Date: September 12, 2023
Today we welcome to campus a group of Bishops from across the United States and Canada who are gathering to discuss the existing and potential definitions, directions and dreams for ministries of the baptized. These leaders in the church are here to offer their experience and wisdom to one of our Lilly Grants, entitled The Mutual Ministry Initiative (MMi). This $1 million dollar grant to VTS has allowed Lifelong Learning to design a three-year process to leverage the strengths and address the challenges of a residential, denominational seminary to meet the urgent need for clergy trained as ministry developers in local, culturally-specific contexts. All across The Episcopal Church, faithful members of the Body of Christ are asking the age-old question from Psalm 78, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” Congregations are struggling to afford priests, while many priests on the ground were trained for a model of church that simply no longer exists. Yet God has always called us into community, recognizing the abundant gifts we embody. It is time, as a church, to shift from communities gathered around a minister, to ministering communities, where clergy companion, equip, and form the ministry of all the baptized to meet God’s call in their daily lives.
The Good News, of course, is that God does indeed set a table in the wilderness. This ministry model informed by baptismal ecclesiology is at the heart of the New Testament and the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. As VTS prepares to celebrate its Historic Bicentenary, MMi demonstrates the Seminary’s readiness and capacity for tradition-informed innovation.
Please welcome to campus Bishops Beisner (Navajoland), Haynes (Southern Virginia), Kendrick (Central Gulf Coast), Ray (Northern Michigan), Monnot (Iowa), Stebbins (Montana), Woodcroft (Rupersland, Canada), Sparks (Northern Indiana), Ely (North Dakota). Joining by zoom are Bishops Loya (Minneasota), Gallagher (Massachusetts), Stuart (New Castle, Canada), Lattime (Alaska), London (Edmonton, Canada), Bascom (Kansas), and Fitzpatrick (Hawaii).
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary and President of The General Theological Seminary