April 21, 2015

General Seminary’s Wounds on Fresh Display with Recent Allegations

The highest-profile seminary in the Episcopal Church is still struggling after turmoil between the dean and faculty members temporarily crippled the school early this academic year.

A letter from 20 students, alumni and former trustees to the Attorney General of New York dated April 20 asks for an investigation of the actions of General Theological Seminary Dean and President Kurt Dunkle and the Board of Trustees. The letter, originally made public on Facebook and reprinted on the blog Episcopal Café, charges that Dunkle and the trustees “may have abandoned their fiduciary responsibilities and taken actions which are likely to result in the closing” of the 198-year-old institution and the sale of its remaining real estate in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The letter restates earlier allegations against Dunkle while noting that fallout from the initial turmoil resulted in several students departing midyear, while the board “provisionally” reinstated the faculty only for the rest of the academic year, while canceling their academic tenure.

“No new hires have been announced and several top librarians have left,” the letter reads, claiming that “only one entering student has paid a deposit for admission next fall” and that the seminary’s accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools is under review.

The letter closes speculating about “alleged egregious conduct by the administration calculated to force the seminary to close” and “appears to have been groomed for failure” noting that the nearby High Line park makes the already-desirable seminary property “one of the hottest places in the city right now” for commercial redevelopment.

General Theological Seminary has sold or redeveloped property in order to pay down $40 million in debt. In 2007, the school redeveloped three buildings into the Desmond Tutu Center, a hotel and conference center that seminary officials hoped would sustain itself with new revenue. In 2012, the center was sold to a property developer and is now the upscale High Line Hotel, advertising “dazzling views of the High Line Park or our enclosed private-garden oasis” of Chelsea Square.

GTS Board of Trustees Chair Bishop Clifton Daniel of Pennsylvania authored a letter of response addressed to the GTS community in which he defended the seminary board and leadership, insisting it was “diligently addressing its very serious decades-long financial issues.” Daniel also pushed back on enrollment, stating that GTS continues to receive applications for the 2015-2016 academic year.

“We have accepted many students in advance of our June 15th deadline for applications,” Daniel revealed. The board chair did not offer statistics on the number of students who have placed a deposit on an acceptance offer from seminary. Faculty departures were also unaddressed.

Dunkle has presented the seminary’s situation as gradually improving, writing in a March 23 letter to seminary supporters in which he acknowledged that “the past six months at General have been challenging for everyone.”

“Our recent upheaval has been painful and revealing,” Dunkle wrote. “General faces many challenges–financial, missional and cultural–and all of them have been highlighted over this past year.”

Among those challenges has been a $3 million cash deficit last year, which seminary officials “anticipate” to be another $1.5 million this year.

“Next year, we are working hard to cut it in half again,” Dunkle wrote hopefully. “General’s long-term financial stability depends on achieving a balanced budget–or at least being within a horse-shoe throw of one. We can no longer rely on band-aid solutions and will continue to do the tough work to make General sustainable for another 198 years.”

“Again, change is not easy,” Dunkle concluded, stating that “we have real lives to heal” and noting reconciliation efforts facilitated by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.

Of the ten schools that educate Episcopal seminarians, GTS is the only one chartered by the church’s General Convention, and among the oldest. The developments at GTS come as ongoing difficulty at the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts resulted in Dean Katherine Ragsdale’s departure from the seminary, with an interim dean announced in late March.


52 Responses to General Seminary’s Wounds on Fresh Display with Recent Allegations

  1. Terri Kinney says:

    I can’t imagine the Episcopalians existing for another twenty years. Most of the Christians have already departed for churches that worship God. One of their bishops was driving DUI and killed a man on a bicycle, then fled the scene of the crime, and the church waited for weeks to even ask her to resign.

  2. Greg says:

    Unless some benefactor appears out of no where and dumps a huge gift on them, this school will be closed in two years.

    And you know what people say about that benefactor: “A fool and his money soon go separate ways.”

    • Namyriah says:

      George Soros, the atheist and scumbag, has been known to bestow his largesse on anti-Christian religious institutions, so they may be praying to him instead of to God.

  3. ken says:

    Some numbers may help put this in perspective.

    Current enrollment:
    General, 68
    Episcopal Div School, 60
    The Episcopalians’ largest seminary, Virginia Theo, has 218.
    By contrast:
    Fuller, 3,200
    Asbury, 1,460
    Dallas, 2,064

    Were it not for the “historic” factor, the Episcopalians’ various crises would not even show up on the radar screen. I’m not criticizing IRD for covering these issues, but, really – two tiny Episcopal seminaries? The fact that they can’t get funded and can’t even get along amongst themselves is pretty revealing.

    • Abu Daoud says:

      How about Trinity in Ambridge?

      • ken says:

        Trinity and Nashotah House are so different from the other Episc seminaries, since both of them have affiliations with the Anglican Church in North America. Nashotah has 100 students, Trinity has 170. Neither of those seminaries would hire someone like Katherine Ragsdale, the “high priestess of abortion” who was president of the Episcopal Divinity School. No rainbow flags or “eco-justice” nonsense at Trinity or Nashotah. At those two schools, people don’t spit when they say the word “evangelical,” they are proud of being true to the gospel.

    • Patrick98 says:

      Are those numbers for TOTAL enrollment, or for the numbers of Episcopalian students (among many denominations) at Fuller? Just curious. Thank you.

    • davend says:

      In case you hadn’t noticed, Fuller is also facing multi-million dollar fiscal shortfalls, layoffs and its own brand of internal conflicts. This is not simply a story about one tiny seminary, it’s about a precipitous decline in higher education combined with a similar rapid decline in U.S. Christianity. General Theological Seminary is only one example of how this plays out.

      • wyclif says:

        “…with a similar rapid decline in U.S. *mainline* Christianity.”

        Fixed that for you.

        • davend says:

          You could perhaps qualify it by saying declines in *denominational* Christianity. Mormons and JWs are growing if you consider them Christian.

          • Kay Glines says:

            Several Christian denominations, all conservative, are growing, such as the Assemblies of God and the Churches of God. The AG is almost 3 million, making it larger than any of the mainlines except for the United Methodists and the ELCA.

          • davend says:

            But Southern Baptists (also conservative) are not. IF there are denominational groups growing, it’s the Pentecostal one.

          • Greg says:

            You could perhaps add the Roman Catholic Church to your list, too, if you consider them Christian.

          • davend says:

            Actually, I would view the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. as also in decline if one discounts that any growth (if there is growth) is via immigration. Participation in the RCIA (probably a more accurate accounting of growth) has dropped dramatically.

          • Greg says:

            True. And if it weren’t for the Irish, Italians and German immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it would have shrunk too. Also, except for the Church in South America, Africa, and Asia, it would be shrinking globally.

            Everyone knows that the only way to properly count church growth is by the number white, college-educated, upper-middle-class, first-world’ers in the pews. Everything else is a statistic with a huge asterisk next to it.

            When I was born, there were 45 million Catholics in the US, now there is close to 80 million. Worldwide, there were 625 million Catholics when I was born, now there are 1.2 billion. What do you call that?

          • Abu Daoud says:

            For what it is worth, the RC Church in Latin America is consistently losing members to Pentecostalism.

  4. Jennifer P says:

    The Episcopal Church is post-Christian. The only way it can have a future is if it finds Jesus Christ, accepts Him, serves Him, and embraces Biblical morality. If it does not find Jesus the numbers will continue to drop until it is totally gone.

  5. RobinHMasters says:

    Anyone familiar with Dunkle’s “ministry” in Florida is not surprised to see GTS driven into the ground.

    • ken says:

      What did he do in Florida? I was under the impression that he got the post at GTS because he had seen his congregation in Florida grow. I know he rattled the GTS faculty when he stated that he didn’t want GTS to be seen as “the gay seminary.”

  6. Anthony C. says:

    Really? This kind of celebration over the internal difficulties of another community of Christians? Surprising and saddening and deeply hypocritical.

    “See how they love one another.”

    One needn’t point out that it is not only progressive Christians who sometimes fail in their attempt to follow Jesus closely. How many leaders of the evangelical brand have been exposed recently with their gay lovers or in embezzelement of funds or any manner of other scandals? Sure, things at GTS are ugly. But the tone of comments in this forum are even uglier.

    • wyclif says:

      Tone policing is often the last resort of those who cannot construct a coherent argument, and it’s telling.

      • Anthony C. says:

        Being who they claim to be and doing what they claim to do are, unfortunately, the last things to be done by many who claim to be Christians. Only one of the reasons so many today are loathe to consider themselves Christians,

        But, no doubt, I waste keystrokes. How little I should expect from a web site operated by ersatz “Anglicans” who are not in communion with The Anglican Communion and who have founded their new denomination on misogyny and homophobia rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

        Enough said.

        • Kay Glines says:

          Sorry, but at the present time in the US, there are more women attending evangelical/conservative churches than attending mainline/liberal churches, and obviously we do not consider our churches “misogynistic” in any way. We keep hearing from people like you that our churches are “sexist,” but our experience trumps your propaganda. Women attend conservative churches by choice, many of them single, many of them attending without their husbands. I think our opinion about whether our churches are “misogynistic” overrides yours. My own church has plenty of well-educated, successful women, none of whom look or act oppressed or downtrodden in any way. Quite the contrary, they are much more pleasant to be around than the feminists in the mainline churches. Thankfully, all those bitter women who have chosen to turn their denominations into clubs for feminists and homosexuals are watching their membership steadily decline.

          • Julene Devoe says:

            You go, girl! Amen!

          • Anthony C. says:

            The most interesting thing about your post, at least in my opinion, Kay, is that there is no reference in it to Jesus, to the gospel, or to the heart of the gospel message -ie. love. A group of people who decide to embrace schism and establish a new denomination solely on the basis of hatred and exclusion, and that is what ACNA has done, has little reason to call itself Christian –and of course it isn’t Anglican at all. What trumps the false reasoning evident in your post is of course the gospel of Jesus Christ.

          • Kyle says:

            If schism bothers you, then drop Christianity, it was a schism from Judaism. Protestantism was a schism from Catholicism. The Episcopal church was a schism form the Church of England. Nothing wrong with schisms.

            You sound you are committed to the “brand name” obsession of the mainliners. It’s all they’ve got. They gave up the gospel long ago, they’re just marking time till a FOR SALE sign is posted out front.

            Btw, this is not an Anglican website.

          • T_Ford says:

            Tony…Tony…Tony…history didn’t begin in 1976. Schism runs deep in the DNA of “faithful” Anglicans. If schism offends you so much I assume that you will be returning to the Catholic Church (or Orthodox Church depending on your view of the events of A.D 1054).

          • DD says:

            My family attended an ACNA congregation for awhile, we did not find “hatred and exclusion” there, we found people who had left the Episcopal church because God isn’t there.

            If you think that a church must celebrate sodomy in order to be fully Christian, you have nothing at all to back you up – not the New Testament, not 2000 years of Christian ethical teaching, which consistently views homosexuality as a sin that must be repented of. You must have a very high opinion of your opinion if you think that the apostle Paul and all Christians who lived prior to the 1960s were wrong, and you and your pals are right.

            Who understands the will of God better – Paul the apostle, or a gaggle of gay activists? That’s kind of a no-brainer. If “exclusion” bothers you, take that up with Paul – or, take it up with God, as He is not poll-driven nor trendy.

            Btw, it certainly is not remotely Christian of you to call the ANCA a denomination formed “solely on the basis of hatred and exclusion.” I never met any haters there. If you don’t like the ACNA, don’t attend. You can attend any of the mainlines, they all embrace homosexuality – and they are all losing members by the thousands. You might want to attend while those denominations still exist. They drove the Christians away, I think that would definitely qualify as “hate and exclusion.” 🙂

          • wyclif says:

            “Schism” cannot be limited to institutionalism. There’s a real sense that the schism in Anglicanism has been committed by those who have broken with the Bible and the Catholic faith. Sorry, but this line of yours is weak tea, and whether you like it or not, the leaf does not get to say to the tree, “I’m the real deal and you’re just the deadwood.”

          • Anthony C. says:

            Whistle in the dark all you like; to be an Anglican means, among a few other defining things, to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. And further, this means that schism would be defined as breaking communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. ACNA has broken communion. The current Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he won’t accept ACNA. That rather settles the matter for the foreseeable future. Again, Anglicans do not go about creating new provincial jurisdictions on the basis of hatred and exclusion. What it is they create is an unknown entity, but certainly not a new provincial jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion.

          • wyclif says:

            Anthony, I have some bad news for you: if this is going to be your line on history it’s going to be impossible for you to prevail in this discussion. That’s because not only am I an Anglican clergyman in full communion, but I’ve studied these issues in depth in the library. Not a little, either. A lot. And the fact of the matter is that the picture of who is and who is not in communion is a lot more complex than you make it out to be.

            First, the very notion of an Anglican Communion itself is recent (the first Lambeth Conference was in 1867), and does not predate the existence of either Anglicans or Anglican churches. It’s also not a governing body. While not being in communion with Canterbury has institutional drawbacks, it does not preclude the legitimacy of Anglican identity, doctrine, and life.

            Second, there’s the not insignificant matter of historical anomalies such as the Non-Jurors. Tell me, which Non-juring bishops (who were out of communion with Canterbury because of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the question of whether William & Mary could be recognised as King and Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland) do you consider illegitimate Anglicans? Do tell. The saintly Bishop Thomas Ken? William Sancroft was the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, and he refused to swear the oath, leaving him and the other bishops loyal to James II outside of the Communion. Was Archbishop Sancroft “not an Anglican” by your lights? There are plenty of other such anomalies, such as the status of the churches in South Africa, that make this issue rather thorny and complicated.

            Third, the fact of the matter with regard to ACNA is that many of the clergy and parishes have been ordained and planted by constituent parts of ACNA that are still in communion with Anglican Provinces (for instance, NIgeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and the Southern Cone) that are still very much in communion with Canterbury. The fact that they rebel against the heresies fomented by other Provinces in communion doesn’t change that one iota. And ACNA hasn’t “broken communion”, the CofE, ACC, and ECUSA have through their shattering of apostolic faith and order. The provinces in communion with ACNA have kept the faith entire and haven’t innovated or deformed Christian doctrine and catholicity. In that sense it is the rapidly shrinking liberal Anglican provinces of the West in the USA, Canada, and England who have initiated and engaged in schism. They’ve also rejected the authority of the Anglican formularies, which creates difficult issues in terms of the legitimacy of their Anglican identity, though they remain officially in communion with CofE and Canterbury.

            Your attempt to paint the issue of communion with a black/white brush while there are quite a few large grey areas is not going to work. We in the orthodox majority Anglican provinces have done our homework, many of us have advanced theological and/or history degrees and often a vast network of personal contacts inside the Communion. You’re not going to able to pull the wool over our eyes.

          • Anthony C. says:

            The very idea of someone coming from the perspective you’ve embraced accusing anyone of black and white thinking is laughable. You and your comrades created schism precisely because you aren’t capable of the kind of nuanced thinking that genuine Anglican ecclesiology has always embraced.

            In terms of your (somewhat) more substantive arguments: it doesn’t matter when a manifest history of the Anglican Communion started, even though this is clearly debatable. Neither the Roman nor the Orthodox Communions had a manifest, demonstrable point of emergence at the Pentecost, yet both of them claim it in theory.

            The non-juring bishops were not considered to be in communion or not in communion. Terms weren’t laid out in such a schema at that point yet. Which is not, of course, to say that there was no Anglican Communion at that point.

            Claiming communion with some provinces in the Anglican Communion while rejecting others is a complete rejection of Communion as such. Claiming communion with some provinces, even considering oneself to be an extra-provincial expression of a province where such is forbidden in the province of another ordinary, holds no canonical validity.

            Your arguments don’t hold water. And I have as much, perhaps more theological education as you have, simply don’t feel the need to fly the flag of academic credentials where common sense is the more important factor.

            Finally, I will say that it is quite possible that the schismatic bodies that have formed may one day be considered to be in Communion if they are afforded recognition by the ABC and the rest of the Communion. Right now they are not.

            Peace!

          • wyclif says:

            Anthony, you still aren’t getting the message but it’s clear as a bell. You can’t make the “schism” accusation stick, so stop digging while you’re ahead because at this point you’re looking very foolish and completely outgunned.

            You say that “The non-juring bishops were not considered to be in communion or not in communion. Terms weren’t laid out in such a schema at that point yet.”

            Which was *precisely* my point—you cannot have it both ways. You can’t logically brush off that criticism by resorting to the suggestion that these anomalies don’t count because they existed before 1867; my entire point there was that the Anglican Communion itself is a very new concept and many of our best theologians and churchmen would be considered schismatics on your terms. That’s your dilemma, not mine. Also, it’s totally untrue that the Non-jurors “were not considered to be not in communion.” Of course they were; that’s why they had to go into exile because they would not swear the oath of obedience!

            One cannot be the creator of the presenting issues that create schism (ECUSA, ACC, CofE) and then do an about-face and claim that the church that has changed nothing in her teaching or praxis and has in fact resisted these instances of theological and ethical malpractice is the schismatic party. That is what is utterly laughable about your rhetoric here.

          • Anthony C. says:

            No, you are not getting the picture, kind but thick sir. You can muddle historical facts and obscure present motives all you wish. Smoke and mirrors cannot, however, make other than schism what your heroes have done.

            Done here. Good day!

          • Dan Horsley says:

            You need to get some help for your anger and bitterness, you have some major issues.

            Stick with the Episcopagans, they are a sinking ship, not just in this world, but in the other one. Christian churches are benefiting immensely from the many “faith exiles” leaving the mainlines, so it’s working out beautifully.

            FYI,
            Episcopalians in 1960 – 3.2 million
            2012 – 1.8

            That would make me sad and angry too, but the obvious solution is, find a real church that honors God.

          • wyclif says:

            Anthony, the jig is completely up with you here. You haven’t shown a thing, nor countered anything that I’ve said in this thread, nor have you shown how your fellow religionists are free of schism. Throwing out a few references to “obscure motives” isn’t going to cut it.

          • Anthony C. says:

            The very idea of someone coming from the perspective you’ve embraced accusing anyone of black and white thinking is laughable. You and your comrades created schism precisely because you aren’t capable of the kind of nuanced thinking that genuine Anglican ecclesiology has always embraced.

            In terms of your (somewhat) more substantive arguments: it doesn’t matter when a manifest history of the Anglican Communion started, even though this is clearly debatable. Neither the Roman nor the Orthodox Communions had a manifest, demonstrable point of emergence at the Pentecost, yet both of them claim it in theory.

            The non-juring bishops were not considered to be in communion or not in communion. Terms weren’t laid out in such a schema at that point yet. Which is not, of course, to say that there was no Anglican Communion at that point.

            Claiming communion with some provinces in the Anglican Communion while rejecting others is a complete rejection of Communion as such. Claiming communion with some provinces, even considering oneself to be an extra-provincial expression of a province where such is forbidden in the province of another ordinary, holds no canonical validity.

            Your arguments don’t hold water. And I have as much, perhaps more theological education as you have, simply don’t feel the need to fly the flag of academic credentials where common sense is the more important factor.

            Finally, I will say that it is quite possible that the schismatic bodies that have formed may one day be considered to be in Communion if they are afforded recognition by the ABC and the rest of the Communion. Right now they are not.

            Peace!

          • JustChris1976 says:

            I think the ACNA is more concerned about being Christian than being Anglican. They have their priorities straight.

            Apparently it bugs you that your homosexual club, aka the Episcopalians is losing in the religious marketplace, so you’re lashing out at the churches that are actually attracting people. Normal people, especially those with kids, have no wish to donate their time and money to the post-Christian mainlines, a spiritually toxic environment.

            Hang on to that “real Anglican” tag if you want to, see if that cuts any ice with God. As Dante foretold, there will be plenty of bishops in hell.

        • Julene Devoe says:

          If people are “loathe to consider themselves Christians,” then they aren’t. Jesus had some very harsh words about people who were ashamed to be identified with him.

  7. Kyle says:

    If you want to see the contrast between a liberal seminary and an evangelical seminary, contrast the essays required by Episcopal Divinity School and Beeson Divinity School.

    https://selfserv.eds.edu/SS//Admissions/Application.aspx?applicationformid=1

    http://www.beesondivinity.com/assets/1346/mdiv-mats_essays.pdf

    The Episc Div School asks for “Personal essay 2. EDS is committed to multicultural, anti-oppression dialogue, theological reflection, and prophetic action. These are starting points to analyze various forms of oppression and their intersections. Write a 500-word essay reflecting on how the ways in which gender, racial identity, sexual identity, class, ability, and/or other related issues may affect this dialogue, theological reflection and prophetic action.”

    Beeson Div School asks for an essay on the Apostles’ Creed.

    Two different universes.

  8. T_Ford says:

    The Episcopal Church is theologically bankrupt, administratively chaotic and morally corrupt. It has become a refuge to fruits, nuts and other assorted loons.

    • marymiriam says:

      I can see that you practice love of neighbor. Good going there.

      • T_Ford says:

        Thank you marymiriam. I actually consider it to be a greater act of love to warn of the wreck TEC has become than to pretend that certain sins aren’t really sins. Sometimes blunt truth is necessary. But I also say this ever mindful that I need His mercy more than my neighbor.

  9. Walhei says:

    All these schools and Denominations, who have embraced the World Culture, are failing! No wonder, just like Solomon and his wives.

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