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NASHOTAH HOUSE: "We are intentional about staying true to the faith once delivered to the saints" -- Dr. Steven Peay

NASHOTAH HOUSE: "We are intentional about staying true to the faith once delivered to the saints" -- Dr. Steven Peay

VIRTUEONLINE obtained an exclusive interview with the new President and Dean of Nashotah House, the Rev. Dr. Steven A. Peay, 61, at the recent International Catholic Congress of Anglicans (ICCA) in Ft. Worth, Texas.

By David W. Virtue DD
July 28, 2015

In a wide-ranging interview, the new scholarly president of Nashotah House and former Roman Catholic monk who holds a PhD from St. Louis University, an MDiv in Historical Theology from St. Vincent Seminary, an MA in Systematic Theology and MDiv from St. Vincent; and MA in Rhetoric and Communication from St. Vincent Seminary with a BA in Systematic Theology/Church History from Greenville College, IL, told of his pilgrimage from a life in a monastic community to marriage and latterly to the leadership of Nashotah House, a seminary in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Leaving monastic life in 1994, Peay devoted himself to parish work for the next fifteen years in Congregational churches in Wisconsin (Madison and Wauwatosa), while continuing to research, write and teach in various venues. Peay came to Nashotah House as adjunct professor of Church History in 2008 and was elected to the faculty in 2010. His orders were received in August 2010 and he is now a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany.

Father Peay's research has been largely focused on the American religious experience, its movements, and ecclesial expressions. While his earlier research centered on the history of preaching, Peay has also worked on Puritanism and Congregationalism and is currently examining parallel movements for the recovery of the catholicity of the Church, i.e. Mercersburg and Oxford. His publications include editing four books, articles and reviews in The International Congregational Journal, The Catholic Historical Review, The Congregationalist, a reference article in The Encyclopedia of Protestantism, and theological commentaries on the Triduum Psalmody in Feasting on the Word (year A). Peay was married to his wife Julie in 1996 and is the proud stepfather of Jeremy and Matthew.

VOL: Nashotah House is an Anglo-Catholic institution following the ideals of the Oxford Movement. You say your programs are centered upon orthodox faith, catholic teaching, Anglo-Catholic tradition, evangelical mission, and spirit filled witness. How have you stayed orthodox when the Episcopal Church and most of its seminaries have become largely heterodox in faith and morals?

PEAY: Because we have stayed true to the core tradition as a faculty. We are intentional about staying true to the faith once delivered to the saints.

VOL: Your seminary is recognized by the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in North America, the Episcopal Missionary Church, and the North American Lutheran Church, among others. Nashotah House is a center for High Church theology, discipline, since 1842 providing the highest quality of leaders, both lay and ordained, for the mission of the Church. Are your graduates and ordinands finding work in The Episcopal Church or are you being shut out of some dioceses?

PEAY: Yes, they are finding work. Our placement rate is close to 100%. If I had more TEC students, I could place them.

VOL: I would imagine that you would have no difficulty finding work for ordinands in sympatico dioceses like Albany, Springfield, and perhaps Central Florida, but what about dioceses like Newark, Los Angeles, and San Francisco?

PEAY: We place grads in dioceses with liberal bishops who won't send us students, but will take priests who are trained at Nashotah House. We even have some placed in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

VOL: How many students do you have studying at Nashotah House?

PEAY: We have 133 in three divisions: 32 residential students in hybrid distance programs, 44 in advanced degree programs, and 57 in DMin programs.

VOL: What is the male to female mix?

PEAY: Living in residential, 28 male and 4 female. In distance learning, we have 32 men and 12 women, and studying for advanced degrees, 61 men and six women. All told, we have 22 females and 113 males.

VOL: What is the average age of students coming in to study at NH?

PEAY: Residentially it is 35, Hybrid 50, advanced degree programs it is 45.

VOL: Are there women being trained for the priesthood at Nashotah House?

PEAY: Yes. It is up to their bishop. They come for the classical training.

VOL: Do you have any ordained women on the staff of Nashotah House?


VOL: Do you allow women to administer the sacraments in chapel?

PEAY: Women function in all ways save sacerdotally. Officially, they serve and can function as deacons and preach but they cannot celebrate the Eucharist.

VOL: There are some 11 Episcopal Seminaries -- though I think the correct number is nearer nine -- but most are in serious financial and theological trouble, including most recently General Theological Seminary and Episcopal Divinity School. The two exceptions are Nashotah House and Trinity School for Ministry (TSM) in Ambridge. Why do you think that is the case?

PEAY: We have had some financial difficulties. In terms of theology, it is because we are true to the core and TSM is true to their core.

VOL: How is Nashotah House doing financially? Can you provide full or partial scholarships to students?

PEAY: We can provide scholarships...what we are doing more and more, and we are encouraging teaching students to raise their own and support and match it.

VOL: What is the average age of incoming students?

PEAY: Between 28-30. We matriculate between 15 to 18 residentially each year.

VOL: The Episcopal Church recently had its General Convention in Salt Lake City. Did anything come out of that that worries you, gives you pause? How will the passage of gay marriage in TEC impact the ministry of NH?

PEAY: It will impact us like everyone else. We are not changing who we are. Our Trustees have set the policy. They are laid out in our statement of belief on how we navigate this situation while staying and teaching our core teaching. I rejoiced that the conscience clause will persevere.

VOL: Do you have any gay students at NH?

PEAY: I don't know of any, but if we did, they would have to be chaste, meaning no sex.

VOL: The Episcopal Church now has a new Presiding Bishop in the person of Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina. Will you honor him with a DD or will you have a wait and see policy?

PEAY: Honorary doctorates are the province of the Trustees, not the faculty. We have invited him to campus.

VOL: You recently had son of Sewanee Jon Meacham speak at Nashotah House. While recognizing that he is an historian and noted scholar, he also hates the ACNA and wrote a withering condemnation of Archbishop Robert Duncan over his views on homosexuality and gay marriage in the final issue of NEWSWEEK. Did that concern you?

PEAY: I was not aware of that. He was not my invitation. Bishop Ed Salmon invited him.

VOL: One of the stumbling blocks for Anglo Catholics is Article XXVIII. OF THE LORD'S SUPPER

Here is how it reads: "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions." Anglo Catholics regularly refer to the Eucharist as the Mass. That bothers a lot of evangelical Anglicans who believe in the Real Presence but not transubstantiation. How do you reconcile this?

PEAY: It is just one way to talk about the real presence and there are multiple ways to talk about it. There is a Real Presence and that is what is important.

VOL: Allow me to touch on a more delicate issue. There is an increasing number of Anglo-Catholic priests coming out as homosexual with many demanding full acceptance of their lifestyle and many more demanding marriage. I am sure this is troubling to you. Leading FIF-UK leaders are now pro-gay and the Bishop of London admits that as many as 40% of his Anglo-Catholic clergy are gay. Recently, the flagship Anglo-Catholic parish of the Diocese of Washington - St. Paul's K Street -- has allowed a priest to come in who has a sordid gay past. Does that bother you? What is Nashotah Houses' stand on this issue?

PEAY: Our stand is found in our statement of belief which simply says marriage is between a man and a woman. We don't see that [homosexuality] at Nashotah House.

VOL: The composition of Nashotah's Board membership is heavily TEC, with the only non-TEC members being Bishop Duncan, Bishop Ackerman, Bishop Lawrence, one layman from Wisconsin, and two laypeople from Fort Worth. These six members were in TEC when they were elected and were "grandfathered in" when they left TEC. The Board of Nashotah House has never elected a trustee who is from the ACNA, even though they have been nominated. Why is that?

PEAY: There are several priests from the ACNA, two most recent alumni representatives are ACNA . So the board has elected ACNA folks.

VOL: At your (May 21-22), meeting Bishop Ackerman stepped down as Vice-Chairman. In the election of his successor, the two nominees were Bishop Love of Albany and Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh; Bp. Love was elected. Layman Tom Graves from the Diocese of Dallas, who had been a member previously, rejoined the Board and was immediately elected Treasurer, replacing Dick Schwaab. So the officers are now all TEC. Is there a message here you are sending?

PEAY: I am not responsible for the composition of the board. It is self-sustaining. I am their only employee. The Trustees are not trying to send a message.

VOL: Would you allow any ACNA members to be nominated to the Board of Trustees?

PEAY: It is not up to me. Obviously, they have several.

VOL: Do you have an "inner circle" of people you consult with for most of your decisions? If so, what is their denominational make up?

PEAY: My fellow deans: three associates, two are from TEC and one is from the ACNA and the Director of annual giving is ACNA.

VOL: Given the growing heterodoxy and numerical decline of the Episcopal Church, why is Nashotah House trying to so hard to pursue the Episcopal Church to the neglect of the orthodox and growing ACNA?

PEAY: I don't think we are. We are pursuing good students.

VOL: With the advent of the Ordinariate, dozens of former Anglo-Catholic priests and several hundred lay Anglo-Catholics fled Anglo-Catholic parishes in TEC, mostly, but not exclusively from the Diocese of Ft. Worth. Do you think this poses a threat to the long term health and growth of the Anglo-Catholic movement?

PEAY: As a former Roman Catholic monk, I don't think so. It is a one off thing. There is no Anglican Rite and no provisions for further training; these people will be assimilated into the Roman Catholic Church. The pool is limited.

VOL: What is the future of Anglo-Catholicism in England and the US? Are there future generations coming along to carry the torch?

PEAY: I see young people coming to the seminary, many coming out of evangelical backgrounds - Canterbury trail -- and what is drawing them is the transcendent. They have found no sense of the mystery in other denominations and they are hungry for it. They come to worship. We don't make monks of them. We have a distinct Benedictine ethos.

VOL: Thank you, Dr. Peay.


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