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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19 Responses to "GTS Board: Dean to stay; faculty “resignations” still in effect; replacements okay"
  1. This decision is an absolute travesty. The process for responding to good-faith allegations of harassment or hostile work environment complaints is clearly laid out in the GTS Handbook; that process was completely ignored. How then, can the Board say that the allegations of the GTS8 were given a full and fair hearing? And where are their letters of resignation — not a willful misreading of the faculty's letter describing how seriously dysfunctional that environment had become - but the individual letters from each faculty member clearly stating, "I resign"? And why would one form a faculty union if one's intention was to resign? Without satisfactory answers to these questions (and I have so far heard none), the Board's action is nothing more than termination of the complainants: in other words, retaliation against whistleblowers, which is prohibited by every standard, ecclesiastical or civil, that I can think of - and which is a clear violation of Christian ethics and morality, from the Board of TEC's flagship institution for training clergy and laity, no less!

    Today I am utterly ashamed of the institution that shaped and formed me for ministry. I am astounded to see such a sinful display of ham-handed power come from the guiding board of the seminary I dearly love and cherish. But so long as this injustice, this debacle, this abomination is allowed to stand, the Close cannot be holy ground to me. Unless and until the GTS8 are reinstated, or I am shown convincing evidence as to why they should be terminated, I will not step foot within The General Theological Seminary again. My heart is broken and my soul bleeds; but I will not be complicit in such an unholy and disgraceful act. May God have mercy on the GTS Board for what they have done today.

    The Rev. Barry M. Signorelli, GTS '87

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  2. This sounds like a textbook case of "when institutions become dysfunctional".

    EVERYBODY can see that this is NO solution, except the GTS Board which voted for it. *smh*

    Lord, REFORM Your Church!

    JC Fisher

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  3. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

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  4. It is impossible to understand the BOT decision without knowing how and why it was reached. It is simply not enough to state their authority and confidence in a leader who can no longer function as a leader. This seems to be a clear case of the powerful protecting the powerful. So much for the vaunted prophetic action of the Episcopal Church. Until satisfactory answers are forthcoming from the BOT I will no longer support GTS. I will, of course, pray. Does the BOT really believe that 8 highly capable professors would "mutineer" without just cause? For shame!

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  5. You guys ought to simmer down. This kind of mawkishness and self-important, strident hyperbole does a disservice to the Church and embarrasses you, whether you realize it or not. Let's save this level of wailing and tooth-gnashing for travesties of global proportions, or else you'll have no outrage left for invasions, famines, and genocides. Let's get it together.

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  6. Jefforts-Schori is a party to this travesty? (And she is, if she doesn't immediately distance herself from it.) Aside from providing a pleasant face for the national church, her tenure as Presiding Bishop has been distinguished by successful defense of church property from schismatics. If she blesses this evisceration of General Theological Seminary, she'll be remembered as just another real estate operator.

    This is the trend of the times -- bureaucracy above all. Students are just ATMs, faculty are clerks, the administration and board are the school. We see the trend all over, as Boards of Education treat teachers as the problem, as expendable. (Executive salaries, however . . .) I've been in meetings where school administrators, backed by a simple majority of a board, smile and face down a roomful of angry parents, who remained powerless. We'll see if it matters that the General authorities seem to have broken several internal and external regulations. Who will hold them responsible?

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  7. The Board's posture is de facto, if not de jure, one of dishonesty. The Board persists in viewing a letter of grievances from eight faculty members as a letter of mass resignation. Clearly, the Board has not heard the eight nor heard the substantial community that has been formed in support of them. Its call for reconciliation is hollow. One reading this communique might even wonder if the Board is surreptitiously planning to close GTS. Prior to today there was a way to fix this.

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  8. Dear BOT,

    We do not accept your announcement that you will be closing GTS. Or so I might respond if I were reading their statement in the same way they read the complaints of the professors.

    John Mark Wiggers

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  9. I looked up the infamous Christmas 2009 firing of the cleaning crew at Church Headquarters to be sure of the date, and discovered that the same trick had been played at General in 2012. The Episcopal Church -- union buster.

    The Church is the people, and exists in the parishes. What honor is due the national church at this point? TREC sounds like more of the same top-downism.

    (Yes, the seminary cleaners firing link goes to David Virtue. Are his facts wrong?)

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  10. Barry, you say all that is in my heart. (How I treasure the photo of us from Low Sunday 2003!) What an astonishing debacle -- and how it confirms so much that cynics say about the church! I hardly know whether to wear my seminary cross when I celebrate any more -- does it express acquiescence in what has been done, or loyalty to what once was?

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  11. Note these blistering comments from the Dean of Bexley Hall, another Episcopal seminary:

    The silence in the church around this unconscionable manipulation by the Executive Committee, confirmed by the full Board of Trustees, to terminate employees without due process is what truly saddens me. . . It is nothing more than a violent attempt at restructuring an ecclesial institution through falsehood and deception.

    The Board of Trustees has laid waste to the whole notion of contract. The reason this is important, lest we forget, is . . . because of the way covenant reflects the fundamental nature of our relationship to God. . . The Board has laid waste to covenant. That is why this matters, and why this is not just an ivory-tower academic squabble. If we, in the church, are going to make contractual relations entirely dependent on the definition of those in power, then we have defouled a core principle of how the church reflects, at its best, the divine relationship.

    The question remains: Who are we as a church to sit by and let something like this happen? With all the talk about restructuring, is there a church left to save? . . . Get thee behind me, Episcopal Church. You're not worth critiquing anymore.

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  12. 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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  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. 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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  16. 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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