By Dr. Stephen Spencer
In his great set of poems “The Four Quartets”, T S Eliot describes how we can have an experience but miss the meaning. This can be as true for Anglicans as anyone else – we can become so busy with services, meetings, upkeep of buildings, etc, that we lose touch with what it is all about it.
Spending time in study with others, reading, discussing and reflecting, and writing down what we think, can make all the difference. Here is an opportunity to find the meaning, the real meaning of our activities, with the help of scripture and appropriate teaching. More than that, as Eliot goes on to say, finding the meaning “restores the experience in a different form.”
This is the underlying aim of Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC), a project supported by St Augustine’s Foundation of Canterbury, to promote theological education for the whole people of God in the provinces and churches of our Communion.
It does this in three ways, beginning with building up the network of colleges, seminaries and courses across the world. Colleges are put in touch with each other, through regular bulletins and conferences, sharing resources across institutions, building connections with education for discipleship and developing companionship links.
Secondly, the project is developing study materials in under-resourced areas of the curriculum, such as the nature of Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion itself. A group is currently working on Anglican identity, gathering testimonies on video from different provinces to build up a rich and diverse picture from the grass roots level. Another group is working on Anglican ecumenical doctrine. These study materials will be uploaded onto the Anglican Communion website and be freely available for anyone who wants to incorporate them into local educational programmes.
Meanwhile other groups of scholars have produced books on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s priorities, beginning with reconciliation, then evangelism and finally the renewal of prayer and the religious life. They are being published by the publisher Forward Movement and the last of these will be published this April.
Thirdly, TEAC is an advocate for theological education across the Communion. At a time when colleges and seminaries are under pressure and sometimes disconnected from sponsoring dioceses, and when provinces and dioceses are increasingly calling for help with deepening the discipleship of their people, it is vital to bring together the two groups so that the institutions can hear what the dioceses need and re-configure their work to serve and support discipleship formation for clergy and laity. Theological education is vital – it provides those moments in the Christian life when “the penny drops” and the meaning of what we do and how we live becomes clear and energising.
The coming year will be an important one for TEAC. There will be gatherings of theological educators from across the world prior to the Lambeth Conference, to share and learn about different ways of doing training and education and to hear from bishops about what they need from the institutions. The new study materials on Anglican identity will be produced, with work on other materials on Anglican history and doctrine continuing. TEAC staff will travel to Latin America and South East Asia to meet with colleagues to widen and strengthen the TEAC network.
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Dr Stephen Spencer is the director for theological education in the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), February 4, 2020