General Seminary to graduate 54 students, confer 4 honorary degrees

Posted May 14, 2012

[General Theological Seminary] The Chapel of the Good Shepherd and the beautiful garden-like campus of General Theological Seminary will be the scene of the Seminary’s 190th Commencement Exercises beginning at 11 a.m. on May 16. Faculty members in colorful academic regalia will be joined by friends, trustees, and students of the historic institution for the majestic ceremonies, which are preceded by joyous pealing of chimes from the Chapel’s bell tower.

Fifty-four women and men will receive degrees, diplomas, or certificates conferred by the Seminary’s Associate Dean, the Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy. Additionally, the Seminary’s honorary doctorate will be conferred on the Most Rev. Martín Barahona, Bishop of El Salvador; David Booth Beers, Esq., Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop; the Rev. Canon Carl Gerdau, distinguished church leader; and the Rev. Dr. Richard Pfaff, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina.

The Most Rev. Martín Barahona, is Bishop of El Salvador and the former Anglican Primate of Central America. Consecrated in 1992, he has served as a leader in growing the vibrant parish life of the diocese and has been an historic advocate for the rights of women, LGBT persons and those in economic distress. He has served as president of El Salvador’s National Council of Churches and enjoys broad ecumenical respect, having formed deep bonds with his colleagues, especially the Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador. Despite an assassination attempt in 2010, Bishop Barahona remains deeply committed to his ministry and his people. He stated shortly after the attempt on his life, “I have learned several things from this, that I love my people more and more, I won’t stop being a bishop, and I love God.”

David Booth Beers, Esq. is a noted attorney and Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop. He is of counsel to the law firm Goodwin Proctor where he has an extensive national and international practice in the non-profit sector. He has led the legal effort of the Episcopal Church to safe guard the rights and property of the church, dioceses and parishes from the plans of those who have broken away from the church and yet attempted to take church property with them. He has worked closely for many years with the Church History faculty of the Seminary in his support of the church and enjoys wide and deep respect. He is an active layman in St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Washington.

The Rev. Canon Carl Gerdau has served as canon to two Presiding Bishops, having served the Most Rev. Frank Griswold in his tenure and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori during her transition into office. He has a particular interest and expertise in seminary education, and served as Chair of the Board of Bexley Hall Seminary. Having served the Church Pension Fund and numerous boards and committees during some of the most challenging times, he is an extraordinary leader and example for the Seminary’s students.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Pfaff is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina. A deeply accomplished scholar, his research and teaching interests center on the ecclesiastical, cultural and historical aspects of medieval England. Widely published and respected, he has focused on liturgical manuscripts and monastic scriptoria, architecture, hagiography and the Church Fathers. Having devoted four decades to the study the study of medieval liturgy, his landmark work, The Liturgy in Medieval England: A History, was published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press. Equally noteworthy was his 1970 study, New Liturgical Feasts in Later Medieval England. Dr. Pfaff is a 1966 alumnus of GTS.

The General Theological Seminary, founded in 1817, prepares women and men for both ordained and lay ministries through a wide variety of degree and certificate programs. Its historic campus in the heart of New York City is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a modern, full-service conference facility. The Seminary conferred its first honorary degree in 1885. The ceremonies of Commencement, including the sections recited in Latin, were devised during this period and continue to be used today with few changes.