(September 1, 2021) Dean Brent Laytham announced today that Dr. Michael Gorman was named the Director of the Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) program at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute. He has been interim director for the last two terms.“I am delighted that Dr. Gorman has taken on this role to strengthen a program he started when he was dean and in which he has played a vital part,” said Dean Laytham. The Certificate of Advanced Studies is a post-master’s program for those who want to deepen their theological knowledge. Some students use it to prepare for Ph.D. work. Interested students should contact the E.I.’s admissions director, Kaye Guidugli or Dr. Gorman. View video from CAS student:...
Dear EI Community,
We hope that you have had a restful and healthy summer, and we look forward to a wonderful fall semester of learning.
Our hope has been to offer each class simultaneously online and in person, from the very first session to the finale. However, in view of the surging Delta variant, and of the indoor mask mandate in Baltimore City, we have decided that all EI courses will begin entirely online. That will both protect the health of students, faculty, and their families, and promote effective learning. We do not expect this online only modality to last the whole semester, however. We will monitor conditions, and as quickly as possible return to dual mode instruction—onsite and online united as one learning community. At present, we plan to be online only through at least Sept. 17, with timely notification about what will follow.
The library will remain open to current students and faculty. (Remember that presently everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a mask at all times while in our building.)
Please know we are striving for the common good of our entire learning community, and those whom they love and serve.
May the remainder of your summer bring health, peace, and continued rejuvenation.
Deans Laytham, Fosarelli, and Hancock
St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute mourns the loss of Bishop Douglas Miles (MA in Theology, ’84; additional study ‘98) on Tuesday, August 3. Both in his service as a pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church and through leadership of BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development), he embodied “faith seeking understanding, understanding making a difference.” We echo the sentiment of our emeritus Board member Dr. William C Calhoun: “Servant of God, well done!”...
This fall, St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute is holding monthly Theology Town Hall meetings. You can view recordings of past town halls on the EI’s YouTube channel. For more information on upcoming Theology Town Halls, please contact Dr. Rebecca Hancock.
UPCOMING THEOLOGY TOWN HALLS
Outsider Within: A Womanist Reading of Hebrew Bible Narratives as the Politics of Belonging
Wednesday, November 18 2020
Rev. Vanessa Lovelace, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean
Lancaster Theological Seminary
Dr. Lovelace is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and Dean and Vice President of Lancaster Theological Seminary, a school with which the EI has a partnership providing a pathway to the MDiv. Her teaching and research interests include interpreting biblical texts using literary criticism and theory of gender and nation through a womanist lens. The November Theology Town Hall will focus on her current research project, a monograph titled Outsider Within: A Womanist Reading of Hebrew Bible Narratives as the Politics of Belonging.
PREVIOUS THEOLOGY TOWN HALLS
Leading Leaders in a Time of Pandemic
The Rt. Rev. Carl Walter Wright
Bishop Suffragan for Armed Forces & Federal Ministries of the Episcopal Church
The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright is Bishop Suffragan for Armed Forces and Federal Ministry for the Episcopal Church. Next semester, he will be one of the presenters for the EI’s Leading Leaders course in the DMin program. His theology town hall focuses on the topic, “Leading Leaders in a Time of Pandemic.”
Might from the Margins
Rev. Dennis R. Edwards, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of New Testament, North Park Theological Seminary
Dr. Edwards is professor of New Testament and Biblical Greek at North Park Theological Seminary and also teaches in the EI’s DMin program. He holds an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a PhD in Biblical Studies from The Catholic University of America. He has been in urban ministry for three decades, and has started churches in Brooklyn, NY and Washington DC. In the September Theology Town Hall, Dr. Edwards discusses one of his newest books, Might from the Margins: The Gospel’s Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice
St. Mary’s Seminary & University Statement on
Governor Larry Hogan’s Draft Consolidated Transportation Program
September 28, 2020
Rev. Phillip J. Brown, P.S.S., President-Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary & University, released this statement in response to Governor Larry Hogan’s draft Consolidated Transportation Program:
“As the President Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary & University, the oldest Roman Catholic Seminary in the United States, and an anchor institution in Baltimore City, I ask Gov. Hogan to reconsider the recently proposed cuts to operating and capital funding for the Maryland Transit Administration. These cuts, which include cuts in routes and services, would have a negative impact on the residents of the Greater Baltimore region who are dependent on public transportation. St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute has been educating men and women of the greater Baltimore region since 1968. Many of these students as well as some of our staff members rely on public transportation to get safely to both school and work.”
Read the full letter HERE....
The July 1 Theology Town Hall featured Dr. Rebekah Eklund, who teaches in the Ecumenical Institute’s DMin program. A theologian and New Testament scholar with expertise in Christian lament, she is the author of Jesus Wept: the Significance of Jesus’ Laments in the New Testament (T & T Clark). Responding to her presentation was DMin student Sarah Batley, whose ministry context is the Araminta Freedom Initiative, which works to end human trafficking and bring healing to its victims.
Dr. Eklund offered this bibliography for persons who want to know more:
Billman, Kathleen D., and Daniel L. Migliore. Rachel’s Cry: Prayer of Lament and Rebirth of Hope. Cleveland, OH: United Church, 1999. Focus on pastoral theology and the practice of ministry.
Brown, Sally A., and Patrick D. Millers, editors. Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005. Several good essays in here from different perspectives – NT, Theology, etc.
Ellington, Scott A. Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2008. Great study of lament, especially as it relates to the church today.
Rah, Soong-Chan. Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015. Reads Lamentations through the lens of modern-day injustices.
Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Lament for a Son. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987. Thoughts on grief and faith after the loss of a son to a climbing accident....
The following was developed by longtime EI faculty member and pastor of Epworth Chapel UMC the Rev. Dr. C. Anthony Hunt and shared as part of his presentation on “Police, Protest & Possibility” for the virtual #TheologyTownHall held Wednesday, June 17, 2020. [Join us at noon on Wednesdays for Theology Town Halls led out by different members of the EI community.]
One key to a church’s vitality is the quality of the relationships it establishes with a broad spectrum of leaders and institutions throughout its community. One of the most important set of relationships a church can develop is with police and other public safety officials. Recent well-publicized police-involved shootings and deaths, and the shootings and deaths of a number of police officers around the nation, have stained police-community relations and resulted in unrest in many areas.
Working proactively rather than reactively to strengthen a church’s relationship with its surrounding community and with police engenders trust. It also helps improve the quality of life for persons living and working in particular communities. It is a part of the theological task of churches to “seek the welfare” (shalom, peace, well-being) of all people in their respective communities (Jeremiah 29:7). Individuals, churches, groups, organizations, institutions, and even governments can promote the wellbeing of communities by making a sincere commitment to strengthen the relationship between the church, the community, and the police.
Here are ten ways that individuals, churches, and other community organizations can work toward strengthening these relationships.
- Pray for the police serving your community.
- Pray for and publicly affirm the police and other public safety officials who are members of your congregation.
- Know your community police officers by name, and keep their contact information readily available. Schedule regular meetings with community police officers to establish and strengthen relationships.
- Participate in periodic drive-arounds and community walks with police and community leaders.
- Invite police to community events held by the church, such as back-to-school events, community meals, and food giveaways.
- Include local police on the distribution lists for the church newsletter and email communications.
- Seek to collaborate with community entities like the Chambers of Commerce, NAACP, community associations, PTAs, and other churches in the community across denominations and faith traditions to address common interests and concerns regarding policing and public safety.
- Invite community police to speak to youth and young adults in the church.
- Educate youth and adults on appropriate conduct if stopped by police.
- Assist police departments in the recruitment of qualified persons in the congregation and community who would serve well as uniformed police officers, especially women and minorities who may be underrepresented.
(download as PDF)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Dirty Hands: Christian Ethics in a Morally Ambiguous World
God of the Rahtid
The Cost of Discipleship
Manchild in a Promised Land
Between the World and Me
Du Bois, W.E.B
The Souls of Black Folk
Dyson, Michael Eric
Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Gunning Francis, Leah
Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community
Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement
Hunt, C. Anthony
Blessed are the Peacemakers: A Theological Analysis of the Thought of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Come Go with Me: Howard Thurman and Gospel of Radical Inclusivity
I’ve Seen the Promised Land: Martin Luther King, Jr, and the 21st Century Quest for the Beloved Community
And Yet the Melody Lingers: Essays, Sermons and Prayers on Religion and Race, vol. 1
My Hope is Built: Essays, Sermons and Prayers on Religion and Race, vol.2
Stones of Hope: Essays, Sermons and Prayers on Religion and Race, vol. 3
Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing
Race, Religion and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age
Jones, William R.
Is God a White Racist?
How to Become and Antiracist
Justice in an Unjust World
The Making of Black Lives Matter
The following is the full text and accompanying resources from EI historian Dr. Stephen Lloyd’s #TheologyTownHall on May 20. [Join us at noon on Wednesdays for Theology Town Halls led by different members of the EI community.]
Healing has a central place in our Christian faith. The pages of the Bible are filled with healing. God heals, prophets heal, Jesus heals, and Jesus’ followers heal. Healing is a form of divine service, as Jesus tells his followers that when they care for the sick, they are indeed caring for him. Christians look forward to God’s coming kingdom in which all will be healed. God’s mission in the world is inconceivable without healing and caring concern.
We are now faced with a major pandemic, in which healing and care is absolutely vital. Yet as a Church, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. Most of us have never face “stay-at-home” orders or “safer-at-home” recommendations before. We struggle to think about mission in the context of social and physical distancing. Jesus said, “Go,” but now we are being told to “stay.”
Looking back at the history of healing and Christian mission might give us some insight into how we can move forward. Certainly, the way Christians care for people has changed, but two things have been constant:
- Christians, when at their best, have met sickness with prayerful concern; and
- Christians have used the best contemporary medical knowledge available to promote physical healing.
Prayerful healing has marked Christian history from the very beginning. Before Christianity enjoyed legal status in the Roman Empire (i.e., before 313 CE), Christian mission was largely successful because of Christian healing efforts. When there were epidemics, pagan doctors, like Galenus, often fled to avoid illness. Christians, however, cared for the sick, and their pagan neighbors took note of this tendency.
Lucian was evidently impressed; he said, “It is marvelous how these men rush to one another in misfortune.” But not all pagan observers were so positive. Julian the Apostate was perturbed that Christian communities provided care not just for their own, but people who were not members. He rightly worried that by caring for non-members, Christian numbers would increase.
Statistician-turned-historian Rodney Stark argued that even without modern medicine, simply caring for somebody (feeding, hydrating, keeping cool/warm/comfortable) increased his or her chance of survival. Those cared for by the Christians, argued Stark, would have survived at a higher rate.[i] This certainly gave a miraculous mystique to the early Christians, yet it would have also made them a very attractive community. The healed person would find a natural fellowship with a healing community, and, perhaps, even want to pay that forward.
Medical historian Gary Ferngren has argued that these early Christians were not simply relying on miracles for healing. Instead, they engaged in a variety of techniques, which included contemporary expert medical advice, folk medicine (remember Paul’s advice to Timothy that he “take a little wine for the stomach”), prayers, and the use of sacred objects. When it came to the healing mission of the church, Christians would try what might work from a variety of sources, both Christian and non-Christian.[ii]
Care for the poor, sick, and otherwise vulnerable became part of the institutional landscape of the Christianized Roman Empire beginning in the fourth and fifth centuries. While arguing that trust in medicine should not supplant trust in God, early Church fathers actively promoted the formation of hospitals (for the sick and poor) and monastic infirmaries. Gregory of Nazianzus famously sought to reduce the stigma against diseases such as leprosy. The ill were not outcasts being singled out by God, but victims of misfortune who required both spiritual and physical healing.[iii]
Institutionalized Christian care continued into the early Middle Ages. Christianity spread throughout much of northern Europe through the establishment of monastic communities. These communities frequently established hospitals and infirmaries that tended to the sick and the poor and served as places of refuge for travelers.
Monastic hospitals were run by highly educated monks who relied on a variety of techniques and medicines that were thought to be effective at the time. We now know that promoting cleanliness was probably good, herbal remedies may have had some efficacy, and bloodletting was probably a mistake.[iv] Nevertheless, much like their earlier counterparts, these monastic medics understood illness to have both physical and spiritual components. They used medicine within a religious context.
But when we think medieval, we don’t think medicine. We think dirt, grime, cloudy skies, and plague. During the massive Bubonic Plague outbreak, commonly called the Black Death, 75 to 200 million people died worldwide. Between 1331 and 1353, Europe lost a third of its population. Some major towns lost half of their population in just six years. It was an unsettling pandemic that turned Europe on its head.
Both religious and medical authorities were completely unable to respond to the situation. Half of Europe’s priests died, probably becoming contaminated while administering last rites. People desperately grasped at anything: they asked for the intercession of saints, they engaged in group self-flagellation (later banned by the church), used pagan spells, and some even tried to summon fairies. Charlatans pushed fake cures. Some people went into hiding, others engaged in a myriad of licentious behavior with whatever time they had left.
Christian mobs scapegoated Jewish communities throughout Europe, leading to lethal anti-Jewish pogroms.[v] In many ways, the Black Death demonstrated just how unmooring pandemics can be. I also think its important to recognize that the history of Christianity and healing is not unambiguously positive: poorly considered Christian responses made the situation worse.
To be sure, there were some milder and more pragmatic responses to plagues. In 1527,...
EI Faculty member in Biblical Studies, Dr. Jennifer McNeel was featured during our Theology Town Hall Meeting on May 13. Dr. McNeel is known to current students and recent grads as one who orients to biblical studies, and teaching the New Testament survey. Last fall, she co-taught with Rabbi Nina Cardin our “Mothers in Jewish and Christian Scripture and Tradition” class. The full text of Dr. McNeel’s town hall follows, or you can view the recording.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis took over our lives, many people felt like the world was changing, and changing too fast. In my experience, many people already had a lot of anxiety about what was going on in the world and where things were headed. There were already worries about social change, political change, climate change, and more. And now of course, it feels like almost everything about our lives has changed under stay at home orders, as we deal with meaningful events being canceled, worries about those who are sick, concerns about job loss, and the struggle to maintain our own physical and mental health during social distancing.
All this new change, piled on top of the anxiety many of us already felt about a changing world, can be overwhelming. When I think about people in the Bible who had a sense that the world they lived in was changing, Paul comes right to my mind. Paul lived and moved through the world with the sense that Christ’s death and resurrection had inaugurated a new age, and that the final culmination of that massive changing of the world was coming soon. In other words, a great change had already taken place, and more change was still coming.
What did all that change mean for the way Paul lived his life and wanted other believers to live? I’d like to take a look at a few different passages that show us something about that, starting with 1 Corinthians 7. In this chapter Paul is giving a lot of advice in answer to questions that the Corinthians asked him in a letter – questions about how to live “in Christ” while also “in this world.” We see here Paul’s advice that the Corinthian believers should not seek to change their status with regard to a variety of things, such as circumcision, slavery, and marriage. Here’s the example of circumcision from verses 17-20:
17 However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. 20 Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.
In the matter of circumcision as well as marriage and slavery, Paul says they should be guided by this principle in verse 20: “Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.”
If you were already married, don’t seek to separate from your spouse. If you are a slave, don’t be concerned about seeking freedom. Stay in the condition you were in when you became a Christian.
I think we might find this a little surprising. I would imagine that those early Christians were probably eager for some kind of outward change in their lives to mark their new faith, their membership in a new community, and Paul seems to be saying: in the face of this great change, you are not called to change anything. As modern readers, I think perhaps his words on slavery in this chapter can be the most challenging – when he tells slaves not to be concerned about seeking freedom. Fully getting into that is beyond the scope of this 15 minute talk, but if we go a little further we can understand better why his philosophy is “let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.”
In verses 29-31, Paul writes:
29 I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Two related ideas bracket this passage: that the appointed time has grown short, and that the present form of this world is passing away. We’ll look at these in turn.
First, “the appointed time has grown short.” This NRSV translation uses 2 English words to translate 1 word in the Greek. “Appointed time” is translating the Greek word kairos. This word means time, but has a richer meaning than just time as we think of time ticking by (the word for that is chronos). Kairos can be mean: “time, period, season, type of time, appropriate time.” If I say to you, “these are the times we are living in,” I don’t just mean it’s Wednesday afternoon at 12:10. I mean something richer—there is some particular quality or characteristic of this time period I am trying to express. Kairos has that sense–a particular kind of season, or a time that is especially appropriate for something. So, if we wanted to be a capture the meaning of this phrase, “the appointed time has grown short,”...
The May 6 Theology Town Hall featured Dr. Brian Volck and Dr. Matthew Loftus, who have practiced medicine in a variety of settings (including Baltimore city, the Navajo Reservation, South Sudan, and Kenya, among others). They reflected on practicing medicine in the time of a pandemic. Dr. Volck’s remarks are included below, or you can view the full town hall. Prior writings by Drs. Loftus and Volck on the coronavirus pandemic include the following:
- “Reading in the Time of Coronavirus,” Dr. Brian Volck
- “Remembering After Coronavirus,” Dr. Brian Volck
- “The Ethics of Healthcare Rationing,” Dr. Matthew Loftus
One evening not long before the statewide order to shelter in place took effect, I and my wife, Jill, were climbing into bed when she asked, “Is someone knocking at our front door?” I thought I’d heard a soft voice from the sidewalk below a few minutes earlier, but now I, too, could hear a faint tapping. Upon opening the door, we found a boy about two years old dressed in pajamas and shivering in the cold night air. A slump-shouldered woman sat on the front steps. She looked up at us with heavy-lidded eyes and said, in the muffled undertone of someone who’s had far too much to drink, “We need help.” There was no one else nearby – no car, no clue why she had chosen our house. I was wary, uncertain what to do. To be honest, I was a little scared this was a setup, a ploy to get into our house for who knows what mischief. Jill, however, took one look at the child and said, “Come on in and get warm.”
We helped the mother to her feet, picked up the boy, and brought them both inside. She was clearly intoxicated. Her clothes were neither torn nor dirty, just disheveled. She was missing a shoe. There were no signs of physical trauma. The boy looked scared, staring silently at his mother, his eyes wide, his nose runny – whether from tears or a cold it was hard to tell – and the diaper under his pajamas was twisted to the side as if he’d been dressed in a hurry. In time, he stopped shaking as we talked to his mother. She said she was trying to get to the baby daddy’s house but had lost her way. She lived with her mother in another neighborhood where she said she felt safe. For some reason, though, she didn’t want to return there tonight. She had no cell phone or ID and couldn’t remember anyone’s number.
It was clear they needed what’s traditionally been called a corporal work of mercy. What wasn’t clear was how to help them. Jill and I are both physicians, but we hadn’t trained for this. We brought them something to drink, some cookies for the boy to eat, then Jill quietly stepped away to call our pastor in search of advice. He encouraged her to call the police, which she did. By the time the officer arrived, the boy was in my lap, talking to me while rubbing his snotty nose in my shirt. We were not a good example of social distancing. The police officer was annoyed at us for letting strangers in the house. Didn’t we know how dangerous Baltimore gets at night? In the end, however, he managed to trace down the mother’s mother, who quickly drove to our house to take her daughter and grandson home, thanking us profusely. The officer called Jill fifteen minutes later to say that the boy’s grandmother was grateful to have the two of them back rather than with the baby daddy, whom she described as an abusive alcoholic. “Mercy,” I said. Mercy, indeed.
I share this story because it can help us think theologically about health care during the COVID-19 pandemic without getting lost in a thicket of biomedical details. When Jill welcomed two strangers in our living room that evening, we were making it up as we went along. Few of us like to think of our personal physician doing that with us, but many cases don’t fit the textbook descriptions. This was one such outlier. Yet we’d been practicing for these moments since our medical school days, when we formed habits essential to our profession, habits like as prudence, courage, and truthfulness. No one in our rigorously secular medical school or residencies called them virtues. No one quoted Aquinas, Alasdair MacIntyre, or Stanley Hauerwas. Some of our mentors admonished us to leave questions of God to the hospital chaplain and refer any moral dilemmas to the ethics committee. But, in retrospect, I see all that training now through theological eyes, further refracted by my more recent formation as a lay oblate in the Benedictine monastic tradition.
I have time to name just two such habits. The first is hospitality, something that seems conspicuously absent in hospitals today. Yet, “hospitality” and “hospital” derive from the single Latin word, hospes, which can mean both “guest” and “host.” What’s more, these words share a root with the English word “hostile.” Linguists trace these surprising connections back to a Proto-Indoeuropean root *ghos-ti- , which can mean “guest,” “host,” “stranger,” and “foreigner.” This jumble of contradictory meanings also appears in the ancient Greek word xenos, from which the fourth century Byzantine xenodochia – the first true hospitals – took their name. Etymologically, then, xenophobia may be less about fearing the stranger than fearing what we, as the host, might be asked to do for her.
In most traditional cultures, hospitality is understood as a duty and a danger at the same time. Host and guest enter a relationship of mutual obligation: the host offers protection and inquires after the guest’s needs,...