General Seminary dean issues statement on first day faculty return

Today was the first day that the seven provisionally-reinstated faculty members were expected back in chapel and in the classrooms of General Theological Seminary.

Late this afternoon, the dean, the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, sent an email to the current student body, which reads as follows:

Dear students, faculty and staff:

I want to thank you for your participation these last several days with the Lombard Mennonite Peace process. I trust that this was a good beginning to the truth telling, healing, and reconciliation work ahead. I realize that this will sometimes be painful work but I hope together we can trust that the process will bring us all a sense of peace in the end.

Also, thank you to the returning faculty for your continued offering of your gifts and presence to all of us at General.

There are rumors about many things. Let me outline a few facts:

1. All classes (except ST-1, Systematic Theology) are staffed. Students in each class have received communications about instructors and schedules.

2. Dr. Joshua Davis made the decision not to return. He will not resume teaching or other duties at General.

3. ST-1 (Systematic Theology) remains un-started. I continue to work on a plan for the remainder of that class, but acknowledge that only four weeks remain in the semester.

4. The Rev. Danielle Thompson made the decision to resign. Her last day is in two weeks and are working together on a plan to continue her good work on The Wisdom Year, Field Education, and CPE.

5. We will still have the already-scheduled discussion on Field Education with those interested students (principally juniors) on Tuesday at 1:30pm in Seabury Auditorium.

For the next step in the LMPC truth and reconciliation process:

1. Bill Blank has made a proposal to the six principal constituencies in this process – students, returning faculty, staff/remaining faculty, alumni, Board of Trustees, and Dean/President – about how to create a Logistics Committee (the communications/information management group). More on that as each constituency responds.

2. It is proposed that on Tuesday evening, December 16 and all day on Wednesday, December 17 Richard Blackburn (LMPC Executive Director) present the “Healthy Congregations” workshop.

This is the evening of Reading Day and the first day of a three-day exam period. This timing is due to three important considerations:

(1) General’s need and desire for a timely next step to move forward,

(2) General’s existing class and event calendar, and

(3) the availability of the LMPC leaders.

I will work with all faculty to assess whether this is feasible considering what in-class exams may be scheduled, the extent of semester-end papers assigned, take-home exams, deadlines, etc. The faculty are in charge of setting their own course requirements and exam schedules and I will encourage each to be generous with their schedule of deadlines, etc. this semester. More on this December 16/17 possibility as it develops.

3. It is proposed that on Tuesday evening and Wednesday all day (January 27/28)] Bill Blank present the “Conflict in the Church” workshop.

This is immediately prior to the beginning of and the first day of spring classes. Adjustments will be made in the Spring semester class schedule to accommodate this all day session on the first day of class.

Regarding our returning faculty, the procedure for reintegration and continuation for each class has been carefully thought through and agreed to by the returning faculty member. For chapel, however, there is less clarity. Returning faculty have been encouraged to return to faculty stalls for all services, but I have heard that some wish to remain within the wider choir section for some liturgies, perhaps for a time being. I hope this evening that all will vest and join in our long tradition of Evensong procession in the usual manner.

Regarding music, organ accompaniment has long been a part of our tradition. But, in the past six weeks, a cappella singing has also emerged as a rich and full musical expression. I have heard positive comments from many visitors, too. So, it seems that both should be honored, at least in the short term.

Therefore, this evening, we will have Evensong without organ accompaniment as with tomorrow’s Morning Prayer, both in the manner which has emerged in the past weeks. Tuesday evening Eucharist will be accompanied including a Scola Cantorum offering. Thank you to the briefly organized Chapel Choir for your Tuesday evening ministry these past weeks. Wednesday Morning Prayer is traditionally spoken but we will have full organ-accompanied Evensong Wednesday evening.

As we all experience a few of these days of varied music, I hope you will let me know your thoughts.

Finally, we are beginning to assemble the Spring semester class offerings. More on this soon, also.

I hope this is helpful. As always, please ask if you have any questions.

Kurt

The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle

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

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20 Comments
  1. tgflux

    “As always, please ask if you have any questions.”

    The Very Rev. Dunkle, when are you going to RESIGN for the being the catalyst for this debacle?

    JC Fisher

  2. Martin Spielman

    The gentleman sounds detached from his subject matter. That concerns me more than a little.

  3. Robert Martin

    Rev. Dunkle, why are you at GTS?

  4. Max Stewart

    so, after all the sign in stuff, i hope i remember what i was saying. in the 80s i worked for an episcopal seminary (no longer episcopal, so i guess we all know what i’m talking about) and they treated me horribly. i was a woman, and my mother was dying. the only recourse was to fire me. i have no trust in any seminary any more.

  5. William Hammond

    From private conversation I understand that some kind of “gag” order has been imposed on some of the members of the GTS community.

    If so, it is reprehensible unless it is specific to particular personal situations, which I doubt.

    But is a gag order reportable as a fact? (We could be in the catch-22 situation where only those who are bound by the gag have knowledge of it.)

  6. Paul Woodrum

    At last week’s alum gathering it was said that the individual, provisional arrangements made with the faculty were confidential. No gag order was mentioned. However, there’s been such a lack of transparency, if there are other gag orders, they would hardly come as any more of a surprise than this tone deaf Board of Trustees retaining this dean and punishing the faculty.

  7. Kris Lewis

    All parties involved are restricted from discussing the provisions of reinstatement as I understand it. It is clear, however, that the standing of the faculty is reduced and their positions are truly provisional.

    Also true that Bp. Sisk nonetheless made a statement to the NT Times although the faculty were forbidden to do so.

  8. Barry M. Signorelli

    So, with the Board of Trustees having used the striking faculty’s legitimate work stoppage as a way to take away their tenure, the Dean now follows the same playbook to chip away at the musical tradition of GTS. Wise as serpents they all seem to be; but apparently innocence is relegated to doves for sacrifice. Kyrie elieison.

    The Rev. Barry M. Signorelli, GTS ’87

  9. Bob McCloskey

    Barry:

    It has been a not too well kept secret that Dunkle has been gunning for David Hurd for some time.

  10. Acapella is fine, but why have a service with music and a world-class organist present but not playing a single chord?

    Dean Dunkle’s note, which dances around so much of what people who care about the seminary want to know, amidst the silencing of the faculty, make it difficult to understand what is going on and who is in charge.

  11. “Here in the enclave, one didn’t prosper by demonstrating too much independent thought.”

    —Ann Aguirre

  12. “Here in the enclave, one didn’t prosper by demonstrating too much independent thought.”

    —Ann Aguirre

  13. Barry M. Signorelli

    June Butler, I’m afraid it’s all too clear what is going on, who is “in charge,” and how it was brought about. Again: Kyrie elieison.

    The Rev. Barry M. Signorelli, GTS ’87

  14. Barry Signorelli, if flailing about counts as being “in charge”, I guess you’re right. Too bad about the collateral damage.

  15. Organ Builder

    I think the Board has been very short-sighted, and are not properly caring for the health and reputation of the institution in their charge.

    You can replace a Dean without setting off too many alarm bells. If you feel the Dean is getting a raw deal, you can give a good severance package and a great recommendation.

    You cannot replace or humiliate over 75% of the faculty without taking a serious hit to your credibility as a governing Board. If I were a student, I’d be looking to transfer as quickly as possible.

    Reconciliation only works when people can meet on equal ground. Otherwise, it’s just another church-speak word attempting to whitewash a sepulcher.

    Michael Morris

  16. William Hammond

    Bob McCloskey says: “It has been a not too well kept secret that Dunkle has been gunning for David Hurd for some time.”

    Do we actually know it to be the case that the Dean is forbidding David Hurd from playing or is it just suspicion?

  17. William Hammond

    I agree that it is silly to think that ‘reconciliation’ is the correct prescription for this situation. The prescription suggested by Bishop Andrew Dietsche (NY Diocesan) and announced in his message following the October BoT meeting is the correct prescription.

  18. Kris Lewis

    David Hurd did in fact play at the Tuesday Community Eucharist. Beyond that, no definitive statement has been made about his roles or duties.Lots of rumors, of course, but few facts.

  19. William Hammond

    I elaborate on my last comment above:

    In the current situation the idea of a facilitated reconciliation process is silly. Reconciliation, which is the Church’s mission, is far from silly, but in this context it must be preceded by (1) removal of the lie that the GTS8 resigned, (2) proper reinstatement of the GTS8 (maybe less one but only if that one does not want a proper reinstatement), (3) removal of ‘gags’, (4) appointment of an ombudsman charged with monitoring the community for intimidation and bullying, (5) an agreement by the Dean to work in proper collaboration with The Faculty, and (6) a return to the previous bylaws until such time as, if necessary, revisions following proper procedures and consonant with the transparent mission of GTS, including accredited status, are established.

  20. Bob McCloskey

    William Hammond: I did not say that Dunkle had forbidden David Hurd to play the organ. Re-read what I said. As a former cathedral organist turned priest, who was an assistant organist with Leonard Raver at GTS during my matriculation, I am party to informal lines of communication which I personally value – especially given the debacle which continues at GTS. Based upon that I said what I said. Nor have I taken a particular side in David’s situation. I respect him as a musician, and as a faculty colleague in several regional and national church music conferences. His per-eminence in Anglican musical circles to me is beyond question. What has occurred at GTS with him personally is beyond me, but then the behavior and lack of leadership by the Board, its Chair and the Dean is increasingly incomprehensible and outrageous to me.

    Bob McCloskey ’67

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