October 15, 2014

Letter to GTS Board of Trustees

Members of the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary and the GTS 8 will meet tomorrow in a discussion facilitated by former presiding bishop Frank Griswold. (See my earlier post and yesterday’s story from Episcopal News Service.) I have not been hopeful regarding this meeting, but the late addition of Bishop Griswold suggests that all parties at least realize how much is at stake. Events at GTS are being followed closely by many Episcopalians, including those with no direct connections to our oldest seminary.

A post on the Facebook page of supporters of the GTS 8 pointed to a listing, albeit an incomplete one, of e-mail addresses of the Board of Trustees. Given the importance of tomorrow’s meeting to the future of GTS, and perhaps even to The Episcopal Church itself, I decided to write a letter to all those board members whose address I could find. My letter, sent today via e-mail, is below. I suspect that further comment is unnecessary.
Dear GTS Board Member,

Tomorrow is a critical day for the General Theological Seminary, and I hope that Episcopalians everywhere will receive good news emanating from the meeting with the eight dismissed GTS faculty members and members of the Board of Trustees.

For a dozen years, I have been fighting for and defending The Episcopal Church in a diocese that ultimately split, ostensibly over theological issues, but probably more over issues of power and control. I believed that my church was committed to the least in society, to justice, compassion, and to listening to all voices—in short, to following the path of Jesus.

When I heard of the work stoppage at GTS, I became concerned that something was terribly wrong at the church’s oldest and most revered seminary. My distress increased when the allegations against President Dunkle were disclosed. When I learned that the Board of Trustees had “accepted the resignations” of the eight faculty members, I was at first incredulous.

My attitude quickly turned to anger and frustration. Anger at a board that hired a dean and president with few appropriate credentials to head an academic institution, a board that seemed not to understand how institutions of higher learning operate, and a board that, on learning of a crisis at the institution they oversee, chose to deal with the situation by shooting the messengers. This is not following the lead of our Lord and Savior.

I am frustrated that a major institution associated with the church I love has been responsible for much bad press and for seemingly communicating the message that power and authority are more important that reconciliation and respect for every human being. The crisis at GTS and its inept handling has done immeasurable damage to the reputation of The Episcopal Church and, many are coming to believe, to the future prospects of the seminary.

I implore you, as a member of the Board of Trustees, to do everything you can to rescue GTS from what seems like certain disaster by immediately reinstating the “resigned” faculty members and relieving President Dunkle of his duties until such time as matters can be sorted out. No matter what you do, it will be difficult to convince bishops that they want to send seminarians to GTS any time soon. If the goal of the Board of Trustees is to shut down the school, declare that objective and pursue it in an orderly manner. If your intention is that GTS should survive this crisis, then the time for listening, understanding, and reconciliation is at hand.

My prayers are with you and with all the members of the GTS community.

Yours in Christ,
Lionel Deimel
etc., etc.

1 comment:

  1. The is essay from a GTS student raises disturbing questions concerning how the seminary is being run: http://www.davidjdunn.com/2014/10/16/law-and-anarchy-at-general-theological-seminary/


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