It has been quite a while since I’ve posted here at Wince+Sing. There are a variety of reasons for that, but one of them is particularly exciting to me. It has been a joy and privilege to labor alongside others far more gifted than myself in the formation and launch of Greystone Theological Institute. Wince+Sing — whose name is drawn from the Hopkins line, “on an age old anvil, wince and sing” — was the nascent form of the Greystone project, and after the recent hiatus the blog is now able to take a slight turn in its story, a turn in the direction of a more visible link with Greystone. In short, I will post here frequently, but others will as well, especially those connected in some way with the Institute.
This prompts a few remarks on the what and why of Greystone, not least since the Greystone site itself is currently being overhauled and updated (with no completion date yet nailed down).
I’ve noticed that when I’m asked what Greystone is like, I answer differently every time. Depending on my audience, it may be most meaningful to say that Greystone is like a more theologically oriented, institutional version of Mars Hill Audio, which remains among the most stimulating and thoughtful examples of Christian thinking out there. For others, I’ve said Greystone is like First Things, or like L’Abri, or like a rigorous Th.M. program. It’s important for others to learn that it is not a seminary but instead exists in purposeful complementary relationship to standard, existing seminary programs. Greystone courses serve as M.A., M.Div., S.T.M., Th.M., or Ph.D. electives for seminaries and universities who accept them as such (it is always the decision of the receiving institution, not Greystone). Our friends at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, for instance, with whom Greystone also has a library-use partnership, is one institution that recognizes Greystone courses as for-credit electives. It is possible, too, that a seminary may partner with Greystone to recognize one of our certificate programs as a modular option for their own Th.M. or S.T.M. degrees. Again, it is up to the receiving institution.
But Greystone is more than academic offerings. It is also a local resource for bringing together area clergy, scholars, and postgraduate or ministerial students for discussion, reflection, prayer, feasting, and constructive theological labor. Thus, I have found it is difficult to pound Greystone’s into a few words of soundbite description.
Greystone has been formed to provide training for scholars especially in the Reformed tradition, and its goal is to rehabilitate and encourage excellence in Reformed theology, biblical studies, and ethics in the mode of a deep confessional catholicity. There is thus a perceived lack with Greystone endeavors to help address, yet the vision is thoroughly positive rather than critical. Theology in the mode of a deep confessional Reformed catholicity is a faithful way to capture what makes the history and reality (rather than the myth) of the Westminster Assembly so compelling, and of course commending “Reformed catholicity” in one form or another has become a popular thing to do. For its part, Greystone aims for a “Reformed catholicity” that is impossible to confuse with mere breadth or variety, but which confidently yet humbly locates properly Christian theology in the Church’s long and deep tradition of theological thinking about the Scriptures who bear witness to Lord Jesus Christ.
To this end, Greystone offers a variety of advanced courses, and organizes them into two clusters, one theological and one ministerial. The theological cluster is self-evident; the ministerial one is somewhat subversive: it aims to recover the “theology” in “pastoral theology” and to redirect the Church’s momentum away from the professionalization of pastoral life and toward the old paths of patient, attentive, thoughtful, theological, and if possible scholarly ministry.
Yet the clustered courses – Greystone’s two Certificates – aren’t the whole picture, either. The Greystone vision is old-new in yet another key respect: theology in the mode of prayer and communion. Greystone holds events that are designed simply to get people talking theologically in comfortable chairs with quality wine in hand, or at table with laughter as free-flowing as opinion. Events are deliberately constructed so that periods of intense lectures or study are punctuated not only with times of pleasant feasting but also with prayer. As much as the open-access library, study spaces for visitors on sabbatical, and other elements of Greystone, this combination of study, discussion, and hospitality with prayer is an indispensable feature of the Greystone way.
A number of excellent scholars are invested in the Greystone vision, believing it is a timely and important endeavor. They teach for Greystone, or talk about it, or write or call to urge us onward and upward. It is a most humbling and joyful experience to see it.
In some cases, conversations with enthusiastic supporters yields a desire to see the Greystone way take root in other academic or ecclesial environments. These days, there are Greystone partnerships or programs under discussion domestically and internationally. Among our most cherished partnerships is the Davenant Latin Institute, a project with substantial overlap with the Greystone vision. Davenant is Greystone’s ordinary vehicle for satisfying all Latin requirements for a Certificate. (If you haven’t kept up with Davenant, it’s time to start.)
In addition to Greystone’s main programs and offerings, two principal research arms of Greystone, formed to address specific areas of theological inquiry and practical faithfulness, are taking their first steps as well. Michael Sacasas, elder in a PCA congregation in central Florida and an outstanding young thinker in the emerging field of texts and technology, will direct Greystone’s Center for the Study of Ethics and Technology (CSET). This is a project worth keeping a close eye on.
It is also a great privilege to work alongside Dr Valerie Hobbs of Sheffield University in the work of Greystone’s Lydia Center for Women and Families. (Note that some of the Lydia-Center-type of posts that have appeared here will also be copied over to the Lydia site, where that material will find fuller development.) Dr Hobbs, Lydia Center’s associate director, is a perceptive voice in Reformed circles with expert skills in the tools of linguistic analysis. A member of a Reformed church in Sheffield and a graduate of Covenant College, Dr Hobbs is able to bring a fresh perspective to issues of Christian discourse and its relationship to gender and family questions.
Both Centers were formed in early 2015 and are poised to encourage thoughtful and fruitful work in areas of great importance to Christian faith and life. In addition to book reviews, articles, and interviews already in preparation, the inaugural Lydia annual symposium will likely take place in September of this year.
Time does not permit me to speak, too, of The Greystone Review, also in development, and of a variety of other Greystone vehicles and tools for advancing the cause of confessional Reformed Christianity in a new era of challenges and opportunities. Wince+Sing will serve as one voice among others in the Greystone effort, and I hope you will stay tuned. The foregoing can’t begin to serve as a full commendation of what Greystone is after, but I’ve discovered that, for many people, simply describing its goals often serves as sufficient rationale for the effort. Even more, I hope you will consider partnering with this ambitious, energetic group of scholar, clergy, and students in prayer, encouragement, and perhaps also financially. Your support is greatly appreciated.