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Largely negative reaction to GTS Board statement

Largely negative reaction to GTS Board statement

Yesterday, the Board of General Theological Seminary in New York City issued a statement after meeting with 8 faculty whom the Board claimed had resigned, though the faculty dispute that.

This statement has received a largely negative response around the internet, with several bloggers connecting the GTS board’s decision with patterns of leadership across the church and higher education that promote institutional survival over maintenance of mission.

Over at AKMA, A K M Adam lambastes the patterns of imperious leadership that has brought GTS to this point.

“they have publicly and unreservedly acted against the basics of labour law and (specifically) the definitions of academic governance, asserting their lordly prerogative to fire tenured members of the faculty without observing legal process. Even if they imagine they know loopholes through which they might be able to slime their way through this without juridical penalty, the explicit facts remain that the Trustees have taken the teachers’ statement that “We did not resign” and have responded “We accept your resignations.””

Tom Ferguson, blogging at Crusty Old Dean offers a lament, in strong words, over the board’s decision to construe the faculty’s request for redress of grievances as a resignation;

“Though the exact situation is still unfolding, and not all the facts are known, there is still one very clear issue which is before us: the weaponization of resignation by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, and now by the full Board of Trustees, which was used to wrongfully terminate contractual employees.”

And further;

“The fact we are being asked to accept this bold faced manipulation is an insult to the church, let alone the gospel. It is nothing more than a violent attempt at restructuring an ecclesial institution through falsehood and deception.”

And Christopher Rodkey, writing at An Und Fűr Sich, connects the crisis at GTS with similar moves in other institutions of Higher Education to eliminate faculty of standing and wonders whether the Board might have been driving towards this result already;

“Didn’t the board and administration simply do what nearly all institutions of higher education wish they could do, if they had the chance, namely, eliminate everyone in the teaching class, and replace them with contingent faculty or even teaching administrators? Or not at all? It seems to me that the “G8″ faculty who resigned/were fired didn’t take this into account, that while their jobs were certainly on the line for making a bold statement about the leadership of their school, they didn’t really think they’d just fire everyone.”


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Murdoch Matthew

Dmitry Orlov’s blog today is about “How to Start a War and Lose an Empire.” Off topic, I know, but some of his analysis resonates with the current “War in Progress and Losing a Seminary”:

Selected quotes:

The American ruling elite is almost entirely senile. The older ones seem actually senile in the medical sense.

Mindless, repetitive insistence on a fake rationale seems like a sure sign of senility.

Once an American official starts lying, he just doesn’t know how to stop. The story always starts with a lie, and, as facts emerge that contradict the initial story, they are simply ignored.

So much for the senile old guard, but what about their replacements?

In addition to the many pre-anointed ones, like the sons and heirs, there are many barns full of eagerly bleating Ivy League graduates who have been groomed for jobs in high places. These are Prof. Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep.”

There just isn’t much that such people, young or old, can be made to respond to. International embarrassment, military defeat, humanitarian catastrophe—all these things just bounce off them and stick to you for bringing them up and being overly negative about their rose-colored view of themselves. The only hit they can actually feel is a hit to the pocketbook.

It does seem that as the population has soared, the quality of leadership has declined. Part of it is that the money people who fund leaders don’t want equals, they want servants. In the case of the church, prestige has declined and difficulty of maintaining the institution has increased; people in place are struggling mightily but aren’t attracting a lot of new leaders. And the church is no longer a hide-out for closeted gay people, who can now have full lives in the wider community.

(If you read Orlov’s whole posting, which I believe is eminently worthwhile, note that his views are backed up by facts; much of the information on mainstream media consists of assertions or is actually counter-factual, in support of an undeclared war of propaganda.)

K Attanasi

It is devastating that justice has not yet prevailed in this situation. I hope for the sake of the seminary and the broader church that the wrongs against the faculty will be made right.

Katy Attanasi [added by ed.]


Things like this just confirm my opinion that hierarchical churches adopted the structure and attitude of the Roman Empire, not the grace and love of Christ.

PS. Your convoluted posting process makes it very difficult to comment here. It took three tries, after logging into my WordPress blog, to finally get logged in here to post.

David W. Jones [name added by ed.]

[David – To add to the complexity, you have to remember to sign your full true name. – ed.]

[David– the complexity of signing in can be overcome but using the bar to the right of the sign in and you can use google, Facebook, etc – lots of choices and very easy – ed.2]

Matty Weir

Gary Paul Gilbert,

The real dispute is whether the faculty’s statement – in two consecutive letters – that they would not continue in their positions so long as Dean Dunkle continued in his … whether that statement can be construed as a resignation given that the Board was not prepared (and has now decided that such for sure) to remove Dean Dunkle from his position. This position by the GTS8 was reiterated even more forcefully after the BoT announced its decision to undertake an investigation.

I believe that the clear language of the GTS8’s letters suggest that they did not intend to continue their work at GTS given the status quo. A fair reading of that (even if subject to argument) is that the GTS8 intended to stop working; to resign.

This is not unilateral action by the Board. It’s reactive.

As a lawyer, I just don’t understand the strategy employed here. Threats of strike are effective in getting a foot in the door towards negotiations with respect to the things you want from management. When you get some progress and an indication that management is willing to talk, why put your foot back down and threaten the exact same action, demanding the exact same things? That’s bad faith, plain and simple. Bad lawyering. The GTS8 got pushed into a more aggressive position than was necessary, particularly when the BoT was the place to find allies that could get the faculty some progress.

Jim Naughton

Folks, as many of you know we ask people to use their real, full names at the Cafe. We do that for the purposes of accountability, and because, over the long term, it seems to improve the quality of the conversation. We certainly don’t have fool proof means for verifying your names, so our system is easily abused. But, if we get a strong sense that you aren’t being forthright about who you are, (especially if you are debating people who are being forthright about who they are) then we aren’t going to publish your comments.

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Jim Naughton


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