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GTS Alumni/ae Executive Committee releases statement–UPDATED

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:

October 20th, 2014

An Open Letter to General Seminary’s Board of Trustees:

We the members of the Alumni Executive Committee continue to be heart broken by the events and the actions that have transpired at General over the last few weeks and shattered our community. When conflicts escalate to this level it is hard not to give in to raw emotion, pain and blame. Calm, rational thinking becomes an item in short supply. We are acutely aware that this is the case now. Lines have been drawn, positions taken, sides chosen, and rhetoric shifted to inflict maximum harm and grief. We are not immune to the intense emotions and reactions.

Amidst this reality, we are striving to find productive and positive ways to stay in a relationship that is on the verge of being severed. As is also the case in events like this, the whole truth is not known. The silence its absence creates opens the way for speculation, rumor, doubt and mistrust at their greatest depths. Everyone is suspect and every side fortified by frustration and anticipation that the other intends to mislead.

The recent action of the Board has been met with dismay by many across the Church. We have listened as the Bishop and people of the Diocese of California, meeting in Convention, adopted a resolution opposing the Board’s actions. Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, of Southern Ohio, a former faculty member at GTS, and Bishop Andy Dietsche of New York, himself a current Board Member, have voiced significant concerns about the Board’s actions. You must realize that the call for the Board to reverse its actions is gaining momentum.

We denounce the tactical handling of these matters by all parties. We are called by God to model a different way of being. Where in this is respect for the dignity of every human being? Where are we seeking Christ? What practical steps have you taken or proposed toward reconciliation with any of the constituencies involved – faculty, alumni, students, or the Church at large? In conflicts such as these many differing interventions are necessary for reconciliation. We see no sign from you of this. We beseech the Board of Trustees to make those plans known so that we might cling to hope rather than give in to despair.

With all possible grace and intent for healing and reconciliation we expect the Board of Trustees to offer a direct and official response/explanation to each of the points we have raised in our two letters to you. Your failure to do so to this point makes it extremely difficult for us to resist filling the void with our own narratives. To this end, we reiterate our request for the Executive Committee or other representatives of the Board to meet in person with the Alumni Executive Committee at some time during on Nov. 5 & 6. This will be a sign to us of the Board of Trustee’s willingness to reconcile with us as a faithful constituency and as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Furthermore, the present condition of the student body and their formation must be tended to and addressed immediately. We ask that the Board of Trustees employ additional resources for pastoral care to them and their families. In addition, a clear plan must be communicated that speaks to the fact that their educational and spiritual development as leaders is at a stand still.

While the question of the ability of current leadership to see us through this crisis is still in doubt, we call for broad support of the seminary’s mission and future and ask that all parties recast the rhetoric of death that is currently infecting the tone of this ongoing conversation.

The Board of Trustees’ rapid response to this letter will be a first step toward renewing our confidence in them and in the future of the seminary.


The Very Rev. Daniel Ade, ‘92

The Rev. Hannah E. Atkins, ‘96

The Rev. Annette M. Chappell, ’03, Secretary

The Rev. Patricia S. Downing, ’95, Vice-President

The Very Rev. Mark Goodman, ‘91

Ms. Rachele Grieco, ‘07

The Rev. Roxane Gwyn, ‘10

The Rev. Canon Jadon D. Hartsuff, ‘12

The Rev. Gregory B. Larkin, ‘82

The Rev. Brandt Leonard Montgomery, ‘12

The Rev. Mark B. Pendleton, ‘91

The Rev. Marguerite Henninger Steadman, ‘97

The Rev. Brian Sullivan, ‘97

The Rev. Sam Tallman, ‘12

The Rev. Dr. R. Scott White, ’96 President

The Rev. Susan L. Wrathall, ‘06


This evening, the Alumni/ae Executive Committee also announced that the planned Alumni Gathering scheduled to be held November 5-6 has been cancelled. Instead, alumni are invited to gather at General for a facilitated conversation about the events that have taken place at the seminary, and the way forward. There will also be a memorial Eucharist celebrated. Information on the new plans for the gathering can be found on the Alumni page.

The Alumni/ae Executive Committee also noted that the Board of Trustees Executive Committee agreed to meet with them, as earlier requested in their statement.


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It’s not my place to choose “sides.” But at any rate, it seems as if this is the end of General. When there are so many opposing factions with adamant, seemingly irreconcilable positions, and where there are tempers and tensions flaring at the hottest of degrees, with lawyers and others involved, it seems to sound the death knell for the institution. Many bishops were reluctant to send postulants to GTS, because of the constant financial instability–and now this…will bishops send anyone there in the future? GTS appears now to be unable to guarantee an accredited, uninterrupted, quality three year Master of Divinity. Sometimes it’s best to cut losses. There are several other worthy and financially stable seminaries that can absorb these students and admit the ones who follow.

Paul Woodrum

I appreciate Mr. Harris’s legalism and Bp. Stoke’s piety, but neither seem to address the reality that, in one year, Dean Dunkle took an institution in recovery from a financial breakdown and sent it back to intensive care with the Board of Trustees blessing the treatment. If the Dean had cooked the books or been found guilty of a sexual indiscretion, the course would be clear. Things get murky, however, when it seems the Board misdiagnosed the institution’s ailments and then hired a Dean with the wrong skill sets to heal it.

Unfortunate financial decisions in the former Dean’s tenure were gracefully smoothed over with his retirement. This Dean is a bit young for that. Firing him after only one year might strike some as lacking n Anglican civility. What, then?

Meditating in an academic setting on a colleague’s sticky situation, Dame Judi Dench as Barbara in “Notes on a Scandal,” thinks, “Judas had the grace to hang himself. But only according to Matthew, the most sentimental of the Apostles.” I wouldn’t suggest anyone hang themself, but the Dean’s resignation, perhaps encouraged by a bit more gilt on his parachute, promotion to bishop or to headmaster of a prestigious Episcopal prep school, might be the best solution. It would give the Board time to reconsider what really is needed, and is possible, if GTS is to survive.

I live in hope it will survive, both for my 50th anniversary and its 200th, and for the word of truth it proclaims that generations yet to come need to hear. As the magnet on my refrigerator says, “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”


Yes, Gary, it’s always helpful in a burning building to have “many differing interventions” there to assist people through the crisis. That way the burning can congratulate themselves on how Anglican they’re being.

Levi S. Harris, J.D.

Chicago, Illinois

Gary Paul Gilbert

What Mr. Harris calls a “diffuse lack of clarity and finality” may simply be the Anglican gift for holding different values in tension.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Jim Liggett

I am struggling with a certain internal tension growing from both the letter by Mr. Harris and a post from a GTS board member on the HoBD site. In the HoBD post we were lovingly reminded that the Board had before it information and insights that are, by the nature of the situation and the relationships involved, unavailable to anyone else.

Mr. Harris calls for respect for the “agonizing deliberation” of the Board as it reached its recent decisions.

On the one hand, there is something compelling about these concerns. No one wants to run off half-cocked and start throwing stuff based on incomplete information and in a spirit of profound disrespect for good people who have worked hard and struggled deeply.

On the other hand, these appeals also bring to mind the insistence by folks like Robert McNamara et. al. that only those in power had the real (secret) information that would show that the war in Vietnam was not only necessary, but that we were winning it. So everyone else should just shut up and trust.

Such appeals seem, in the end, to exempt those in power from any serious questioning or challenge. If we need more information, give it to us, or accept the fact that we must choose without it. Also, it is quite possible both to respect and to sympathize with the Board and still find their actions, at best, questionable. One would assume that, in charity, they will do the same for us.

Jim Liggett, EDS, ‘77

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