GTS faculty on strike

Most of the faculty of the General Theological Seminary in New York, citing an unnamed “serious conflict” have decided to refrain from “teaching, attending meetings, or attending common worship” until the situation is resolved with the Board of Trustees.

The following e-mail was sent to the student body:

Dear students,

We have a serious conflict which we are seeking to resolve and are taking to the Board of Trustees. Until they respond we will not be teaching, attending meetings, or attending common worship. Please be assured that we have not taken these steps hastily or lightly. Trust that we have acted in what we believe to be the best interests of your formation, our common life and the future of General Seminary. We hold you in the highest regard. Please pray for us, the Board, and the Dean and President.

Faithfully,

Professor Davis

Professor DeChamplain

Professor Good

Professor Hurd

Professor Irving

Professor Kadel

Professor Lamborn

Professor Malloy

A follow up e-mail went from one member of the faculty, Dr. Clair MacPherson, saying that he would both teach his classes and attend chapel. He did not comment on the content of the conflict or his view of the issues involved.

At this time there have no other communications either from the faculty or administration of the Seminary.

The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle was installed as Dean and President a year ago. A 2004 GTS graduate, his background has been in parish ministry and, before seminary, public policy law.

Correction: An earlier version mis-stated Dean Dunkle’s graduation date from GTS.

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3 Comments
  1. Rev. Steve Holton

    Blessings all

  2. Jenifer Gamber

    prayers. yes. prayers

  3. Addison Bross

    Whatever may be the truth and the right in the conflict between the GTS Board and the striking faculty members, I find both these parties using a faulty conception of how negotiations are to be pursued. This is most plain in the striking faculty members’ claim to be following Dr. Martin Luther King’s example in his nonviolent campaign for social justice in Birmingham in 1963.

    Apparently the strike was called at a time AFTER the Board’s committee had begun or was about to begin consideration of the faculty’s accusations against the Dean and President, but BEFORE that process had been completed. By entertaining the faculty’s accusations, the Board was in the process of hearing the faculty members’ complaints; that is, they had at that time entered into negotiations with the faculty. Hence, the faculty members’ strike began DURING negotiations.

    If it’s true, as the faculty members state in one of their communiques, that their strike was intended (as were Dr. King’s direct actions in Birmingham in 1963) to bring their adversary to the negotiating table, then the strike was inappropriately timed.

    The investigation committee’s consideration of the accusations was indeed part of a process of negotiation: The committee was hearing the accusations and weighing their merit — or had committed to do so. The committee apparently meant to form a response to the faculty members’ complaints. These actions of the committee are indicators that negotiation was occurring.

    WHILE NEGOTIATIONS ARE IN PROGRESS, direct action for the purpose of promoting negotiations makes no sense. An effective direct action is not staged DURING the negotiaton process. Dr. King’s notion of direct action was that it is to be undertaken IN ORDER TO promote by dramatic action (to nonviolently force, if need be) negotiations — to make it more inconvenient, in some sense more costly, for the adversary to resist negotiations than for him to engage in them.

    By the same token, the Board’s request for the faculty members’ resignations was also ill timed. This request was presented — again — while the accusations were being examined. The investigation committee had not weighed the merit of the accusations. The Board’s action in firing the strikers, then, was not based on consideration of the faculty members’ complaints.

    The faculty members’ reference to Dr. King’s tactics in Birmingham is based on a faulty notion of the role and purpose of those tactics; the Board’s firing of the striking faculty members also violates any understanding of the purpose of negotiation.

    It’s unfortunate that in the 51 years since 1963, so little is understood about the tactics of nonviolent methods for resolution of conflict.

    Addison Bross / Member, Diocesan Peace Commission / Grace Church, Allentown

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