Statements following General Seminary board of trustees’ action

Posted Oct 20, 2014

Updated Oct. 21 with a statement from Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Provisional Clifton Daniel, a resolution passed by the Diocese of California and a statement from the Executive Committee of the General Theological Seminary Alumni/ae Association.

Several statements have been circulated following the Oct. 17 decision by the General Theological Seminary board of trustees to reaffirm their call to the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle as president and dean and to invite the eight striking professors to request “provisional reinstatement.”

Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Provisional Clifton Daniel (GTS trustee) writes:

While we cannot change the past, we can with the guidance of the Holy Spirit seek to redeem the future. Each party in this family quarrel we now experience at the General Theological Seminary (GTS) is called to acknowledge its responsibility and accountability for our present state. I call for a season of self-examination and repentance as our GTS community seeks the presence of Jesus to lead us toward reconciliation …

I plead with all members of the GTS community and beyond to refrain from making rash statements based on appearance and assumption without having the benefit of all the facts. I pray that all who are involved or who participate in any way in vicious and wounding attacks towards individuals or groups who are part of the Seminary community either in private communication or on social media will cease this un-Christlike, hurtful and damaging behavior…

The full text of Daniel’s statement can be found here.

The Diocese of California, meeting in its 165th  annual convention, passes resolution:

The Diocese of California deplores the actions of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in firing 8 faculty members protesting the dean and president’s allegedly inappropriate behavior.

The full text of the resolution can be found on page 5 here.

The Executive Committee of the General Theological Seminary Alumni/ae Association writes:

We denounce the tactical handling of these matters by all parties. We are called by God to model a different way of being. Where in this is respect for the dignity of every human being? Where are we seeking Christ? What practical steps have you taken or proposed toward reconciliation with any of the constituencies involved – faculty, alumni, students, or the Church at large? In conflicts such as these many differing interventions are necessary for reconciliation. We see no sign from you of this. We beseech the Board of Trustees to make those plans known so that we might cling to hope rather than give in to despair.

The full text of the statement can be found on the GTS Alumni/ae Association here.

Bishop William “Chip” Stokes of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey (GTS trustee) writes:

My support of a resolution that called for the eight faculty to be “provisionally” reinstated, as the resolution was worded, was based on my conviction that they ought to be returned to their positions, but also my deep concern that they have not, as far as I am aware, rescinded the ultimatums contained in their letters of September 17 and September 24 which were publicly issued, nor have they acknowledged their share and culpability in this matter which have played a major contributing role in this crisis. I continue to have this concern.  

Similarly, the Board, its Executive Committee and the Dean have not acknowledged clearly the major and contributing responsibility and culpability we each share in this matter.  There is, in short, a genuine need for public confession and repentance from all the major parties: Board and its Executive Committee, Dean, and Faculty.

Having stated this, I am grateful for Bishop Dietsche’s courage and leadership and for his attempt to create a clearer path toward reconciliation [see statement below].  I am willing to support his call for the faculty to be immediately and fully reinstated with the understanding that there continues to be a need for public confession, healing and reconciliation from all parties …

The full text of Stokes’ statement can be found here.

Bishop Andrew Dietsche of the Episcopal Diocese of New York (GTS trustee ex-officio) writes:

Throughout this process, I have been single-minded in my conviction that there was no imaginable way to reconcile or resolve this matter without first giving unconditional reinstatement to the eight striking faculty members.  It also became clear to me that by the decision to terminate the faculty, the board had so inflamed the situation that the board itself had become a participant in the conflict, and in ways that were impeding the hope of a just and fair resolution of the crisis.  Early on, I advocated for just such an across-the-board reinstatement in appeals directly to the executive committee of the board, and then to the full board itself.  By no means was I alone in making that case.  I was one of a number of voices across the board which have continually called for a path toward reconciliation and for the reinstatement of the faculty…

The full text of Dietsche’s letter to the diocese is available here.

Bishop Tom Breidenthal of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio writes:

I feel compelled, not only as a former member of the GTS faculty, but also as a bishop, to register my dismay and indignation regarding this decision.

First of all, as is plain for all to see, the board has been dishonest in its claim that the eight faculty members resigned their positions when they went on strike. In fact, they were summarily fired. Second, the board has placed the eight in the humiliating position of begging for their jobs back – and at that, only provisionally, for “the remainder of the academic year.” This is nothing less than shaming behavior, unworthy of a seminary board. Worst of all, the board has failed to model the humility and fellowship to which we are called in Jesus Christ.

The full text of Breidenthal’s statement can be found on his Facebook page here.

The eight striking faculty members issued the following statement:

The eight fired faculty members of the General Theological Seminary sincerely thank the thousands of academics, hundreds of clergy and colleagues, GTS alumni, and other Christian faithful from around the world who have expressed their support for us in the aftermath of the Board of Trustees’ disappointing decision today. Your prayers, your passionate commitment to our cause, and outpouring of love continue to lift us up and sustain us.

For now, we need to spend some time individually and collectively in prayerful reflection on the Board’s decision so that we can determine the best way forward.