Magazine article The Christian Century

Seminary Faculty, Dean at Impasse

Magazine article The Christian Century

Seminary Faculty, Dean at Impasse

Article excerpt

Nearly the entire full-time faculty at the Episcopal Church's oldest seminary is battling with the school's leadership, although the sides do not agree on whether the professors quit, were fired, or staged a walkout.

Either way, the dispute revives a longstanding debate about the future of General Theological Seminary in New York City, which has produced generations of bishops and noted theologians and is the only Episcopal seminary overseen by the national church.

Eight professors--Joshua Davis, Mitties DeChamplain, Deirdre Good, David Hurd, Andrew Irving, Andrew Kadel, Amy Lamborn, and Patrick Malloy--announced in late September that they would stop teaching classes, attending official seminary meetings, or attending chapel services until they could sit down with the board of trustees. The school reported ten full-time faculty in its 2013-2014 annual report to the Association of Theological Schools.

On September 30, the board of trustees wrote that it had accepted the resignations of the eight faculty members.

"The Board came to this decision with heavy hearts, but following months of internal divisions around the future direction of General Seminary," the statement said, "it has become clear that this is the best path forward in educating our students and shaping them into leaders of the church."

After the conflict became public, the faculty members launched a website, safeseminary.org, where they stated that they did not resign, but rather "undertook a legal work stoppage" after months of raising concerns such as charges that the seminary dean and president, Kurt Dunkle, had made racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks.

"We were invoking a common labor practice at the advice of our attorney stating that we could not work under these conditions," the faculty members wrote. "It is impossible to teach Christian theology and serve the formation of priests and lay leaders in a workplace environment that is retaliatory and hostile, where we and our students are suffering intimidation."

Mark Sisk, chair of the board of trustees, offered in an October 1 letter to hold a meeting of the board's executive committee--and potentially other board members suggested by the faculty--with the eight professors.

"I anticipate the attorney investigating the accusations pertaining to President and Dean Dunkle will have completed his investigation [by the date of the meeting] with your full cooperation," he wrote. …

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