In the face of world poverty, terrorism, disease, warfare and so much else to attract attention and concern, why should theological education be a priority? How can it help us change the world? “I don’t think reflection is ever a luxury or an optional extra - it’s part of being human, of being a Christian human being and what distinctive perspective Christianity brings to the human condition.” Those are words of the Most Revd Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the priority which Anglican Christians should give to theological education.
The problem which the worldwide Anglican community generally faces today is not a lack of specialists in theology but not enough practical expression of theological education in every area of Church life. One of the difficulties is the need for better theological understanding ‘in the pew’, that is, among Christians who occupy the most important role in the Church, that of faithful, baptized disciples. A generally low level of biblical and theological awareness among disciples of Christ is the root of the problem.
But that works its way through to others in the Church - to lay leaders, deacons, priests and bishops. Simply because these may have had some formal theological education does not guarantee that they are able to think theologically or, as the old Prayer Book puts it, ‘Christianly’.
In 2002, the meeting of Anglican archbishops and presiding bishops - the ‘Primates’ - set up a working party on theological education: Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (TEAC).
TEAC has set up a number of specialist groups to investigate what is and is not being done to help Anglican disciples and the various ministers of the Church with their understanding and practice of theology - ‘God talk’. Alongside this is a study of what it means to be an Anglican, to follow ‘the Anglican Way’, which emphasises the importance of theology in practice - liturgy, hymnody and meeting the challenges of daily Christian living.
TEAC is chaired by the Primate of the Southern Cone of South America, the Most Revd Gregory Venables; its secretary is the Revd Robert Paterson from the Church in Wales; and its co-ordinator is Clare Amos from the Anglican Communion Office. More than forty specialists from across the world are associated with TEAC and met for a week in Bristol, England during June 2004. At that meeting, they were addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a pre-recorded interview, which is available for £10.00 or $20 from Clare Amos at the Anglican Communion Office. Our aim is “Anglican Christians who know what they believe and why they believe; who are able to make connections between bits of their faith” - knowing how to make connections between faith and life.
The meeting held by TEAC in Bristol was made possible by a generous grant awarded by the St Augustine's Foundation, Canterbury. This Foundation supports a number of innovative theological education initiatives in various parts of the Anglican Communion. The officers and members of TEAC would like to express their thanks for this support, and particularly to the Revd Canon Richard Marsh, Chair of the Foundation.
For more information about the work of TEAC please contact the co-ordinator, Clare Amos at firstname.lastname@example.org
See also the TEAC website at www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/theological/