25 April 2010

A slight acna problem

One of the tasks I will face in my move to Pittsburgh will be finding a church to worship at. Sadly, this is proving a fairly difficult task - my preference is to worship at a church which combines high liturgy with a progressive theology which owes more to John Newman than to John Calvin. Sadly, the Anglo-Catholic community closest to Pittsburgh is, ironically enough, not a member of the Anglican Communion, having broken off its ties with the rightful province of the Church (to wit, the Episcopal Church) and cast in their lot with ACNA.

I can certainly understand some of the concerns which led the founding members of ACNA to question their relationship with the Episcopal Church, and I think they may even have some merit. The Episcopal Church does not exist in a vacuum: we are, in a real sense, answerable to the broader Communion for the actions we undertake in the name of our mission, and we cannot assume for ourselves (as evangelical and Calvinistic church bodies do routinely) that our actions, having justification in our own view of Scripture, are thereby rendered automatically proper and correct without the need for affirmation by the wider Church body.

Let me be clear: I think that the doctrinal impediments to appointing women as bishops are on very shaky theological ground when considered against the full weight of the Scriptures (particularly the Gospels, which showed women to be more faithful witnesses to and teachers of the Christian mission than men on various occasions) and the traditions of the Church (given that for our Church's survival and unity we owe a great debt to one remarkable woman - Her Majesty Elizabeth I Tudor, and we have had numerous female Supreme Governors of the Church since), not to mention the proper application of reason and experience in cases where women have, very successfully, taken on the responsibilities of ministry within the Church. I also think the Scriptural dictates against homosexuality have been overstated to the point of heresy by conservative churches; whether or not homosexuality is a sin, it is nevertheless our calling to love them as Christ would have, not to cast them out from full participation in our table fellowship and certainly not to condemn them to death (as may happen in Uganda). At the same time, the way the Episcopal Church has chosen to act in its mission has been understandably troubling: it could very well seem in the broader Church as though we are imposing our own mores imperialistically on the rest of the body politic, and it would be a fatal mistake to assume that no one outside our Province should have noticed or cared what we did when the Rt Revd Mary Douglas Glasspool was appointed Bishop in Los Angeles. Though I applaud her appointment, though I think it is timely and though our authorities may take her to be the best-qualified person for the job, we nevertheless have an urgent obligation to discuss the issue as Church, rather than as agents of secular ideologies.

That said, the actions of ACNA are an existential betrayal of these legitimate concerns. If what they wanted truly was to challenge the Episcopal Church to assume greater responsibility for its actions in the eyes of the broader church, to have unilaterally broken communion with us and with the wider Church over these political issues has a certain hubristic irony. What distinguishes our Church from the rest of the Reformed traditions is that we hold each other to account through the sacraments and through the apostolic succession, and that in them we take ourselves to be members incorporate of the greater living Body of Christ. Having severed themselves from that Body and having posited themselves a rival province of the Church in North America, and further having placed responsibility for their schismatic behaviour on the Episcopal Church, their actions show that their interest in holding themselves accountable to their brothers and sisters in the Communion comes a distant second to playing the politics of the day, as is done in the secular world.

This leaves us in a very uncomfortable position - and perhaps rightly so. It may have been a smooth move on the behalf of our leadership in the Communion to acknowledge the desire of ACNA to join the Communion while not in fact allowing them to do so, but putting off frank discussion of the issues (both political and theological) underlying the split until a later date will not solve the problems at hand. We should have a Church that welcomes into communion and upholds the dignities of women and homosexuals, as Jesus welcomed into communion and upheld the dignities of women and social outcasts in his own time. But more, I pray this day will come without a full-blown Communion-wide schism.

In the meantime, I will continue my search in Pittsburgh for a church to attend during my graduate study, and continue to think and pray on the decision before me.

18 April 2010

Glad to meet you, Allegheny

My third and final destination for grad schools - the University of Pittsburgh!

Whoops - wrong 'final destination'. Anyway, Pittsburgh's scenery is much more charming; the cityscape was quite impressive coming in at night, coming in through the tunnel from the airport one could see the entire panorama come dazzlingly into view. Sadly, the pictures I took weren't very good from inside the bus. I got to my hotel really late (around midnight) and got up really early (before seven) to get to the Preview GSPIA event on campus. The city is amazing; lots to do even within a short walking distance of campus, which itself was gorgeous, and the 42-storey Cathedral of Learning at the centre of campus was the hallmark of the place - amazing Gothic architecture. Some pictures of it:

And of the inside:

I was quite impressed with the quality of the programme as well - several professors came in to talk with us, along with student services representatives and the heads of the research centres and the area-studies certificate programmes. The academic plan for the MPIA degree at Pittsburgh is remarkably rigorous; one gets a full background in economics, history and policy analysis in addition to whatever area and subject specialisation the student chooses. It didn't hurt also that the internship possibilities at Pittsburgh were incredibly diverse (ranging from Pittsburgh to Washington to global) and that they could possibly get some funding with a strong enough grant proposal. The only drawback that I could tell was the lack of support for foreign language study (though they have classes available, they are undergraduate-level and are not counted toward the degree, nor are they required). Absent the consideration of financial aid, GSPIA would appear to be an incredibly strong school. The merit-conditional grant package they already offered me, though, was far too generous to turn down. Looks like GSPIA's where I'll be going!

The building GSPIA is located in (Posvar Hall), however, gave me only a bit of pause. It looked like (as my dad put it) Brown University's Science Library on its side:

Inside it feels considerably more comfortable although there are several idiosyncrasies, like the escalators leading up to the upper levels, which include classrooms, offices, a study lounge and an Einstein Bros Bagels shop (a necessity, albeit expensive, for morning students). I'll be at home there and happily for the next two years, though.

Some more photos from campus:

And the school mascot (the Pitt Panthers):

I'll try to do better in the coming weeks about keeping up-to-date. Till then, all the best to my gentle readers as I continue attempting to put my future in order.

05 April 2010

In the wash - in more ways than one

Many Easter blessings to my readers! Yet another campus visit come and gone - though this time I went to American University and George Washington University in Washington DC. I stayed with one of my father's childhood friends and fellow Scouts, Russ Damtoft, and his family (his wife Linda, and his sons David and Eric) in Bethesda - they were very kind to put me up on such short notice, and were very good hosts. (Russ even gave me some pointers on entering the foreign service, if that's what I decide to do after getting my MA, and David's a history major with an interest in Europe, so we got along pretty well.) Actually getting there was a bit more of a chore - due to the torrential rain and flooding we've had up here, 95 was closed and getting to the airport was, shall we say, an adventure. I did get there in good order, though.

I had positive impressions of both universities - obviously either one would be an amazing place to go to school. But American University, strong though their programme is and as helpful as their CRS representative was, didn't seem like a great fit for me; not a lot of emphasis on team-building or community, and a bit removed from the main city, which was a bit unfortunate. It seemed fairly self-contained, and the class size of the lecture I got to sit in on was on the larger side (more than 20 students). Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the campus, which is a shame because it was actually quite beautiful when I went there.

George Washington University, on the other hand, was a different beast entirely! A very colourful campus (figuratively speaking, sadly; a lot of the buildings reminded me of some of the newer Syracuse fixtures and the Sci Li at Brown), right in the middle of the city - a short walk away from the World Bank, from the Washington Monument (visible from the Elliott School), from the State Department and (of particular interest to me) from St Paul's Church on K street. I was impressed by the students that I met there - even the ones who were just out and about rather than leading tours were friendly and helpful, as were the staff. I was also impressed by the flexibility of the programme (most of the students work at least half-time, with the graduate classes in the evening, and the registrar is willing to bend over backward to help students design a programme that works for them) and by the emphasis on community and collaboration with other students. The Elliott School struck me, though, as a school undergoing a bit of an identity crisis: their capstone project was a fairly new addition, but it indicates that they're moving in about the same direction I am, more toward the professional world and away from the academic. I got the feeling that I would be quite at home there - the only problem I can see at this point is the cost, both of the school and of the dreaded Washington living expenses.

Anyway, here are some photos of DC and the GWU campus:

The train station at Fort Totten, DC Metro red line

The Elliott School of International Affairs itself, on E street in Foggy Bottom

The General himself - or rather, a statue of him - on GW's quad

Two of the necessities of life: food (at GW Deli, above) and drink (at Quigley's Pharmacy / Tonic, below), though there is of course food and drink elsewhere in DC

I'm continuing to read Dr Johnson's The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia and should be done before I head off to GSPIA in Pittsburgh, at which point I intend to pick up Bishop Gore's commentary on the Epistle to the Romans for fun-reading. Classes are going well; just got my second paper assignment for micro, which involves reading a soft sci-fi novella by Frederik Pohl. Seems like some this month's going to be fairly fiction-heavy...

In the meanwhile, onward to Pittsburgh! I'll try to be better about photos this time, but I don't think I can promise much. And then after I come back, I'll have some very hard decisions to make...