Eight GTS faculty terminated

Updated While social media has been abuzz today with news that eight members of the faculty of the General Theological Seminary had been fired, we have been attempting to get this news independently confirmed. Not long ago, we received this email that Dean Kurt Dunkle sent to the student body concerning these events. We will continue to follow the story.

Dear students,

By now most of you have heard of our Board of Trustees’ acceptance of eight faculty members’ resignations. I heard of this about the same time many of you did. I share in your sadness. With the following, I hope you will see this as one of many ways forward for the remainder of today.

At 5:30pm we will have evening prayer in the Chapel. Thereafter, any student, staff, or remaining faculty who would like to hear from Bishop Mark Sisk, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, is invited to adjourn to Seabury Auditorium. He would like to address us and then will respond to as many questions as he is able. We need to end by 7:00pm.

For classes tomorrow, I will have an announcement at that meeting and will send something out by e-mail thereafter.

Prayer is the most powerful response any of us can make at this point. Please pray.


The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle

Dean and President | The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church

Update: This just went to students from faculty member Andrew Irving:

Dear students,

We wish to underline that we have not resigned. Our letters did not say that we would resign. We requested meetings with the Board. Indeed in our second letter we wrote to the Board “We assure you that your good faith willingness to meet with us will be received with our sincere good faith efforts to restore to our students the hours of instruction already lost to them by the Dean and President’s current policies” and we explained that a “good faith” response would “mean immediately undertaking to schedule a time to meet with us during the October board meeting.”

Many of you have asked for more detailed information for the reasons for our actions. We do understand that you may wish to have text to provide detail of some of the issues that we spoke about in St Peter’s church this afternoon. However, our legal counsel has advised us not to do this at this stage. This is because we want to continue to maintain the possibility of talking with the board as we requested, and do not want to endanger this process at this stage.

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  1. Gregory Eaton

    As the partner of one of the affected faculty, let me state emphatically that no resignations have been tendered. The only possible conclusion is that they are being fired. I feel very sorry for the Dean (an ex oficio member of the Board), that he was not part of the decision making process.

  2. Michael Russell

    And here we thought their new curriculum for seniors was just puffery! Now they get first hand experience in justice, privilege, power, transparency, lay empowerment, and administrative labor laws! An inspired, edgy, academic, and entrepreneurial program.

    Well done, the other seminaries thank you and EDS for your leadership.

  3. Will this forever be known as the Saint Michael and All Angels massacre?

  4. We need the Presiding Bishop to intervene in this situation before our oldest seminary self-destructs. This situation is completely out-of-hand.

  5. Paige Baker

    Lionel–you can just call it the “Michaelmas Massacre.” Has a better “ring” to it….

  6. Thanks, Paige. That does have a nice ring to it and is mercifully short.

  7. Carlton Kelley

    How is it possible for The seminary of the Episcopal Church continue to function when truth seems to be absent from the highest leadership? There is no wisdom present, it seems. The students will always remember this very vivid lesson in naked power politics.

  8. jmo

    Thanks good Lionel. Maybe not the P.B., but rather the General Convention. I suggest another question. “In the light of the recent upheavals at EDS and GTS could it be that God’s Holy Spirit is driving us to abandon the essentially 19th century seminary model for the formation and training of our deacons and priests?”

    [Editor’s note: Thanks for the comment. Please sign your name next time.]

  9. OK, well, the next thing that should happen is that the Association of Theological Schools should suspend General’s accreditation, since a fundamental criterion for accreditation, according to ATS Guidelines, is the following:

    7.2.1 While final authority for an institution is vested in the governing board and

    defined by the institution’s official documents, each school shall articulate a structure

    and process of governance that appropriately reflects the collegial nature of theological education.

    So much for due process and collegial structures of governance — the seminary’s dean and board has acted in an arbitrary, high-handed way, in clear violation of due process.

  10. Jim Naughton

    Hi would-be-commenters, we don’t object at all to people expressing strong feelings, but let’s try to avoid name-calling and making accusations that you may very well believe are true but that the Cafe, as the publisher of your comment, couldn’t possibly prove if asked to do so.

  11. Wfkammann.wordpress.com

    A putsch is a putsch is a putsch. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    W. F. Kammann

  12. Karen Macqueen

    Evidently the Trustees are circling the wagons in venerable authoritarian and patriarchal traditions. I am a bi-vocational priest with a 30 year career as a nursing manager for the largest HMO in the U.S. This model of leadership would be entirely unacceptable in the thoroughly secular world of health care services. If the Trustees of the Seminary consider the firing of so many faculty an appropriate exercise of Gospel-based authority, they might want to consider boning up on the teachings of an itinerant Jewish rabbi from the first century named Jesus. Even powerful Episcopalians know how to disgrace the Church. So what’s our next plan to attract young people to the Church?

  13. Lapinbizarre

    Lot of Trustees, aren’t there? This seems to be a hideous, out-of-control, mess. The “Re-asserters” must be revelling in it and understandably so. https://www.gts.edu/about-gts/leadership

    Roger Mortimer

  14. Richard Murphy

    Dean and Board have demonstrated a complete failure to realize that implied in the call to ministry is the call to follow and imitate Jesus and to accompany him in building up the Beloved Community. Martin Luther King said that the Beloved Community is one of reconciliation and redemption. GTS Dean and Board of Trustees have thrown that theology under the bus. Prayers ascend for students and faculty. Richard Murphy, Class of 1988

  15. Revd Dr Carrie Ford

    Mediation anybody? This time appropriately independent and confidential – assistance from beyond New York available. This current ‘solution’ serves no one’s best long term interests – best served whilst the current damage can be adjusted to preserve long term interests of all concerned

  16. Revd Dr Carrie Ford

    Mediation anybody? This time appropriately independent and confidential – assistance from beyond New York available. This current ‘solution’ serves no one’s best long term interests – best served whilst the current damage can be adjusted to preserve long term interests of all concerned

  17. Elizabeth Kaeton

    This, to me, is the most sobering part of “A Trustee’s Reflection” (just above this article):

    “What has become clear to us is that the timing of this letter and action–the day after Matriculation–was in the works for some time. The eight had been preparing this letter, it seems, since the summer. They timed their ‘walkout’ to cause as much distress to the most vulnerable members of the GTS community, the current students, as they possibly could. It didn’t happen during the summer, when we might have addressed their concerns with a meeting. It didn’t happen at the start of the school year so that we could have made some other preparations. When the seminary’s treasurer, a trustee, met with the entire faculty a few days before the 17th, not a word was said. They believe, I think, that they have tried and tried to communicate their difficulties. Yet they didn’t go through any of the channels provided in the faculty handbook nor speak to anyone on the Executive Committee of their “collective decision”. A couple faculty members–one of the eight and one who continues to teach–spoke to the Chair of the Board who encouraged them to work with the Dean. Nothing was said about the impossibility of such work–they merely stopped and began to plan. What kind of example is that? What kind of ‘formation’ of future leaders of the church who will, again and again, be asked to rise to servant leadership, sacrificial love?”

    There’s obviously lots more to this story than meets the eye which raises more questions than answers. Like: have the destructive, often tsunami-like waves of anxiety and turmoil which have been battering congregations (and some dioceses) for the past decade finally begun to reach the ivory towers of academia?

    Like: Isn’t it interesting that we – yes, even Christians – must have someone to “blame”: priests, faculty, P&D, BoT . . . and we need someone to swoop in (the PB, the ATS, somebody, anybody) to save the school from itself.

    To paraphrase what one Archbishop of Canterbury once said, sometimes human beings do amazingly beautiful things, and God still reigns; and sometimes, human beings do incredibly stupid things, and God still reigns.

  18. Mark Genszler

    Before we all make wider metaphors for the anxious church out of this unfortunate fracas, members of the class of 2014 would like simply to reiterate: please, Board, simply meet with the faculty exactly as they ask. There is serious conversation to be had. We beg everyone to exercise their theological imaginations before using only their legal ones. ‘Let us grow up in every way…’

  19. Catherine S. Salmon

    Roger Mortimer, far from re-asserters revelling in the mess at GTS, I see no evidence that they’re paying much, if any, attention to it. Perhaps that’s because it’s been years since the more traditional/conservative bishops sent anyone there; most of them stopped when GTS changed their housing policy so that gay couples could live together on campus. (Was that in the early 1990’s?)

  20. The Rev. Terence Blackburn

    In rereading my previous post, I feel perhaps it was a bit over zealous. I am very concerned when people don’t seem to be talking to each other and I can’t quite understand why the board won’t meet with the faculty, who seem to have serious problems with the current dean. I wrote out of passion and perhaps a little too hastily, but I still wish very much for this difficult situation to have an amicable solution. My main point continues to be that dialogue between the dean the board, the students and the faculty is crucial. Things seem to of gone pretty far but I hope that is still possible

  21. The Rev. Terence Blackburn

    I lost some sleep last night, about my posting. I wanted to find a way to take it down, but that didn’t seem to be possible. I felt my comment as I said above was written in haste and was far too judgmental. What I want to offer are my prayers for all and that there can be a peaceful resolution of this problem.

  22. Fr Phillip Ayers

    I’m sorry to hear about GTS’ difficulties. They are much in my prayer. I know only one faculty member at all well and have just written him. I also know a few board members. GTS is not my seminary, but I hold it in high esteem, as I could well have gone there, back in 1967. My own seminary went through a horrible debacle in 1969-1970 but emerged a strong place after an affiliation with Yale the year after I was graduated. Thank God for certain faculty members (who were priests) for shepherding me and loving me through all of that. I hope the same can afford the stalwart students who now struggle in their seminary (GTS) doing their level best to be faithful and true to their vocations.My prayers are with you!

  23. The Rev. Wilfredo Benitez

    A plan of action is past due. The BoT needs to reinstate the “fired” faculty immediately as an act demonstrating that they are grounded in wisdom and a Spirit of reconciliation. Prolonging this will only add fuel to the fire, and further stain the already compromised reputation of General Theological Seminary. Reinstate!

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