Louie Crew's Remarks at GTS Banquet before D.D. Degree

Remarks At the Banquet on the Eve of
Receiving a Doctor of Divinity Degree
at General Theological Seminary
Tuesday May 13, 2003

by Louie Crew

You are bestowing a huge honor on me. Thank you.

I have great respect for this institution. My parish, Grace Church in Newark, was founded in 1837, two decades after General, and the parish has always been served by a graduate of General.

As a member of Executive Council, I strongly supported the proposal to move the Church Center here, and I deeply regret that Council did not take advantage of that huge mission opportunity. General will thrive without the move. Pray that Executive Council and the Management Team will have more vision and more courage.

General belongs to the General Convention. In the Blue Book for General Convention this summer, the phrase "Theological education" occurs 74 times, with one-third of those outside the report of the Committee on Theological Education. Many commissions and committees and boards want a piece of your action. Edmund Burke warned, "Neither liberty nor property is safe when the legislature is in session."

I have not yet had an opportunity to study all the particulars of the Blue Book. Many appeals will serve you well, especially those that call on the Church to live into our commitment at General Convention 2000 to give 1% of all parish income to theological education. However, as a disciple and as an educator myself, I appeal to you to resist any pressures that would diminish General as a seminary and impel you towards becoming a Clergy Trade School. It is easy for those of us who are deputies at General Convention to ask you to fix many of the problems we see in the church; but as educators, you should resist mere utility. Train learned disciples of Jesus, not the professionally religious. Continue to immerse students in the great texts and the great ideas of our faith. Continue to nourish their faith by challenging it. Teach tough questions, not glib answers. Encourage the imagination: while we cannot teach it, all that we do we will either encourage it or stifle it.

Also, while we cannot teach courage, we can surely nurture it. I can assure you that when the vandals have throne rocks in the middle of the night, I have found strength in great texts, such as Psalm 139 or Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.

I urge you to fortify students who are going into parochial assignments to use their fine theological education to train disciples. Frightening Biblical illiteracy pervades the Episcopal church, yet we have higher than average literacy rates about most other subjects.

Coptics took my bible course at Rutgers for much the same reasons some native Puerto Ricans take Spanish 101 and 102, for an easy `A.' Most Coptics are already biblically literate. They know all too well from their persecution that Coptic Christianity will die out if Coptics don't know who they are. By contrast, we Episcopalians have spent the last 50 years dismantling most bible education in parishes. If bible instruction is limited to 10 minutes of 15-20 minute sermons, 31.2 years will be required to cover the ground covered in two semesters of my basic undergraduate course. Bible teaching in the pulpit alone is not enough: we must have instruction in the parish classroom. The bible is our birthright as Christians. We sell it short at our spiritual peril.

General Seminary has a heritage of holding fast to that which is good. We must continue that legacy.