Project Canterbury

The American Episcopal Church Interpreted for English Churchmen

By Arthur Whipple Jenks
Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the General Theological Seminary

London: SPCK, 1919.
New York: Macmillan, 1919.

Chapter VII. Methods of Theological Education

THE United States from the beginning of its independent life laid strong emphasis upon education, but was by force of geographical situation compelled to provide institutions of learning within its own limits. This is true concerning education in general, the common, university and technical training. In connection with general education the Church of the United States has taken a large share. Institutions corresponding to the Public and Grammar Schools and Universities have been founded and developed under the auspices of the Church. But we do not necessarily or usually find similar provision for theological education. There is nothing to correspond to the theological tripos, or other divinity subjects which may be chosen in English Universities by those proceeding to a Bachelor's Degree in Arts, and which may be made the preliminary or sole theological preparation for Holy Orders. Consequently, and, in the early years of the American Church's career, because of the impracticability of sending men across the ocean to receive theological training, a system of education of candidates for Holy Orders has been developed very much as technical, scientific, and other vocational training have been developed in other cases and countries.

The training of candidates for the Ministry was early the subject of canonical legislation by General Convention and continues to be, within certain limits, regulated by that body. An outline course of divinity studies is indicated, on the basis of which the examinations, held under the arrangement of the Bishop of the diocese, with Examining Chaplains appointed by him, are conducted to test the intellectual fitness and acquirements of those offering themselves for ordination. A knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is required by canon, but permission is accorded to Bishops to dispense their candidates from the study of the former, and under certain circumstances, of the latter also. A wide range of other theological departments is prescribed under the canons. The holding of a University degree in Arts has never been imperative as a pre-requisite to acceptance for ordination.

The institutional provision for the study of theology consists of a system of Theological Seminaries, which, though occasionally found associated with some University, are practically independent of such affiliation except in matters of non-theological bearing. The first of these Seminaries, to be established was initiated by act of the General Convention in the early part of the nineteenth century and is under the supervision of that body, which exercises its advisory and visitatorial powers through a Board of Trustees appointed in part by the Convention, in part by the Alumni of the Institution. Its title is The General Theological Seminary. It is situated in the city of New York. It began its work of theological training a hundred years ago, on May 1, 1819, and has since then been the official as well as the largest theological school of the American Church. Other such schools have been established in different parts of the United States for the same purpose--in New England, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Chicago, Minnesota, and on the Pacific Coast. None are purely diocesan institutions, but each was founded to meet the needs of a section of the Church or for missionary work or to represent some school of theological thought.

The course of study in these seminaries extends over three academic years of about thirty weeks each, at the conclusion of which students graduate with the diploma of the institution certifying that its course of study has been followed under prescribed conditions. No Arts degree is given to graduates, nor are the studies of a curriculum in Arts included in the prescribed course. The study is confined to theology in its many branches. Graduate courses, however, lead up to the higher degrees in Divinity, and such advanced students may go on to the degree of Bachelor and Doctor in Divinity. Such an extended time of theological preparation is peculiar to the American Church.

The General Convention has in recent years established by canon a General Board of Religious Education, "the purpose of which shall be the unification and development of the Church's work of religious instruction, as carried on by primary and secondary schools under the auspices of the Church, and especially through the Sunday School". Its work is at the present time being developed and systematized under the superintendence of provincial departments in relation to the General Board.

Only in a very few cases are there any parochial weekday schools to be found. The peculiarities of the parochial system in the United States and the high grade of common schools have acted against any attempts to introduce schools for secular education under Church auspices and with full daily religious instruction. The schools provided by the State are not allowed to give distinctively Church teaching and the great majority of the children belonging to the Church receive their Christian teaching at home, in Sunday Schools, and in Confirmation classes.

The relatively small numbers of clergy available to cover the field of parochial work, enormous in the extent and variety of its activities and needs, and the almost complete lack of endowments and foundations for theological study and productiveness apart from parochial work and teaching, operate to limit the clergy as to time and opportunity for preparing and publishing works in the departments of theology. Extempore preaching, that is, without the sermon fully written out, prevails throughout the American Church, and as one result the sermons, addresses, and instructions given, which would often be of permanent value, are not ready for publication at the time. Hence much excellent material is not available for use. Moreover, the public that would purchase theological literature is at best small, and when such literature appeals mainly to the small membership of the Church, the experiment of publishing written works is a hazardous one. The Church in the United States has no such reading public as that which, in England, in ordinary times, buys such a weekly as the Church Times at book-stalls throughout the land each week and exhausts the supply in a day. These conditions are noted in order to make clear one aspect of the small output by American Church writers in theology and in devotional literature. Also, the best is always obtainable from other countries.

Nevertheless, some theological work of sound scholarship has been produced. Several lecture foundations provide for courses to be given periodically to an institution or to the public, somewhat on the same plan as the Bampton Lectures. The oldest and best known of these lectureships is the series entitled The Bishop Paddock Lectures, delivered annually in the General Theological Seminary, in New York City. Representatives of the best American theological scholarship have been invited to offer the fruit of thought and research on this foundation, and for the past twenty years English Theologians have alternated with Americans as Paddock Lecturers. The best known series of Paddock Lectures by theologians of the United States include: The Sacramental System, by Morgan Dix, D.D., late Rector of Trinity Parish, New York; The Use of Holy Scripture in the Public Worship of the Church, by Rt. Rev. A. C. A. Hall, Bishop of Vermont; The Faith of the Cross, by Rt. Rev. Philip M. Rhinelander, Bishop of Pennsylvania; The Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist in the Early Church, by Rev. Lucius Waterman, D.D.; Evolution and the Fall, by Francis J. Hall, D.D. Among English lecturers on this foundation have been the Bishop of Edinburgh, Rt. Rev. G. H. S. Walpole, D.D., sometime Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the General Theological Seminary; Dr. Mason, Dr. Figgis, Dr. Temple, and Canon Lacey. Similar lectureships have been founded in connection with other theological schools.

In the department of Dogmatic Theology, the Rev. Francis J. Hall, formerly Professor in the Western Theological Seminary, Chicago, now Professor in the General Theological Seminary, has contributed works on The Kenotic Theory and Evolution and the Fall, and is now publishing a complete Anglican Summa of Dogmatic Theology. Other dogmatic and philosophical writers of note have been the Revs. W. P. Du Bose, of the University of the South, A. V. G. Allen and E. P. Nash, of the Cambridge Episcopal Theological School, George C. Foley, of the Philadelphia Divinity School, and Wilford L. Robbins, sometime Dean of the General Theological Seminary.

Works of permanent value in Church History have been produced by Rt. Rev. Wm. Stevens Perry, late Bishop of Iowa; Et. Rev. Leighton Coleman and Rt. Rev. F. J. Kinsman, successive Bishops of Delaware; the Revs. Milo Mahan, former Professor in the General Theological Seminary; Lucius Waterman, Henry E. Percival, and Roland G. Usher. The Rev. W. G. McGarvey, in his compilation, Liturgiae Americanae, arranged on the plan of Keeling's Liturgiae Anglicanae, and the Rev. Samuel Hart, late Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School, have made valuable contributions to the study of Liturgies.

In Biblical theology, the Marginal Readings Bible, edited by a committee of American Church scholars, whose chairman was the late Professor C. W. E. Body, has taken a high place amongst translations of the Scriptures.

A considerable amount of devotional theology, sermons and controversial literature is continually in process of publication, prepared especially with reference to local religious conditions and for the theological and spiritual instruction of Churchmen in the United States, and with reference to the interdenominational differences which are brought to the front in connection with movements towards Church Unity.

Theological periodicals are numerous, ranging from parish and diocesan magazines to publications of a distinct theological character. The weekly Living Church and Churchman represent the class of religious periodicals which combine Church news, consideration of current questions, and popular religious literature, while The Witness and The American Church Monthly recently established, aim at reaching out in other directions. The latest of American Church magazines is the American Theological Review (quarterly), including many names on its editorial staff representative of Church scholarship in the United States and having in association with them a number of English and Canadian theologians. In general, there is a marked tendency towards the production of work, in all departments of religious learning, of scholarly and definite value.

The best theological library in the United States, possessed by any institution of the American Church, is that which belongs to the General Theological Seminary, including the Hoffman Collection of Bibles, which is probably unsurpassed in the completeness of its Latin texts. Three valuable manuscript codices of the Gospels are among the treasures of the Seminary which have recently been collated and the results published for the use of Biblical students. The library is also particularly rich in the departments of Liturgies and Patristics, and in very full source material for the history of the American Church. Together with the contents of other distinctly theological libraries and the libraries of American Universities and other collections, public and private, a large and valuable apparatus is ready at hand for work in every department of theology without recourse entirely to European collections.

The Universities in the United States, with the exception of a very few Arts Colleges, are not under the supervision and control of the Church. In general, the larger and better known Universities are not distinctively Christian in (ihe sense of throwing strong weight on the side of dogmatic Christianity. Little provision is made for positive religious influence upon the undergraduates, such work being left for organizations outside the University proper, or to "Church Houses," or student societies like the S. Paul's Society of Harvard University and the Berkeley Society of Yale College. The University Faculties often include eminent scholars whose teaching is not only anti-Christian but aggressively opposed to the tenets and apologetics of the Church. There is little traditional Christianity remaining in these institutions, although many of them were founded primarily for distinctively Christian education. Positive and definite Churchmanship thus is maintained in the face of pronounced opposition, and the Church has not as yet dealt satisfactorily with the evidential presentation of Christianity calculated to meet this undermining influence. The American undergraduate rarely has clearly thought out and formulated his religious position after consideration of the claims of the Church.

College, University, and technical education are thus seen to be commonly divorced from Christian, not to say Church, teaching. The schools of lower education are largely precluded by civil regulations from giving positive Christian instruction, in order to avoid the complications arising from the great variety of religions represented among the pupils, ranging from Roman Catholics to Jews, and from those brought up at least to believe in prayer to those absolutely without the most rudimentary knowledge of Christianity. The situation is clearly one which makes against the position of the Church. Roinan Catholics receive religious instruction in parochial schools and in their parishes and are taught to class the American Episcopal Church with Protestant bodies. The school text-books chiefly in use present the unhistorical and fallacious view of the Reformation which un-churches the Anglican communion. In face of these misrepresentations, the American Church does not loom with such apparent strength as to carry conviction as to her claims by sheer force of numbers and simplicity of history. The same old attacks and allegations have to be met repeatedly and the Church is kept constantly on the defence. Inevitably compelled to set forth her claims in the fullest manner, one of the beneficial results is that Churchmen come to understand their own history and claims and to base their religious affiliation upon sound convictions. The Church in the United States must stand or fall in the end on its own merits, rather than because it meets the ordinary tests of success or of any help or prestige proceeding from the State. The situation is thus seen to be both disheartening and encouraging at the same time. Some of the most popular books dealing with the religious situation have been those prepared to meet the misunderstanding and attacks upon the fundamentals of the Church and her Catholic heritage, notably, Reasons for being a Churchman, by the late Rev. Arthur W. Little, and Catholic Principles, by Rev. Frank N. Westcott, both setting forth with great effectiveness such a Church apologetic as the religious conditions in the United States demand.

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