Jan 7 2011

Both/And at Candler

Seminaries really are different from each other.  It’s important to get some sense of the culture of a school before attending.  As a United Methodist student at Candler many years ago, I was impressed with its willingness to struggle with the consequences of opening its M.Div. program to a mere handful of us women students (we’re talking the early 70’s here!) and to listen to us as we challenged some sacred traditions and assumptions about theological education and ministry during that time of change in our church.

Today, Candler is, of course, very different!  While some seminaries are still struggling with the very idea of accepting women as students, Candler discovered a long time ago, in its very identity as a United Methodist school, the theological and practical foundations for its openness to different denominations, cultures, and people.

Candler is unique in its commitment to claim, value, and be held accountable in its relationship to our parent denomination, The United Methodist Church, and at the same time, strongly emphasize its commitment to ecumenicity in its programming, courses, faculty, and students.  Methodists at Candler learn BOTH what it means to be distinctively Methodist AND a member of the greater Body of Christ, the universal Church.

This was the brilliance of the Wesleyan revival.  John Wesley addressed his message to those who were either formally or informally excluded from the Church of England – especially, the poor, women, and people of color.  He encountered, debated, and communed with leaders from other traditions.  Lay speakers and formerly Anglican clergy traveled to places far beyond England to advance the revival.  Wesley linked vital piety with social outreach, local with global outreach, poor with rich, his “both/and” list goes on and on.

This is just one example of how Candler is a “both/and” place!  While a Methodist at Candler, one is also in relationship and dialogue with others who reflect the “real” world in which we are called to serve.

And this “both/and” characteristic of our community extends deeply into the fibers of our woven life together.  It helps us discover the weaknesses and ever-increasing uselessness of dichotomies that are used in the “real” world to divide us, dichotomies like “liberal or conservative” and “straight or gay” and “evangelical or ‘not’” and “US or global”.

And, it opens us up to the possibilities of reframing our conversations, reimagining our communities in new ways, and giving us the tools to offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people otherwise unreached, isolated, or harmed by society and the Church.

-Dr. Anne Burkholder

Dr. Burkholder serves as the Associate Dean of Methodist Studies and Professor in the Practice of Ecclesiology and Church Leadership at Candler and is an ordained elder in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.  She helps Candler students through multiple stages of the UMC candidacy process, serves as a liaison to annual conferences and general agencies, and oversees the Course of Study, a non-degree training program for UM pastors who do not seek ordination. Her current research interests include Pastoral Ethics, Women in Religious Leadership and Administration, and United Methodist Polity.