Editor’s note: Today we’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to our VTS colleagues at the Center for Anglican Communion Studies.
As educators here at Virginia Theological Seminary we seek to give people deeper and richer visions of God. To have a monocultural vision of God is to have a deficient vision of God. Yet, many American Episcopalians only have a tenuous sense of belonging to any wider church entity beyond the shores of the United States.
The Center for Anglican Communion Studies (CACS), seeks to bring a world perspective to the experience of seminarians, VTS friends and alums, and the parishes they serve. We seek to promote deeper “community in the Communion.” We seek faithfully to represent the lives and ministries of Anglicans across the world with whom the U.S. Episcopal Church enjoys many long-standing and rich ties and relationships but whose stories rarely make it into the news. Our new video will give you the essence of our vision and practice.
So, how is our mission relevant to a Christian formation professional or volunteer in an American parish?
The short, but maybe too indirect, answer is that seminarians are of course largely destined to become future parish leaders. The Center’s three imperatives—to reflect, to resource, and to reconcile—guide a whole range of activities that impact the time future Episcopal leaders spend in training here at Virginia Seminary.
Almost subversively, we in CACS are determined to disrupt and discomfort those easy assumptions that can accumulate around mission and outreach, around relationships with companion parishes, and around the “we” and “them” in the assumed “them and us” configuration.
We want to ensure that seminarians are confronted with the reality that the majority face of Anglicanism, the family to which Episcopalians belong, is female and African—and that bonds of affection tie U.S. parishes to African, Asian, and South American parishes in the love of Christ in ways that are always transformative if we choose to engage.
Depending on staffing levels at your church, you may be called on to prepare youth for mission trips, to advocate Lenten and Advent programs through Episcopal Relief and Development or Episcopal Migration Ministries, or to plan a formation hour with a visitor from a companion diocese. Though these can all be done with domestic resources, we maintain that an understanding and appreciation for the breadth of Anglican family ties across the world will ensure that your teaching is enriched and enlivened by new perspectives.
For instance, CACS strives to serve as a resource for exploring best practices for international immersions for parishes and other groups. The work of our center also engages future clergy and those already ordained and serving in a reflection on the focus and centrality of mission.
We do not have shelves, virtual or physical, filled with ready-packaged resources to hand to you for the coming week’s lesson. What we do have is the persistence to insist and encourage you to persevere in the messy business of cross-border relationship and encounter, the transformative power of fellowship beyond the familiarity of your comfort zone.
We can point to resources and stories and invite you to realize that, though from a different perspective, they are all within “your tradition,” not outside it. The discovery of this diversity and richness of Anglican family can be transformative at every turn.
CACS provides exposure to fresh perspectives for the church’s role in the world. From our international student program to the wide variety of cross-cultural education programs offered through the seminary, CACS works to build leaders for the church who can serve the church as a whole.
From conferences in Turkey, in Tanzania, or right here in Alexandria, CACS is also a resource for interfaith and intercultural dialogues you may wish to build in your community. We invite you to watch our video, and learn more about what the Center for Anglican Communion Studies is doing already, and what we can bring to your ministry.
Members of the CACS team are open to addressing conferences, workshops and retreats, responding to individual requests for information, and brainstorming with you in your context. We also maintain a mailing list to alert you to events here at the seminary, some of which are live-streamed. We’d be happy to hear from you.
Claire Haymes is program coordinator and interreligious officer in the Center for Anglican Communion Studies (@CACS_VTS).