Saturday, February 25, 2017

Modern theological education mustn't lose sight of final goal, warns Canada primate

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has said that as Anglican educators and bishops and clergy debate how theological education should be adapted to meet the needs of the 21st-century church, they should not lose sight of the fact that the final goal is to produce ministers with a “Christ-like character.”

Addressing  a national gathering on theological education which took place in Ontario, Archbishop Fred said the church must train candidates who have sufficient “spiritual maturity” to discharge the “sacred trust” of priestly ministry: “Alongside all the courses we put in place for training men and women to be priests in our church in very diverse missional and cultural contexts, there must be every effort across the board to nurture and form them in such a way that their ministries are enriched by their holiness of life, their own devotion to Christ,” he said.

The formation of such a character requires a “partnership between the churches and the schools,” Archbishop Fred told the gathering, which brought together 70 priests, bishops, professors, and diocesan and theological college support staff to discuss the future of theological education and priestly formation in the Canadian church. 

Among the tools Archbishop Hiltz commended to the gathering were The Anglican Communion Approach to Theological Education,  a report presented by Theological Education for the Anglican Communion at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 2012, and the Competencies for the Ordination to the Priesthood in the Anglican Church of Canada, a series of guidelines produced by the Primate’s Commission on Theological Education and Formation for Presbyteral Education in 2013.

He praised both documents for stressing the relationship between theological education and the health of the church, but noted that “no document from the synod or Communion will ever be adopted holus bolus.” To have value, they will need to be adapted for use in a particular context.

Archbishop Fred also stressed that these competencies are insufficient if a candidate or priest is not passionate about his or her faith: “We need the skills, we need the competence,” he said. “But people can detect pretty quickly whether someone is exercising their pastoral skills, or someone is doing that out of a heart that beats with the love of Christ.”

Of special importance for Archbishop Fred was that priests be passionate in their celebration of the Eucharist, and that they be “spiritually prepared and ready for this awesome moment [in the Eucharist] when the body of Christ is re-membered, brought back together.”