Many would argue that Trinity School for Ministry (TSM) has played a critical role in undermining The Episcopal Church. (The official name of the seminary remains Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, but “Episcopal” has lately disappeared from all publications.) Ostensibly, the seminary was founded to advance the evangelical cause within an increasingly liberal Episcopal Church. Arguably, it was successful in doing that, at least up to a point. Many of the school’s graduates have now left The Episcopal Church for the Anglican Church in North America or other ultraconservative denominations. Thus, Trinity and its alumni (and alumnae) are engaged in decreasing the influence of evangelicals in The Episcopal Church.
I don’t intend to document the trajectory of TSM here or to justify my belief that it should no longer be considered a seminary appropriate for the education of Episcopal clergy. Instead, I am writing this modest essay in response to my having just browsed through the Fall 2012 issue of TSM’s magazine Seed & Harvest. (The issue has not yet been posted on-line, so I cannot link to it here.)
An article titled “The Year in Review” can be found on page 11. It begins by mentioning the addition of three new faculty members at TSM. Two of the three are ordained, but neither is an Episcopalian. (I can verify Episcopal clergy on-line but have no sure way of identifying Episcopalian laypeople.) The story later notes that, last summer, “we had the opportunity to participate in three major denominational conventions,” namely, the Provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), The Episcopal Church’s General Convention, and the Convocation of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). I can attest that TSM was represented at the General Convention, but I think it more significant that TSM had a presence at the ACNA gathering—ACNA was formed largely by congregations “liberated” from The Episcopal Church, ably assisted by TSM faculty and graduates—and the NALC Convocation. (NALC split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with which The Episcopal Church is in full communion.) In reality, although TSM serves many churches, it is most conspicuously the principal seminary for ACNA.
Page 14 for Seed & Harvest lists TSM’s Board of Trustees and Faculty. (This information is also available on the TSM Web site.) Sixteen faculty members are listed, 10 of whom are ordained. Only three are Episcopalian; Dean and President Justyn Terry is not among them. Of the 25 trustees, I could identify only two Episcopal clergy, one of whom, the Rt. Rev. Greg Brewer, is bishop of the very conservative Diocese of Central Florida. The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence is also on the board, but, of course, he is no longer an Episcopalian. Most of the remaining names, both of clergy and laypeople, are known to me to be ACNA members, including chairman Wicks Stephens, Robert Duncan, and Alison Barfoot. Geoffrey Chapman (of infamous Chapman Letter fame) is among the retiring trustees.
It must be admitted that TSM is working hard to to achieve acceptance among Episcopalians. The seminary is physically within the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and it has not only had a presence at diocesan conventions, but has also provided food for receptions. Moreover, I don’t mean to suggest that all the school’s graduates remaining in The Episcopal Church—many are in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh—are members of a fifth column. I believe it is time to admit, however, that TSM has lost any legitimacy it may have had to be considered an Episcopal seminary.
Postscript. I can offer an earlier post on my blog to suggest the nature of TSM’s influence and that of its supporters. As I suggested earlier, I do not intend to be offering the definitive case against the school here.