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. Nicholson White says:

    This entire business is a blot not only on GTS’s venerable and honored name, but on the mindlessly structured process apparently at work. The Board’s action is as unfathomable as the actions of the Dean leading to the now-tragically resolved impasse. Is this the best that the Board and Bishop Griswold could manage? I can’t imagine circumstances under which these distiguished and respected teachers would go, hat in hand, to the very individuals who have cast them aside, pleading for a provisional faculty appointment, whatever that may precisely be. Having begun selling off the real estate in Chelsea, now it appears that the very stature of GTS is next on the chopping block. A sad day indeed….Was there not a creative way for the Board to respect their appointment, however ill-conceived, of the Dean while honoring the ministries and gifts of the now-dangling teachers?

  2. Michael Ryan says:

    A sad day for General, for the Episcopal Church, and for the broader Church.
    The board appears to have settled for corporate “CYA”, corporate “doublespeak”, and empty rhetoric at the expense of eight dedicated and outstanding faculty members and what was, up to this point, a wonderful seminary.
    It deeply saddens me, as I loved my years as a student at General.
    Do inclusivity, tolerance, open mindedness, and radical welcome apply only to those who agree with the dean?
    Shame on the board.
    The faculty truly deserved better. So does the Church.

  3. Nancy H Stone says:

    The first 28 years of my church life was in the Methodist church. I married into the Episcopal church in 1968. I learned to love the liturgy, the music and the discipline of the Daily Offices. I was blessed with two priests from 1970 to 2006 who were very pastoral, informed and caring of all the parish members. One of my priests was a graduate of GTS and our small congregation of 150 families has sent at least 5 congregants to seminary for the priesthood and at least 1 for the deaconate. This terrible upheaval at GTS is heartbreaking. I agree with another writer that I can see NO reason for the things supposedly said by the Dean in any way, but of more concern to me is the direction he is taking toward the education and preparation of the seminarians to the priesthood. The loss of such devoted and high caliber faculty can only hurt the students there now and in the future. How can a seminary possibly cut back on the use of the Daily Offices to promote discipline and devotion? These offices are so important to all Episcopalians. I personally have found such comfort and support through these offices in good times and in bad. I am praying that the Dean and the Board will come to their senses and realize the mistakes they are making! I pray fervently for GTS and GTS8.

  4. Walter Peterson says:

    Yet another shining example of why The Church to an increasingly skeptic and educated laity appears as little more than a fraudulent marketing enterprise, selling a product today that can be neither seen nor possessed until after one dies and often lacking in any verisimilitude by the very sales force supposedly trained to enlist others in its basic tenants of charity, humility and perfect freedom. Way to go guys! You couldn’t formulate a better plan for going out of business. Of course, when you do, I’m sure the good folks at the Wharton School will be delighted to have you come lecture on the subject.

  5. John Williamson says:

    Sounds like the difference between GTS and the Boy Scouts is the Scouts have adult leadership.

  6. Liam Davydd says:

    re: the announcement of the Executive Committee “We commit ourselves to meditate upon these scriptures”:
    Matthew 18:15-20. Is verse 16 cited meaning, be sure to take witnesses with you whenever you speak to the Dean? That sounds like the antithesis of a Safe Seminary.
    2 Corinthians 5:16-20. The famous passage about reconciliation, cited on October 17. While on October 1, “I think the trustees felt, who are these people?” Bishop Sisk said. Sixteen days later, the trustees on this learning curve make a rather disrespectful offer to world-renowned scholars who they admit they don’t know very much about. This is not reconciling.
    Ephesians 2:13-14. Consolation to the uncircumcised that Christ’s blood has superseded the blood of circumcision. As Ephesians was a form letter for all churches, I suppose this is good news, but am not sure of its particular relevancy here.

  7. Diana Stiles says:

    I am ashamed to admit my affiliation with GTS from 1980 to 1983 given it’s current madness in maintaining a board and dean so clearly inept and unsuited for the “job” at hand. But I am not surprised at this turn of events. GTS had no idea how to deal with me as a questioning seminarian who wished to pursue a non stipendiary path of ministry and so badly alienated me that I fled my involvement with the church. Lo these many years later I am a successful professional fundraiser and I speak as such in expressing my pity for the task ahead for GTS’s development department in light of this unfolding travesty.

  8. Todd Parker says:

    Shockingly unchristian behavior on the board’s part. And, I’m afraid, effectively the end of GTU.

  9. Ross Abbott says:

    The board of trustees is refusing to show up and do their job. I recommend the Faculty and community accept their “resignations” and quickly move to appoint new members.

  10. The Rev. John Merchant says:

    Sadly, the attitude and actions of the BOT and the dean give further evidence that the church too often continues to reflect secular corporate values and goals rather than the sacred mission and loving ministry for which the church was established by Christ. I would hope that bishops of dioceses with seminarians at General would consider prayerfully whether or not these men and women can be faithfully prepared for ministry under current circumstances. As a priest-educator, I strongly suspect the accrediting agency for seminaries will in time assess General’s qualifications and competence to provide sufficient theological and academic foundations for its students. I trust the Episcopal Church will do similar assessment of the seminary’s community life as to whether it continues to be a community of faith wherein the Gospel is not only studied and preached, but lively embraced in the daily life and work among all those who call themselves a part of the General Theological Seminary.

  11. christopher seitz says:

    It will be interesting to see who the teaching faculty at GTS will be when the dust settles. Professor Mullin has served as expert testimony for TEC and he remains one of the faculty. The Canon to the PB is also listed as an adjunct faculty.

  12. The Rev. Miguel A. Hernandez says:

    I am appalled, as well, about the decision reached by the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary on the issues made by the eight faculty. This has not been a just resolution by a church organization that claims and proclaims the respect of the human dignity. To me, this decision is a show of power that is not in line with my understanding of the radical teachings of Jesus. How can one offer temporary employment and do justice to the faculty and their families? Where is the Love of Jesus in this decision? Forgive me, but this is shameful and a disgrace to a tradition that has fought for human dignity. May God help us all.

  13. John Williamson says:

    The difference between the Boy Scouts and The General Theological Seminary is the scouts have adult leadership.

  14. Ken Norian says:

    When I see the words, “and the advice of the Board’s Chancellor” alarm bells go off. Jesus didn’t rely on lawyers – in fact he rejected them in favor of spiritual values.

  15. Carol Amadio says:

    This decision by the board is reminiscent of those leaders of the church who chose to punish the messengers rather than deal openly and directly with allegations of sexual abuse. If tenured faculty members can be dealt with so cavalierly how will those of lesser standing dare to confront abuses of power.

  16. Jeremy Bates says:

    Looks as though the Board of Trustees has confused the rector-parish model of governance with the president-university model of governance.
    There might be room for debate about what is appropriate within a parish. But when an academic administrator loses the public support of 80 percent of the tenured faculty, it’s the administrator who should go.
    My advice to GTS alumni: If you have the power to vote against Trustees, then vote them out.

  17. Carol Henley says:

    The Board has completely missed the opportunity to foster reconciliation. I hope and pray that they will have the courage to fully reinstate the faculty.

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

    I made my comment above. If all the parties involved can’t take a step backwards and get their act of reconciliation together, they will kill the seminary, an institution much loved by its graduates in spite of its warts and weaknesses. And the cynical world will laugh at the “hypocritical” church and its preaching of love and forgiveness. Wouldn’t it amaze the NONEs if the cardinal virtues prevailed!

  19. Susan Zimmerman says:

    As a young Episcopalian I remember when someone said “…the Episcopal Church doesn’t really believe in anything…” that’s why they have the via media.

    As I spent most of my evening reading this trustee writing w/attached responses I reconfirmed my mid-age discovery that the via media is a way of great, great prayer…and all the seminarians, faculty, dean, and trustees will be walking this way for some time now….

  20. Faye Walter says:

    The tenured faculty made their complaints and request to meet with the Board clear initially. The Board refused. General Seminary alumni, Episcopal clergy, and lay persons have sided overwhelmingly with faculty against the Board and Dean with clear and eloquent comments. Board, Dean, Presiding Bisohop have remained silent–a deafening silence. General Seminary’s press release from the Episcopal News Service 10/17/2014 offers pabulum which is nothing but empty public relations, demeaning to the Scripture it quotes and to the Church.

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