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Education publication speaks with seminary accreditation group about GTS

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.

Flaherty writes:

Eliza Smith Brown, a spokeswoman for Association of Theological Schools, said the body hadn’t been able to independently verify reports about what was happening at General Seminary, but said it was “very concerned.”

“ATS is an accrediting agency with standards related to governance and institutional integrity, including procedural fairness; faculty, including their role in curriculum and degree program requirements; and students, including the educational quality of the programs in which they have enrolled,” she said via email.

“ATS has its own standards of procedural fairness for dealing with issues like those presented at General Seminary, and it will carefully follow those procedures to determine what has happened and to pursue appropriate accrediting implications.”

General Seminary has its next “comprehensive evaluation visit” with ATS next year.

In other developments, GTS’ Alumni/ae Executive Committee has released a statement. Its recommendations, reprinted in full below, include placing Dean Kurt Dunkle on a paid leave of absence until the investigation into the allegations faculty members have made against him is complete.

All members of the community return forthwith to the daily round of prayer and Holy Eucharist in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.

Deescalate rhetoric and accusations and step back from all ultimatums and actions taken by the Faculty and the Board of Trustees heretofore.

Assure the faculty that their homes and livelihoods are secure as a good faith effort to assure ongoing and constructive communication.

In response, Faculty must suspend their work stoppage immediately.

Faculty and the Board of Trustees shall engage in honest, constructive, generous, and respectful dialog with a skilled facilitator.

All parties to these conversations will commit to absolute confidentiality, especially to refrain from commenting on social media.

The Dean should also be treated with generosity. The allegations made against him must be specifically outlined and investigated fairly and quickly. In conformity with best practices across the church, a clear majority of the AEC recommends that the Board of Trustees place him on paid leave pending the outcome. This action will provide a safe environment for the investigation, free from possible intimidation.

A joint statement should be issued as soon as possible publically assuring the Church and the academic community that good faith negotiations are underway and demonstrating the health of the institution as a whole.

A Holy and wise chaplain from outside the General community should be appointed as a pastor for students as soon as possible.


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John N Wall

Joan is absolutely right, really on target here, about the clash of cultures between an authoritarian management style and the system of collegiality and shared governance that is basic to the effective working of an academic institution, whether college, university, or professional school.

The system of shared governance is thoroughly understood and deeply ingrained in institutions of higher learning, as the guidelines for accreditation of the Association of Theological Schools so carefully and thoughtfully stipulate.

Unless these principles and practices are understood and practiced by faculty, administrators, and boards of our seminaries, the seminaries are unable to play their appropriate role in the education and preparation of seminarians for ministry, ordained or otherwise.

William Hammond

Dr. Joan Gundersen of Pittsburgh has written suggesting that Dean Dunkle and most of the trustees do not understand the way of governance in higher education — in particular, the role of the faculty therein.

Donald Schell

Writing as GTS graduate 1971 and, like John Lawrence a former member (two terms) of the Alumni/ae Executive Committee, I’m grateful for this voice of grace and reason from the Alumni Committee. As I began saying to my severely mission congregation in the late 70’s as we were concluding trial use and moving toward the 1979 Prayer Book – I believe what the Spirit asks of us is that we learn to fight like Christians. Alumni Committee has described what that would look like for General at this moment.

John Lawrence

As a graduate of the Class of 1970 and a former member of the Alumni/ae Executive Committee, I completely concur with the wise, generous, and reconciling words and proposals in this Official Statement and would willingly add my name to it. If, as the old Ember Day collect stated, we are truly called to “the ministry of reconciliation,” this today is where we need to begin. The Rev. Canon John E. Lawrence

Michael Merriman

The Alums’ statement is wise and let’s prayer the Trustees and Faculty, Dean and Student all heed it.

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