Giving Thanks for Rev. Robert S. Heaney, Ph.D., D.Phil.

Having announced that he is stepping down from his role as Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies earlier this fall in order to fully engage his role as Professor of Theology and Mission, it is now time to mark and commemorate the work of the Rev. Dr. Robert S. Heaney.     Over the past seven and a half years, Robert has shaped and grown the work of the Center such that it is now a significant entity in the life of the Communion. Highlighting its core role to resource practices of reconciliation, CACS has grown in its capacity to equip international community, empower intercultural leaders, and enrich Episcopal-Anglican identity. Key aspects of this growth include the nurturing of institutional partnerships across the Communion, including those between VTS and St. George’s College Jerusalem, Msalato Theological College in Dodoma, Ripon College Cuddesdon, Trinity Wall Street in New York City, Ming Hua Theological College in Hong Kong, and Cuttington University in Liberia. The development of the Communion Sabbatical program and the CACS Fellows program supported emerging and established leaders in their exploration of significant issues for people of faith today. The enrichment of cross-cultural educational programing for Masters-level students has promoted the growth of intercultural leaders.     Robert himself has also been invited to serve in key ways throughout the Communion, including appointments to the Reference Group for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, the St. Augustine’s Seminar at Lambeth Palace, the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, and the Design Group for the Lambeth Conference.   Core in this work has been the production of significant books. Some are the products primarily of his own endeavor, including From Historical to Critical Post-Colonial Theology: The Contribution of John S. Mbiti and Jesse N.K. Mugambi (Pickwick, 2015), and Post-Colonial Theology: Finding God and Each Other Amidst the Hate (Cascade, 2019). More have resulted from team projects that bring multiple voices and perspectives together, including Faithful Neighbors: Christian-Muslim Vision and Practice (Morehouse, 2016), The Oxford History of Anglicanism, Volume V: Global Anglicanism, c.1900–2000 (Oxford, 2018), The Promise of Anglicanism (SCM Press, 2019), and God’s Church for God’s World: A Practical Approach to Partnership in Mission (Church Publishing, 2020).  At the heart of these significant achievements has been an appreciation for the deeply human side of all intercultural encounters. Large Western institutions usually have overreach and colonial-style imperialism written into their DNA, and it’s often hard to envision anything different much less pray and work for change. Within the larger church and the VTS faculty, I have seen Robert consistently create environments where sensitive issues can be broached and real learning happen – where the open form of poetry and penitence can hold their own against dogmatic narrative and the rhetoric of progress and create something real and new. In this I am reminded of some of the closing words of his book on post-colonial theology, where he reminds us that “In the worst of circumstances, believers have subverted and resisted and imagined that the poetics of grace they have glimpsed…might just be met by the life-giving, over-spilling, just desire of God.” As Robert has conversed with so many during his years as Director of CACS, he has invited us all to remember the poetics of grace, and to participate in truer partnerships and deeper collaboration that are shaped by each other.     Robert, we are deeply thankful for your dedicated and inspired directorship of CACS these last seven years. As you turn now to focus primarily on your teaching, research and writing as part of the VTS faculty, know that your work has made a difference.   

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