Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ! General Synod 2007 of the Anglican Church of Canada is now over, having drawn a wider than usual interest from the media due to its debate of the issue of same-sex unions. The unity of the Anglican Church both among ourselves and with our international brothers and sisters has been preserved after the defeat of the motion for a “local option.” At the same time many come away from the Synod confused by what seems a jumble of resolutions moving in different directions. At the very least it demonstrates the great and continuing need for serious theological resources for the Church!
None but God knows what the future holds. Still this would seem a good time to reiterate what Wycliffe College stands for, and what it intends to do in the period before us. The answer is that it will continue to be Wycliffe College. Even prior to the last few years’ crisis in our communion, we have had our own Statement of Moral Vision which aligns the College with the traditional teaching of the Church. This will not change. We, like most theological colleges, are a freestanding body which is not under the direct control of the Church, though of course we labor on behalf of the renewal and welfare of the Church. I have argued often that the best analogy is that of a mission society, which is part of the larger life of the Church, but not enmeshed in its governance structure. Truth be told, Wycliffe College existed before the General Synod itself!
As a result, we will continue to do the things we were doing before this event. We will continue to be a traditional voice on the Church scene in a charitable key. We will continue to be a theological institution, not a political one, though theology at its best should have implications for our common life. Our professors will continue to play a role on the Anglican theological stage, as we offer our skills on behalf of the on-going counsels of the Church. We will continue to express our creedal faith in the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” as we articulate the case for the Windsor process within Anglicanism. We will continue to welcome visiting bishops from a wide variety of perspectives to the College. We will continue to offer an open and hospitable intellectual environment where questions, and students’ “talking back” are encouraged and enjoyed. We will continue to prepare pastors who are solid theologically even as they are subtle and empathetic pastorally. We will continue to be fully engaged in the rich and diverse ecumenical setting that is the Toronto School of Theology. We will continue to be proud of, and welcome heartily, all our alumni into the wide range of our activities. How appropriate that our new professor of historical theology, the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, will give his inaugural lecture in the context of a SEAD Conference in October devoted to the future of global Anglicanism. We have for some time welcomed students from a number of Protestant denominations. We will continue to accept qualified students from any diocese or jurisdiction. Finally, and in some ways most importantly, we will continue to be an institution that is about “reclaiming faith.’ By that I mean the conviction that the traditional moral and theological doctrines of the Church are not relics, nor shackles, but rather aids to formation by the Word that brings life. Any survey of the contemporary theological scene will confirm that this is the direction in which the greater vitality and creativity are to be found.
Wycliffe College is on the move. We have one exciting hire already this spring and several more to announce soon. We have strong student enrollment, high morale, and new programs. We are undeterred. As always, I encourage feedback, and hope that many will be in touch and share their own thoughts, hopes, concerns, and advice at this important juncture in the Anglican Church’s life.
The Rev. Canon Dr. George Sumner
Principal and Helliwell Professor of World Missions