Theology of Mind and Heart

Bishop Rowan Williams walks to lunch with Sister Promise Atelon (left) and Laura Di Panfilo, students at General Theological Seminary.

Two primates of the Anglican Communion — one current and one former — made a joint visit to General Theological Seminary Feb. 11.

The Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams, 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church’s 27th Presiding Bishop, attended the seminary’s convocation and received honoris causa degrees. Williams delivered the Paddock Lectures earlier in the day and Curry preached at Evensong.

In 1974, the 23-year-old graduate student Rowan Williams traveled to General Seminary for his first lecture overseas in the United States. Throughout the next 45 years, Williams has visited the seminary many times as priest, professor, and archbishop.

“Theology happens where lives are transformed. Theology is given for the world’s healing,” Williams said. “Authenticity is more than sincerity. It is the practice of responding from your center.”

The Paddock Lectures were founded in 1880 by General Seminary benefactor George A. Jarvis and named in honor of the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Henry Paddock, Class of 1852. The lectures have drawn a remarkable group of Anglican scholars to General, from William Temple to Sarah Coakley.

During General’s convocation, Bishop Curry preached on the Way of Love, identifying increasing concerns about American racism and other forms of division, using a violent white nationalist march in Charlottesville in August 2017 as an example.

“Hatred of Jews … in America,” Curry said. “Hatred of Muslims — in America. Hatred of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people — in America. Hatred of race. Hatred of class. Walking through the streets of Charlottesville.”

Curry praised the ecumenical and interfaith prayer service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Charlottesville as a nonviolent example centered on Jesus. “They were walking, in contradistinction, to the Way of Love.”

Curry made several comparisons between contemporary social and political divisions with the 1960s civil rights movement. He compared Heather Heyer, the young counter-protester killed in Charlottesville, to Jonathan Daniels and other witnesses.

“Heather, let her be accounted a martyr,” he said. “Let us remember her on All Saints.”

He urged the convocation gathering to remember Martin Luther King’s rule of life for nonviolent resistance. From Scripture, Curry remembered the witness of Peter in the Matthew’s Gospel, who walked on water as he kept his focus on Jesus.

“Church, before you march, before you preach, before you meet, before you go out as witnesses in this world: Meditate on the life and teachings of Jesus,” Curry said. “Focus on him. Fixate on him. And you will walk on water.”

Adapted from General Theological Seminary


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