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Forgiveness at Andover-Newton?

Forgiveness at Andover-Newton?

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, an alum of Andover-Newton Theological School, reflects on today’s inauguration of the Rev. Martin Copenhaver as its president in the wake of Copenhaver’s extra-marital affair:

It is not judgmental or un-Christian to resist the urge to move immediately from knowledge of someone’s long deceit to warm “forgiveness” so that one’s seminary president can be inaugurated as the official head of the institution. In the Congregational Way, forgiveness of an individual who has sinned began with a confession before the congregation, but did not conclude there. It is possible to forgive someone but still not feel that they are the best possible person to represent one’s institution in the top leadership role.

Finally, I am interested in this moment as an analyzer of clergy image. I have seen Martin Copenhaver preach and lead worship, and he fulfills every physical attribute that most New Englander’s have in their mental image of Trustworthy Pastor. I am proud of Andover-Newton Theological School’s commitment to studying and teaching anti-racist/anti-oppression theologies of justice, and think it legitimate in this situation to examine the ways most members of the community have been socialized to respect the power and authority of able-bodied, white, heterosexual, married men in the Church. We are all responsible for understanding unconscious needs and scripts that are being activated here. Andover-Newton has a large international student body for whom these unconscious associations are not in play. I crave their perspective but have not had a chance to hear it.

No one has had sufficient time to hear anything. That is how shock works in a system. I will not be attending tomorrow’s Inauguration out of respect for the community’s shock, anger and legitimate unanswered questions, out of respect for the ministerial fitness review process that I believe is warranted here, and as a protest against what I feel was a premature and immature plea for forgiveness on behalf of a fairly sequestered body of busy volunteer leaders that is responsible for the fiscal well-being of the seminary. I do not blame the board for its decision; I simply think it was the wrong one. They have made their decision, and communicated it to the wider community. Now it is time for us to respond, and I hope we will.

God be with us all, and move in our community as holy wisdom.


For the full reflection please visit Victoria’s blog here.


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