General Seminary trustees issue statement

Dunkle to be retained, eight professors may request 'provisional reinstatement'

Posted Oct 17, 2014

[General Theological Seminary press release] On October 17, 2014, The General Theological Seminary issues this statement:

“Shaping the future leaders of our Church is a responsibility we take very seriously; to that end, the concerns raised by eight members of the Faculty were given full consideration by both the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee. Our chief goal is a fruitful and fulfilling school year for our students.

“We are above all an institution of the Church, and we – both as individuals and as officials of the Seminary – strive to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our guiding Christian principles. In this spirit, the Board has reviewed the findings of an independent investigation and reached three resolutions.

“First, the Board has heard the findings of an independent report and the advice of the Board’s Chancellor, and has concluded after extensive discussion that there are not sufficient grounds for terminating the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle as President and Dean. We reaffirm our call to him as President and Dean and offer him our continuing support.

“Second, all eight Faculty members are invited to request provisional reinstatement as professors of the seminary. Our goal in the immediate term will be to promote an atmosphere of reconciliation so that the Seminary can turn the page and move forward with a full focus on the student body.

“The Executive Committee stands ready to meet next week to hear requests of any of the eight former faculty members for reinstatement and to negotiate the terms of their provisional employment for the remainder of the academic year.”

“Lastly, the Board commits itself to repairing the significant damage this issue has inflicted upon our Seminary, and calls upon all members of the GTS community – the Board, the Dean, students, Faculty, staff, and alumni – to foster greater accountability, repentance, reconciliation, and healing.

“For nearly 200 years, the General Theological Seminary has shaped current and future leaders of our Church. In an ever more challenging and volatile world, our Christian faith is an invaluable beacon that we all must strive to protect. We thank our Executive Committee, our Church leadership, our Faculty, and most of all our students for their continued faith during this challenging time. We commit ourselves to meditate upon these scriptures: Matthew 18:15-20, 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, and Ephesians 2:13-14.


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Comments (58)

  1. Scott Allen says:

    This is truly sad, We will no longer have a seminary in NYC as a result of this action…as Berkeley at Yale grad, that makes me sad.

  2. John E. Lawrence says:

    This is shameful, and I am deeply saddened. The Board has failed us all, and the seminary we love and that formed so many of us and to which we have given our time, talent, and treasure over the years is on a precipice that may not hold. I pray for the students who spent the last month in prayer, worry, and deep sadness as they determine what their own next steps must be. I pray for the postulants and bishops who hoped to find in General Seminary a path toward great theological education and formation of future leaders and priests, I pray for the faculty members who have been asked to come pleading on their knees for a small portion of their former jobs, and I pray for this great Church which is about to lose, I fear, its oldest and greatest seminary. May God have mercy on all of us who let this happen.

    1. Fr. Gaylord Hitchcock says:

      Eloquently and truthfully said!

    2. David Henry says:

      I am astounded by what has happened at GST, and further astounded by the intransigence and heavy-handedness of the board. I would have expected more and better of them, particularly the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, who up until now I had greatly respected. For me this inadequate and unsettling statement by the board does nothing but confirm that they have handled this matter in a shameful and disgraceful way, and in so doing have done severe and possibly permanent damage to the institution they were appointed to oversee. The fact that Dean Dunkle is apparently exonerated of all responsibility for this crisis, or accountability for his statements, defies belief.

  3. Rev. Judith Clausen says:

    This decision is inexplicable. How does the Dean get a pass on his behavior?

  4. Luke Brown says:

    It is hard to imagine that the Board fully grasps the extent to which this ongoing saga is jeopardizing the seminary. There is nothing in this statement that suggests anything is going to change. It doesn’t matter if the Board cannot find “sufficient grounds” to dismiss the Dean. This matter should have been handled by him and never allowed to get so out of hand as to jeopardize the future of GTS, This is what deans are suppose to do, and he clearly didn’t.

    1. Keip Groff says:

      Without question The Very Rev Kurt H. Dunkle is the President and Dean that General Seminary needs to train & teach future clergy leaders of the Episcopal Church. His Christian leadership not only saved Grace Episcopal Church in Orange Park, Florida but his devotion & energy increased membership over ten fold . He became Rector of a fractured Grace Episcopal Church.
      There is no question in my mind that Grace would have closed its doors if Kurt Dunkle had not answered God’s call to come to our Church.

      1. Dann Brown says:

        Dunkle “success” in the parish is irrelevant.

      2. Rev. Judith Clausen says:

        That was then, this is now.

      3. Dale Ann Gray says:

        Saint and Sinner!

  5. DWLindeman says:

    Part of the GTS board’s statement says: “We are above all an institution of the Church . . . . ” So much for faculty rights here. We may wonder how GTS will be able to recruit top faculty going forward. This outcome is not unexpected, but it’s quite disappointing.

  6. William F. Hammond says:

    This is appalling. Shame on the Board.

    1. The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Bauer, GTS '61 says:

      Do the Board, the Dean, the Faculty, the Alumni, the Students and other concerned parties understand that the issue is the life or death of the General Theological Seminary? Inflicting a new wound to the body of Christ! Unless a spirit of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation prevails, and strident voices, punitive actions and pride of position desist, a 200 year old community of faith and learning will cease to exist. Terrible as the recent financial crises have been, the crisis in human relationships that presently prevails is potentially more destructive, and the cynical world will again have cause to comment “see how those Christians love one another!”

  7. LRHoffmann says:

    Did former presiding bishop Frank Griswold have any role in this meeting and ultimate decision? The above statement does not indicate a wise or well thought out decision.

  8. Karen Sandness says:

    This seems like yet another example of the nationwide epidemic (occurring in all areas of life) of treating managers as being more important than the people who do the actual work of the institution.

  9. Janet Campbell says:

    This is truly a deeply disappointing and distressing outcome. In his letter on the GTS website, the Dean claimed that the appalling remarks attributed to him were taken out of context. I am unable to imagine any context in which it is appropriate to speak of persons of color doing “interesting things with their hair,” or of “slanty-eyed Asians,” or to say anywhere in public (or at all) “I like vaginas.” I’m embarrassed for GTS, the students, the Church, myself as a GTS alumna, and the Dean. Whatever possessed him? And I understand those were only the surface issues — that much deeper concerns also existed about misuse of power, abusive behavior and bullying. As someone who has been on the receiving end of bullying and abuse of power throughout my ordained ministry, I lament that we, the Church, continue to do little to challenge and change such behavior. I have lost any confidence in the Board and am rethinking any support I can offer GTS if it goes forward as things now are. What a distinguished faculty we had and what a loss!

    1. David Duncan says:

      It all reminds me of King Lear, stumbling off into madness. This, the most disturbing of Shakespeare’s plays, shows how the world, after the Fall, continues falling. By the way, I knew a Janet Campbell in Carroll Gardens. You certainly write like the Janet I knew! I have retired after many adventures and misadventures. You may remember a David Duncan, once a seminarian at St. Anne and the Holy Trinity. Hope you are well. Would be happy to receive an email.

    2. Trey Gorden says:

      I’m sad that The Episcopal Church, an institution that showed me a way forward in my faith at a time when I so desperately needed one, seems serially to fall prey to these bewildering lapses in leadership. I was a member of the parish in question when Rev. Campbell and her colleagues were suffering through the sort of crisis she describes. I have tried to tell myself in the intervening years that this was an isolated incident in an essentially healthy Church, but the actions of Dean Dunkle and the GTS Board offer grim confirmation of what so many of my brothers and sisters have been trying to tell me all along: The Episcopal Church and its mission are suffering at the hands of those called to lead us.

    3. Lesley Northup says:

      Hear, hear! “The Church” has consistently bullied and abused those of us who call attention to the emperor’s new clothes. Some years ago, lesbians who wanted to attend General found the way barred by a homophobic dean who later came out as a gay man. A few years later, the Church’s Minorities Officer angrily denounced women seeking ordination for “hanging onto the coat tails” of Blacks. Rectors have been allowed to stay in sinecures despite incompetence, venality, and outright felonies. This is simply another in the endless abuses of power that the organization has fomented, in just the same way that the RCs (and Anglicans in Canada) dealt with pedophilia. As Lord Acton (may or may not have) said, “Power corrupts…” …well, you know the rest.

  10. Michael Ryan says:

    What a sad day for General, for the Episcopal Church, and for the broader Church.
    I loved my time at General and am so deeply disappointed by a decision that appears to reflect the worst of corporate “CYA” practices as well as empty rhetoric at the expense of a wonderful seminary and outstanding faculty.
    Inclusivity, open-mindedness, and genuine dialogue apparently only apply to those willing to tow the current “party line” and who agree with the dean.
    Shame on the board.

  11. Michael Ryan says:

    A sad day for General, for the Episcopal Church, and for the broader Church. I loved my time at General and am so saddened by what appears to be corporate “CYA” and meaningless rhetoric by a board that was probably hand picked by the current dean.
    A loss of talented and dedicated faculty.
    It seems that open mindedness, inclusivity, acceptance of the “other”, and genuine dialogue apply only to those who agree with the dean.
    Shame.

  12. Fr. Gaylord Hitchcock says:

    The statement of the General Seminary Board of Trustees is a disgrace. The idea that tenured faculty must now petition for “provisional” employment is appalling. They should have been restored to their tenured positions unconditionally as a sign of the Trustees’ desire to put this horrible incident behind them. It is hard to avoid the belief that the General Seminary– of which I am a proud alumnus– can survive. What student would want to go there? What bishop would want to send a student there? What scholar of note would be willing to pull up stakes and accept a professorship there based on the eventual hope of tenure, when the tenure of these distinguished faculty members has been trashed in a stroke by the disgraceful actions of the Board of Trustees? There is only one course of action: reinstate the “General Seminary Eight” immediately and unconditionally, and get back to the business of being the Seminary.

    1. Rev. Howard E. Blunt,jr says:

      I write with a greatly saddened heart for what has happened at the General Theological Seminary.
      I have been an ordained priest and GTS graduate since 1967. I have served congregations of this
      NYC area with mostly people of color as am I. How do I represent this institution and support it
      when its new dean is alleged to have said such things. Just recently a priest of another seminary
      told me how glad he did not go to GTS. What can I say to that? It should be remembered that there are MANY of us who do not have high position but love the Church and its institutions and we serve such year after year Advent – last Pentecost. Clergy and all the laity will need some answers, ones that look to the Cross of Christ and that victory. Faithfully, a Mary Cooke Hoffman
      supporter.

  13. Irene Sanders says:

    I have negotiated international relations. I am a certified facilitator. Likely there are many other laity so qualified. Call on us and back off the political acrimony of the ordained, staff and faculty. We have much to contribute and MANY of us are appalled at the lack of our involvement — as we are dedicated to TEC and GTS and have nothing of personal gain, just want the best for seminarians and the future of the oldest Episcopal Seminary in the USA.

    1. Derek Baker says:

      Best perspective I have heard yet (…said this fellow layperson). I would personally have preferred the board provisionally restore the dean (at most) and unconditionally reinstate the tenured faculty (at least), and not the other way around, just to get my own spoke in; but four-fifths of this impasse seems born of clericalism in the first place — which is probably a broad, pejorative brush stroke nearly impossible to avoid in criticizing decisions taken at a seminary, of all places. Yet all the more reason to broaden the skill, perspective and experience of those working to reach a resolution by seeking out the expertise of the “non-clergy order” in such a situation.

  14. Dana Robertson says:

    The board should in all humility resign en masse and ask the entire church community for provisional reinstatement and forgiveness. Very sad indeed. I fear the damage is done and can never be repaired.

  15. R. Gary Alexander says:

    For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of being an Episcopalian.

  16. Bill Borock says:

    It seems like the decision to hire the fired teacher’s back on a provisional basis is a way for the GTS to have experienced staff to be available for the rest of the academic year.

    If the eight fired teachers return in a provisional capacity, what happens at the end of the year?
    Will the GTS be using the current academic year and the break when the academic year ends, to look for replacements for the now provisional teachers.

    Is there enough reconciliation there for those with the power, to allow true reconciliation on the part of all the players and to allow the fired teachers to get permanent status?

    I trust that there could be. That would nice……………………………..

    I would trust that there would be, if so

    What happens at the end of the academic year. Will the GTS fire them again and use the time

  17. Hoyt Tillman says:

    What a shameful and sad spectacle!

  18. Craig Slane says:

    As a professor, I wouldn’t ask for re-instatement in a case like this. The board seems intent on humiliating the eight that were fired. Translation: “if you grovel, you may have the pleasure of keeping your job until the end of the year.” That’s nothing but another assertion of power by the board. The board seems unable to admit that it’s dean has any flaws. All the flaws are (apparently) on the faculty side. That, as anyone observing social systems knows, is preposterous.

  19. Wendy Gadd says:

    If the Dean were a sensitive, aware, thinking Christian, he would resign his post. Or is there something else which has not yet been expressed??

  20. Robert E Crystal says:

    I am concerned and perplexed that people I assumed were more advanced in their maturity, theology and ecclesial knowledge and expertise got into this mess and now cannot find a way out. A way you that will exemplify the “big tent” attributes of the Episcopal Church part of God’s Church. By the way where is that deity in all of this? I haven’t heard from that corner. Has anyone?

  21. Dan Tootle says:

    There seems to be absolutely no recognition by the GTS Board of Trustees of the damage that is being done to the reputation of the Episcopal Church by this situation. This is a massive failure on the part of the Dean and the Trustees to recognize that GTS must move forward in a progressive manner to be a relevant educator of our clergy.

  22. Joseph D Herring says:

    My friend and colleague Fr.Hitchcock makes the case very well. Those of us who were graced by the superb theological education provided by General have some expectations of our administrative leadership. We expect Dean and Board to exemplify the power of reconciliation. What we are getting is the ethical obtuseness you can buy anywhere in the corporate world.

    1. Martina J Sierra says:

      I am appalled and dismayed at the decisions of the Board yesterday. I have always been proud of my time at GTS, and impressed with the caliber of theological education the seminary has offered. In an atmosphere of distrust and poor leadership, it appears that the Board made its decision to back the Dean without consideration of the concerns of the eight professors fired. To make them come crawling back on their knees for provisional employment is simply unacceptable, and just plain wrong. GTS is losing some of the faculty that form the core of the superb education GTS has always offered in place of keeping a Dean who clearly created an environment too fraught with discord and lack of leadership. Even out of context, as someone above stated, the comments of the Dean are at the least hurtful, and clearly show disregard of the professors and the well-being of the school. I am saddened as I think about the future of the seminary. How can it recover from such a poor decision of the Board to back the Dean and ignore the concerns raised by the “GTS eight?”

  23. DWLindeman says:

    What’s truly puzzling here, is how a Dean of GTS with no advanced academic qualifications to speak of, could be allowed to intimidate a distinguished faculty of PhDs. It appears obvious that the board’s inquiry, conducted by a high-end law firm, was limited in its scope, and that the remit was to establish the slippery slope of who said what. In an investigation of this sort, denial or qualification can win the day. This legalistic endeavor was constructed so the board would know as little as possible on an official level about the conditions of faculty employment as established under the current Dean.
    The Dean’s excuse: “I am human,” does not exonerate him from his responsibilities toward the scholars and students of GTS. It seems obvious that the agenda of dumbing down the GTS educational program can go forward for now. This will rightfully discourage highly qualified prospective faculty and students from applying to GTS for at least a decade.

  24. We are seeing I fear the symptoms of the beginning of the demise of a good educational institution. The board seems more committed to their decision than to the well being of students and the considered opinions of 8 noted educators and scholars. If these allegations had been made in my diocese the alleged perpetrator would have been on immediate administrative leave. I would never recommend General to a prospective student now.

  25. christopher seitz says:

    Who is doing the (adjunct, etc.) teaching at GTS? The website is a bit vague at this point.

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