After serving as a chaplain in World War II, Gordon Cosby wanted to create a church that helped people truly become disciples of Christ. Since the 1940s, the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., has called people to spiritual discipline and to social mission.
An 18th-century painting of a Quaker meeting hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In it a figure, perhaps George Fox himself, stands speaking with such passion that his hand is clutching his breast. Around him are gathered members of the Society of Friends. A woman sits with her chin in her hand. A man’s finger is laid alongside his cheek.
“A funny thing happened to me on the way to the pulpit today” is as familiar a remark in some churches as “It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon” is on Saturday radio. Take the recent seminary graduate who comes to her first parish. Sermon after sermon includes a story about a seminary classmate, or about the place where she used to live or about how her wedding plans remind her of something in the epistle. Is there anything wrong with sharing one's life and experiences from the pulpit?
If church leaders had the chance to fashion a seminary from scratch, what would it look like? Would it have its own campus? Would it be tied to a denomination or be fully ecumenical? Would the classical academic subjects be taught and, if so, how would that learning be correlated with the work of forming spiritual leaders and training them in the practice of ministry?
Gretta Vosper, a United Church of Canada pastor in Toronto, is prepared to fight a process that could defrock her. An avowed atheist, she maintains that behavior, not doctrine, should be the foundation of the church. She has the backing of her current members, but about 100 of the 150 people in her congregation left in 2008 after she did away with the Lord’s Prayer. A review process has been launched by the United Church’s General Council to examine whether Vosper has violated her ordination vows, which include affirming belief in a triune God (Globe and Mail, August 5).