EDS partners with Lesley University

Episcopal Divinity School has announced a new partnership with Lesley University and made an official announcement about the resignation of Dean Steven Charleston (which we covered here).

The partnership includes the sale of buildings to Lesley University, academic program enhancements, and shared facilities for such uses a library, student dining and services, and campus maintenance. EDS will retain ownership of 13 buildings on its eight acre campus. This partnership is part of a larger strategic plan developed by EDS designed to ensure the long-term viability of the seminary.

Episcopal Divinity School President and Dean Steven Charleston and Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore hailed the agreement as one that supports the missions of both schools – providing needed facilities for planned growth at Lesley University and a strong financial foundation for EDS.


The partnership announcement follows last week’s announcement by Charleston of his planned resignation on June 30, 2008. Last summer, he spoke with trustees about his interest in making plans to leave EDS, wanting to time his departure so that it would dovetail with EDS’ plans for the future. With the Lesley partnership and the strategic plan in place, Charleston determined that the end of the current academic year presented a good opportunity for a change in leadership. In a February 28, 2008 letter to the EDS community and alumni/ae, Charleston wrote, “The time has come for me to say farewell to EDS and let others carry on with both the hard work and exciting times to come. After almost a decade at EDS, I see that our school has become one of the brightest lights in the Episcopal Church. Now I need to bring my tenure at EDS to a close so new leadership can carry out the next phase of growth for our school.”

Complete releases and additional information here.

The future of seminaries

Using the bicentennial of Andover Newton Theological School as the occasion, Richard Higgins explores the challenges facing most denominational seminaries:

The nation has 165 seminaries, but 39 percent of seminary students attend just 20 of them. The 20 large institutions, all but two evangelical Christian, raise substantial money, have big endowments or receive moderate to high denominational support — or do all three.

In addition, nonsectarian theological and divinity schools that exist within a university also tend to be in good shape.

But a majority of Protestant seminaries are smaller independents, and many, including Andover Newton, lack adequate endowments. The mainline churches that parented the older seminaries have sharply cut financial support.

A result, said Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of the National Association of Theological Schools, is that around 30 seminaries are in financial stress. In the future, Mr. Aleshire said, “There may be just two kinds of seminaries, those with substantial endowments or effective annual giving and the nonexistent.”

While Andover Newton is not on the brink, Mr. Carter said, it and other seminaries needed to think about sharing costs and pooling resources. The Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine has begun to outsource information technology work here.

“All of us,” Mr. Carter said, “have to find news ways to relate to and collaborate with each other as institutions or face the prospect that some will go out of business.”

Driven by economics and a desire for innovation, Andover Newton shares its campus with Hebrew College, a rabbinic school. The arrangement saves on fixed costs, Mr. Carter said, and the interfaith discussions it has created has attracted new types of students, grants and donations. Other seminaries are similarly combining resources, Mr. Aleshire said.

Read it all here.

See our earlier report on the future of Episcopal seminaries here.

Seabury gives faculty notice, cuts nine staff jobs

The Trustees of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary today declared that the Episcopal Seminary “is in (a state of) financial crisis that threatens survival of the institution” and has given notice to all faculty that employment will end on June 30, 2009. The school also eliminated nine staff positions. The final date of employment for most of these staff will be May 23 – a week after graduation and the school’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

UPDATE - Chicago Tribune coverage here: "Officials at the Evanston seminary insist the school is not closing, but that it is redefining its approach for preparing men and women for priesthood."

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Jefferts Schori and Tutu address Sewanee graduates

The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, addressed University of the South's School of Theology on Friday, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the commencement address earlier today.

Tutu talks about thanksgiving, and about being agents to fulfill God's purpose. Calling on the graduates to heed the cries for help from those in need, he notes that our greater cause is to bring about more compassion, love and laughter in this world.

The graduation ceremony also culminates the Sewanee's yearlong sesquicentennial celebration.

From a write-up on Tutu's address:

People may have their minds on gas prices, grocery bills and whether or not a pink slip awaits them at work, but Americans should not forget the desperation and troubles of others abroad, South African humanitarian leader Desmond Tutu said Friday.

“We have major problems relating to governments and freedom,” said Anglican Archbishop Tutu, speaking to a crowd of more than 800 at the University of the South. “We have a number of places where the rulers are not there because the people wanted them to be there. There is a great deal of oppression.”

Archbishop Tutu was at Sewanee to celebrate the school of seminary’s graduation. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to hold the Anglican church’s top office, also was present at the event.

The write-up in the Chattanooga Times Free Press is here, but it's better to just watch the sermon itself, here.

Today: Jefferts Schori,

invoking the epistle lesson for the day, told a packed crowd of undergraduates and their families, faculty, staff and special guests in All Saints Chapel that "provocation is the reason you came here...provocation that invokes love and good deeds."

In the Baccaulaureate Address for the penultimate event of graduation weekend, the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., quoted from the Letter to the Hebrews and urged the graduates to cultivate "undefended hearts" that are open to others and to the needs of the world as a way of taking a leadership role.

Her remarks followed the reading of the first part of a five-part poem, "Sewanee When We Were Young," by Richard Tillinghast, C'62. Tillinghast received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the service, while Jefferts Schori received an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

Video is not up yet, but should be available later today here.

The cost of one's calling

The Washington Post today examines the downsizing and program-trimming trend among Episcopal seminaries, noting a correlation between that trend and the dynamics within the denomination. But the more likely causal factor, the article continues, is, quite simply, money.

Money, in fact, might be the biggest issue. As a result, seminaries of all stripes are weighing whether they can afford to keep training clergy in a three-year residential model that dates to the mid-1800s.

John Mitman, executive director of the Society for the Increase of the Ministry (SIM), a Connecticut-based nonprofit that provides financing for Episcopal seminarians, said students often balk at the prospect of relocating to such pricey cities as New York, Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, where tuition, books and living expenses can run upward of $40,000 a year.

What's more, those who leave seminary with debt face average annual student loan payments of more than $12,000 -- with an average starting salary of just $45,500.

"We hear this all the time," Mitman said. "People are concluding, 'I can't make it work. I can't borrow the money to do the seminary piece and go to work for the church for what the church pays and manage the debt.' "

At least it hasn't gotten to the point that blogger Sarah Dylan Breuer thought it had when she saw that Hewlett-Packard was in negotiations to acquire Electronic Data Systems, more commonly known as EDS—as is the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge.

I actually did a double-take before I realized it wasn't about my seminary.

Now I'm picturing seminary alumnae having to sew patches on their albs, stoles, and chasubles advertising the corporations that bought out their alma mater, and perhaps a little ticker-tape below webcam broadcasts from the chapel: "Hebrew bible reading brought to you courtesy of Staples, Inc. -- keeping parish offices together since 1974."

You can read the Washington Post piece here, and Dylan's post is here.

Sex and the seminaries

A group called The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing issued a report along with the Union Theological Seminary of New York calling on North American Theological Seminaries to offer more courses and programs to help prepare ministers, rabbis, priests, and other religious professionals to address issues of sexuality better than they now do.

Among their findings:

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Episcopal Divinity School cuts tuition

The Board of Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) has voted to cut tuition from $16,500 to $12,500 for the Masters of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theological Studies programs for the school's fall and spring semesters of 2009. The Board cited the economic conditions of the world and the desire to make education affordable as the reasons for the cuts. The new tuition will be effective at the Cambridge, Massachusetts seminary beginning in the Fall of 2009. Dr. Randall Chase, acting president states:

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Fire at Nashotah House

An overnight fire in Waukesha County leaves nothing but a pile of rubble behind at a historic building according to reports from 620WTMJ News.

Nobody was hurt, but the structure which was part of the Nashotah Episcopal Seminary was destroyed. The fire broke out around 12:30 a.m. Friday morning. The two-story house was engulfed in fire. Investigators said that nobody currently lives in this house, a historic building set in the heart of the Nashotah House Episcopal Seminary

Photos and descriptions of the fire from members of the community here and here.

A word on getting the Jim McGreevey story right

The mainstream media has an ongoing fascination with Jim McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey who resigned his office after acknowledging that he had cheated on his wife with a man whom he had placed on the state's payroll, and then enrolled in an Episcopal seminary. It is, one must admit, a difficult story to ignore, but it is also proving to be a difficult story for the press to get right.

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Assets and liabilities

The General Theological Seminary discovered that as far as the Department of Education is concerned, a $29 million lump sum they received on a development lease is a huge liability on their balance sheet.

According to an article in the Chronicle for Higher Education, the Department of Education says this makes the seminary one of 114 private institutions of higher learning that failed their test of financial stability.

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Seabury's president resigns for Michigan rectorship

After four years at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, dean and president Gary Hall has resigned to take pulpit duties at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

UPDATE: The Board of Trustees of Seabury have announced that Bob Bottoms, the Board Chair and retired President of DePauw University, has been named as Seabury's interim dean and president for a term beginning in January 1, 2010 and ending June 20, 2011.

The full press releases for both announcements are appended below.

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Seminary of the Southwest to cut 12 staff positions

Twelve staff positions will be cut as the Seminary of the Southwest attempts to trim $1 million from its operating budget, according to a letter from the Very Rev. Douglas Travis. A press release is here.

A source close to those in the restructuring effort said no faculty members are losing their jobs, and the curriculum would not be affected.

A letter sent by members of the Seminary's board to alumni reads in part:

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The future of theological education

An excellent conversation about the future of seminary and graduate level theological education has broken out in the comment trail of our item about the recent layoffs at the Seminary of the Southwest, including comments from Marshall Scott, Michael Russell, seminarian Jim White and Elizabeth Butler of Seabury Western. (You can see their comments by clicking Read more.) One key question seems to be the role of a residential community in priestly formation. Thoughts?

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Being a seminary in the 21st century

The Interim President and Dean of Seabury Western Seminary, Robert Bottoms, is asking questions about how we need to change our formation model and the resources that support it as we move into a new century of the Episcopal Church's life in America.

Read more »

Richardson new dean at CDSP

From the Church Divinity School of the Pacific:

After much prayerful thought, discussion, and deliberation, the Board of Trustees of Church Divinity School of the Pacific is pleased to announce that the Rev. Dr. W. Mark Richardson has accepted the offer to become the seminary’s next President and Dean beginning July 1, 2010.

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General Theological Seminary financial concerns

At the recently completed meeting of the House of Bishops questions were raised about the finances of The General Theological Seminary (GTS). AZBishop reported on Twitter "HOB passes resolution calling for restructuring of seminary system. Most are in serious financial trouble" The Secretary of the House of Bishops Ken Price reports that although a resolution did not come forward, the House did discuss the finances of GTS and the Presiding Bishop and the HoB committee on seminaries would be involved in future discussions with GTS.

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Update on General Seminary financial crisis

The Lead reported March 30 on the financial concerns of General Theological Seminary, today Episcopal News Service has an update on General Theological Seminary's financial difficulties and plans for the future.

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What's up at Virginia Theological Seminary?

The Spring issue of the Virginia Theological Seminary's News from the Hill raises questions about what is happening at VTS. Although the Dean Ian Markham offers the newsletter in the spirit of open conversation, the voices are particularly one sided.

Read more »

Educating the laity

Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, has written an essay on theological education for the laity for Seabury Western Seminary:

Read more »

GTS press release:
"Financial Crisis Eased"

Financial Crisis Eased

For Immediate Release
14 July 2010

General Seminary Reaches Agreement with M&T Bank
$5.3 Million Short Term Loan Eases Immediate Financial Concerns

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GTS reaches short term debt agreement

UPDATE: The Rt. Rev. Peter J. Lee named interim Dean - see below

The General Theological Seminary has announced that they have reached an agreement with Manufacturers and Traders Bank (M&T Bank) which will give the seminary breathing room on their debts:

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Seabury, Bexley explore partnership

Seabury Western Seminary awarded grant from the Luce Foundation to work in collaboration with Bexley Hall:

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General Seminary to sell unspecified properties to stay afloat

The latest news from General Seminary is not as specific as one might like. The Seminary's board has apparently taken decisive action to keep the institution afloat, but it is difficult know at this point just what that action is.

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Breaking: Fire at Virginia Seminary

Alexandria firefighters are responding to a substantial blaze at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, authorities said. The fire at the seminary, at 3737 Seminary Road, broke out not long ago, according to the Washington Post.

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General Seminary describes plan in more detail

The Rev. Lang Lowrey, Interim President of the General Theological Seminary held a web conference today describing in more detail the plan restructuring plan announced a week ago.

The plan, called "The Plan to Choose Life" has four components, according to President Lowrey. The first task is eliminate debt, endowment must be rebuilt, and the budget must be balanced. This is all so that the environment will be right to renew and strengthen the ministry of the seminary, Lowrey said.

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A message from the dean of Virginia Theological Seminary

A Message from our Dean and President

Dear Alumni/ae and Friends:

We mourn on this day after the fire which destroyed the Seminary’s beloved chapel. As flames engulfed that sacred site yesterday afternoon, we gathered in Scott Lounge for prayers. I offered the following prayer, and I humbly share it with you:

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VTS Chapel update, 6-toed Jesus saved

The destruction of the Virginia Theological Seminary's Chapel, Immanuel Chapel, was a near total loss, however, in the aftermath, a few cherished items and a few elements of this loved and holy space survived. Somewhat incredibly, some Books of Common Prayer survived the fire, as well as the brass cross behind the altar, the baptismal font, some vestments, and several smaller stained glass windows. The stained glass windows that survived included the loved "missionary windows" as well as the "six-toed Jesus" window at the back of the chapel.

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Templeton award for theological promise awarded to Sewanee professor

The Rev. Benjamin John King, assistant professor of church history at the School of Theology at Sewanee, and recent Episcopal Cafe Essayist, was awarded a John Templeton Award for Theological Promise.

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EDS has a good year

Wickedlocal.com reprints a news release from Episcopal Divinity School that describes the work they've done to turn back debt and increase fundraising.

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What makes for a great seminary president?

In a search for a seminary president? It's a turbulent time for theological seminaries and many of them are in the search process for new leadership. A new study says look past the resume:

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General Seminary to sell property to raise funds

The Wall Street Journal reports on the sale of property by The General Theological Seminary:

Seminary Sees Virtue in Land Sale
In the Wall Street Journal

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Bexley Hall and Seabury enter into partnership

Trustees of Bexley Hall in Columbus, OH and Seabury Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, ratified a joint operating agreement to begin immediately and extend through June 30, 2012. During that time, a joint trustee committee will draft proposals for a permanent partnership between the two Episcopal seminaries.

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Boomers go to seminary

Boomers take one last shot at lifelong dream according to CNN Belief Blog titled: Holy Enrollers: Why Boomers Are Going to Divinity School

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Developing seminary education in China

A leader of the post-denominational Protestant churches in China met with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other Episcopal Church leaders to explore the possibility of future seminary education partnerships:

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Making the case for on-line seminary education

Jason Byassee makes the case for less than fully-embodied theological education:

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Bass, Sachs named new fellows at Seabury

From Seabury Western:

Diana Butler Bass and the Rev. Dr. William Sachs are the first recipients of Seabury Western Seminary’s Chabraja Fellowships, Robert Bottoms, Seabury’s interim dean and president announced today.

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Seminary: waste of time and money?

Is seminary a waste of time and money? Jerry Bowyer, writing in Forbes discusses the economics and reality of seminary and obtaining a position - as he sees it:

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Bexley Hall names new dean: The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson has been selected as Bexley Hall Seminary's new dean:

Ecumenical Leader Chosen as Bexley Hall’s New Dean
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson will begin work in July
From Bexley Hall Seminary's website

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Architects chosen to design new VTS chapel

The trustees of Virginia Theological Seminary has chosen Robert A.M. Stern Architects to design the new chapel at VTS.

Architects chosen to redesign fire-destroyed Virginia Seminary chapel

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Nashotah House names next dean/president

The Living Church reports The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., a former bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, has been chosen to serve as the next dean and president of Nashotah House Theological Seminary.

Read more »

The British are coming

A favorite C of E blogger of ours is coming to these shores. Author, musician and theologian, Maggi Dawn reports

It’s just been announced across the water that I am to be the Dean of Marquand Chapel and Associate Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School. ...

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You remember a little ... I'll add a piece

On his blog Becoming, hospice physician and Episcopal priest Steve Thomason recounts some of his memories of what happened at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest on 9/11/2001.

Read more »

The future of seminary education

What might be the future of seminary education? Patheos blog is offering an online symposium which attempts to answer this question:

Read more »

Seminaries consider curriculum changes

Seminaries across the United States consider curriculum changes:

U.S. seminaries consider radical changes
By G. Jeffrey Macdonald in The Washington Post

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VTS chapel design approved

Virginia Theological Seminary announces acceptance of a design concept for a chapel to replace the one that burned down last year:

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Sewanee lowers tuition for seminarians

Sewanee, one of the historic seminaries of the Episcopal Church has announced that it is acting to bring its costs to students more in line with the costs of other Episcopal seminaries and will be dropping its tuition by nearly $4,000 (more than 20%).

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Digital Formation

General Seminary is working with the Office of Communication of the Episcopal Church on a new education program called Digital Formation.

Read more »

General Seminary seeks to sell Tutu Center

<Updated 12:30 pm EST> Chelsea Now reports that General Seminary is in discussion with the Brodsky Organization to sell the Desmond Tutu Center, a conference center owned by the Seminary.

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Neil Alexander to be Dean of School of Theology, Sewanee

The University of the South School of Theology, Sewanee TN announces the Rt Rev Neil Alexander has been named Dean:

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Peacebuilding brings Candler faculty to General Seminary

Practical Peacebuilding will be the first collaborative program of the new partnership between Candler and General Seminary. Candler faculty will come to Chelsea Square and teach the technique for addressing conflict.

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School encourages MBA with MDiv

Inside Higher Ed reports that North Park University is encouraging ministry degree students to pursue a business degree in conjunction with their theological studies:

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#Sandy changes football game to recovery effort

Traditionally this weekend is the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) vs. General Theological Seminary (GTS) flag football game. This year’s game was to be held at General, located in lower Manhattan, which was under blackout conditions following Superstorm Sandy. Because of Sandy, the game has been cancelled. VTS students will be making the trip anyway, as a mission trip.

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Presiding Bishop at the SSW 60th Anniversary Lectures

The Seminary of the Southwest 60th Anniversary Lectures was held on its campus in Austin, TX . Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave two lectures at the event, in addition to preaching at the Eucharist.

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Let us welcome the newly baptized

GTS News describes the baptism of Amelia Wall at General's Community Eucharist and how the liturgy demonstrated creative ways of offering the sacrament of baptism.

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How Sewanee made its policy on same-sex blessings

Libby Nelson of Inside Higher Ed has a story we missed when it appeared a few weeks. She writes:

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How seminarians are using social media in their work

The Rev. Kyle Oliver, digital missioner and learning lab coordinator in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary passes on a collection he put together that gives us a glimpse of how students at the seminary are "learning to use social media to tell the story of how they've been seeking and serving during their formation as church leaders."

Have a look and tell us what you think.

EfM receives Luce grant for Spanish program

The University of the South (Sewanee) School of Theology has received a Luce Foundation Grant for developing the Education for Ministry program in Spanish:

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The Rev. Kurt Dunkle to be Dean and President of GTS

General Theological Seminary announces:

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Kittredge named dean & president of Seminary of the Southwest

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge has been named dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest, it was announced today. She succeeds Douglas Travis, who is retiring as of May 31. From today's announcement from SSW:

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Travel magazine catches up to developments at General Seminary

A traveler's guide reports that part of General Seminary in New York City's Chelsea area will become a luxury hotel.

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Unprepared pastors

Were you or were the clergy you know prepared for pastoring a congregation by their education? Thom S. Rainer talks about eight ares where many are unprepared for the job they are called to do:

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Episcopal Divinity School names Bp Tengatenga presidential fellow

Episcopal Divinity School President and Dean Katherine Ragsdale announces that the Rt Rev. James Tengatenga will be the Presidential Fellow at the divinity school. From Episcopal News Service:

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GOE Time Again

It's that stressful time of year again, when students preparing for ordination around the church gear up and take the General Ordination Exam--a multi-day, seven-part written exam covering seven different canonical areas of study.  

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Hard times for seminaries and those who attend them

The rocky road facing seminaries and those seeking ordination in the mainline Protestant churches is illustrated by two recent articles.

The first, in the Christian Century lays out the problem from an institutional point of view:

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GTS embarks on the 'way of wisdom.'

Believing that the ways of academic specilization and business-style management is leaving the church bereft, the Dean and faculty of General Seminary are embarking on an experiment to integrate theological education with the daily, lived experience of the church. They are calling this exploration "The Way of Wisdom."

A statement from the faculty:

Read more »


There is a new group in the Episcopal online world, which already has quite a presence on Facebook and is beginning to make a mark on Twitter. we are going to let them tell their own story:

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Sewanee grants request for same-sex blessing in All Saints' Chapel

Via email, a message from the Vice Chancellor of The University of the South:

Dear Members of the Faculty and Staff,

Last week I wrote to you about a matter concerning the University policy on the blessing of same-sex relationships.

Read more »

Making preaching more democratic is hot topic at festival

Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times writes about last month's Festival of Homiletics, where some of the most-respected preachers from the mainline churches gather to discuss and demonstrate their art and craft.

One hot topic was making preaching "more democratic."

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Union in New York first theological school to divest of fossil fuels

Union Theological Seminary in New York, an institution well-known for the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr, has decided to divest from fossil fuels based on theological principles and core institutional values. From President Serene Jones:

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Turmoil at Episcopal Divinity School

An intense struggle has developed between the administration and faculty at of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., over the seminary's future. Rather than attempt to summarize the conflict, we offer a link to this letter the Very Rev. James Kowalski, chair of the board of trustees and dean of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, to members and friends of the EDS community.

Please feel free to discuss the situation in the comments.

Top five reasons why seminaries matter

Seminary education has entered a period of great change and uncertainty across the historic mainline denominations. Religious leaders are asking whether there are too many seminaries, whether they cost too much and whether seminaries are educating students to lead a church that is also in a period of change and uncertainty. There is even discussion, in some quarters, about a University of Phoenix, higher education for profit approach to theological education.

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Alleged conflict at Duke Divinity School

dukediv.jpegDuke Divinity

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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:

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Letter from GTS faculty to the students

Received via email:

Dear students,

As you know, we have announced that we are not going to teach, attend meetings, or participate in common worship until pressing issues at the Seminary are addressed. We want to assure you that we would not have taken this difficult action had our repeated attempts to resolve these matters in a collaborative fashion been successful in any way. Instead, despite many attempts at dialogue in the past year – including conversations facilitated by a professional external facilitator – the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that we have reached an impasse.

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Dean and President of General Seminary responds to community

A letter from the Dean and President received via email as distributed to students and members of the General Theological Seminary:

From: Kurt Dunkle
Subject: Monday at General

Dear everyone

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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,

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A GTS Trustee reflects on the crisis at the Seminary

The Rev. Ellen Tillotson, a priest in the Diocese of Connecticut and a member of the General Seminary Board of Trustees reflects on the conflict between the faculty and the Dean at the Seminary.

This is taken from her Facebook page, and as such is her personal reflection and does not attempt to articulate the official position of the Seminary, administration or Trustees. It is reprinted with permission.

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GTS Dean writes students: PB to visit GTS tomorrow

A letter from Dean and President Dunkle. Received via email.

Dear everyone,

No doubt we all had a tough day yesterday. Much was said and done, all producing high emotion. So, anxiety, fear, anger, resentment, perplexity, and sadness (among many, many others) are just a few of the very valid responses.

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General Seminary trustees release first statement on conflict

Via email:

Yesterday, after much prayer and deliberation and after consulting our legal council, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary voted with great regret to accept the resignations of eight members of the Seminary faculty.

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Striking GTS faculty launch website concerning their actions

The eight General Seminary professors have launched a website, Facebook group and Twitter account @SafeSeminary to respond to questions about their actions.

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Media coverage and reactions to the controversy at GTS

The Associated Press, which had a reporter at yesterday's chapel service, has filed a report on the controversy at the General Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Jesse Zink has written an essay on the situation for Episcopal Cafe's Daily Episcopalian blog

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Board offers to meet with faculty, GTS alumni call for investigation

The General Seminary has posted a letter from Bishop Mark Sisk, chair of the board of trustees, to eight striking faculty members whose employment the board has ended, proposing to meet with them on October 16 after an investigation into the allegations the faculty has made into the conduct of Dean Kurt Dunkle has been completed.

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Education publication speaks with seminary accreditation group about GTS

Updated at bottom with Alumni Executive Committee Statement

Colleen Flaherty has written a story on the crisis at General Seminary for Inside Higher Ed that includes the first public comment on the situation from the Association of Theological Schools. ATS accredits seminaries and degree programs.

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General Seminary Update

Here is an update on the goings on at General Seminary and further reflection on what the situation means for the rest of the church. Updated below at 6 p.m. Friday, October 3.<

Professor Deirdre Good released this statement on the GTS8 facebook site:

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General Seminary's besieged dean issues his first statement

The Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, the besieged dean and president of the General Theological Seminary, has released the following statement:

To the beloveds of God's church in the world

Some of you may be following the unfolding of various controversies surrounding The General Seminary of The Episcopal Church here in New York City and around me, it's Dean and President. Until today, there were three main issues: (1) allegations against me personally, (2) faculty employment issues, and (3) overarching and intensely serious issues regarding the future of Christian theological education in America, in The Episcopal Church, and at General Seminary. While dutifully silent until now, I have felt for a while that I need to touch on all three.

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GTS board to meet with faculty, but "resignations" remain in effect

The striking faculty at General Theological Seminary have posted the following at SafeSeminary dated October 6, 2014:

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Stanley Hauerwas drops out of GTS lecture series

Breaking from Religion News Service:

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has declined a series of lectures he was scheduled to give at New York’s General Theological Seminary in November in the wake of the crisis roiling the school.

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Jesuit magazine criticizes GTS trustees' response to striking faculty

In an essay for America, the Jesuit weekly, Nathan Schneider places the ongoing crisis at General Theological Seminary in the context of labor relations in higher education.

He writes: [The] crisis is not GTS’s alone. It is a crisis for any community of faith in which cherished rights are being twisted into excuses for repression.

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Former Presiding Bishop Griswold to facilitate GTS Faculty/Trustees meeting

Episcopal News Service is reporting:

Former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold will facilitate the Oct. 16 meeting between trustees of the General Theological Seminary and eight professors whose employment is at the core of the dispute involving complaints about the conduct of the school’s dean and president.

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GTS Alums write to Board of Trustees

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

October 14, 2014

Dear Bishop Sisk and members of the Board of Trustees:

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GTS Board: Dean to stay; faculty "resignations" still in effect; replacements okay


Statement from the Eight Faculty:

The following statement was issued tonight by the eight faculty whose job action resulted in their dismissal.

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Statement from the eight dismissed GTS faculty

The following statement was released this evening by the eight faculty dismissed by the Seminary.

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Bp Breidenthal dismayed by GTS Board action

UPDATE: see below re: Diocese of California resolution.

The Rt Rev. Tom Breidenthal, Diocese of Southern Ohio, has posted a public statement about the General Theological Seminary Board of Trustees actions on Friday. From his Facebook page:

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Bp Dietsche of NY issues statement on GTS, calls for reinstatement of faculty

This statement was sent as an email to the Diocese this morning

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My brothers and sisters,

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Trustee resigns from the GTS Board

In the aftermath of Friday's contentious decision by the Board of Trustees to not reinstate the forcibly-resigned faculty members, and to fully back the dean of the seminary, the reverberations continue to echo.

Yesterday evening, trustee Jeffrey Small, Jr of Atlanta, announced his resignation on Twitter:

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Bishop Stokes, a board member, reflects on events at GTS

A statement on the crisis at The General Theological Seminary by Bishop Stokes of New Jersey and a Board Member:

October 20, 2014

Dear People of the Diocese of New Jersey:

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GTS Alumni/ae Executive Committee releases statement--UPDATED

In the ongoing negative reaction to the Board of Trustees's decision on Friday not to reinstate the forcibly-resigned professors and to fully support the controversial dean, today, the Alumni/ae Executive Committee of the seminary issued the following statement, available on their Facebook page:

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Bp of Pennsylvania: Some thoughts on the current moment at the General Theological Seminary and a modest proposal

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, 3rd, Bishop Provisional of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania and member of the Board of Trustees has issued the following statement:

The peace of God, it is no peace,

But strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for but one thing,

The marvelous peace of God.

(The Hymnal 1982, #661)

bpdaniel72dpi.jpgThe Peace of God is not simply the absence of conflict. If that were so, then Jesus and Paul led very un-peaceful lives. The Peace of God comes with the presence of the risen Christ who enters conflict willingly through our confession and repentance in order to bring reconciliation, renewal and hope.

I call now for a season of self-examination and repentance as our General Theological Seminary (GTS) community seeks the guidance of Jesus to lead us toward fulfilling his will for this seminary in the current difficult moment.

I am hopeful that the Executive Committee and Board’s invitation to the Faculty to a return to the prior status through the remainder of this academic year will be received in a positive way and that the faculty assume their prior positions. I am encouraged by the decision of the Executive Committee to engage a skilled, qualified Christian mediator who will call the Dean, the Board, the Faculty, Students (and perhaps representatives of the Alumni/ae Association) together to engage in a prayerful, structured and disciplined process of mediation and reconciliation. Following graduation in May 2015, we as a community can come together to determine where we are and where we need to go. Part of the process must be mutual conversation, confession and repentance as necessary steps toward reconciliation.

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.

The Board of Trustees, meeting October 16-17 at GTS carefully reviewed the present situation and its history, heard the report of the law firm investigating allegations against the Dean, met with the Dean privately, with the entire faculty privately, and with the student body and staff. These meetings were intense and often painful. I can say that, based on the evidence I have seen and heard, I believe the decisions and actions of the Board are reasonable and cogent and I continue to support them.

Since personnel issues are involved, the Board is legally constrained in what it can say publicly. I understand that into this enforced silence, it may be tempting for some to speculate and perhaps initiate mischief by assuming knowledge that they do not have. 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 which is contrary to our Baptismal vow to”…protect the dignity of every human being.” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 305)

The Diocese of Pennsylvania currently has five fine students at General Seminary and our Diaconal educational program is situated at the seminary. I have personally visited and spoken with all of our diocesan seminarians and assured them of my ongoing support and concern in this present moment. Our diocese for over two centuries has enjoyed the fruits of the ministry of GTS through its graduates who have faithfully served here in the past and those who do so today. Even in this difficult moment in its life, I continue to have trust in the Dean, Faculty, Students, and the Board of Trustees of this great seminary of our Church, and I urge all Board members, Faculty, Students, Alumni/ae and all who love GTS to continue in this way. As a demonstration of that trust and support, I have this morning put a check into the mail to the seminary and said a prayer as I wrote it. I call on all who read this and who love GTS to do the same.

I pray that the presence of the risen Christ lead us, and that we resolve to follow his footsteps in word and in action.

The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, 3rd

Bishop Provisional

Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

October 20, 2014

GTS faculty: we're ready to return to work

From Facebook:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your patience and prayers for us and for all the students, staff, Board and administration of the Seminary. We last spoke publicly last Friday, and have spent the intervening time reflecting on the Board’s press release, and privately seeking clarification on the meaning of that statement.

Last night we received a letter from Bishop Sisk which clarified the offer, and we drafted a positive response, which we needed to have checked with our legal counsel. Since some aspects of the contents of the Board’s offer were made public this afternoon in the Bishop of Pennsylvania’s public statement via Episcopal Café we feel it is appropriate to make our positive response public also. We look forward to resuming our ministries in the Seminary.


October 20, 2014.

Dear Bishop Sisk,

Thank you for your invitation to come together to find a way forward. We receive this invitation in the good faith in which it is offered. Thank you also for acknowledging that healing is not an easy thing to accomplish; we are appreciative of both the alacrity with which you seek to facilitate our return to work and the attention you are giving to a long-term process of reconciliation for the entire Seminary community.

We accept your offer of reinstatement to our positions, and the salaries and benefits outlined in our contracts in effect prior to September 25, 2014. We look forward to being able to do this as soon as possible. Like any member of the Seminary’s faculty we agree to abide by the terms of the Seminary Constitution, Bylaws and policies. Given some of the confusion that has arisen about these texts in recent weeks, we will need you to provide us with copies of them: this would help us as we seek together to work
within them. We are pleased to see that during the “cooling off period” all of the parties’ respective legal arguments and positions will be reserved.

We also commit with energy to the holy work of reconciliation which we understand to be very important for the health of the entire institution and all of its constituent members: faculty, board, administration, staff and students alike. You mentioned in a telephone conversation the possibility of using a Mennonite group to facilitate this process. We heartily accept this proposal, since we have great respect for their expertise in this area. If, God forbid, at the end of the academic year we find that the collective process of reconciliation has not worked well, we ask that there be some understanding that appropriate severance will be made available to enable us and our families to make a transition. Lest we be misunderstood here, let us state clearly that we will devote ourselves fully to the difficult work of reconciliation this year.

As you know, one of our principal concerns has been to ensure that the seminary workplace be one of mutual respect and collegiality. As we move forward and return to our work, we ask that you consider the appointment of an ombudsperson agreeable to all sides who would act during this “cooling off period” as an interlocutor and safe person to whom complaints could be referred if need be. This will help all of us to feel less on edge and safer, and so will be an indispensable means of helping the process of reconciliation to work well.

As an important sign of our movement forward together, any public acknowledgement of these agreements should be issued together.

Thank-you for this very positive step forward for the sake of our Seminary, our students, and staff and God’s church.

Yours sincerely,

Professors Davis, DeChamplain, Good, Hurd, Irving, Kadel, Lamborn, Malloy.

PDF of letter here

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