What is Trinity House for? Three things: We aim to advance the reformation of the church and, through the church, to promote the renewal of culture; in furthering reformation, we aspire to be a site of fraternal, charitable ecumenical debate; and to deepen reformation, we want to facilitate theological scholarship, especially in the areas of biblical and liturgical theology.
Most of what I describe below exists only in the fevered visions of the Board and Fellows of Trinity House. But dreams and visions are not nothing. The Spirit of Pentecost continues to inspire old and young and gives the church the prophetic power to speak new worlds into being.
This is the world we dream of.
Reformation first. God hid three gifts in the ark within the Most Holy Place – the tablets of the law, a jar of manna, and the budding rod of Aaron; God’s word, His food, and the staff of His shepherd. Jesus is our ark, our Most Holy Place. He is the Word tabernacled in flesh, true bread from heaven, our good Shepherd and great high Priest. By His advent, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus is the manifold gift that constitutes the church through the Spirit as the renewed people of God.
Every reformation of the church is a reappropriation of these gifts. The entire body of Christ is brought to new life and maturity through resurgence of biblical teaching, the revival of sacramental worship, and the renewal of the pastoral office. Trinity House will encourage reformation the church by teaching the whole Bible to pastors, seminary students, and lay men and women; by training pastors to lead worship and members of the royal priesthood to participate with understanding; by forming courageous, compassionate, and creative ministers of Word and Sacrament; by encouraging believers to take God’s gifts into their homes, their work, their leisure, so that their spending and saving and giving, their political choices and cultural tastes are remade according to the gospel.
Our intensive courses, conferences, distance courses, and residential training programs in Scripture and liturgy will be the backbone of our work. Our web site and e-newsletter, In Medias Res, will provide a continuous stream of essays on biblical, liturgical, and cultural themes. James Jordan will head up a translation project that will produce a Psalter and fresh translations of selected biblical books. Trinity House will publish liturgies shaped by Scripture and the liturgical tradition of the catholic church.
Every reformation reaches back into church history for inspiration and wisdom, but no true reformation merely reinstates the past. We hope to contribute to a new pattern of church life that clings more passionately to the Scriptures and to the confession of God’s grace and manifests the image of Christ more fully in the world. We hope to encourage the establishment of churches where the whole Bible is taught in the power of the Spirit, and where God’s commands are obeyed; churches where the Eucharist is celebrated every week in assemblies characterized by vigorous Psalm-singing and joyful liturgy and earnest prayer; churches whose pastors diligently shepherd their people by word and example, exhortation, encouragement, and rebuke; churches whose members have been formed by the Spirit of Jesus as faithful priests, fearless kings, and prayerful prophets to carry out Jesus’ ministry and mission in the world.
That’s the world we dream of.
Ecumenism second: Jesus Christ is one, and His body is called to be one. For centuries, the church has been a site and source of war rather than peace. The church of the modern age has been marked more by Babelic confusion than by Pentecostal harmony. Some of the divisions are the result of righteous protests against corruptions of Christ’s body. Many have been the result of pride, anger, ambition, and hateful prejudice. But that has been changing. Despite many failures, false starts, and disappointments, the determination of Christians from every tradition to engage with one another on the doctrines and practices that divide us in order to seek the unity to which God calls us, is one of the most heartening developments of the past century. One of the concrete effects of genuine reformation will be growing love and visible unity among the churches.
Trinity House aspires to be a center of ecumenical discussion. Beginning in February 2014, Trinity House will sponsor the annual Nevin Lectures. Nevin lecturers will be theologians from outside our own Reformed Protestantism who will deliver a series of lectures on a contested topic or topics. Baptists will lecture on baptism, Pentecostals on the Pentecostal gifts. We will learn about Luther from Lutherans, and we will hear Catholics argue for Catholic views of the sacraments, Mary, and the Papacy. As Trinity House fellows engage with the Nevin Lecturers, we hope to learn from and correct one another, and along the way to offer a model of vigorous, charitable, and fraternal debate.
Trinity House will also launch the Metropolitan Project. Denominational loyalties have been weakening, and Trinity House believes that the future lies in cultivating a metropolitan model of cooperative ministry among churches. The Lord works in astonishing ways when leaders from various churches take responsibility together for the health of the whole church in their city and respond to God’s call to seek the shalom of the city in which they live. Trinity House will promote this vision of metropolitan catholicity in cities across the U.S. and around the world.
We hope to help grow churches that better manifest their one Lord, their one faith and one baptism, churches that are visibly one as the Father and Son are one; churches where the Lord’s table is open to all baptized believers; pastors who are spiritual guides to civic and cultural leaders and who join with other local pastors to speak all of God’s word to the powerful and in defense of the defenseless; churches whose members, formed by Word and Sacrament, serve their cities in prayer and self-sacrificing ministry, doing justice and loving mercy.
That’s the world we dream of.
Finally, theological scholarship: Trinity House believes that theological work is necessary for the health and vibrancy of the church, both to refute heretical deviations and to apply the gospel to the church and the world. To accomplish her mission, the church must elaborate and defend, as well as preach the gospel. Already in the apostolic period, Paul’s letters both proclaimed and expounded the gospel. Patient, rigorous, detailed explication of the Scriptures is one of the Spirit’s tools for shaping the church and for equipping her to leave a deep impact on the world around her. Theology is not a distraction from preaching or a deviation from the church’s mission. It is inherent in that mission.
In the contemporary church, scholarship and mission have sometimes been at odds, as theologians have sometimes forgotten their calling to edify the church. At Trinity House, we believe that all theology is pastoral theology. Even the most abstruse dogmatics and arcane historical research is pastoral ministry designed to edify and build the church.
Trinity House will promote ecclesial scholarship by supporting the work of its fellows. We will offer prizes for the best new work in biblical theology and liturgics, and will publish important dissertations and books. Our in-residence program will mentor future theologians as well as future pastors. Trinity House will invite visiting scholars to collaborate in research and conversation with our fellows.
We hope to help produce a generation of theologians who know and love the whole Bible, who understand the times, and who devote all their intellectual energies to serving Jesus and His church; we will sponsor publication of creatively orthodox work that breaks new ground in understanding Scripture and the gospel, and books that will edify the church in future generations; we dream of shaping a generation of lay believers who know the Bible in depth, teach the Scriptures in their homes, and proclaim the gospel in word and action in their lives.
That’s the world we dream of.
We don’t pretend to be alone in promoting the reformation of the church and the renewal of culture through the reappropriation of God’s gifts of Word, Bread, and Rod. We don’t pretend that we can make the world we dream of by ourselves. But we believe that God has called us to this work and trust Him to enable us to make our visions visible.