August 9, 2010

Losing the “E”

What is the name of the evangelical Anglican seminary in Ambridge, Pennsylvania? No, this is not the first line of a joke. The seminary in question used to be known as Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Many of its graduates and leaders are now members of the Anglican Church in North America or other schismatic groups, and the word “Episcopal” in the seminary name apparently has become an embarrassment.

For quite some time, “Episcopal” has been downplayed in Trinity’s name, which has lately been styled Trinity School for Ministry, in most contexts.

An article titled “Name dropping: Episcopal School weighing name change” in the November 15, 2003, issue of WORLD included this paragraph:
“We would just drop the word Episcopal from our name,” the Rev. Peter Moore, dean and president, told WORLD. Nothing is final, but such talk underscores the potential realignment in the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) following the consecration of gay Bishop Gene Robinson.
Three years later (November 2006), a fund-raising letter from then dean and president Paul F. M. Zahl contained this explanation:
We feel as if we are wandering a little in the Wilderness just now. We are having to put on our ruby slippers, but unlike Dorothy, we have not yet clicked ’em together. We are not yet back home! We have been called out, like Abraham, not knowing exactly where we will end up. We can no longer identify with the Episcopal Church—because of its wild swing over into ersatz Christianity—but we also identify with the historic Anglican expression of Christianity.
As recently as December 2006 (and probably more recently), the home page of Trinity’s Web site at http://tesm.edu carried “Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry” in its page title. More recently, on the Web and in Trinity publications, “Episcopal” has appeared less and less frequently in the seminary’s name.

Trinity publishes a magazine called Seed and Harvest. The March–April 2008 issue carried this return address (on the last page of the PDF file):
Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street • Ambridge, PA 15003
phone: 724-266-3838 or 1-800-874-8754
fax: 724-266-4617 • www.tesm.edu
(I have no idea why “for” is rendered in italic, by the way.) The next issue, that of May–June 2008, offered this return address:
Trinity School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street • Ambridge, PA 15003
phone: 724-266-3838 or 1-800-874-8754
fax: 724-266-4617 • www.tesm.edu
The issue also sported “Trinity School for Ministry” below the magazine’s title on the cover. These conventions were adhered to in subsequent issues through that of November–December 2008. The January–February 2009 issue, however, showed this return address:
Trinity School for Ministry
311 Eleventh Street • Ambridge, PA 15003
phone: 724-266-3838 or 1-800-874-8754
fax: 724-266-4617 • www.tsm.edu
The Trinity Web site was now located at http://tsm.edu, not http://tesm.edu. Moreover, all e-mail addresses in Seed and Harvest were now shown as being in the tsm.edu, not the tesm.edu, domain.

A year and a half later, there is no Web site at http://tesm.edu. The domain is registered to “South America Missionary Society - USA,” and the Trinity graphic from Web siteadministrative contact is “Trinity School for Ministry.” The current Trinity Web site can be found only at http://tsm.edu. Ironically, that domain is registered to “Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry,” although the administrative contact is “Trinity School for Ministry.” The e-mail contacts for both registrations are the same, support@tsm.edu. The word “Episcopal” does not appear on the home page of the seminary anymore.

So what is the official name of Trinity Seminary? I assume it is still “Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry,” since that’s how it is listed with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. (There is no listing for “Trinity School for Ministry.”) Trinity does not want to acknowledge The Episcopal Church, however, “because of its wild swing over into ersatz Christianity.” Well, fine, but The Episcopal Church should not recognize Trinity School for Ministry as an acceptable seminary to train Episcopal Church clergy.

It is time for Trinity to click its ruby slippers together to transport the seminary to Kansas or Oz or wherever its board—which includes the likes of Alison Barfoot, Geoff Chapman, Bob Duncan, Mark Lawrence, and John Rodgers—thinks it belongs.

6 comments:

  1. My bishop hasn't hired graduates from Trinity or Nashotah for several years and has admitted that he won't. Conservatives are simply too much trouble--and he was one of the bishops offered for oversight for diocese that didn't want Schori, wonder why they said no? Perhaps the school changing its name is just admitting what has already happened, the Episcopal church doesn't want their graduates.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Trinity has a school for distance learning, and there are at least two people from the Diocese of the Rio Grande who have taken advantage of that. Comparing their sermons, the two graduates are as different as night and day. (Apparently not everyone drinks the Kool-aid.) If Trinity is alone in offering this program (I have no idea) their presence in TEC may continue as they fill a need not addressed elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  3. One note of correction: there is apparently a Rio Grande extension site as well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lionel, just to note first that significant numbers of board members, faculty, staff, and students at Trinity are members of the Episcopal Church, and that a significant number of clergy and lay leaders of our Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh continue as active alums. Trinity was well-represented at General Convention in Anaheim, and Dean Terry is an active participant in the Council of Deans.

    There is of course no question but that part of the constituency of Trinity has pitched a tent with ACNA and other "realigned Anglican" bodies, but it's also the case that a number of Trinity students, especially in the D.Min program, where I help out from time to time, are Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed, CMA, etc.

    It might be interesting to note also that the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest, in Austin, another accredited seminary of the Episcopal Church, has also dropped the name "Episcopal" in its formal title . . . .

    I know Dean Terry and the staff out at Trinity have welcomed both Bishop Johnson and Bishop Price, given them the Cook's Tour of the place, etc., and have indicated the desire to continue to be a part of the life of the Episcopal Church in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Which I think is a very good thing indeed.

    Bruce Robison

    Bruce Robison

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know that the faculty at Trinity is not uniformly ACNA-oriented. Just as no one would call Harvard conservative, however, no one would call Trinity liberal (or even centrist, for that matter). Trinity was established to promote a particular brand of theology, and it has pretty much carried out that plan. It has an institutional interest in maintaining as great an acceptability among Episcopal bishops as possible, but I don’t get the feeling that it’s trying too hard on that front.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lionel, my comment has not so much to do with the name change, as with the experiences leading up to the change. The story goes back to a time when Bishop Bazley visited the congregation at St. Paul's, Mount Lebanon, and said that a relationship between us and the church of Chile would have to do with prayer, and not with money; with mutual appreciation and cultural exchange. Later, he said to me in an exchange of emails, after we had seen how eager even he was to throw us out, "It must seem that we have put a knife into your back," or words to that effect. I agreed. We had had a wonderful Christian exchange, ending in a cruel lack of faith and trust. We remained friends, yet this uncertainty as to the Episcopal connection has not yet been resolved.

    Jane Little
    St. Paul's

    ReplyDelete

Anonymous comments are not allowed. Gratuitous profanity or libelous statements will be removed. Comments will also be removed that include gratuitous links to commercial Web sites. Please stay on topic.