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Bishop Sisk offers an update on resolution of General Seminary’s crisis

Bishop Sisk offers an update on resolution of General Seminary’s crisis

General Seminary has issued a release that, while typically indirect in its language, seems to indicate that Bishop Mark Sisk, chair of the board of trustees, and the eight faculty members who had staged a walkout and were then fired, have agreed on the terms of the faculty’s reinstatement.

It is worth noting, however, that the release quotes a faculty statement that is four days old. There is no confirmation from the faculty this evening that the matter is settled.


The release reads:

In a spirit of reconciliation and healing for the entire Seminary community, The General Theological Seminary (GTS) Board of Trustees announced this week an offer to presently reinstate eight faculty members. At that time the Board also affirmed its call to the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle as President and Dean of GTS.

“During this challenging time, the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee have maintained open and honest communication with faculty members in the hopes that we may reconcile and end this disruption to our academic year,” said the Rt. Reverend Mark Sisk, Chair of the General Theological Seminary Board of Trustees. “We are grateful that our prayers have been answered and the good faith of all has been rewarded. We look forward to the faculty members returning to what they do best: educating and forming the future leaders of our Church in an environment of faith, respect and collegiality. The Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle, our Dean and President, is deeply committed to moving the Seminary forward.”

Professors Joshua Davis, the Reverend Mitties McDonald DeChamplain, Deirdre Good, David Hurd, Andrew Irving, the Reverend Andrew Kadel, the Reverend Amy Bentley Lamborn and the Reverend Patrick Malloy issued a joint response: “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.”

This week’s invitation would return faculty members to salaries and health benefits for the remainder of the academic year as they work to resolve all outstanding issues with the Board of Trustees. The faculty members would agree to not only return to the classroom, but also to participate in all campus activities such as common meals and community worship and abide by the terms of the Seminary Constitution, Bylaws and policies, and will work together with both the Board, President and Dean Dunkle and an outside mediator appointed to facilitate permanent reconciliation. A process of integrating the returning faculty back into classroom activity is under development so that there is as little disruption of class work as possible.

“The Board has the duty to set policy for a nearly 200-year-old religious institution which seeks to educate and form leaders – ordained and lay – for a church which is changing,” said Bishop Sisk. “Our students have always remained our top priority, both in their continuing education at the Seminary and their spiritual well-being. Together with our faculty, we look forward to turning our full attention to a fruitful and fulfilling academic year that befits our great responsibility.”

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Paul Woodrum

In their October 20th letter to Sisk, the GTS-8 asked that public acknowledgment of an agreement be issued as a joint statement. Sisk rather slyly calls the above comments only an "update." That suggests negotiations are still going on. Considering the BOT's record to date, any strategy, real or implied, is probably accidental.

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Anthony Christiansen

I am not wishing to be cynical, but the past few weeks haven't inspired a lot of confidence in leadership at GTS. Thinking like a lawyer for just a moment, it dawns on me that the BoT putting forward this press release before having made an agreement with the faculty has a rather wily strategic maneuver to it. If the faculty now try to advance their legitimate requests without success, the BoT can make it appear that it is the faculty, not themselves who are at fault.

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