General Seminary board of trustees, dean and faculty reach agreement

Posted Nov 6, 2014

The following is a Nov. 5 statement announcing an agreement reached between the board of trustees, dean and faculty of General Theological Seminary . Previous coverage is available here.

The Board of Trustees, Dean, and Faculty of The General Theological Seminary jointly announce that they have today (Nov. 5) reached an agreement regarding the immediate issues which have led to heated debates within and without the walls of the nation’s oldest Episcopal seminary. The resolution involves an ongoing process of reconciliation, a reinstatement of all of the returning faculty members on a provisional basis, and a re-affirmation of the responsibilities of the Board of Trustees and the Dean. Spokespersons for all involved stated that they supported the resolution and looked forward to implementing together the mission of GTS to educate and form leaders for the changing church in a changing world, as it has successfully done for almost 200 years.


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Comments (29)

  1. Marsha Dutton says:

    What a relief, to have even a provisional settlement. I offer my deepest support and sympathy to the faculty members, and commendation for their courage.

  2. Jon Carl Lewis says:

    Thanks be to God!

  3. Len Freeman says:

    The faculty are genuinely lucky here. Their move was truly boneheaded.

    1. I’m really taken aback that you would speak about the faculty in this way.

    2. Susan Zimmerman says:

      …Len love your candidness although I like to call the facultys’ action as cronynyistic. Older Episcopalians were able to handle being candid the younger ones creek and cry, with their best descriptors ass ‘hater’ or ‘you’re being rude.’ I would encourage this generation to take some Jewish Talmud courses, which teach one how to argue…very loudly! After several hours of this one actually learns to smile, laugh and ultimately LEARN!

    3. People don’t always do smart things under pressure – and the Dean seems to have put them in an untenable position. I have quoted elsewhere the former football coach at Yale who once said that he saw his job as “keeping the alumni sullen but not mutinous.” The Dean failed that simple test in relation to the faculty!

  4. Fr. Gaylord Hitchcock says:

    By this stage in our corporate life, we ought to have learned that reconciliation requires justice. Justice still demands the unconditional reinstatement of the “GTS8” with tenure as appropriate, not “provisional reinstatement,” whatever that may mean. Nonetheless, the resolution is a welcome step forward, and removes a bit of the egg from the faces of the Trustees who have violated their trust to care for GTS and all its stakeholders in a Christian and responsible way. Since the resolution accepting the “resignation” of the GTS8 was unanimous, I call upon the General Convention of 2015 to elect replacements for all the current trustees whom its predecessors have chosen. I also hope that no current alumni-nominated trustee will be re-elected. It’s time for a house-cleaning on the Board of Trustees, and the need is urgent.

    1. Nancy Mott says:

      Thank you, Fr. Gaylord Hitchcock.
      And how many ‘Compassionate Listening’ models have been put forward in the last forty years for talking about on homosexuality? As an Episcopalian whose dignity and right to marry or be blessed has been subject to decades of ‘compassionate listening’, I’m absolutely gagged by the inability of the General Seminary Board to even BEGIN to listen or negotiate.

    2. Linda Maloney+ says:

      Amen, Gaylord. “Provisional” my foot. I’m going to GC, if only as an alternate, and at least one other member of our deputation is a GTS grad as well. I welcome your recommendation.

  5. Barry W Miller says:

    Why would any potential postulant want to put up with all the dysfunction at Chelsea Square!

  6. John McCann says:

    There is no “settlement” here at ALL- the faculty is coming back, on a provisional basis, their titles and tenure track have been stripped.!!
    no vows for “reconcilation and forgiveness”

    Dietrich Bonhoffer in “The Loss of Discipleship”

    CHEAP GRACE is the grace we bestow on ourselves. CHEAP GRACE is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance, Baptism, without CHURCH discipline COMMUNION without confession, CHEAP GRACE is grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living, incarnate resurrected and ascended,

    THE faculty was betrayed by the Board of Directors. No happy ending.

    1. Fr. Jeff Hulet says:

      John, thanks for sharing that. If you hadn’t, I would have. There was an Anglican by the name of John Wesley who preached pretty profoundly on the subject of cheap grace, as well. Reconciliation and forgiveness — and, if I may add, ‘forgivenness’ as well — depend of an open confrontation with the truth and the history. (Reconciliation Commission and ++Desmond) I haven’t seen any acknowledgement of this necessity in what I’ve been reading and hearing about the events at GTS. What I am seeing is the same sort of arrogance and lack of concern and respect within the GTS community that were such a problem when I was there 2003 to 2006. I am afraid that unless and until the GTS community, beginning with its leadership, tackles that long history and looks at how it continues to shape present relationships, the future will be one of unforgivenness.

      AMDG

      Jeff

  7. Richard Schulze says:

    It is good that this reinstatement has occurred. Because the Board has potential risk for anything they said, they were inhibited from commenting. From what I’ve heard of the Faculty position from the start and their threats, I believe they’re lucky with this reinstatement. I would hope that people understand the fiduciary responsibility the Board has. They could not give in to the Faculty demands to bypass Seminary bylaws. They can not expect the Board to rubber stamp their unreasonable requests. When they made their first demand and told the Board they had better accept it without change, or they would resign, I have trouble understanding why the Faculty didn’t realize they had essentially resigned. Que lastima!

  8. This a step forward but boy it sure seems clumsy! I think the faculty are right to move forward with this because they care deeply about teaching the students and they will get to do that now. However, I will continue to pray that more grace comes forth from unrepentant board members who mishandled this situation from the very start.

  9. Well, it is an interesting event, that’s for sure and frankly anyone seeking ordination in the Episcopal
    church should think carefully before committing 15 thousand plus dollars to a dysfunctional situation
    that has not be solved. That is just common sense. New York although important is not the center
    of the universe.

  10. It’s surprising how divided are the opinions expressed above. I would have thought it was obvious that long-term tenured faculty do not take such drastic action unless drastically provoked and a Dean who provokes such dissent is obviously incompetent. If the troops rebel, the leader has failed and should resign if he has any concern for the institution at all. The Trustees should be embarrassed to have chosen so poorly but need to take responsibility and try again.

    1. Judith Wood says:

      I absolutely agree. Christopher has hit it right on the nose.

    2. Kris Lewis says:

      Thank you Christopher Webber; you have summed it up quite accurately.

  11. Peter Carlson says:

    The largest problem in all of this is that we as a church have not faced the fact that we are using a 19th century model of theological education, and tossing pennies in the wishing well, praying that it will work for a 21st century church. Until we stop thinking of theological education as something reserved for a clerical elite, and start thinking of it as something necessary to be teaching at the congregational level, we will continue to operate under the model that thinks priests are people we hire to do ministry for us, rather than in the priesthood of all believers who have claimed ministry as our life work. Right now the seminaries (and not just of the Episcopal Church) are still operating on the “clerical elite” model, rather than getting out into the congregations and teaching Christians to think theologically.

    Perhaps we should close the seminaries, and hire the faculty to work in our churches rather than in an ivory tower?

    1. Susan Zimmerman says:

      YES! Many of the elite have never ‘understood’ Absolutes and the attending polarities, which operate within each Absolute

      1. I agree that theologians and theological education seem to be out-of-touch with where Christianity is today. There seems to be a lack of vision or a refusal to recognize where things are headed. Conflicts like this arise and are dealt with in characteristic isolation from the many contributing factors. Things are not likely to change as a result. The solution will just be a way for everyone to keep doing things the same ineffective way.

        Church hierarchy, including seminaries, are overseeing a learned clergy that all seem to be vying for a very few plum positions in regional bodies, seminaries, and a limited number of plush suburban congregations. They call these “calls” but we in the pew are left wondering why God calls pastors to only the few and most comfortable places.

        These Christian organizations, statistically in single digit percentages of the whole of the Church, grow large staffs to do the same work that many congregations perform with only a retired, part-time pastor. This could lead to a “chicken/egg” argument. What came first—the inability to support a pastor or the lack of leadership that led to the inability to support leadership?

        What is clear is that established methods of training pastors are not working. Where denominations are abandoning mission and ministry, less traditional church leadership is springing up—proving that the changing demographics, often cited as reasons for failure, are just an excuse.

        Our denomination told our neighborhood church for 20 years that our neighborhood demographics could not support a church. They refused to work with us to find leadership. At last, in 2009, they locked our doors and sued our lay leaders for daring to resist. While we were in court for six years, an independent denomination began meeting in a movie theater a half mile away. Today they are attracting 500 worshipers a Sunday. Same demographics. Different leadership.

        I suspect this seminary feud is symptomatic of these problems. I am glad that it was publicized. So many conflicts (like ours)— just as vicious and just as polarizing — are often swept under the red church carpets.

        Clergy and candidates for ministry must leave the ivory-collared towers and meet the 21st century.

    2. Mary Sheeran says:

      Best idea I’ve heard in years. Thank you.

  12. Richard Simeone says:

    The work of forming Episcopalians for life and ministry already exists. It’s called Education for Ministry (EfM).

    1. Peter Meyers says:

      Roman Catholic colleges have off-campus sites for theological education. They award postgraduate and undergraduate degrees, which means perhaps a small part of tuition will be made up by a raise or new position. Earning a masters in some area of theology is not a get-rich enterprise. For the amount of work EfM requires, graduates deserve academic credit. If little Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama manages to offer classes in several cities in about a three state area with outstanding professors and modest tuition, I imagine the Episcopal Church has the capacity to arrange something similar. I do believe education for lay ministry is essential to the health of the Episcopal Church and our capacity to lead people to Christ;. The Church must rely on lay ministry; so in justice and as a practical matter, it seems ti me it ought to be mindful of the needs and desires of the lay Episcopalians it wishes to attract.

  13. Emmanuel A. Imoukhuede says:

    It is indeed a relief. congratulations to all. My thanks to Bishop Frank Griswold for mediating.

  14. This comes from a devoted alumnus of GTS in 1955. So far, everything I have read seems to take a “side” in this polygonal problem. While this is a clarifying “must,” it cannot be a “resolving” matter – only the expression of relief that students are being educated, and some sort of life continues on the Close. Prayers and tears and hope (as yet unfulfilled) have marked my reactions to the anger, both outright and covered carefully with chosen words. Now that “education” has (re)commenced, perhaps an orderly life can be restored. While there is much to be said, I believe, on all sides, everything I have read or heard, comes from the same point and leads back to this same point. My own ministry during the years 1973 through 1995 was “contributed” to congregations. I “earned” my own “keep” in ways that gave me much insight into Christian life. While I consider myself a “liberal” in politics and Biblical criticism, an Anglo-catholic in liturgy, and Jesuit in prayer life, Freud-leaning in psychology and language, a follower of Peter Druker and W. Edmonds Demming in economics, and Winfred Douglas in music, my approach is fundamentally classical, beginning with the period near 1000 BCE.
    I strongly believe that our very first issue is the theology of the Church. Why do we need Seminary education in the first place? What is the purpose of the Church? What is the purpose of Religion? What is the purpose of a parish? Why do we need clergy? How are the clergy related to the Church? The Diocese? The Parish? The Baptized? The Unbaptized majority?
    In 1919 the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America became the first “denomination” to require the clergy to retire – at the chosen age of 72. At the same time, the General Convention directed the church, at every level to follow the “generally accepted” methods and practices of “modern” business. This, therefore, fundamentally altered the relationship between a parish and its priest (and added non clergy parish personnel); so also the relationship of the priest to the Bishop/diocese; so the (newly created) Office of the Presiding Bishop. This kind of fundamental change takes a looooong time to be implemented fully. The Church Pension Fund seems to have considered that the “time has come” to implement to the fullest, this dictum of 1919. Now spread out as a full scale financial system The Church Pension GROUP administers insurance, annuities, and health care for the retired clergy – and others! It has become a full-scale personnel institution. The CP Group now assists in “developing” a “path” for the newly ordained (and somewhat younger than recently) clergy. As family needs develop, income must be increased – and there is college for the kids! Sort of each 5 – 7 years the clerics must change the location of ministry – and of course, the income. These (and many others) are significant issues that MUST be dealt with – while “we must be in the world, but not of it” we still need to provide for family and, “promotion” details.
    When I and several other priests tried to follow the French (especially) “Worker Priest” movement, I and they were either too far in front of where the Episcopal Church was/is, or it just won’t work in the USA, at this time.
    HOWEVER, the CP Group has adopted the full corporate understanding personnel as its outlook since the middle 1980s. In so doing, we have become transfixed on each parish as its own branch office, serving its own purpose. Small parishes will care for “beginning clergy,” as they continue to learn the system of making each parish a successful example of its place in the diocesan structure. I could go on and on about this but this is the beginning of the “full flower” (for the Church) the clerical person as primarily an administrator of a successful sub-office of the Diocese. Keep the people happy, care for some needy local issues (either well-known, or sublimated under the general adjective “care for the needy.”)
    The concept of the church as the living Body of Christ is sublimated into local concerns, in preaching, music and programs. BUT THE CONCEPT OF THE CHURCH AS THE MOTIVATING FORCE TO CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF THE NATION/WORLD TO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE HAS VANISHED. Being a priest is being a preacher/teacher for the Baptized so that they can bring the Gospel to work with them (preferably with little or no fanfare) so that the so-called “secular” world can be transformed, that is gone. Worship often becomes an attraction in and of itself – but NOT a self-offering of life lived in Jesus.
    Yes, the Dean is correct (and so is the Board) that there must be changes; but so also is the faculty correct that the eco-social ethos of modern American Business cannot be the model.
    A great personal sadness for me has been that the 1979 Book of Common Prayer – even though it was commissioned to be a MISSIONARY ACTION – has become an institution that looks back to a glorious past and tries to rebuild it. I am grateful that THAT cannot happen. We need to evolve into a newer way of – in fact – becoming The Shape of the Liturgy of the first three centuries – the manifest presented to the Commission that produced 1979. That means remembering that when income for the church is simply part of one’s personal generosity, on the par with PBS, that God is not fully involved in this. For us Christians, all we are and all we have is the result of what we have done with the way God made us. Our pledge is NOT how much we shall “find” to give the church this year– our pledge is how much we need to retain for personal use for family needs and retirement purposes and additional education. God is at the center of that operation – we have used what God has made us to be because we KNOW the great Creator God whom we worship and adore because that God became one of us to show us how to live to bring the creation to its fulfillment – justice, equality, sharing, love.

  15. William Kolb says:

    As a VTS graduate, I have hurt for all during this painful time. Glad that all parties have moved from “fussing” to talking. Good luck.

  16. Richard P. McDonnell+ says:

    Fire the worthless Dean for his sexual remarks !!

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