Candler’s Episcopal and Anglican Studies Program has a long history, beginning in the early 1970s with the vision of Bennett J. Sims, Bishop of Atlanta, who hoped to develop a program for ministry formation that would be actively engaged with the world. An ecumenical seminary that was part of a great research university in an urban center was an ideal context, so in consultation with Bishop Sims and Candler Dean James Laney, the Rev. Dr. Charles “Ted” Hackett designed a trial program, combining the existing MDiv curriculum with select courses that would cover the canonical requirements of The Episcopal Church. In addition, students would work in local parishes for a minimum of 10 hours a week, participating in all facets of church life, supervised and mentored by an experienced Episcopal priest. The core of the program was to be the weekly “Supervised Ministry” seminar (now Contextual Education), involving intense theological reflection on issues and incidents from the students’ parish placements, in an attempt to identify, name and plumb the theological meaning of the ordinary, often frustrating events that make up pastoral life. The weekly seminar would conclude with the main liturgical component of the program, the Eucharist. Hackett was appointed the first director of Episcopal Studies, a role he would serve for more than 30 years, with Emory’s Episcopal chaplain, the Rev. Nancy Baxter, co-leading the weekly program for more than 20 of those years.
Over the years, the program has grown in size and consistency. The weekly Solemn Evensong and Eucharist now attracts dozens of worshippers, and classes with roots in the program, such as the history and theology of the Eucharist, include students from many denominations. Candler’s Anglican and Episcopal students are daily confronted with the realities of living, studying and worshipping in an ecumenical setting—a seminary of over 400 students from every denomination and tradition in the Christian family—that forces them to define themselves as Anglicans. They benefit from a world-class faculty and a premier theological library, plus the resources of the Emory campus as a whole. Like the parishioners they serve, they must commute in city traffic, tend to families and homes, and find their community and spiritual resources in the midst of urban life.
In 2008, Candler undertook a self-study to determine ways to build on the program’s historic strengths, enhance its contribution to the training of Episcopal priests, and increase the number of students in the program. An Advisory Board was formed and charged with promoting the program locally and throughout The Episcopal Church, integrating the Episcopal and Anglican Studies program more fully and intentionally with the wider Candler curriculum, and involving alumni in the ongoing development of the program. Now more than ever, Candler provides an array of opportunities for Anglican spiritual formation, academic excellence and ecumenical conversation. Candler’s ongoing commitment to Episcopal and Anglican Studies makes it a destination program for Anglican and Episcopal students who seek the best theological education and priestly formation possible.