09 May, 2013

Q&A: What do Thomasine Seminarians Read?

Q: Bishop, I'm curious about what kinds of texts seminarians study while preparing for ordination in your church. Can you tell me about the kinds of texts read?

A: We don't really have a formal seminary to speak of. There's an old English concept called "Reading for Orders" where one studies under the tutelage of a bishop. I try to be reasonably thorough with those I prepare for ordination and ask students to read and discuss a variety of topics. Many of these books are in fact read by all initiates of the Thomasine Church as a part of the theological and philosophical education we encourage every initiate to pursue.

For example, every initiate is encouraged to read Elaine Pagel's The Gnostic Gospels and German theologian Hans Kung's The Catholic Church. We also tend to discuss various hypotheses like Robert Eisenman's James as The Righteous Teacher at Qumran and the development of Pauline vs. Jamesian/Jewish Christianity in small group settings. We make use of handouts and other materials to do this, as asking every initiate to read, say a 1600 page treatise on the role of James in the early church is a bit much.

The core goal of Thomasine education is to produce an intellectually sound understanding and context for the development of Early Christianity.

The master reading list contains somewhere around 40-45 titles. The exact number is currently in flux.

Those studying for ordination are expected to have an understanding of Homiletics (how to preach effectively), Pastoral Care, the development of theology and dogma in orthodox Christianity, the Philosophy of Mind, and Cognitive Neuroscience in addition to the topics covered with all initiates.

If an initiate wants to pursue preaching in a local Thomasine group or undertake non-ordained pastoral care work, we also work with the individual initiate's needs and desires.

Outside of this, every initiate is encouraged to read, discuss, and debate as widely as they like.

Q: How you you decide what to share with initiates and non-initiates? 

A: I'll share the basics of Thomasine philosophy and technique with pretty much anyone who asks; we'll talk about the foundations of our philosophy, like Ignorance and Arrogance and Perception and Observation; I'll teach a basic meditation like Luminescent Water or Centering Prayer. This is also the stuff that will probably be covered in my new book, which will hopefully be done in 2014. Also, absolutely everyone is welcome for our Liturgy (AKA The Leitourgia) provided it isn't being celebrated in a private home. Our Liturgy is also an active and corporate (e.g. group) meditation. 

The practices and philosophy that require more one on one mentoring and discussion are those I tend to reserve for people who are, or are seriously considering becoming, Initiates. This is mostly due to logistics; the Thomasine philosophy relies on an individual relationship and interaction between teacher and student; it's how the Thomasine Church was designed to work. So, at some point you're going to have to officially join if you want to go deeper with our method of practice. 

Q: The new website is pretty! It seems like you've been quiet for a while. What else are you working on?

A: Thanks. It's actually a template called Zion by Vandelay Design. While I have a decent knowledge of HTML, CSS, and various technologies, I absolutely suck at design.

I have been a bit quieter than I might like on the Thomasine front over the last few years; I've had some family and personal circumstances that have left me with little time for this kind of work. The next two months will be very busy, so you may not hear from me very often until after August.

I am working on a pod/vodcast called Enormous Fiction (thanks Iraneus!). I hope to start that endeavor sometime in late July or early August as time permits. I am also working on the outline for my new book; I am currently waffling over whether or not to include a chapter on the history of modern Gnosticism and the new Gnostic churches; I tend to agree with Jeremy Puma on the state of modern Gnosticism, and I think he has done an admirable job making the case for Gnosis without Gnosticism. I'll probably need to wear a flameproof mitre if I do include said chapter.

Q: Do you use social media at all? It's like you're a ghost!

A: I do have both a Facebook account and a Twitter feed. I reserve Facebook for friends, family, and colleagues I have extant relationships with; I don't tend to add readers or students as friends.

However, you can follow me on Twitter. I tend to talk about video games, politics, and other non-Gnostic things on Twitter, although I do sometimes write a tweet about Gnostic stuff.

You can also reach me via the Thomasine Eparchy of Florida's website by clicking here

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