Wars in my holiday sermons. I don’t do it every Sunday, just so you know, but holidays somehow bring out my youthful enthusiasm. So, if you made such a bet this year, you definitely won. And since the next movie—The Last Jedi—is coming out at Christmastime this year, you can place your bets early that I won’t be able to restrain myself, and will be talking about it again then. Almost certainly

Well, the reason I mention Star Wars this morning—beyond the fact that an exciting new trailer was released on Friday, along with some behind the scenes photos of the filming, including some of our beloved late Princess Leia—besides all that, is because this morning’s Easter gospel passage from St. Matthew sounds to me like it comes directly out of a George Lucas script, with dramatic special effects created by Industrial Light and Magic: a great earthquake; the appearance of an angel, as bright as lightning; guards shaking and becoming like dead men; and the women looking on in stunned awe and wonder.

It’s a scene that would fit in any contemporary sci fi movie. And yet, as reported in the gospel, it is a story nearly 2,000 years old. So, either the author, Matthew the evangelist, had a spectacular imagination—even without the aid of movie special effects—or he was describing in the only way he could the phenomenal experience at the tomb on Easter morning. Personally, I tend to think it was the latter. It wasn’t just his especially vivid imagination at work here. Resurrection wasn’t something that someone just made up a long time ago and described in dramatic fashion. Rather, instead, it was a new, powerful, and truly earth-shaking kind of reality that many, many friends of Jesus, like the women there at the tomb, experienced as really real, even if the whole story was unbelievable and even preposterous to others.

Unfortunately, though, sometimes as time passes we can get caught up or tripped up in the fantastic language and imagery of spectacle, and we wonder if it could possibly be true—in the same way that we easily dismiss a science fiction movie as thrilling to watch, but very far from the reality we know. For example, I’ve never seen any dazzling, lightning bright angels, any more than I’ve actually seen Darth Vader. And I definitely haven’t seen my loved ones come back to life, much as I miss them and want to have them here with me again. So, then this Easter magic, is it really real, or is it a fanciful dream, or is it maybe just an impossible wish?

Obviously, the resurrection of Jesus is not something that we can prove in an empirical or scientific way. The first Easter was much too long ago for that. And besides, you can’t really prove matters of faith anyway—because they are just that, matters of faith. What’s more, all four gospels describe the resurrection somewhat differently, if you set them side by side—Matthew’s version is by far the most dramatic, with the earthquake and angel appearing like lightning—but they each seek to put into words that are ultimately too small and limited an experience, a reality, that probably was and is beyond words or adequate explanation.

You may have noticed that this time of year there are always TV specials that seek to prove or disprove that something in the Bible happened. I even recently read an article in the British newspaper the Guardian which dealt with whether Jesus was even a real person—apparently 40% of the adult British population question whether Jesus really lived. Despite this skepticism, the overwhelming evidence is that Jesus was real—which is not news to any of us here this morning. Though, sometimes the finer details his life can be elusive.

In any case, while all of these investigations can most definitely be interesting, I think they tend to miss the greater point in the biblical narrative. They get so bogged down in whether and how something was possible that they fail to recognize that the whole purpose of such stories is to reflect upon the belief that God was and is active in the world, and in particular that God was and is active in the lives of ordinary people, in the lives of people just like us.

What we know, beyond the earthquake, the lightning bright angel, and the divine special effects, is that belief in the resurrection, belief in the life-changing and even world-changing miracle of Easter has encouraged, sustained, and propelled people of faith for 2000 years—from the women at the tomb early on the first Easter morning, all the way to us today. Comfort and encouragement, empowerment and liberation, hope and new life are all the hallmarks of this fantastic day.
 
What the miracle of Easter tells us is that the God we believe in is more powerful than death. The miracle of Easter tells us that the God we believe in can and will and does overcome evil with new and abundant life. The miracle of Easter tells us that there is nothing more powerful than the love and life of God—not the cross, not the mightiest empire on earth, not the power of sin, not our own wayward desires and failings. Nothing. What’s more, this mighty, powerful resurrection is not something that God did once for Jesus a long time ago, while the rest of us wait and wait and wait. If it were just that, it wouldn’t have much meaning at all.

No, what happened on that first Easter morning was really just the beginning. It was the opening chapter, or maybe the first scene, in a powerful, dynamic, living story—a living story that God continues to write and direct, sometimes without so many special effects, but in real human lives, in lives just like ours. Jesus’ resurrection was just the beginning of a new age of life and love, of liberation and empowerment. But, like the women at the tomb, it is up to us to share the good news of this resurrection. It is up to us to witness to its power and earth-shaking truth. It is even up to us to make resurrection real.

We do that, we make resurrection real, by rising ourselves. By rising from the stone-cold tombs that we create and too often call home. We make resurrection real by living—fully, abundantly, and freely. We make resurrection real by giving ourselves over to God’s love: a love so great that it was willing to die for us, even as we, like Jesus, share God’s love in full measure. We make resurrection real by being, by truly being, the living and breathing Body of Christ in a world that desperately needs us, in a world that desperately needs the life-shaking, world-shaking, liberating, empowering hope of resurrection faith now more than ever. We make resurrection real by knowing and testifying to the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God—no government, no cross, no illness, no poverty, no evil, no death. Nothing.

That’s what resurrection meant 2000 years ago, on that first Easter morning, and it’s what it means even still, even now, even today. The special effects—earthquakes and dazzling, lightning bright angels—are dramatic, a nice touch to make us sit up and take notice. But they are not the real thing. The real thing is life. New life. Abundant life. Liberated life. The real thing is your life. It’s my life. It’s Jesus’ life. Life lived in and with God.

Be that life today. Make Easter real today. Make resurrection real.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Let’s join them as they run and shout, with our lives, Alleluia! Christ is risen. Amen.


© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Remembering St. Patrick

Focus on Faith
Published in the Wakefield Daily Item
March 15, 2017

If you had met my grandfather and were to ask him about his ethnic or cultural background, he would have told you that he was Irish, and that his ancestors came from County Cork. What always seemed funny to me, though, is that our last name sounds more English than Irish. After undertaking online genealogical research I discovered that, indeed, our ancestral background is more complicated than Grandpa was aware (or likely would have admitted).

His first ancestors came to the American colonies from England in the late 17th century, landing in Boston and then settling in Connecticut. The Irish ancestors came much later, in the 19th century. A subsequent DNA test confirmed these discoveries, suggesting that Grandpa was likely 65% Irish and 35% English. He died in 1986, so I am saved the difficult task of sharing these shocking discoveries with him. From his current vantage point it likely doesn’t matter nearly as much.

Later this week, on March 17, people of many heritages and backgrounds will be observing St. Patrick’s Day. For one day, we are all a little Irish—whatever facts our family trees or DNA tests may reveal. For some, St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity to party—to wear green, drink a Guinness or Irish whisky, eat a dinner of corned beef and cabbage, and maybe attend a parade. Sometimes the celebrations of Irish pride can get a little raucous, though all in good fun.

Unfortunately, St. Patrick himself is often left behind in the burst of green exuberance. He was a fascinating figure, the impact of whose life we are still feeling today. Ironically, St. Patrick was not, himself, Irish. He was born on the northwest coast of Britain about the year 390. His grandfather had been a Christian priest and his father was a deacon and an official in the Roman imperial government of Britain. At about the age of 16, Patrick was captured by Irish slave-raiders and brought to Ireland, where he was forced into service as a shepherd. Later he wrote that he deepened in his relationship with God during his enslavement.

After six years of captivity, Patrick escaped. He took an arduous journey by foot to the Irish coast, where he found a ship that took him back to Britain. Once there, he devoted himself to the study of Christianity. Eventually he was ordained as a priest and bishop. A powerful vision led him to return to Ireland, around the year 431—this time as a missionary, rather than as a slave. His new life in Ireland was not easy. His teaching and presence were not always well received. He was a foreigner, without the protection of local kings and chieftains. He spent time in prison and at one point feared execution. In his autobiography he writes that he was criticized by his contemporaries for his lack of learning.

Even so, Patrick’s message of Christian hope led to the conversion of many. Legend suggests that he used local symbols to explain the Christian faith—like the three-leaved shamrock to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. He made his appeal to local kings and through them to their tribes, leading thousands to be baptized. Patrick ordained priests and had churches erected over sites held as sacred by the old pagan religion. Crosses were carved on old druidic pillars. He rededicated sacred wells and springs under the protection of Christian saints. Tradition holds that Patrick died on March 17, 461. Although never canonized by a pope, he was venerated as a saint by the Irish people and local Christian communities soon after his death.

What we know of Patrick’s actual life is far more inspiring than the exuberant parties on his feast day would lead us to believe. He is a saint for the Irish people, of course. But, in reality, he can be admired by people of diverse backgrounds—immigrants in desperate search of better lives in new lands, those whose strong faith sustains them through trials and tribulations, people seeking release from captivity and enslavement of many kinds, and anyone in search of meaning and hope. Patrick’s life and story can be guide and inspiration to us all as we journey through life and draw closer to God, whatever our ethnic or religious background.


So, Happy St. Patrick’s Day—to Grandpa Howie, to you, and all who are or who feel Irish this week. May Patrick’s life inspire you in your own search for meaning, hope, and new life. May he lead you to welcome the stranger with open hearts and open arms. May his life of faith spark your own faith. Most of all, may God bless you. Sláinte!

 © The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD


Sunday, January 22, 2017

On Politics, Prophecy, and Fishing for People: A Sermon Following an Inauguration

So, it may—or it may not—surprise you to know that sometimes, some weeks, I have a hard time figuring out what I should say in my sermons. Sometimes it’s because the readings appointed for the day are rather obscure or obtuse, other times because my life was just too full to focus that week, or sometimes it’s because of world events. This is one of those times. Like many, I am struggling to make sense of the news and changes of past week and what they will mean for us—as Americans, as Christians, and as citizens of the world. For much of the last week (and really since November 9), I tried to keep my head down— focusing on other things, like the church budget, making sure we have candidates in place for our own parish elections, and a rather exuberant and expensive burst online shopping. Retail therapy it’s called.

But, of course, at some point I have to start following the news again. It will probably not come as too much of a surprise to most of you to hear that when it comes to electoral politics, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. Although it doesn’t exactly show up on the ancestry.com DNA test, it is definitely one of the genes I inherited from my parents. When I was growing up in Minnesota we even had an autographed photograph of Hubert Humphrey our state’s great hero—inscribed to my father.

Of course, I know that here in our congregation are people of every political persuasion. Some, likely, are excited and hopeful about the new administration in Washington, some are uncertain, and others are filled with anxiety and probably fear and even dread. And yet somehow, in some mysterious God-filled way, we are one community, one family, and one Body in Christ. That fact is one of the greatest joys in my life—in all of our diversity of belief and background, each week we come together in love, to be nourished and strengthened by God’s word, by God’s sacraments, and by the people God has placed in our lives—even people with whom we may disagree. It is not an exaggeration to say that my heart grows in love each time I see you—Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Independents, liberals and conservatives. I am a better, more generous, and more thoughtful person because I know you, because I love you, because you fill my heart—when we agree, when we disagree, and always. 

And so, my hope, at this critical time in our national life, is that we will find a way to be an example for others, a beacon of hope even, for how people can live together and love together through their disagreement. Not because we shy away from discussing important issues, but because we know that what unites us is real, true, and lasting love. Love that is a gift from God. Love that transforms us, from the inside out. And love that sometimes calls us to speak out and speak up, to confront what we see as a deviation from God’s dream and plan for God’s beloved people.

Some 2,700 years ago the Prophet Isaiah wrote: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest…. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.”

It was and still is a powerful message of hope, and it reminds us that people of faith have always looked to the power of God to transform lives and transform the world, in accordance with the principles of justice, peace, and truth. When Isaiah wrote, in the 8th century BC, foreign armies, the Assyrians—from modern day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey—were encroaching on the Kingdom of Judah, where Isaiah lived. He interpreted this as God’s judgment for their lack of faithfulness and commitment to the principles of justice and righteousness. He was particularly critical of princes and judges who neglect to defend and support the poor and oppressed.

In the chapter that follows today’s passage, he writes this: “Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statues, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you make the orphan your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still…” It’s a heavy warning, a reminder of how we are called to live and how we are called not to live.  

But, even as he wrote that, Isaiah was confident that God’s chosen—the poor, the oppressed, and those who pursue justice and righteousness—would survive and thrive, restored to abundant life in Zion, the holy city. It may take time, but he believed that restoration would come. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined.” He believed it had to, because he believed in God, he believed in a God of justice and righteousness. This belief was his faith, his hope, and his life.  

700 years later, Matthew, the author of the gospel, drew inspiration from Isaiah’s words. In fact, he quoted them exactly, as we heard this morning. When Matthew wrote, it wasn’t the Assyrians who were the great threat, but in the Roman armies, which had flattened Jerusalem. Over 350,000 people were killed in the siege.

The first-century Jewish historian Josephus, who witnessed the siege, described the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in this way: “As the legions charged in, neither persuasion nor threat could check their impetuosity: passion alone was in command… everywhere was slaughter and flight. Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught. Round the Altar the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom.”

It seems very long ago now, nearly 2000 years, but we shouldn’t forget that the gospels were written in the shadow of that horror, which upended and destroyed everything that sacred. People of faith, scattered across the middle east, wondered where they would find hope amid true carnage and oppression under the crushing power of the Roman Empire. Matthew’s answer was in Jesus Christ—a different kind of messiah, who came to power not by commanding armies or with the machinery of war, but instead by inspiring fishermen and carpenters, tax collectors and even prostitutes. It was, Matthew believed, through Jesus and his disciples—as they fished for people, as they broke down barriers, and as they cared for the poor, the sick and disabled—that Isaiah’s vision would come to life.

In other words, Matthew believed that Isaiah’s vision would come to life through a movement—a grass roots movement of ordinary and not especially perfect people, people a lot like us, who were transformed from the inside out by their encounter with the living God, whether that encounter was with Jesus in the flesh by the Galilean Sea as it was for Peter and Andrew, James and John, or for those who came later, sacramentally and spiritually through the Body of Christ, the community that Jesus established as his on-going presence and life in the world. Matthew, so long ago, even in the wake of Rome’s wreckage, believed that this Jesus movement had the power to transform the world.

And you know what, so do I. Some of that transformation may come through the political process, as we vote for candidates who match our values, and then, whether our side wins or loses, as we lobby those who are elected to represent us to stand up for the values of justice and peace. That is important work in a democracy like ours—our elected officials need to hear from us, they need to know that we care about the life-changing decisions that they are called to make. That’s why yesterday’s Women’s Marches, in Washington, here in Boston, and all over the world are so significant, inspiring ordinary people like us to work for what they believe in.  

But even more, the true transformation that we hope for comes in our daily lives and interactions, as we live like Christ lived, as we break down barriers, as we feed the hungry and clothe the naked, as we combat oppression and discrimination whenever and however we encounter it. And most especially and importantly, that transformation will come as we intentionally work to expand our hearts, making room for those whose world views may be different from ours. It’s not always easy, of course. Sometimes it’s really hard. But it is who we are called to be, and how we are called to live—as Christians, as followers of Christ, and as fishers of people.

Friday, Inauguration Day, a cable channel called “Decades” was replaying past presidential Inaugural addresses—from Eisenhower to Obama. Late at night I saw a few of them. They were fascinating. Surprisingly, I was really impressed with the first Nixon inauguration speech. It was really good, even inspirational. Given his later history and the fact that he beat my family’s hero, Hubert Humphrey, I wasn’t expecting that at all. My dad is not looking down on me very happily at the moment—look out for stay bolts of lightning today. Of course, the one that really stands out is Kennedy’s. Whether we were alive yet or not—I was still 12 years away—we all remember his iconic lines: “the Torch is passed to a new generation of Americans,” and “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It inspired a generation into service.

Less well remembered were his closing sentences. He said: “Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”

President Kennedy was absolutely correct. God’s work is our own. It is up to us, with God’s help and with God’s blessing, to transform the world, to transform hearts, to bring justice and end oppression, to break down barriers and to fish for people, so that Isaiah’s ancient dream finally and truly becomes reality, through us: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-- on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest…. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.” 

Together, as the Body of Christ, as the Jesus movement, as fishers of people, we can make it so.

To God be the glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A New Hope: An Advent Sermon on Joseph, Mary, and Star Wars

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. --Matthew 1:18-25


We are told that Advent is a season for preparing and waiting. I’m okay the preparing part, but I’ve never been too good at waiting. A year ago, in these weeks before Christmas my big anticipation and excitement was for the new Star Wars movie—The Force Awakens, which I saw on opening night. This year, there’s another new Star Wars movie—Rogue One, which takes place prior to the 1977 movie we all know as the original Star Wars, later renamed A New Hope. Now, I really thought that I would be able to wait and would see it in Minnesota with my brothers. But it turns out, I couldn’t. This time I didn’t go on Thursday—opening night—but instead yesterday afternoon on its second day. That’s sort of like waiting, right? It was totally worth it. It’s a stellar movie. Get it, Star Wars, stellar?

And as much as I couldn’t wait, it seems the compliers of our lectionary couldn’t wait either. Because, although we are only in the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we have just heard the Christmas story as Matthew’s gospel tells it. Which, as you may have noticed, is much shorter than Luke’s telling, the more familiar version we will hear on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas morning. There’s still the conception by the Holy Spirit, but there are no shepherds, no manger, and no heavenly host singing glory to God in the highest. None of that good Christmassy stuff. There are wise men in Matthew’s story, his primary contribution to Christmas tradition, but they come later at Epiphany.

The other big difference is that Matthew’s report of events is told from the perspective of Joseph. Mary is there, of course, but she doesn’t have any speaking roles (in Luke, by contrast, it’s all about Mary—the angel appears to her, she sings the magnificent, she treasures and ponders everything in her heart). But not here. Rather, Joseph is the star. That’s because Matthew is written to appeal to the first century’s Jewish Christian community. Like the new Star Wars movie, Matthew’s gospel is stellar. He draws upon the stars of Jewish religious history to tell his story. For example, Joseph is a reminder of Joseph in the Book of Genesis, the one with the coat of many colors, whom God also spoke to in dreams—the son of Jacob, grandson of Isaac, and great-grandson of Abraham.

In that history and society, men were the active players—at least from the perspective of the gospel author. Women were treated as property, passed in marriage from their fathers to their husbands. Later on, Jesus, as an adult, will challenge his society’s concepts of marriage, and especially divorce, which he takes a particularly harsh view of because of its detrimental impact on women—interesting in light of his own birth story, which easily could have included a divorce, if not for some divine intervention.

Here’s what we need to understand about marriage in first century Jewish communities. It was a two-step process. The first was the betrothal, far more than an engagement in our understanding. Usually, betrothals were arranged by a couple’s parents, the fathers mainly, often when the pair were quite young, as early as 12 or 13 years old, and perhaps when they didn’t even know each other, or just barely. The fathers set in motion a binding and legal contractual arrangement between their children—actually, it was a binding contract between the father of the bride and the husband to be. The couple didn’t live together right away, but in legal terms they were married, referred to as husband and wife, with absolute fidelity required. Then, maybe a year or two later, when the husband was able to support a family, but still very young by our standards—14 or 15—they would hold a banquet for family and friends, after which they lived together in the way that married couples do. But the legal aspect of the marriage was enacted in the betrothal and could only be dissolved in a divorce.

That was the situation between Joseph and Mary. They were legally married, but hadn’t yet lived together. In fact, they probably didn’t know each other very well, since men and women maintained fairly separate lives outside of their immediate families, and all of their interactions before moving in together would have required a chaperone. It is in that context that we learn that Mary is pregnant. For some reason, in my mind I always thought it was the angel who told Joseph that Mary was pregnant, but if you pay close attention to the gospel passage as written, it wasn’t the angel who announced the news to Joseph. Joseph already knows Mary is pregnant when the angel appears in the dream. Maybe Mary told him, or her father told him, or maybe it’s starting to become obvious to everyone and people are talking about it, whispering, snickering, pointing fingers. It’s actually quite soap-operaish, when you think about it. And very close to real life.

And that, I think, is the point. The story of Mary and Joseph and Jesus is real life. It’s not a Star Wars movie. It’s not a fairy tale. Mary is not a beautiful fairytale princess, or even Princess Leia, Joseph is neither Han Solo nor prince charming. This is not the story of legend. It is the story of real lives—lives a lot like ours, in which things don’t always go according to our plans and hopes can easily be extinguished. For Mary and Joseph, as for so many, the news of an unexpected pregnancy was not an opportunity for rejoicing, but instead probably felt like a nightmare.

Stop to imagine how absolutely frightened Mary must have been, trying to find a way to tell Joseph this unexpected news. Fearing for her own life, as well as for her baby. And for his part, Joseph is probably going through an emotional wringer himself. Who is the father? Are people assuming that he’s the father? What kind of girl is this Mary anyway? What kind of future will he have if people assume that he’s the kind of guy that fools around? For comparison, imagine that this were happening in an Amish community, or maybe a Hasidic Jewish or strict Muslim society. How would people react? What’s the “right” thing to do when it appears to Joseph and their families, friends, and neighbors that this girl was unfaithful, had broken her promises, and made a fool of him? 

If Joseph had wanted to, he could have made a big deal out of the whole thing. He could have exposed Mary, set her up for public ridicule, and possibly even stoning. That would have been his right. She was technically his “property.” Though, the gospel emphasizes that he was righteous and had decided against that approach. He wasn’t heartless, even if maybe he was heartbroken and probably more than a little angry, too. His plan, instead, probably when he had mustered enough courage to confront the situation—remember, he’s likely no more than 14,15, or 16 himself—was to dismiss her quietly, issuing a writ of divorce.

Maybe he planned to encourage her to move someplace else where people wouldn’t know her. She could claim her husband had died or something. Joseph may have thought that he would have to do the same thing himself—move someplace else, come up with some sort of plausible story about a wife who died in childbirth or something, since back home people would always wonder if he really was the father, even if he said he wasn’t. It was an impossible situation.

And so, Matthew tells us, it is into this mess that the angel appears in a dream and tells Joseph not to worry. He should accept Mary as his wife, and accept her child, God’s child, as his own. Now, you have dreams. I have dreams. Rarely do I follow mine. Usually I wake up confused, wondering why on earth my sleepy imagination would come up with the crazy, neurotic “adventures” it does. But Joseph actually listened to his. Who knows, maybe he thought that even if the angel were just his imagination, it still offered the best solution to what seemed like an impossible situation. Or, maybe he awoke with a great sense of clarity and purpose, confident God had visited him with a new revelation. Whatever it was, Joseph put away his pride, summoned whatever courage he could against the gossip, innuendo and pointing fingers, and raised Jesus as his own. Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have been the first couple trying to salvage a normal life out of a difficult situation.

Now, I can’t say for sure why Matthew told his story exactly the way he did. But what I do know is how helpful it is to us in our lives today—if we really listen to it. If we recognize that even in difficult and unexpected circumstances God can break in with a message of hope, and love, and encouragement. Because like Mary and Joseph, our lives aren’t always perfect either. They don’t always work out the way we hope or expect, and yet God appears—sometimes in dreams, sometimes through family and friends, and sometimes in moments of profound clarity—and offers us new and grace filled possibilities and opportunities, if like Mary and Joseph we set aside our fears and trust in God’s grace, trust in God’s possibilities and opportunities.

Like Mary and Joseph, sometimes the lives we have planned and hoped for, for ourselves or perhaps for our children, don’t turn out in the way we envisioned. Sometimes our relationships don’t work out, and they are marked by disappointment. Sometimes kids grow up to be gay or lesbian or transgender, and parents and grandparents struggle to come to terms with a different reality than they had imagined when the children were babies. Sometimes people we love, or we ourselves, struggle with mental illness or addiction or physical impairment. Sometimes we and the people we love struggle with cancer and serious illnesses. The details of our lives are unique to each of us, but the love and grace of God are the same. It is the same love and grace that gave Mary and Joseph the courage to set aside their fears and doubts, and with faith open their hearts to the future that God had planned for them.  

Even better than a Star Wars story, God took a perplexing, upside down situation, and transformed it into something new. Not only for Mary and Joseph, but for us all, by coming to dwell with us. In our confusion. In our fear. In our crazy and sometimes messed up situations. In real life. God came to live with us, among us, and in us, as Emmanuel. And then through that life, God showed us a new way. God showed us a compassionate, loving, hopeful, and transformational way to live—first through the example of Mary and Joseph, and then even more powerfully by living it himself in Jesus, born to that confused, perplexed and stunned couple—breaking down barriers, challenging assumptions, healing divisions. Bringing abundant life. Bringing good news of great joy for all the people. Bringing us and the world a New Hope.

To God be the glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.   


© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pledging Allegiance: A Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King

One of the joys last Tuesday, during our first community dinner at Horizon House, was the opportunity not only to serve the meal, but to share it with club members, neighbors from Wakefield, and fellow parishioners. My table had some of everyone, with a wide-ranging conversation. Now, I don’t remember how we got onto the topic, but at some point several of us discussed the pledge of allegiance. We were an international table and I think it had something to do with the differences between the US and Canada.

I wonder, how many of you grew up saying the pledge of allegiance in school every day? So did I, at least through elementary school. I think in first and second grades we sang, too. Probably not the “Star spangled banner,” but more likely “My country ‘tis of thee.” Or maybe “America the beautiful.” In my case, that all ended by junior high, when we focused on other things.

There were some kids in my class who were able to opt out of saying the pledge. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they very politely sat while the rest of us stood and recited those familiar words, day after day. I don’t think they left the room, but maybe they did, at least some of the time. I once asked my dad, because I was too shy to ask myself, why those kids—who were my friends—didn’t have to share in saying the pledge. Dad said something to the effect that their religion didn’t permit them to pledge or swear an oath to anything but God. My dad, by the way, wasn’t too comfortable with the pledge, either. Like the Witnesses, he grew up in a religiously conservative church and always thought that pledging allegiance to a flag was kind of idolatrous. But he never made a fuss about it, which meant that I had to say it as well. There was no religious exemption for Lutherans, especially in Minnesota.

Interestingly, it’s an issue the Supreme Court has addressed twice. The first time was 1940, when it voted 8-to-1 that schools can force students to recite the pledge, despite any religious objection. Justice Felix Frankfurter, writing for the majority, ruled that the nation needed the loyalty of all people and that the pledge of allegiance was one way to reinforce unity and patriotism. “National unity is the basis of national security,” Justice Frankfurter wrote. He received strong criticism for the ruling, especially given the fact that he was Jewish and many thought he should be sensitive to issues of religious freedom. Justice Frankfurter responded, “One who belongs to the most vilified and persecuted minority in history is not likely to be insensible to the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution…. But as judges we are neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Catholic nor agnostic.”

This decision came as Europe was again being torn by war, and by the competing ideologies of fascism and communism. Americans wondered if and when we would be forced to join that struggle. By 1940 Germany had invaded Poland, Denmark and Norway, it had attacked France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and was close to taking them as well. The world was teetering on the brink. We likely can see why there was a concern for national unity and security.

Only, just days after the court issued its ruling, Jehovah’s Witnesses began to be attacked. Near Pittsburgh, a mob descended on and pummelled a group of Witnesses. Those fleeing were cornered by ax- and knife-wielding men riding the town’s fire truck yelling, “Get the ropes! Bring the flag!” In Kennebunk, Maine, the Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall was torched and days of rioting followed. In Litchfield, Ill., an angry crowd laid an American flag on the hood of a car and watched while a Witness had his head repeatedly smashed on it.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was so deeply concerned that she pleaded with the nation’s citizens to stop the attacks. But by the end of 1940, the ACLU estimated that 1,500 Witnesses had been assaulted in over 330 attacks. Many Americans believed that the Witnesses must be Nazi sympathizers, or even spies and saboteurs, with their refusal to say the pledge. Ironically, though, one of the reasons the Witnesses refused to say the pledge in the US was to stand in solidarity with Witnesses being arrested and sent to concentration camps in Nazi Germany for refusing to salute the flag there. 

Three years later, the Supreme Court reversed itself and ruled that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.” These words were penned by Justice Robert Jackson, who coincidentally, later served as the US prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at the Nuremburg Trials.

In an especially prescient insight in his ruling on the pledge he continued, “those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.” Powerful, even today, or perhaps, especially today. This ruling is considered one of the court’s most significant and sweeping in its enumeration of the freedoms conferred in the Bill of Rights. 

So, why recall this history today, when our minds are turning to Thanksgiving, or if you are a warden or member of the budget committee, maybe to our Stewardship In-gathering? Well, in part because I find it interesting—or maybe disturbing is the more appropriate—that the Supreme Court’s decision so long ago sparked a reaction similar to the one we are seeing across the country today following the presidential election. Both seem to have given permission to our fellow citizens to decide that some Americans are more welcome than others—based on their race or religion or orientation.

Swastikas, racial and anti-gay slurs painted on homes, churches—including some Episcopal churches, mosques, and school lockers, even in my own hometown in Maple Grove, Minnesota; women in headscarves verbally attacked; people told to go home or get out. These have all happened in the last two weeks. Those of us who appreciate the freedoms we enjoy have to combat against these appalling expressions of hate with all we have. And it has nothing to do with who we voted for in the presidential election, or whether we are Democrats or Republicans. But it has everything to do with who we are as a nation. Because when one religion or race is persecuted or excluded, we all are.

The irony, of course, is that when we say the pledge of allegiance we affirm “one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Liberty and justice for all. They are the most important American values. In fact, they are the only values articulated in the pledge, repeated by millions of American citizens every day. Yet, they often seem so elusive, especially in times of stress and uncertainty—whether in the 1940s or right now, just when we need to affirm and hold fast to these values more than ever.

I also reflect on this history, because today is Christ the King Sunday. It’s a day when we are called to make our ultimate pledge—not to a flag, or even to a country, but to the king of our lives, to the king of our souls, to the one who gives us true life and true freedom, even when nations and governments fall short of their and our lofty goals. Today, on Christ the King Sunday, we pledge our allegiance to Christ and to his kingdom, to God’s kingdom. It is a kingdom into which all are welcome and none are excluded. It’s a kingdom in which there are no winners or losers, no rich and no poor, but all are united and reconciled in as one, in God through Christ.

Interestingly, Christ the King Sunday is a fairly new observance in Christian churches, though of course people of faith had long believed that Christ was the true and ultimate ruler of their souls. But the feast itself was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, as a way to encourage and embolden the faithful, in light of rising secularism, communism, and fascism, in that tense time between the two world wars. It reminded Christians that their ultimate allegiance was not to a state, political philosophy, or world leader—whether king, president, or dictator—but instead always and only to God.

At the same time, through Christ the King Sunday Pope Pius urged nations to allow freedom for the exercise of religion and immunity from retribution from the state, while encouraging the nations and their leaders to respect and follow Christian teachings. I don’t know that Pope Pius’ expectations were fulfilled, especially at that fateful time. History would suggest not. But perhaps in terms of our own lives, our souls and our motivations, there’s more hope.

And there is that hope because, as we learn so powerfully in today’s gospel passage, to acknowledge Christ as the King of our lives, to pledge to him the allegiance of our hearts and souls, means that we do not bow or kneel before a king in a castle, or to one who commands powerful armies, or rules through fear and intimidation. Instead, we dedicate ourselves to a king who is crucified, who really is powerless by the standards of the world. It is to pledge our allegiance, to pledge our hearts and souls, to the one who seeks always to draw us to his heart and his soul, even when we make mistakes and fail to live up to our own potential.

In fact, it’s especially when we mess up, especially when we make mistakes, that Christ the king reaches out to us, from the cross, and promises—as he does to the man crucified beside him—that today we will be with him in paradise. Not some time in the distant future, not after we shape up or get our lives in order, but today. Now. At this very moment, as he reaches out to us in love. We might even say that he reaches out with liberty and justice. Liberty and justice that free us from sin and death, liberty and justice that free us from jealousy and despair, and liberty and justice that free us from mistrust of those who somehow seem foreign or different, but who are never foreign or different to God. Christ reaches out to us, from the cross, with liberty and justice that free us to live, fully, freely, abundantly, with him, in paradise.

What’s more, to claim Christ as King is to affirm that the way Jesus lived, and the way Jesus loved, without exclusion, without fear, without walls or borders, is our calling as well. To claim Christ as king is to be united to him, to be one with him, so that we, too, can reach out, from our own crosses, from the pains and disappointments and brokenness of our lives, to offer love and new life to neighbors in desperate need of them, who ever they may be, whatever their race, religion, or background.

Luke writes: “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise’.”

It is to that promise, to that love, to that Christ and to that King, on the cross, that I truly pledge my allegiance this morning. Perhaps you do as well. 

To God be the glory: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Episcopal Church Seminary Timeline


Episcopal Church Seminary Timeline

with particular attention to the histories of the Philadelphia Divinity School, Episcopal Theological School, and the Episcopal Divinity School.

Prepared by the Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD (EDS ’99)


1789General Convention adopted the Constitution and Canons of the Church, stipulating that: “No person shall be ordained in this Church until he shall have satisfied the Bishop and the two Presbyters, by whom he shall be examined, that he is sufficiently acquainted with the New Testament in the original Greek, and can give an account of his faith in the Latin tongue, either in writing or otherwise, as may be required.” (Canon 8).
1804—House of Bishops set a “Course of Ecclesiastical Studies,” including an appended list of books for “the Library of a Parish Minister.”
1817—gENERAL tHEOLOGICAL seMINARY established in New York City by act of General Convention, with set curriculum. GTS is the first and official seminary of the Episcopal Church. Bishop William White of Pennsylvania disagrees with the idea of a national seminary, and would prefer regional or diocesan schools for the training of clergy, but agrees to support the will of the broader church. The Rev. Dr. Samuel Turner, who had been appointed by White as teacher of theology in Pennsylvania, is subsequently appointed first professor at GENERAL SEMINARY.
1824Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary (Virginia Theological Seminary) established in Alexandria, VA. VTS was evangelical and missionary in outlook, in contrast to the high church and establishment sensibility of GTS. Among its founders were Bishop William Meade, the third Bishop of Virginia, and Francis Scott Key, whose 1814 poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry” became the text for the National Anthem in 1931. In 1818, Francis Scott Key formed “An Education Society” and five years later opened the “School of Prophets,” to become the PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY IN VIRGINIA. The school opened with two instructors and 14 students enrolled.
1824Kenyon College established in Worthington Ohio, by Bishop Philander Chase, for the purpose of training candidates for ministry. Institution moved to Gambier Hill in 1825. Bexley Hall as the seminary component of the college, was later separately identified, in honor of Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley, an early benefactor of the college.
1834Episcopal Theological Seminary in Kentucky established in Lexington by Bishop Benjamin Bosworth Smith to provide education on the western frontier. Fell into quick decline by 1837 due to financial troubles. Later had nominal existence as a department of Shelby College in Shelbyville, KY.
1841Nashotah House established in Nashotah, Wisconsin at the urging of western missionary Bishop Jackson Kemper by recent graduates of General Theological Seminary: James Lloyd Breck, William Adams, and John Henry Hobart, Jr. Established as a semi-monastic missionary seminary with a high church sensibility. The first graduate, in 1845, was Gustaf Unonius, a Swedish immigrant who was ordained by Jackson Kemper and worked to establish Swedish Episcopal congregations in the Upper Midwest, until returning to Sweden.
1854Berkeley Divinity School founded in Middletown, CT. Named for the Irish philosopher and bishop George Berkeley, it offered a middle way between the high church sensibility of General Seminary and the evangelicalism of Virginia Theological Seminary. Bishop John Williams of CT served simultaneously as Berkeley’s first dean and instructor in church history and theology. 
1854—James DeKoven joined the faculty of NASHOTAH HOUSE. The most widely-known and respected leader of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 19th century American Church, DeKoven brought many of the principals and practices of the Tractarian movement to the attention of the Episcopal Church, especially a firm belief in the doctrine of the Real Presence. He later defended the practice of Eucharistic adoration. He left NASHOTAH HOUSE in 1859 to serve as warden of Racine College, but his imprint on the seminary was profound. DeKoven was nominated Bishop of Massachusetts in 1872 and of Milwaukee in 1874. He was elected but not consecrated Bishop of Illinois in 1875 because he did not receive the necessary consents from a sufficient number of diocesan standing committees in the Episcopal Church. He was never made a bishop, but is remembered as the "American Keble."


1857University of the South established in Sewanee, Tennessee by 10 dioceses: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. It was established to provide denominational education free from northern domination. Formal education delayed due to the start of the Civil War. School of Theology opened in 1868. Several Confederate leaders were prominent in the life of the university, before and after the Civil War. 
1857the Divinity School of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Divinity School) established by Bishop Alonzo Potter. Dr. George Emlen Hare, a graduate of General Seminary, served as the first dean. PDS came to fuller and more organized life in 1862, with the establishment of a Board of Trustees, Board of Overseers, appointment of instructors, and a charter, and constitution. Courses of study were open to students of all races.
1858—SEABURY DIVINITY SCHOOL established in Fairbault, Minnesota by James Lloyd Breck, previously first dean of Nashotah House, and Solon Manney. It was intended to be part of a larger Bishop Seabury University, which never came to be; however, the DIVINITY SCHOOL flourished for a time under the leadership Henry Benjamin Whipple, first bishop of Minnesota. Though founded by Breck, SEABURY developed a low church and missionary frontier sensibility. Notably, it included white and Native American students.

1862-1865—During the Civil War, the Union Army took possession of the VIRGINIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY property in Alexandria and used it as an army hospital. During the war it was used to house 1,7000 wounded federal troops, with 500 deceased buried on the grounds.  The seminary was reopened following the war. 
1867—Episcopal Theological School founded in Cambridge, Mass. by Benjamin Tyler Reed, a Boston businessman. Established with a lay Board of Trustees, to avoid ecclesiastical interference on teaching. Instead, all teaching had to conform to the Doctrine of Justification by Faith (as contrasted with the Unitarianism of Harvard University and the High Church teaching of General Seminary). John Seely Stone, previously on the faculty of Philadelphia Divinity School, appointed first dean. School supported by prominent figures like Phillips Brooks, William Reed Huntington, Amos Adams Lawrence, and Thomas March Clark.
1869—St. John’s Memorial Chapel built at Episcopal Theological School. Other buildings followed, completed in a Flemish style by architects Ware and Van Brunt: Lawrence Hall, Reed Hall, and Burnham Hall.
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1878—Bishop Payne Divinity School founded in Petersburg, Virginia to train African Americans for vocations in ministry in the Episcopal Church. Originally a branch of the Virginia Theological Seminary and associated with the St. Stephen’s Normal and Industrial School, it was led by the Rev. Thomas Spencer as Principal. In 1884 it was named for James Payne, first bishop of Liberia.

1878—ST. ANDREW'S DIVINITY SCHOOL established in Syracuse, New York at the behest of Bishop Frederic Dan Huntington. It was meant to serve primarily as a seminary for the Diocese of Central New York. Addressing his diocesan convention in 1876, Bishop Huntington said: “Experience shows that the most experienced men for our missionary service are those trained on our own ground. Reasons for this will readily suggest themselves. Besides, every Bishop wants the use of all his own candidates during their Diaconate, a period of great practical importance, for the free work of itinerancy and in small stations, of which we have so much on hand. It is clear to me that we shall never be furnished with a full force of Evangelists and Associate Missioners till we educate them among ourselves. We ought, therefore, to be looking forward to that measure, and shaping plans for a training school at the center of the Diocese, conducted with a regular course of study, lectures in the different departments of scientific and pastoral Theology and parenetics by our own scholars, with terms of practical exercise under Parish ministers. Such a class of Candidates for Orders, near at hand, with their teachers, would be almost sure to impress many devout youths with the demands of the sacred calling, and to turn them toward it.”
1880sPhiladelphia Divinity School began offering training for deaconesses, often African Americans offering education to freed slaves.
1883Western Theological Seminary founded in Chicago, IL under the leadership of Bishop William McLaren. Western’s mission was to educate “fit persons in the Catholic Faith in its purity and integrity, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, held by the Primitive Church, summed up in the Creeds, and affirmed by the undisputed General Councils.” It relocated to Evanston, IL in 1929 at the invitation of Northwestern University and Garett Biblical Institute.
1893Church Divinity School of the Pacific founded in Man Mateo, California by Bishop William Ford Nichols, second bishop of California. Originally called GIBBS HALL, after a wealthy businessman, George Gibbs, who donated property. Several buildings destroyed by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, after which the seminary moved to San Francisco on the grounds of Grace Cathedral. Included students from the west, as well as from China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands.

1893—EPISCOPAL THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL Dean William Lawrence is elected bishop of Massachusetts, following the unexpected death of Bishop Phillips Brooks. A theological liberal, his election to the episcopate brings the consternation of those concerned with theological orthodoxy. As bishop, he was instrumental in founding the Church Pension Fund. Lawrence was succeeded as dean at ETS by George Hodges, who serves until his death in 1919.

1905—ST. ANDREW'S DIVINITY SCHOOL in Syracuse, New York closes upon the death of its then dean, Theodore Babcock, having educated 74 candidates for the ministry, most ordained by Bishop Frederic Dan Huntington. Included among them are George Hodges, dean of the EPISCOPAL THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL, and James Otis Sargent Huntington, founder and superior of the Order of the Holy Cross. 
1915Philadelphia Divinity School relocates to a new campus adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania. The campus plan called for a set of Gothic inspired buildings. While costs prevented all planned buildings from being completed, the stunning St. Andrew’s Collegiate Chapel was finished in 1925. The campus also included a classroom, library, refectory, and deanery, with other faculty residences near by.  
1922Episcopal Theological School New Testament Professor Norman Burdett Nash argues that women should be ordained to the same orders as men. In 1921 a woman had applied for admission to ETS in order to prepare to teach Bible, but her application was not accepted.
1924Episcopal Theological School faculty publish Creeds and Loyalty in reaction to increasing pressure for Episcopal Church seminaries to teach in conformity with doctrinal orthodoxy. The faculty advocated instead freedom of biblical and creedal interpretation, in line with theological modernism.
1924Church Divinity School of the Pacific relocates to Berkeley, California, to benefit from closer association with other denominational seminaries already there.
1928Berkeley Divinity School, under the leadership of its dean William Palmer Ladd, relocates from Middletown to New Haven to take advantage of the resources of Yale University, as well as the opportunities for ministry and learning in an industrial center.  A liturgical scholar, Dean Ladd sought to integrate the insights of the liturgical movement and the sacramental life with concerns for social justice.
1929Philadelphia Divinity School begins admitting women to its programs of study, adapted for those preparing to teach religion in colleges.
1931Philadelphia Divinity School graduates its first woman student, Elizabeth Hummerwell Willing. She was the first woman to graduate from any Episcopal seminary. She went on to serve as president of the Windham House, a national Episcopal training center for women.
1933Seabury Divinity School merged with Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, forming Seabury-Western Theological Seminary.  The new seminary combined the low church sensibility of Seabury with the high church outlook of Western.
1933-1935Philadelphia Divinity School is hit especially hard by the Great Depression. The School is forced to end the 1934 academic year early and faculty pay is suspended for six months (later extended to over a year). Troubles are deemed to be both financial and programmatic, with too little attention paid to practical training for pastoral ministry. Several faculty resigned as PDS began a thorough reorganization to respond to the growing need for pastoral and clinical training.
1935—Two women apply for admission to Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge. Faculty agrees that if they apply as cross-registrants through Radcliffe they can be permitted to take ETS classes. But they are not admitted as ETS degree students.
1936Philadelphia Divinity School introduced Clinical Pastoral Education under the direction of Professor Reuel Howe. Students were required to have field placements during all three years of study. A major faculty and curricular change at PDS was undertaken to implement the clinical education program. This began PDS’s move away from traditional academic education toward a model grounded in praxis and experiential learning. Professor Howe later taught pastoral theology at Virginia Theological Seminary
1938Philadelphia Divinity School welcomes to the Church Training and Deaconess School to its campus and appoints Katherine A. Grammer to the faculty as Dean of Women. Women and men at PDS were both awarded the Bachelor of Theology degree. Dean Grammer left PDS in 1945 for St. Margaret’s House, formerly the Deaconess Training School of the Pacific, in Berkeley, California and associated with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific until its closure in 1966.
 
1938—Several Episcopal Church seminaries receive early accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools: Berkeley Divinity School; Church Divinity School of the Pacific; Episcopal Theological School; General Theological Seminary; and Virginia Theological Seminary.
1941Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge hires Adelaide Teague Case as Professor of Christian Education. Case is the first woman to serve as a regular faculty member in an Episcopal seminary (and not principally for women students).
1941Church Divinity School of the Pacific, building on its relationship with St. Margaret’s House, admits women to its programs and graduates Ethel Springer from its Bachelor of Divinity program, the first Episcopal seminary to award the B.D. degree to a woman. (PDS had offered the Bachelor of Theology).
1943Philadelphia Divinity School student Paul Washington (’46) lives in PDS dormitory. Although the seminary was always open to African American students, Washington was the first African American to reside on campus at PDS.
1949Bishop Payne Divinity School closes after 70 years of education for African American candidates in the south. It formally merged with Virginia Theological Seminary in 1953.  The Virginia Seminary Library was subsequently renamed the Bishop Payne Library in honor of the former school.

1950—Professor Massey Hamilton Shepherd of the EPISCOPAL THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL publishes his influential book, The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary. While at ETS he likewise published The Living Liturgy (1944) and The Worship of the Church (1952). A graduate of the BERKELEY DIVINITY SCHOOL, he later taught at the CHURCH DIVINITY SCHOOL OF THE PACIFIC from 1954 to 1981.  He was a major architect in the development of the 1979 Prayer Book.
1951—John Walker, later bishop of Washington, enrolled as the first African American student at Virginia Theological Seminary.
1951Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest established in Austin, Texas by Bishop John E. Hines, coadjutor of Texas, as “a seminary for the while church.” The Rev. Gray M. Blandy served as the first dean. It was founded as an racially integrated institution.
1952Church Training and Deaconess School abruptly departs Philadelphia Divinity School campus and relocates to New York, affiliating with the Windham House Training Center for Women. The move ends decades of pioneering education for women at PDS.
1953The University of the South’s policy against admitting African American students led to the resignation of six faculty and the transfer of 35 of 56 divinity students in protest. Soon the trustees reversed their position. In the fall of 1953 the first black graduate student was admitted to the university. Merrick William Collier of Savannah was enrolled as the first African American student in the seminary in 1954. Segregation continued in the wider university and associated properties, including a hotel and restaurant, into the 1960s.
1958Episcopal Theological School opened its bachelor of divinity programs to women on an equal basis with men. Additionally, postulancy was no longer required for admission. Faculty continued to call for the ordination of women to the diaconte and priesthood.
1962Church Divinity School of the Pacific joins the creation of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
1965Episcopal Theological School students attend the freedom march in Selma. Jonathan Daniels and Judith Upham stay in Alabama to work for civil rights and integrate St. Paul’s Church. Daniels was murdered on August 20, 1965 in Hayneville, Alabama, at a convenience store just after being released from jail. Daniels jumped in front of Ruby Sales, an African American civil rights activist. She later attended EDS as a student in the 1990s.
1966Episcopal Theological School Ethics Professor Joseph Fletcher publishes his ground-breaking and controversial work, Situation Ethics. He argues that there is no consistent ethical norm except love, which changes in every situation.
1967—St. John’s Memorial Chapel at Episcopal Theological School renovated, removing pews and stone altar, creating a more flexible worship space. Renovations overseen by former Presiding Bishop and ETS graduate, Arthur Carl Lichtenberger. 
1968Episcopal Theological School dean John Coburn, moved by the Civil Rights movement, resigns to teach at the Urban League’s Street Academies in Harlem, New York. He later served as President of the House of Deputies and Bishop of Massachusetts. Coburn was succeeded as dean by Harvey Guthrie.
1968Episcopal Theological School hires Robert Avon Bennett as professor of Old Testament. A graduate of KENYON COLLEGE, GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, and HARVARD UNIVERSITY, he is the first African American faculty member at ETS.
1968Bexley Hall disassociated from Kenyon College and relocated to the campus of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. Also sharing the campus was ST. BERNARD'S SEMINARY, a Roman Catholic institution, thus creating a truly ecumenical venture of Roman Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, and other Protestant traditions on one seminary campus. 
1968Weston College (later Weston Jesuit SChool of Theology) relocated to the Episcopal Theological School campus in Cambridge. The BOSTON THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE is founded the same year, also initially housed at ETS. Thus began a new era of ecumenical cooperation, inspired by Vatican II.

1970—The General Convention establishes the GENERAL BOARD OF EXAMINING CHAPLAINS to evaluate the academic preparation of candidates for ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, with a goal of ensuring that ordination candidates across the church meet the same standards. The first General Ordination Exam is administered in 1972. 
1970—John M. Burgess, Episcopal Theological School graduate of 1934, is elected bishop of Massachusetts. He is the first African American diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Church. He previously had been suffragan bishop of Massachusetts since 1962. Upon retirement in 1975, Bishop Burgess taught at Yale Divinity School.
1970sPhiladelphia Divinity School launches an innovative new curriculum, grounded in small group learning, educational projects, and close student-faculty interaction.
1971Berkeley Divinity School federates with Yale University, with students earning degrees at Yale and denominational training through Berkeley. BDS maintains its own President, Board of Trustees, and endowment.
1971—EPISCOPAL THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL, GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, and the PHILADELPHIA DIVINITY SCHOOL form the Episcopal Consortium for Theological Education in the Northeast: ECTNE anticipated a common curriculum, faculty and student exchanges, a doctoral program, and potentially a merger. ECTENE appointed adjunct faculty in the areas of urban mission and women in the church, among them Suzanne R. Hiatt, ETS ’64.
1971—Women first admitted as regular degree students at the General Theological Seminary. Students were permitted to marry in 1972.
1970s—Openly gay students were admitted to Episcopal Theological School, whereas in previous decades students suspected of being gay were quickly dismissed.
1973—The Episcopal Church’s Board for Theological Education announced that it would recommend to the General Convention that year the consolidation of the church’s 11 seminaries into four regional centers for theological education, with school’s in or near Alexandria, VA; Chicago, IL; Berkeley, CA; and one in the Northeast (either Boston, New York, or Philadelphia, noting the ECTENE cooperation already underway). It likewise encouraged the Episcopal Church to offer increased financial support for theological education.
1974—Dean Harvey Guthrie of Episcopal Theological School announces at the spring commencement that he will resign unless an ordained woman is hired to the faculty over the next year, as nearly half of ETS’s students are women.
1974Episcopal Theological School and Philadelphia Divinity School merge in Cambridge to form the new Episcopal Divinity School, effective June 6, 1974. (General Seminary’s constitution did not allow it to participate in a merger outside of New York City). EDS builds on strengths of its parent institutions, including the BTI and ETS’s long-standing association with Harvard, as well as the new competency based curriculum pioneered at PDS. ETS and PDS deans Harvey Guthrie and Ed Harris serve as co-deans of the new school. All tenured faculty of both schools are retained, 26 in total (16 from ETS and 10 from PDS).
1974—11 women deacons were irregularly ordained at Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate on July 29. The Rev. Paul Washington, rector and PDS graduate of 1946, is master of ceremonies. ETS trustee and vice president of the House of Deputies Dr. Charles V. Willie preaches. Several faculty members from both ETS and PDS participate in laying on hands.
1975Episcopal Divinity School hires two Philadelphia 11 priests to the new faculty, sharing one full-time position: the Rev. Suzanne R. Hiatt (ETS ’64) and the Rev. Carter Heyward. They were hired with full rights to serve as priests in
St. John’s Memorial Chapel. 22 faculty vote in favor of their hire. 4 faculty were opposed. Appointments draw ire of many in the church as their ordinations were still considered “irregular” or even “invalid.”
1975Episcopal Divinity School establishes a new program titled “the Pastoral Institute for Training in Alcohol Problems” (PITAP), with funding by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The program was led by Professors Rollin Fairbanks, Edward Steiss, and the Revs. Bruce Noyes (ETS’ 56) and Meredith Hunt (ETS’ 74). PITAP closed in the 1980s due to a conclusion of its funding. Many graduates of that era said it was the most important aspect of their ministry training.
1975School of Theology at the University of the South launches a new program for lay ministry titled “Theological Education by Extension.”  Originally intended to serve 28 southern dioceses, it eventually grows into Education for Ministry serving the whole church.
1976Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry founded by evangelical and charismatic Episcopalians in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.  Bishop Alfred Stanway, retired Australian missionary bishop to Tanzania, became the first dean, followed by John Rodgers. 
1977Philadelphia Divinity School campus sold to the University of Pennsylvania for only $607,000—far below the estimated value of $2.8 million. Net proceeds of the sale were just $455,000, leading to a considerable operating deficit at the new EPISCOPAL DIVINITY SCHOOL.
1970sEpiscopal Divinity School faculty members “come out” as gay and lesbian. First was Ethics Professor Hayden McCallum (previously of PDS) in 1974, followed by Carter Heyward in 1979. Notably, Heyward was not yet tenured. Each mentored increasing numbers of LGBT students.
1977—The Council of Seminary Deans, Inc. affirm the ordination of women to the priesthood. Nine of ten Episcopal seminary deans pass the following resolution: “The Deans of nine accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church meeting at the Marydale Retreat House in Erlanger, Kentucky, on December 2, 1977, expressed their firm belief in the significance and value of the opening of the Priesthood and the Episcopate to women and affirm their support for the ministry of the many women in Holy Orders who are enriching the life and mission of the Church.” Deans voting in the affirmative were: Berkeley Divinity School at Yale (Charles H. Clark), Bexley Hall (Richard H. Mansfield), Church Divinity School of the Pacific (Fredrick H. Borsch), Episcopal Divinity School (Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr.), Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest (Gordon T. Charlton), The General Theological Seminary (Roland Foster), School of Theology of the University of the South (Urban T. Holmes, III), Seabury-Western Theological Seminary (O.C. Edwards, Jr.), and Virginia Theological Seminary (Cecil Woods, Jr.). The Dean of Nashotah House, the Very Rev. John Ruef, was unable to attend the meeting. His representative at the meeting, the Rev. Prof. William Petersen, abstained from voting. The deans further recommended that their faculties pass similar resolutions.

1978EPISCOPAL DIVINITY SCHOOL holds a forum on institutional racism which attracts a gift of $20,000 for the recruitment of students of color. As a result of intentional recruitment efforts, EDS attracts 10 African American students during the 1982-1983 academic year.

1981—Urban T. Holmes, Dean of the SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH dies unexpectedly at the age of 51. A graduate of the Philadelphia Divinity School before being ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in 1954, he was awarded the Ph.D. degree from Marquette University in 1973 and taught previously at NASHOTAH HOUSE. Dr. Fredrica Thompsett, who as director of the Church's Board for Theological Education worked closely with Holmes, said of him: “I don't know of anyone who did more work in shaping the contemporary theological framework for the Church's ministry. In many circles, as conference leader, in the Church's Council of Seminary Deans, and in ecumenical settings he was a passionate and energetic voice for this role.”
1983Episcopal Divinity School conducts a racism audit, which called for a commitment to hire people of color to the faculty.
1984School of Theology at the University of the South elects Professor John E. Booty of Episcopal Divinity School to serve as its dean.
1984Episcopal Divinity School committed to hire feminist faculty in each academic department, joining Professors Heyward and Hiatt. Three appointments were made in 1984: Katie Geneva Cannon in ethics (first African American woman on the faculty), Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in New Testament, and Fredrica Harris Thompsett in Anglican church history.
1980sEpiscopal Divinity School included sexual orientation in its employment and admissions non-discrimination statements and permitted same-sex couples to live in student and faculty housing.
1985Episcopal Divinity School called Bishop Otis Charles of Utah as its dean upon the retirement of Harvey Guthrie.
1986Episcopal Divinity School established the Feminist Liberation Theology and Ministry Program. FLTM utilized EDS’s curriculum and pedagogical emphasis on experience to challenge traditional theological concepts, sexism, heterosexism, and patriarchy in church and societyIts first director was the Rev. Dr. Alison Cheek, a Philadelphia 11 priest and recent EDS D.Min. graduate. She was followed as director by the Rev. Dr. Renee Hill and Dr. Gale Yee.
1988Episcopal Divinity School publishes inclusive language orders of worship for St. John’s Memorial Chapel, utilizing resources prepared by the Episcopal Church. Dean Otis Charles leads the effort, having previously been chair of the Standing Liturgical Commission. Liturgical rites alternate weekly between Rite II and Inclusive Language. Inclusive language canticles are likewise prepared, under the direction of Professor of Music Alistair Cassels-Brown.
1989Episcopal Divinity School establishes the Parish Ministry in the Contemporary World program (later renamed Congregational Studies). It was geared toward students who wished to focus their programs on parish ministry preparation, integrating theory and practice, with an emphasis on small group reflection. It was initially directed by Professor George I. Hunter. After being reworked into the Congregational Studies program, which included regular continuing education seminars, it was directed by Charles Bennison and Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook (EDS ’83). 
1989Episcopal Divinity School establishes the Anglican, Global, and Ecumenical Studies program (AGE). Planning was led by Professor Ivan Kaufman, previously of the PDS faculty, who had also taught at El Seminario Episcopal del Caribe in Puerto Rico (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Caribbean). Aiding him were the Revs. Titus Pressler and Ian Douglas. Douglas was elected to the faculty as the director of AGE in 1990. AGE sought to bring an international perspective to campus through international student scholarships, visiting lectures, etc.
1988Episcopal Divinity School Trustee Barbara C. Harris elected Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts. Consecrated in 1989, Bishop Harris is the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion. The Rev. Suzanne Hiatt deeply involved in securing Harris’ election. Harris was awarded an honorary doctorate by EDS in 1989.
1991—Under Dean Otis Charles, Episcopal Divinity School’s chapel is closed to weddings and commitment ceremonies until a consensus can be reached on the appropriateness of same-sex blessings.

1991—NASHOTAH HOUSE'S Board of Trustees reaffirms the seminary's opposition to women in the priesthood and maintained a ban on women presiding at the Eucharist in the seminary chapel. In adopting a “Statement of Identity,” the trustees advocated a return to a traditional and orthodox program of formation for the male-only priesthood.
1991-1998Episcopal Divinity School establishes two scholarships for US students of color: Absalom Jones Scholarship and the J. Rawson Collins Scholarship.
1993—Bishop Otis Charles resigns as dean of Episcopal Divinity School. Upon retirement he comes out as a gay man, the first bishop of the Episcopal Church to do so. The Rev. Dr. William Rankin (ETS ’66) called as President and Dean of EDS. Rankin was a classmate of Jonathan Daniels and deeply committed to racial justice in church and society.
1994Dean Rankin of Episcopal Divinity School allows weddings to resume in St. John’s Memorial Chapel, along with same-sex blessings.

1994—THE GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY'S Trustees amend campus housing policy to allow same-sex couples to live in student and faculty housing. The change comes after Professor Deirdre Good brought a legal challenge to the seminary for precluding her to live in faculty housing with her partner. The new policy requires that students in same-sex relationships who are preparing for ordination and seek seminary housing must receive written approval from their diocesan bishop as a sign of “shared responsibility” for the decision.
1994Virginia Theological Seminary elects the Rev. Martha J. Horne as dean and president. Horne is the first woman to serve as an Episcopal Church seminary dean. EDS awards her an honorary doctorate in 1996.
1995Episcopal Divinity School inaugurates the Foundations for Theological Praxis course for first year students, with a focus on the integration of anti-racism awareness with theological study and ministerial preparation.
1995Episcopal Divinity School establishes the Change Team and Anti-Racism Facilitation Group. They recommend that EDS “should focus on anti-racist, racial diversity and multicultural change institutionally and culturally … as a dimension in every part of its life, with the implication that all other forms of liberation would be inherently addressed.” These commitments lead EDS to partner with VISIONS, Inc.
1998—William Rankin resigns as dean of EDS after 5 years. He takes new position with the United Religions Initiative and later is co-founder of the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance. 
1998Bexley Hall re-established itself in Ohio, teaching on the campus of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. In 2008 Bexley completely left the campus of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in New York.
1998Virginia Theological Seminary changes policy on sexuality and inclusion, allowing openly gay and lesbian students, if approved by their dioceses.
1999—Bishop Steven Charleston (EDS ’76) is called as President and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School. A Native American of the Choctaw Nation, Bishop Charleston is the first person of color to lead an Episcopal seminary.
2000sEpiscopal Divinity School’s program areas (FLT, AGE, and Cong. Studies) were ended due to financial constraints. The curricular emphases continued in an integrated way, but without faculty as dedicated directors.
2000sEpiscopal Divinity School becomes a partner seminary of the Metropolitan Community Churches, and launches a Doctor of Ministry program for Asiamerican Ministries.
2005Weston Jesuit School of Theology announces merger with Boston College and relocation to the BC campus, ending nearly 40 years of ecumenical collaboration on the Episcopal Divinity School campus.
2007Episcopal Divinity School launches its innovative Distributive Learning Program, allowing students to pursue degrees in a low-residency model.
2008Episcopal Divinity School announces campus partnership agreement with Lesley University.  EDS sells Lawrence, Winthrop, and Washburn Halls to Lesley, as well as 101 Brattle Street. The Library becomes shared property in a condo arrangement. EDS’s endowment grows as a result from a low of $35 million to $73 million.
2008—Bishop Steven Charleston resigns as President and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School. He is succeeded in 2009 by the Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale (EDS D.Min., ’98). Ragsdale is the first openly gay or lesbian dean of an Episcopal seminary.
2009Virginia Theological Seminary launches its “Second Three Years” mentorship program for recent alumni/ae, providing continuing education for VTS graduates in their first several years following seminary and ordination. All the expenses of this program are met by the Seminary.
2009Seabury Western Theological Seminary, facing a decreasing endowment, closes its Master of Divinity program and decides to sell its campus to Northwestern University and relocates to the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It continues to offer low-residency certificate and Doctor of Ministry programs.
2010Virginia Theological Seminary’s historic Immanuel Chapel (consecrated in 1881) burns to the ground. A new chapel is built and consecrated in 2015. Dignitaries present at the consecration included Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. 

2012—The GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY initiates a plan to "Choose Life," which includes the sale of a hotel built into its Desmond Tutu Conference Center, as well as other buildings in its complex. The sale enabled the seminary to retire $40 million in debt and strengthen its struggling endowment. 
2013Bexley Hall - Seabury Western Theological Seminary Federation established, combining boards of trustees and faculties over two campuses in Columbus and Chicago. Master of Divinity programs are offered in Columbus and Doctor of Ministry and certificates in Chicago.

2013—SEMINARY OF THE SOUTHWEST appoints the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge as its eighth dean and president. She is the third woman called to lead a Episcopal seminary.
2013—The Board of Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School voted to suspend any future tenure-track appointments or awards of tenure until deeper conversations about the future shape and mission of the school could be undertaken. The vote led to significant conflict between the faculty and the Board and President and Dean.
2014—Eight (of eleven) members of the General Theological Seminary faculty strike over conflicts with the dean. The Board of Trustees considers the strike a resignation. Many are eventually reinstated for the remainder of the academic year, but do not continue on the faculty long-term.
2015Episcopal Divinity School President and Dean Katherine Ragsdale resigns after a period of conflict. She is succeeded as interim president and dean by the Rev. Frank Fornaro (EDS ’96).
2016Bexley-Seabury Seminary Federation consolidates and relocates to the campus of Chicago Theological Seminary, offering low-residency theological education.
2015-2016Episcopal Divinity School Trustees establish a Future Visions Task Force to envision a sustainable future for the School, following several years of declining enrolments and deficit spending. The Trustees vote on July 21, 2016 to cease degree granting operations in 2017, while considering future partnerships.
2016—The Rev. Dr. William Nelsen, a Lutheran pastor, appointed as Interim President of Episcopal Divinity School during transition year. Teach out program is announced for continuing students, with Distributive Learning students to be taught by Bexley-Seabury in Chicago and traditional learning students at the Boston University School of Theology.





© The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD