On Sunday, I preached a sermon that referenced the current conflicts I have been hearing about at the General Theological Seminary, the place I felt called to nearly a quarter century ago in pursuit of formation for the priesthood. I was blessed with a community that embraced, challenged, taught, formed and helped me to grow into the seedling of a priest that rooted and grew in that shallow Manhattan soil decades ago...and for years I looked to that community as a touchstone for not only the formation of new priests, but also for the ongoing support given to people seeking Christ who were striving to serve the Church. My family has given its time, its support and its attention to the life of the seminary over the years. I was honored to serve for nearly a decade on the Alumni/ae Executive Council.
My sermon focused on the challenge we face in ecclesiastical institutions when they break down in their ability to serve the mission of the Church to proclaim Christ crucified and risen. The sermon's point? That we miss the point when we think we can somehow peg someone with the answer...or peg them down with politically manipulative responses when what is at stake is something much deeper. We are given the chance to listen, to learn, to grow, to express humility, to engage in a radical exchange of rendering honor to each other....and then we fail. We fail to embrace the changes we are called to in service to Christ: to give up on certainty; to remember that we are called INTO community and not to authority OVER it as leaders...and finally to remember that when we screw it all up, there is still God's abundant grace waiting for us in full measure when we repent and return to the way Christ has called us to from the beginning of his earthly ministry.
I serve a church that is coming up on its 260th birthday...and I face a reality that while I am the 36th rector of the parish I have a lot of work to do with the people of St. Peter's if we want to someday see a 46th or 56th rector installed (long after we are all passed to Christ, of course). We won't see it, and GTS won't see their heritage confirmed, either, if we don't stop and reflect that we aren't here to fix things that are broken...we are hear to labor for the healing of the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
It breaks my heart to look at a community I have loved for so long in such pain...but that pain roots more deeply than any one person or group has been able to inflict in a short year. My prayer is that God will be present to the GTS community and all those who call the Close home...that healing comes to wounds and that reconciliation be the first model of response to the conflicts that, though visible here and now on the Close are in reality the meat and muscle of what is driving the Church's engines nowadays. It's time to recenter on Christ. It's past time for it, frankly.