Saturday, February 28, 2015

Prof Boyarin at Barnard, A Genealogy for Judaism, March 23, 25, April 1st, 2015

The 2015 Bampton Lectures in America will be given by Talmudic scholar Daniel Boyarin, speaking on: A Genealogy for JudaismProfessor Boyarin will be presenting four lectures over a two-week period:
Monday, March 23
Was There Judaism in Pre-Modernity?: The Terms of the Debate
Wednesday, March 25
Can a Word Exist if No One Says It or Writes It?
Monday, March 30
What Do Jews Talk About When They Don’t Talk About Judaism? 
Wednesday, April 1
Can a Concept Exist Without a Word?There will be a public reception following the final lecture in the series on Wednesday, April 1, to celebrate the completion of the series.

All lectures will take place at 7:00pm in Held Lecture Hall, room 304 on the third floor of Barnard Hall.  A map of Barnard’s campus is available here.
These lectures are free of charge and open to all.  Please register to attend through this form.

Founded in 1948, the Bampton Lectures in America are a series of biennial lectures given by prominent scholars in the fields of theology, science, art, and medicine. Established through a bequest from Ada Byron BamptonTremaine, the Lectures are delivered to a general audience and subsequently published. Included among those who have delivered the Bampton lectures are: Arnold Toynbee, Paul Tillich, Fred Hoyle, Alasdair C. MacIntyre, Jonathan Riley-Smith, and Irving Weissman.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lenten Series: Mercer School of Theology--Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City LI

Lenten Soup & Study
Lenten Soup & Study will take place at Mercer School of Theology beginning on Wednesday, February 25th. We have invited Dr. Deirdre Good, New Testament Professor at General Theological Seminary, to be our presenter. A soup supper will be offered at 7:00pm and the study will run on the following Wednesday’s, February 25th, March 4th, March 11th and March 18th from 7:30 pm-8:30 pm and will close with Compline. Please make this a part of your Lenten discipline. Please RSVP on Tuesday’s for the weeks you plan to attend to Shirley White at 746-2955
Our Journey with Jesus in the Gospel Narrative
Focusing on the human events of Jesus' life: narrative (journey including Genesis, Exodus and Jerusalem); discipleship (following Jesus; understanding, perception and misperception; human identity (Son of Man, family, suffering); and the reign/power of God (parables, miracles, exorcisms, baptism, resurrection and ascension), we will journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem.
Dr. Deirdre Good is Professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary in NYC specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, non-canonical writings and biblical languages (Greek and Coptic). While she is an American citizen, she grew up in Kenya where her parents were missionaries. She has written books on Matthew's portrait of Jesus (Jesus the Meek King, 1999), on Mary traditions in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Mariam, the Magdalen and the Mother, 2005), on households and family in the time of Jesus (Jesus' Family Values, 2006) and most recently, Reading the New Testament, A Fortress Introduction with Bruce Chilton (2010). She also blogs for Episcopal Cafe.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Met Museum Viewpoints

The Metropolitan Museum has been doing a series (for how long I cannot tell) Viewpoints on body language from particular sculptures with a link to Storify. There are accompanying lectures. It is fascinating.

How does the sculpted body communicate? Hear from Met experts, leading authorities, and rising stars, each with a unique perspective on the language of gesture, facial expression, and pose.
Hear diverse viewpoints from curators, educators, musicians, theater actors and directors, neuroscientists, and a deaf American Sign Language user.
Watch videos of dancers and choreographers interpret the body's expression.
Share your viewpoints on social media. We'll repost selections on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.
Body Language features twenty works of sculpture from three departments: European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Medieval Art, and the American Wing.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Way of Wisdom from April 2014

Way of Wisdom: General Theological Seminary new direction

by Deirdre Good
In January of 2014, the faculty of General Theological Seminary returned from a retreat in Florida with new ideas about theological education. We had engaged with each other for the inside of a week. We heard Tom Brackett of the Episcopal Church Center, who works in Church Planting and Ministry Redevelopment, via a Skype presentation. The outcome of all this good work and serious deliberation was a statement called Way of Wisdom. We also identified broader issues – e.g. implications for our own residential and commuter community–on which to continue working in committees and in Faculty Colloquia lunches. WoW itself first saw the public light of day in various faculty and decanal sermons, homilies and talks on Feb 2nd, 2014, Theological Education Sunday. We talked about it at our Board of Trustees meeting later that week and gave it a formal airing in the seminary at a community discussion on April 1st. Since then it has been reported in Episcopal Cafe, in seminary publications, and other places.
Here is a summary:
The Gospel amplifies the prophet’s call to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” This summons is addressed to the whole church, all its members. It is of the essence of the Way of Wisdom. It is a ministry for those who are in need, those who suffer, those who seek the wellbeing of their neighbor. It is not a way to serve ourselves or preserve any institution. The Way of Wisdom is the way of those who love justice and kindness, the Way of those who walk with God together with their fellow Christians.
• We call on all Christians to renew their commitment to the Way of Wisdom and their appreciation of the depths of Christian tradition, especially learning from those who are least among them.
• We call on seminaries and the wider Church to commit to supporting sustainable levels of high-quality theological education for all levels of the church (laity, priests, deacons, and bishops) and for all levels of study, from Catechesis through doctoral study.
• We call for greater cooperation between the seminaries in realizing this goal of theological education for the whole Church.
• We invite the bishops of the church to re-commit themselves to their teaching role as listening theologians to work to revive and reform the catechumenate for our time, and for church-wide support of the formation of catechists and other church teachers.
• We call on all members of the Episcopal Church to more deeply appropriate the vision of the Church as a community of all the baptized, as found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
• We call on all clergy to more deeply appreciate the Wisdom found in the people in their congregations.
• We call on theologians and theological educators to make Wisdom their paramount priority and to seek to integrate all aspects of theological inquiry as a coherent whole.
• We as the faculty of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church pledge to follow the Way of Wisdom more deeply in our own lives and to change our courses and our curricula to better enable our students to encourage and help others on the Way of Wisdom.
In all my years working at GTS, I find WoW to be the most promising development of our seminary life. It’s about something we’re all doing, whether in seminaries or parishes or offices or soup kitchens–the re-ordering of our intellectual and spiritual selves toward God. It values the contributions of all. What’s distinctive about our input is that it comes out of our common deliberations on the integration of shared disciplines as they can be brought to bear on lived religious experiences in churches and other places of mission around us and so to deepen our life in Christ. It reorients us to older materials in Christian tradition: the Didache, for example, is not simply “Teaching” but a manual entitled “Training” of the Apostles and early followers of Jesus. I’ve longed for this since I came to GTS.
An example indicates earlier attitudes. Shortly after I arrived 27 years ago, Dean James Fenhagen, R.I.P, sought language to affirm my presence amongst the faculty. He said to me, “The Church needs the laity.” We now know better: the Church is the laity. 
GTS has since then undergone seismic changes that not only bring us to this point but also help us understand whence we come. Where formerly the lived experience of Christians in parishes and other places of ministry was discounted and objectified as mere practice, now these are celebrated as central places where our theological disciplines engage the faith of the baptized in Christ already living and working in the world. Where once ministry was something done in parishes and places of ministry to people perceived to be in need of the church’s wares, now we seek to recognize and build on what Bishop Charleston identifies as the sharing and receiving of community. Where once the clergyperson was the epicenter for all parish activity, now we are working with others across the Church to empower clergy and lay leadership collaboration, which many already know to be the heart of congregational ministry and vitality.
We’ve begun to build an integrated curriculum across disciplines for every week of every semester for every year in every degree program. Then we will create a sequence in which each year will build on the next by emphasizing and cultivating a developing sequence of Stages of Wisdom that Professor Davis identified with us in a recent Faculty Colloquy. Such an approach develops earlier Christian instruction: the Epistle to Diognetus 11, for example summarizes materials for use in catechesis or liturgy:
Then respect for the law is sung,
And the grace of the prophets is recognized,
And the faith of the gospels is launched,
And the tradition of the apostles is maintained,
And the joy of the Church abounds.
Each step requires careful synthesis across disciplines. Each stage builds on the others. Here is an overview of what we are considering as the first and the final stages.
The first stage is attention to and awareness of God’s work and presence in our lives and in the world around us (e.g. Job 28:28). Here we might identify, amongst other things, a pattern of lived religion in our common life. This one includes the discipline of listening and observing. Professor Lamborn already teaches a class for incoming students encouraging reflection on what living in community means. They ask what the meaning and challenges are of integrating learning into Christian community. What are spiritual practices that will help achieve balance? How can we increase abilities to reflect theologically in many contexts, as well as allow new ideas, questions and experiences to emerge and inform faith and action? Attending to these questions is in part preparation for CPE and after CPE, Field Education placements that are part of a cohesive second year curriculum in which stages of Wisdom include Faith, Knowledge, and Courage.
In the final year we are planning an integrative seminar as the end of a cumulative process (Wisdom 6:17-20). In this seminar students will reflect on so as to live out fully every facet of parish life and other places of mission from liturgical training, planned meetings and classes, visits, to individual encounters. Stages of Wisdom in this year include Counsel, wherein judgments are based in reality, Understanding, wherein we work towards perceiving how life holds together in the truth, and Wisdom in which every aspect of our lives is ordered toward God. Participants besides the students (themselves peer learners) will include parish lay and clergy mentors plus seminary faculty and other practitioners offering particular skills essential to parish life. We could consider topics e.g. Scripture study and effective pedagogies; theories of leadership with an eye to the formation of effective clergy and lay leadership teams; particular theological questions, projects, or ways to foster and develop particular skills. Such an integrative seminar is a place of continuing focused reflection on e.g. teaching and leadership, liturgy, pastoral care, and the integration of these skills with public practice. It is a place for shared growth and development of new skills. It would include work with mentors themselves trained in particular mentoring skills and accountable to appropriate bodies. It could be a model for ongoing work in future ministries.
What we are trying to do is just beginning. It is both exhilarating and unnerving. Here’s why.
“Luther’s example and experience suggest that human institutions cannot truly be reformed, because we will always stand in the way of change. Some destruction is inevitable. The detractors of contemporary efforts at church reformation are only partly correct when they claim that our reforms are killing this institution. But the proponents of change are also only partly correct when they claim that their efforts bring new life. In truth, the institutional church (and a good many other human institutions) is dead. Such life as we see may not be evidence of reformation but of resurrection, for which only God may be thanked. If we are to survive these times, we must let go both of our fear of failure and of our zeal for success.”
[Sam Portaro, Brightest & Best, p.48 (posted on Facebook 4/10/14 by Tom Brackett)]
Deirdre Good is Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. Her blog is called On Not Being a Sausage.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Preaching the Lectionary Jan 13: 9-3.30pm Mercer School of Theology Garden City

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Preaching the Lectionary: Lent, Holy Week, and Easter

09:00 AM - 03:30 PM

The Mercer School of Theology
65 Fourth Street
Garden City , US-NY , 11530
Professor Deirdre Good will offer preaching insights on the lectionary spanning Lent, Holy Week and Easter.

This joint Lutheran-Episcopal seminar is intended to refresh preachers. Professor Good will offer exegetical highlights on selected lectionary passages for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. Participants will interact with each other and Professor Good in guided conversations about what they are drawn to preach on in the selected passages and why. The day will begin and conclude with worship.

The cost is $50; lunch is included.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yes, the Pope did issue "a blistering critique" to the Curia

Did the Pope issue a "blistering critique" of the Curia? Yes says RNS writer Josephine McKenna. But Dawn Eden of "Get Religion" doesn't think so. She cites a read of the Papal statement in Zenit and another by Rocco Palmo who notes that the Pope began by a call for forgiveness and concludes with a statement that the critique could be aimed at all Catholics.

You be the judge. We need the Italian text from the Vatican first. Here is the English version also from the Vatican.

The text addresses: "Cari fratelli..." that is "Dear Brothers" hence intended for the Curia not for all Catholics although of course the papal address has been widely read. "Fratelli, brothers" i.e. Cardinals is repeated at the conclusion. I thus disagree with Rocco Palmo's reading: the admonition is addressed to the immediate audience.

An opening paragraph states that the Curia is called to improve to fully realize its mission. Yet like every human body it is exposed to "malattie, al malfunzionamento, all'infermita." This is rendered as "sickness, malfunction and infirmity" in the Vatican English version. But the Italian uses stronger language: "disease, malfunction and infirmity." In fact where the Italian word repeats the word "disease" as in "Curial diseases, malattie curiale," and "diseases more frequent in the life of the Curia," the English translation consistently prefers the less forceful "Curial illnesses" or "ailments."

Since the body of the address identifies the 15 spiritual conditions, it is important to know how to designate the Italian "malatia or malattie." The English text uses "ailment" or "illness" except in four cases: Spiritual Alzheimer's disease; the disease of indifference, accumulation, worldly profit and exhibitionism. The Italian uses the same word all the way through. My judgement is that the English has weakened the Italian.

The English translation omits considerable text. Here is the the first disease:
The first is “the sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

But the Italian is more detailed and contains descriptions and even diagnoses of pathologies:

1. La malattia del sentirsi “immortale”, “immune” o addirittura “indispensabile”, trascurando i necessari e abituali controlli. Una Curia che non si autocritica, che non si aggiorna, che non cerca di migliorarsi è un corpo infermo. Un’ordinaria visita ai cimiteri ci potrebbe aiutare a vedere i nomi di tante persone, delle quale alcuni forse pensavano di essere immortali, immuni e indispensabili! È la malattia del ricco stolto del Vangelo che pensava di vivere eternamente (cfrLc 12,13-21), e anche di coloro che si trasformano in padroni e si sentono superiori a tutti e non al servizio di tutti. Essa deriva spesso dalla patologia del potere, dal “complesso degli Eletti”, dal narcisismo che guarda appassionatamente la propria immagine e non vede l’immagine di Dio impressa sul volto degli altri, specialmente dei più deboli e bisognosi[8]. L’antidoto a questa epidemia è la grazia di sentirci peccatori e di dire con tutto il cuore: «Siamo servi inutili. Abbiamo fatto quanto dovevamo fare» (Lc 17,10).

The missing text could be rendered into English thus: It is the disease of those who become masters and who feel superior and not at the service of all. It often stems from the pathology of power, the "complex of the Chosen," the narcissism that looks passionately at its own image and does not see the image of God stamped on the face of others, especially the weak and needy. The antidote to this epidemic is to feel as sinners and say with all the heart, "We are unprofitable servants, we did what we had to do" (Luke 17:10).

The English translation of Curial disease #3 omits the connection of Christians to the humility, selflessness, detachment and generosity as seen the mind of Christ in the description of Philippians 2.

Narcissism is something about which Pope Francis has had a good deal to say. In 2013 in an interview he spoke of it:

However, as we said, Jesus told us that love for one's neighbor is equal to what we have for ourselves. So what many call narcissism is recognized as valid, positive, to the same extent as the other. We've talked a lot about this aspect.

"I don't like the word narcissism", the Pope said, "it indicates an excessive love for oneself and this is not good, it can produce serious damage not only to the soul of those affected but also in relationship with others, with the society in which one lives. The real trouble is that those most affected by this  -  which is actually a kind of mental disorder  -  are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists".

Many church leaders have been."You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."

On another occasion Pope Francis described narcissism as an "ecclesiastical sickness:"

"The theologian who is satisfied with his complete and conclusive thought is mediocre. A good theologian and philosopher is open, or incomplete in thought, always open to the ‘maius’ of God and of the truth, always in development. And the theologian who does not pray or does not adore God ends up sinking into the most repugnant narcissism. And this is an ecclesiastical sickness. Narcissism in theologians and in thinkers is harmful and repugnant.”

It is clear that Pope Francis has given much thought to the ecclesiastical disease of narcissism. It is clear that the Italian text describing diseases in several cases contains more details than the official English text and in the first disease a diagnosis of narcissism. To omit this element of his address is to miss the continuity and development of his thought.

Vatican insiders think the Pope's address was unique. Cardinal Lajolo, the former Vatican governor and foreign minister expresses surprise and says

To be honest, nothing like this has ever happened before'. 'It is the first time this has happened; never before had a Pope set us in the Curia a series of pathologies that we must examine ourselves on.' 
All along, says the cardinal who has been head of some of the most important offices of the Holy See for many years,  'the exchange of Christmas wishes has been a customary occasion, that follows a usual pattern'.

Lajolo points out that for the first time the Pope asks the Curia to examine itself on a number of issues.

In the Pope's address to the Curia we are indeed seeing a strongly worded diagnosis, and critique calling for healing. The force of the Pope's address can be seen in a "tepid reaction" of the assembled Curia in this video from France 24 at 56-59 seconds here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Judaism and Jesus

On Point with Amy-Jill Levine and James Carroll on the topic of Judaism and Jesus

Along the way Amy-Jill Levine talks about her new book mentioned below and comes up with provocative titles for parables/stories like that of the Good Samaritan: "the Good Rapist," for example.

James Carroll, scholar in residence at Suffolk University. Author of the new book “Christ Actually: The Song of God for the Secular Age.” Also author of “Constantine’s Sword,” “Toward a New Catholic Church” and “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” among others. Columnist at the Boston Globe.
Amy-Jill Levine, professor of the New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. Author of “Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi.” Also author of “The Misunderstood Jew.”