The striking faculty at General Theological Seminary have posted the following at SafeSeminary dated October 6, 2014:
The chairman of the GTS Board of Trustees, Bishop Mark Sisk, apparently wishes to give the appearance of offering a conciliatory hand to the eight striking faculty members without actually engaging in a sincere effort at reconciliation. At least that is the implication of an email sent to Dr. Deirdre Good concerning the previously agreed-to October 16 meeting between the faculty members and board Executive Committee.
In responding on October 3 to Bishop Sisk’s invitation to meet, the faculty members wrote to the trustees in an entirely conciliatory tone that we welcomed the opportunity “with our most sincere hope of working with you to find a way forward.”
Our letter also made two important points: (1) That our original letter to the board on September 17 and follow-up communication to it never were intended as letters of resignation; (2) that a summary Bishop Sisk requested of a phone conversation between him and Dr. Good in which she asked the bishop to work with her to de-escalate the current situation in no way contained what later were characterized as demands.
It has been our assumption and intention that the purpose of the October 16 meeting was to provide a forum to air what we consider legitimate grievances before a group of fair-minded and curious trustees and to work together to seek genuine solutions.
Imagine our disappointment then when on October 6 Bishop Sisk emailed Dr. Good with a message that clarified his view of the meeting, essentially, as: We will hear your concerns, but you’re still fired.
Here is the entire text of Bishop Sisk’s email: “As previously communicated in my emails of October 1st and October 3rd, the Executive Committee and I presently anticipate, as stated, meeting with you and your colleagues on October 16th to hear your concerns. As also stated previously in the Board of Trustee communication of September 30th, your resignations have been accepted. Classes are being taught by supplemental faculty, as also previously stated, in an email circulated by the Dean on October 3rd.”
While it appears Bishop Sisk sees the October 16 meeting as window dressing, we wonder if all the board members do. Or do other trustees believe the meeting was scheduled so that we could engage in substantive adult conversation aimed at resolving the crisis? If so, we hope they will communicate that to the Chair and all the members of the Executive Committee.
In accepting Bishop Sisk’s invitation to meet, we said, “We hope sending this message to all of you board members will help us move forward together as soon as possible, for the sake of the students and the seminary. When Professor Good thanked Bishop Sisk for his positive letter, offered in the spirit of an invitation, we were agreeing to your terms for the October 16th meeting. We hope you will consider our suggestions in the spirit of collaboration and conciliation that we desperately need.”
We still cling to that hope.