Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bloggingthe GOEs: Question 4

Diligent readers may notice that COD has skipped question 3 from the GOEs. The topic of this question was Ethics and Moral Theology; please do not presume skipping the question means that COD is promoting unethical or amoral behavior, or holds the noble disciplines in any kind of disdain. Rather, the question included a 1750 extract from an essay as part of the question, and COD did not feel like including that in its entirety -- you needed the essay to get the question, and, frankly, COD didn't feel like wasting that much ink. Short summary of Set 3: The question was a good one (on stewardship of the environment), making a 40-year-old essay the centerpiece was a head-scratcher.

Similarly diligent readers may notice that COD did not blog yesterday -- it was the day off from GOEs (two on, two off, break in the middle) and COD honored the GOE sabbath. Plus COD spent most of the afternoon at the Apple Store, listen to a fusillade of gibberish at the Genius Bar before finally interrupting, "So what you're saying is a I need a new phone." Armed with a 3 1/2 year old 8gb 3G that has been sitting in a drawer since I upgraded to a 3GS, COD is back on the case. It's like having one's own time machine, remembering those halcyon days of the fall of 2008. We were all a bit more innocent then, a time before Birds were so Angry.

As they say in the great state of Wisconsin, Forward? (punctuation supplied; state motto has no punctuation)

Question 4 follows at the end of this post, if you need to read it before reading COD's gloss.

Almost every GOE has a WTF question (COD hopes his readers know what that acronym stands for). Initially, COD hoped that Question 4 was the WTF question for this exam -- unfortunately, however, upon reading the question a second time COD feels the students still have their WTF awaiting them. Initially COD thought, "These two initial components of the question make no sense."

An Anglican understanding of the Holy Spirit? What do Anglicans have that we have not received from the broader Christian tradition of the first 1500 years? Three specifically Anglican/Episcopal resources? Prayer Book and Hymnal immediately come to mind...does the Oxford Bible count as an Anglican resource since Oxford is a university where Anglicanism is the established church? You mean we have to come up with a theologian?

And the second part of the first question - What are the marks of the Holy Spirit? Again, very interesting -- in a classical or modern understanding? On the church as a whole or in the life of the individual Christian?

If that was not enough, there is part 2 of the question, which is the really difficult part: coming up with how the Holy Spirit informs and energizes the work of the Episcopal Church today. Normally Episcopalians expend tremendous amount of energy working to stifle the Holy Spirit.

Once again, the context of the question is important: this is an open printed resources, but no internet or electronic resources question. Which speaks to COD's real issues with the GOEs, which he will get to at the end after blogging the individual questions -- COD is not opposed to some kind of standard ordination exam, but has some real issues with the process of the GOEs, not the concept of the GOEs. This question reveals just one problem: open printed resources. Here at Bexley Hall we have four people taking the exam who live over 2 hours away. They couldn't pack up their whole libraries and drive down here to take the exam. The GOE still seems to work on the model that students in their dormitories on campus can have access to their entire set of books from their courses sitting in their room or apartment, or even run over to the seminary library which is just a quick walk away for any printed resources. What about people with mobility issues who can't sprint somewhere and back? What about a commuter who can't lug their entire library for a week to some dingy dorm room?

So open printed resources sets up a very different playing field for different people, which means not everyone is taking the exam in the same way. Any examination which has something like this built into it is inherently flawed.

But back to the question. At first blush, COD thought this was an odd question, but on second reading it is an excellent one. It asks students to integrate what Anglicanism has received as part of its heritage of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church -- but also look at some particular Anglican developments. The Wesleys, after all, were Anglican priests. Charles and John's hymns as resources? The Holy Spirit plays an important role in Richard Hooker's work. For some Anglicans, the evangelical revival is important; even Anglo-Catholics could opine about regeneration by the Spirit in the sacraments. The Catechism in the Prayer Book would be a good resource. Crusty Old Dean presided at the Eucharist this morning on the feast of Epiphany and found himself thinking, "You know, Prayer D has a pretty good definition of the Spirit's work."

Of course, having received a Master of Theology degree from a Greek Orthodox Seminary, COD would have had to resist the urge to pen a 1,500 word philippic against the heresy of the filioque, but, then again, this is probably why COD was given "inadequate" in church history and theology on his own GOEs 18 years ago. Oddly enough, the readers and graders of this exam don't like it when people use their answers to argue. They actually want the question answered!

Further, the second part of the question is equally important to the first. It forms an important integrative function -- how is the Holy Spirit functioning in the church today -- and also even hints at theory and practice of ministry, allowing students the opportunity to note where in their ministries to this point they have seen the Spirit operative.

COD hopes the GOE readers still have some of their mojo left. As one student said at the mid-GOE cocktail hour Wednesday night, "I don't know why everyone complains about the GOE, it's been pretty fair so far."

Kids these days. Crusty Old Dean walked uphill in the snow to take the GOEs! Come on, General Board of Examining Chaplains, please let me know there's a WTF question among the remaining three!

Set 4

Set 4: Christian Theology and Missiology

Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.


In an essay of not more than 1,500 words:

1. What is the Episcopal/Anglican theological understanding of the Holy Spirit? For your answer, draw broadly on appropriate sources from the Christian tradition, including (but not limited to) three specifically Episcopal/Anglican sources. What are the marks of the work of the Holy Spirit?

2. Making use of your response in Part 1, choose three examples to show how the Holy Spirit's work informs, shapes, energizes and directs the life and work of The Episcopal Church today.

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