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General Seminary Update

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:

We have made a positive proposal early yesterday morning (10/2) to the Executive Committee of the Board. We believe that this proposal addresses all significant misgivings. However, we have not yet had any positive communication from them and are dismayed to see that we are increasingly being replaced. Although the school cannot fire us, they have the right to replace us.

Update: Here is a copy of “positive proposal” referred to above:

Letter to Bishop Sisk (October 2nd 2014 12.09pm)

1. Thank-you for your positive letter

2. We are taking it in the spirit of an invitation

3. How can we de-escalate the situation? We want to find a path forward to return to the classroom and to common worship for the sake of our students

4. Let us suggest a path forward:

1. You reinstate us in a statement (this must be phrased in such a way that does not jeopardize Prof Andrew Irving’s employment status)

2. Our working relations in the seminary –that is our teaching and common worship– are normalized in order to get the Seminary back on track

3. We shall continue to cooperate with the investigation

4. We would prefer that the Dean be suspended during the investigation [as is normal practice],

5. But we are willing to work with his presence provided that some ground rules be established for our interaction: the Dean should be instructed to limit interactions with us (until the October 16 meeting) to

the absolutely necessary -and no more (even this morning in front of a witness there has been another intimidating and aggressive statement made by President Dunkle to one of our faculty members at the seminary front desk)

6. We all agree not to make any further public comments about these matters before the October 16 meeting.

This documents our 11.44 am phone call this morning as you requested.

Deirdre Good

The following e-mail was sent to the entire seminary community from Dean Kurt Dunkle.

Dear everyone

I wanted to bring you up to date on Chapel and classes.


…Next week, we will continue with the usual chapel schedule. On Tuesday evening, Bishop Stacey Sauls will preach (scheduled as our preacher during this summer); spiritual director Mtr. Barbara Crafton will celebrate.

Classes: Here is an update on classes:

– Over half of our classes were uninterrupted this week.

– Three classes also continued with supplemental faculty. Many thanks to Professors McPherson and Spellers and the Presiding Bishop.

– On Monday, Ethics (ET-1) will continue with the Rev. Canon Dr. Richard Tombaugh. Dr. Tombaugh is a graduate of General with a ThD in Ethics. He has taught at the Jesuit seminary of St. Louis University, Eden Seminary (UCC), and our own General. He is the former Executive Secretary of the Board of Examining Chaplains, and continues in active parish ministry.

– On Tuesday, Pastoral Counseling (PT-1) will resume with Dr. Gary Ahlskog. Dr. Ahlskog is a seasoned psychologist in New York City trained at Amherst, Yale Divinity School, Fordham, and the Washington Square Institute. For over 30 years he has been on the faculty of the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. He has directed NPAP’S Theodor Reik Consultation Center and later served as the President of the NPAP Training Institute. Simultaneously he has taught at Union Theological Seminary and has served as the Director of the Pastoral Counseling Training Program at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. He co-designed and co- directed the Doctoral Program in Pastoral Counseling at Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion.

– On Wednesday, Preaching (PR-1) will continue with the Rev. Tim Mulder. Fr. Mulder is the rector of Christ Church, Short Hills, NJ, the former Executive Director of the Preaching Excellence Program (PEP), and is a professor of preaching at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

– Next week, Old Testament (OT-1) will meet during its usual time and also during the time for New Testament (NT-1). OT-1 will conclude in the middle of the semester when NT-1 will pick up at that time utilizing both the NT-1 and OT-1 time slots. I will have further information about NT-1 later this month.

I hope to have more information later this weekend.


The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle

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

Chett Pritchett, a United Methodist lay person, writes about why this situation is important to people outside of the GTS community and the Episcopal Church. He also suggests some things that students might learn from this experience.

Methodist Federation for Social Action blog:

At institutions of graduate theological education, schools with missions to form, train, and send-forth theological leaders – both lay and clergy – it is ever important for there to be a strong, open, transparency between faculty, staff, and administration. While still firmly in the realm of higher education, graduate schools of theological education (commonly called divinity schools, theological schools, or seminaries) have other stakeholders: the Association of Theological Schools and their sponsoring denomination(s), the latter in both formal and informal ways.

Seminaries are places for nurture, growth, and vitality. As one who is “Seminary-trained, but not ordained,” I can affirm the value of community, challenging academic work, and vocational training received in such an educational environment. My thoughts and prayers are especially with the current students of General Theological Seminary; this is a scary, frustrating experience. But I hope they will also learn greatly from this time. I hope they will learn skills for organizing when the systems, institutions, and communities in which they find themselves are unjust. I hope they will learn to see broadly how sometimes the institutions we love the most can do great harm. I hope they will learn that God’s hope for justice is grounded in transparency, collaboration, and care for the soul of individuals, not in snide remarks, triangulation, or assumptions that straight, white, and male are norms for theological education and ministry. If the latter were the case, our seminaries and churches would have closed their doors long ago.

Let us not be fooled. Silencing and belittling of women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons is not something that only happens at General Theological Seminary. I’m sure graduates of United Methodist seminaries and United Methodist-related colleges and universities can talk for days about the ways in which administrators, powerful alumni, and boards of trustees squelch anything which might be seen as too “political” or “distracting.” It is in the hands of some of those same people in which we find aversion to transparency at General Conference.


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Kris Lewis

Dean Dunkle’s update contains many distressing details but the one that quite surprises and puzzles me is is reference to the Presiding Bishop as “supplemental faculty” which seems to imply an ongoing role. Is this in fact the case?

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