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Update on General Seminary changes

Update on General Seminary changes

This is the latest of 4 letters to the GTS community from the Dean and President. See previous stories from The Lead about the appointments of new faculty:

Dear fellow members of the General Seminary community

On Thursday night, I attended Ascension Day festivities at Trinity Wall Street where the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer was installed as the new rector.  What a glorious affair!  It seemed like the entire church came to celebrate the centuries-long contributions of Trinity and its leaders to the Anglican Communion.

One particularly striking aspect was the intricate liturgical line-up. Everyone was in their proper ecclesial order.  In the best of church-manners, even though neither presiding nor taking any role, our Presiding Bishop was last in the procession.  Carrying the primatial cross, she brought up the rear.  That was her only job on
Thursday night.  But by her position and symbol, it was as if the entire Episcopal Church was there with her.

For those not aware of the Emily Post rules of church etiquette, the last place in line is usually reserved as the place of honor.  In a parish, it’s often the celebrant, even if the rector is not celebrating that particular day.  When the bishop comes, she is  usually last, even in the most established and oldest parishes.  On Thursday, Trinity showed the nicest and humblest of church-manners. Well done!

Today’s Good News is the fourth in a series of four.  What I have to say today will not be the glittery excitement of announcing surprise new appointments like Professors Moroney, Battle or Brewer this past week.  Their classes of Liturgics, a new chapel practicum, Ethics, the Graduate Anglican Seminar, the traditional introductory and new extensive dives into the New Testament, and continued work in biblical languages are the kinds of classes which makes General great.  These new professors’ up-front commitment to chapel and luncheon table fellowship is also significant and central to our life at General. So, the growing wave of excitement this past week has been wonderful.

But today’s fourth-in-a-series-of-four e-mail is about something else. It is an affirmation and celebration of those who remained and those who will return this fall from our current faculty.  Yet, it is this primacy of place – last in the procession, like at Trinity on Thursday night – which gives it preeminence.

I lift up the following of my colleagues for great praise and thanks. They are last in line… and appropriately so.

This fall, I am so pleased to continue to serve at General Seminary with the Rev. Dr. Robert Owens, the Rev. Dr. Clair McPherson, and the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers.  Their enduring devotion to students and the up building of General Seminary throughout this year has been inspiring.  I want to take this opportunity to thank them personally for their continued faithfulness and devotion to the ongoing wellbeing and enhancement of our students.  Each is developing classes for this fall which will be like the wise scribe, bringing out of their treasure that which is new and that which is old.  For example, we are expanding the class-wide Integrative Seminar into the senior year with Professor Spellers assembling a comprehensive set of resources unique to third-year needs.  Professor Owens is developing additional Old Testament electives.  Professor McPherson is modeling the best of the faculty’s integrative commitment in the Way of Wisdom by team-teaching with several of his colleagues.

Thank you Bob, Clair and Stephanie.  Thank you.

I am also pleased that the Rev. Dr. Mitties DeChamplain and Dr. Andrew Irving will return this fall.  Old favorites and new creative courses are planned.  Existing programs, such as Homiletics and Church History are being expanded.  For example, Dr. Irving received a very prestigious Conant grant this spring to develop a future course for General centered in Italy.  I bet a class trip is in the works!  In addition to our usual preaching classes, Professor DeChamplain is designing an introductory course for juniors around the Morning Prayer reflections at the same time she is continuing to bring in those with unique homiletic skills and leadership in the wide area surrounding us.  Preaching is one of the areas we intend to expand extensively over the next few years.

I am also pleased that our Professor of Church History (and Historiographer of The Episcopal Church… that’s a big deal) Dr. Robert Bruce Mullin has recovered sufficiently from his devastating head injury in August to return this fall to teach a class.  It will be good to have Professor Mullin back in the library at his usual location!  Also, I hope Professor David Hurd and I will very soon conclude our discussions of my and General’s desire that he continue in active service this fall and beyond.  Experts like Drs. Mullin and Hurd add richly to the tapestry of educating and forming church leaders.

Adjuncts and Affiliated Faculty alike are reassembling.  The Rev. Canon Dr. C.K. “Chuck” Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop and Distinguished Visiting Professor at General, is returning with his Anglican Communion-centered offerings.  This is a classic example of the people available to our students which is un-matched anywhere else in the seminary world.  The Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke will also return bringing wisdom to our Wisdom curriculum regarding the growing
importance of addressing addiction and recovery issues in our church.  Dr. Alina Feld is returning to teach her very popular Introduction to Theology class and is teaming up with Professor McPherson to offer a one-credit class, “Philosophy and Theology,” during each afternoon of orientation week and continuing into the fall term. I may take that one!

For pastoral theology, we are teaming up Dr. David Kelley, president of the largest and most highly qualified counseling firm in Manhattan in addition to an experienced area cleric to have a team-like, dual approach to the basics of pastoral counseling.  Academic introduction to the fundamentals of pastoral counseling while remaining firmly grounded in the practical aspects encountered in contemporary church leadership is our next improvement in this discipline.  The Center for Christian Spirituality is also humming louder with the hands-on help of Dr. Anne Silver.  She will return to teach Individual and Group Spiritual Guidance this fall as she has for almost ten years.  We anticipate our other beloved CCS professors to return and those classes will be further announced shortly.

The popular “Financial Management of Parishes” last year will beoffered again by James Jordan, CPA, CFE, CGMA in a creative format twice during each semester for a modified-intensive week.  We are also planning on several additional highly recognized church leaders and practitioners to continue to expand The Wisdom Year module offerings to everyone, not just seniors.

Every class both needed and desired by current and future students will be available this fall at General.  I hope to circulate a final class list soon.

We have been through a tough year together.  I am aware there are still some folks who actively try to prevent our recovery.  For them we must pray.  But our time, energy, and focus needs to be devoted to the re-building of General Seminary.  The faculty  assembling this fall is broad and deep, numerous and well qualified.  With a full and intentional mix of residential, traditional adjunct, and the new category of highly engaged Affiliated Faculty (those outside faculty particularly committed to formational aspects such as chapel attendance and luncheon fellowship of our life together, in addition to the high academic expectations of serving at General), we are moving forward.  Our past will always be with us, but we will move forward educating and forming the finest church leaders in The Episcopal Church.

Later this month, I will expand on the difference, alluded to above, between “adjunct” and “affiliate faculty.”  Also, I want to take the opportunity to outline the broad input into the recruiting and selection of Professors Moroney, Battle and Brewer.  The time period ranged from a quick week to over half a year, but in all cases, many different constituencies were consulted and approvals sought and
unanimously received.  I’m very thankful I am not alone in this venture of re-assembling a faculty!  I look forward to telling you about the process.

Now, for the next three days, it’s time to focus on our graduates and honorary degree recipients.  I hope everyone knows that Baccalaureate (Tuesday at 5:30pm) and Graduation (Wednesday at 11am) are open to all.  Please come celebrate the accomplishments of those who will soon be loyal sons and daughters of General.  Oh, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for our bright fall ahead, too.

Easter blessings continue to flow forth from a gracious and bountiful God.  Alleluia, alleluia!


The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle
Dean and President | The General Theological Seminary of The Episcopal Church


Posted by Ann Fontaine


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Janis Johnson

Thank you, Bob.

Grace Cangialosi

I was wondering if the PB’s baccalaureate address at GTS this week has been posted anywhere. I thought maybe someone here might know.

David Allen
Philip B. Spivey

“Now I will believe that there are unicorns….”
—Wm. Shakespeare, The Tempest

Dirk C. Reinken

Has anybody found anything objectionable in what Todd Brewer has written or in his academic achievements? Or are people mostly upset because of who his father is and in what venues his work has been published?

Content and actions would seem to me to be more indicative of what Todd Brewer has or does not have to offer rather than on the associations he keeps. I seem to remember a certain 1st Century rabbi who was gossiped about because of the company he kept.

Bob Griffith

Many attitudes expressed in this tread are not about objectivity or even reason. They are emotional reactions. It’s about prejudice (this time of a “liberal” kind) against a social or theological perspective. Just to be clear – I am a gay priest and graduate of General. I spent 20-years working in higher education before seminary. While I came to expect fundamentalist attitudes (conservative and liberal) in secular higher education, I had hoped that we in the Church would avoid such things. We haven’t. We’ve allowed the attitudes of the polarized and accusatory secular academy to overwhelm the Church contrary to love of neighbor – to love even our perceived enemy.

Professor Christopher Seitz

May your tribe increase.

Bob Solon Jr.

FWIW, I am reading Dr. Brewer’s dissertation now. I note his objectivity about Scripture,and that he approvingly uses the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas in his investigation of “data” or “mural” approaches to Jesus teaching and life. I do not perceive any particular axe to grind, and his concluding chapter is mild at best. I would not say his dissertation exhibits any particular bias or approach in his overall worldview.

Anthony Christiansen

The Dean has hired as its new New Testament professor, without the input of any faculty members, the son of the Bishop of Central Florida, the same man who has recently been embroiled in a controversy regarding whether the child of a same-sex couple could be baptized in his Cathedral. This has arguably been the most recalcitrant diocese in the Church regarding inclusion. But it gets worse. This new professor went to both Trinity and Durham, bastions of a remnant of the Church given to advancing exclusion as a matter of doctrine. And, as if it couldn’t get worse, this new professor wrote his dissertation on and edited a Feschrift on the work of Paul Zahl –the reactionary theologian who, as Dean of the Cathedral in Birmingham, AL, literally raised a black flag at the Cathedral when the House of Bishops voted to consecrate Gene Robinson to the episcopacy. The vita of this new professor doesn’t just read as conservative, it reads as marginal and hateful. This where Dean Dunkle was reported by faculty to have said in regard to LGBT members of GTS, that he’d prefer to have “normal students.”

Perhaps Dean Dunkle has decided that since the future of GTS is lost to the mainstream of our Church, he may as well have a go with the reactionary remnant as a way to resurrect what he has destroyed. One wonders if it will work.

JC Fisher

OMG. No words. It’s time for GC to *act* NOW. Kyrie eleison!

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