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

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UPDATE #2:

Statement from the Eight Faculty:

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

The eight fired faculty members of the General Theological Seminary sincerely thank the thousands of academics, hundreds of clergy and colleagues, GTS alumni, and other Christian faithful from around the world who have expressed their support for us in the aftermath of the Board of Trustees’ disappointing decision today. Your prayers, your passionate commitment to our cause, and outpouring of love continue to lift us up and sustain us.

For now, we need to spend some time individually and collectively in prayerful reflection on the Board’s decision so that we can determine the best way forward.

Official statement from the Board:

On October 17, 2014, The General Theological Seminary issues this statement:

“Shaping the future leaders of our Church is a responsibility we take very seriously; to that end, the concerns raised by eight members of the Faculty were given full consideration by both the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee. Our chief goal is a fruitful and fulfilling school year for our students.

“We are above all an institution of the Church, and we – both as individuals and as officials of the Seminary – strive to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our guiding Christian principles. In this spirit, the Board has reviewed the findings of an independent investigation and reached three resolutions.

“First, the Board has heard the findings of an independent report and the advice of the Board’s Chancellor, and has concluded after extensive discussion that there are not sufficient grounds for terminating the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle as President and Dean. We reaffirm our call to him as President and Dean and offer him our continuing support.

“Second, all eight Faculty members are invited to request provisional reinstatement as professors of the seminary. Our goal in the immediate term will be to promote an atmosphere of reconciliation so that the Seminary can turn the page and move forward with a full focus on the student body.

“The Executive Committee stands ready to meet next week to hear requests of any of the eight former faculty members for reinstatement and to negotiate the terms of their provisional employment for the remainder of the academic year.”

“Lastly, the Board commits itself to repairing the significant damage this issue has inflicted upon our Seminary, and calls upon all members of the GTS community – the Board, the Dean, students, Faculty, staff, and alumni – to foster greater accountability, repentance, reconciliation, and healing.

“For nearly 200 years, the General Theological Seminary has shaped current and future leaders of our Church. In an ever more challenging and volatile world, our Christian faith is an invaluable beacon that we all must strive to protect. We thank our Executive Committee, our Church leadership, our Faculty, and most of all our students for their continued faith during this challenging time. We commit ourselves to meditate upon these scriptures: Matthew 18:15-20, 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, and Ephesians 2:13-14.

Breaking. The Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary are meeting with students and the seminary community.

They have announced that they find no ground to dismiss Dean Kurt Dunkle and have restored faith in his leadership.

They will not reinstate the eight faculty.

They say they are committed to working towards reconciliation.

The replacement faculty are good enough for the formation of the current students.

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Sharon Moon
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Sharon Moon

This is a catastrophe that should have been avoided by better leadership by the Board and Dean. For strains to develop is not unusual in stressful organizational life, but for this to happen a futility point must have been reached after genuine efforts to resolve and communicate by many concerned. Looks like the baby may be thrown out with the bloodbath and potential generations of graduates may suffer the dire consequences.

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Leslie Scoopmire
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I feel a deep sadness about these events. Although I am a seminarian and postulant, I am attending a non-Episcopal seminary, Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, for a variety of reasons. Yes, there are times when I do wish I could attend an Episcopal seminary (especially as regards liturgical concerns).

Yet there are also advantages to my situation, ecumenically speaking. There is a balance, generosity of spirit, and openness of viewpoint that seems to be sadly lacking at GTS. "Tunnel-vision" would be an understatement. What seems completely lost is the belief that the Church is not to be conformed to the values of this world but seek to transform the world in our actions within it. And, try as I might, I can't find tradition, scripture or reason to support the maxim: "Blessed are the dictatorial, for they shall manage a servile, fungible workforce that shall be unable to inculcate the leadership needed in the Church." Completely lost in this travesty is any awareness of the values that are being modeled and affirmed by the actions of the dean and the Board-- in fact the statement that they are indeed aware of their responsibility "both as individuals and as officials of the Seminary (to) strive to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our guiding Christian principles...." makes this even more disheartening. One would hope that Christian principles begin with following Christ's example. I fail to see any hint of taking that seriously in the statement of the Board or in the statements of the Dean.

Each day that this complete misuse of power and authority has gone on at GTS, I have been struck by stark differences. On the one hand, here are my fellow seminarians at GTS having their classes disrupted by losing 80% of their full time faculty over issues of lack of trust, true leadership, and discipleship, in a crisis self-inflicted by seminary leadership concerned with its own prerequisites and domination. At almost exactly the same time, my seminary was cancelling classes, led by my president and dean, into the communities of St. Louis to work for justice, peace, and reconciliation in the midst of a crisis that affects the entire community and indeed society. There are stark differences there between ideas and ideals, and how we try to live into them as Christians and as clergy.

If we as a Church are going to purport to be, in the words of Teresa of Avila, Christ's eyes which look compassion on the world, much less Christ's body, hands, and feet in the world, it would seem appropriate to seek to also ask the Board and Dean to ponder this text in its entirety: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:13. It might also be productive to ask: "What exactly are the Christian values that your are exemplifying to the world through this course of action?" Meanwhile, I pray daily for my fellow seminarians and teachers, for alumni and friends of GTS, and for the Episcopal Church, at large.

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Paul Woodrum
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Paul Woodrum

Lest we forget, The General Theological Seminary is what its title says, the general seminary of the church under the auspices of the House of Bishops and the General Convention. All the others, however splendid, were founded to promote regional or party interests.

Another article reminds us that seminary means "seed-bed," a place for nourishing not only sound education, but sound spirituality, but the present GTS dean and BOT have turned it into an empty pot.

If this be true of The General Seminary, one wonders what it says about the Episcopal Church that has allowed it to happen.

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Chris Hamby
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Chris Hamby

Gary,

There is plenty of incredible teaching and education within the Episcopal Church. Lots of comments surrounding this situation paint a picture that GTS is the only seminary. Sewanee is doing fine. My beloved Virigina Theological Seminary, where I am a current senior, is doing extremely well. The church needs GTS for sure. We all hope and pray the situation can be resolved.

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert

Given Mark Sisk's history, it was to be expected that the board would not budge. The Diocese of New York is known as undemocratic. The Episcopal Church likewise.

I would hope that some board members would have the decency to resign, but I am not holding my breath.

What I don't understand is how adjunct professors hired at the last minute are supposed to replace competent faculty acquired over time. Is there no respect for learning in the Episcopal Church? Students should be given a full refund of their tuition and board.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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