Who the heck do those Episcopal professors think they are?

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Seal of the General Theological Seminary

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Seal of the General Theological Seminary

Seal of the General Theological Seminary

Seal of the General Theological Seminary

Anyone who’s ever spent any time around trustees of institutions of higher learning knows what a royal pain in the butt professors are. Talk about your whiney losers! Just because they spend a few hours a week disseminating information in a classroom they think they’re entitled to help run the place. Really? Most of them haven’t been out of school since the age of three, and wouldn’t know a balance sheet from a blunderbuss.

So I say, in these hard times for mainline Protestant divinity schools, good for the trustees of the Episcopal Church’s General Theological Seminary! When eight of the 11 faculty members at that two-century-old pillar of Lower Manhattan declined to teach and discharge their other duties because they said they couldn’t work with their president-cum-dean, the Very Reverend Kurt Dunkle, the board accepted their “resignations.” Hah! They’ll never have to work with him again.

I’m glad the board did not deign to actually meet with the malcontents, as they had requested during months of bellyaching. To what end? It’s not as if they would do anything but complain about the brave new world of distance divinity learning. Have they no faith in things unseen?

Sure, let there be an “investigation” of their claims that Dunkle, a sometime corporate lawyer from Jacksonville, Fl., improperly shared a student’s academic record and told a female faculty member that he “loved vaginas.” And that he referred to mass transit passengers in San Francisco as “slanty-eyed.” And that he was dictatorial and controlling and made them “feel unsafe.” Let Very Reverends be Very Reverends, I say. Especially when they’re CEOs.

And it’s not as if Dunkle is alone in Episcopal seminaryland. After the faculty of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. voted no confidence in their president, the Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, last year, she told a reporter that no-confidence votes and resistance from faculty were, “a dime a dozen, pretty much since the 1980s,” adding: “It’s just a way of doing business, especially for places that are facing the need to potentially make significant change. It goes with the territory.” Boom!

The trustees at EDS didn’t meet with the faculty there either. Why should they? All they were doing was deciding whether to do away with tenure, and you know how the tenurati would respond to that.

Point is, there’s no point in people with mighty fiduciary responsibility listening to people with mere educational responsibility. Don’t they know who’s boss? Who needs them anyway?

  • samuel johnston

    As a graduate student I wanted to be a college professor but the Gods said -No Way! I am so grateful to have been. spared from the mess higher education has become!

  • wyclif

    The real backstory here is that all these changes, including the new Dean, were a result of decline. The presenting issue is that theological liberalism simply isn’t a growth paradigm. The Episcopal Church is dying, losing membership like crazy—because they left their first love to go lie with the harlot of secularism.

  • Doug

    The Episcopal Church has been described as a liberalized version of the Roman Catholic Church. So perhaps, wyclif, you can explain to us the RCC’s well publicized losses. It doesn’t exactly appear that conservative theology is on a roll either.

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  • Not to mention the Southern Baptist Convention.

  • Chaplain Martin

    It certainly reminds be of the purge of the faculties at the six Southern Baptist Seminaries in the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000’s. They got rid of the moderates (whom they called liberals) Especially did they remove the women professors. They allowed women to take courses but not be pastors or ordained for any position. Now they have women only teaching women, and men only teaching men in many of the seminaries.

    They are now reaping the whirl wind. I believe to last report of a lost of member ship at around 500,000.

    My first seminary degree was from a SBC seminary. Years later I went to a Presbyterian seminary and found the atmosphere so much better there. Professors called by their first names, listed along with students in the directory, a more relaxed atmosphere. Columbia Seminary was more academically challenging, and I learn a lot about “decently and in order.”

  • Russ Walford

    In following this story I found it interesting that these faculty members felt very, very strongly about this; they just couldn’t go on under these conditions – it could be interpreted that the 8 wouldn’t even meet with the board unless certain preconditions were met!
    But while the 8 appeared to demand that dean lose his job – they “couldn’t work with him” – they DIDN’T feel strongly enough to lose their own jobs over it.
    I’m underwhelmed by the dedication and conviction of these 8…

  • Buster

    You know what pisses me off. Where were all these people when the same and worse was being to me last year? I was a student there. I was unjustly dismissed by six out of 8 of those very faculty members! They talk about evictions? I was given two days to leave my dorm. These people left me homeless and destitute. But unlike them, having each other and support I was alone. I can tell you stories about six of these eight victims! Lies. Being bullied and intimidated by them. So yeah maybe they deserve it.

  • BobRN

    The losses of the RCC are well-publicized. Unfortunately, their strengths and gains are not. While the RCC loses more members than any other church in the US, it also successfully retains more members than all Protestant denominations combined. As well, while the number of priests has declined (though the decline has seemed to stop), the actual numbers of Catholics continues to rise. This says nothing of the continued tremendous growth of Catholicism in the third world. The myth of conservative losses may provide some comfort to liberals, but the fact is that the losses of the liberal churches are orders of magnitudes greater than any of the conservative churches, some of which continue to grow.

  • BobRN

    The Southern Baptist Convention has lost approximately 3% of its membership over the last decade. While this represents a loss, it is in no way comparable to the devastating losses of the liberal churches.

  • Professors called by their first names,

    Isn’t that cute?

  • The complaints they have had as retailed by Inside Higher Education were trivial. Either the reporting on this story is bad or they’re prima donnas

  • Chaplain Martin

    Art Deco,
    Thank you so much for your reply: Professors called by their first names,

    Isn’t that cute? That was just what I was getting it with all I wrote. “Cuteness” isn’t it grand.

  • SupportGTS8

    And maybe they don’t, Buster. Suffice it to say there were many who tried to help you. I’ll leave the rest of my statement unsaid because it would be unkind. Grace and peace be with you.

  • bernard

    What losses? The church has been growing steadily for the last 50 years or so, in terms of raw numbers. In terms of percentage of the American population, they have held steady at about 23-24 percent, ever since the 50’s.

    With immigration, they are up 10 percent or something like that during the last ten years. Without immigration, they are still up 1%.

    Compare that to the Episcopal church which is DOWN 30% in the same time period, and in which parishes fight to leave the national body.

  • Doug

    According to the Pew Survey, approximately one-third of the U.S. was raised RC but only about one-fourth of Americans currently describe themselves as such. One in ten Americans identify themselves as former RCs. The latest year of the General Social Survey tells a similar story. The actual number of RCs has risen only because of Hispanic immigration.

    That people have been leaving the RCC on a large scale is hardly in dispute. Arguments that liberal theology has driven people away from TEC but conservative/traditional theology has had nothing to do with RCC losses are inconsistent to say the least.

  • Rev. D.

    I started to read this post, as I have all things about this job action, until it just got stupid. Honestly, when did seminaries leave the United States? Everyone involved is a child of God, and a citizen of this country. They are entitled to voice discontent, and to be heard – on both sides. If even only a few of the allegations these professors made are true, and given their continued attempts to be heard over several months, then in this country, a work stoppage is a viable and understandable option. It is shameful that others should judge so harshly those who stand for what they believe. It is a bad sign for the church and for the country.

  • Jonathan J. Turner

    Come on, you guys! This is Mark Silk’s column: DISH!

  • SupportGTS8

    My apologies. More important, Mark Silk’s article was superb.

  • JG27

    My perspective from the pews is somewhat different. Those of us in the general populace don’t get to dictate what boss we will work for, or demand firings. These GTS professors have some grievances, but everyone I know has had much worse. It’s seems to be the nature of work. Jerky behavior in the boss? They think they shouldn’t have to tolerate such a thing, which just shows how pampered they are.

    They wrote a letter refusing to work for the dean any longer! What world lets them have that power? The civilian experience of the clergy is of a cosseted and mollycoddled group, working at a leisurely pace the business world has never had, protected by tenure in their jobs, granted a house, heat, electric, lawn care, snowplowing, repairs, etc. They get a month of vacation, two weeks educational leave, and nice long “sabbatical” every few years, while parishioners average 3 weeks vacation. The clergy exists is an unsupportable business model, from an age long ago.

    Having read the threatening letter from the professors to the board, it’s hard to sympathize with this inept effort.

  • William Barnett

    Careful, Mark! I fear that the obviously tone-deaf Board of General Theological Seminary might miss the note of sarcasm in your article.

  • wyclif

    Doug, first, if you noticed my user ID and understood what it means, you’d know I have no stake in Roman Catholicism. I’m a Protestant.

    Second, your comparison of Episcopal losses to the Roman Catholic Church is simply laughable and downright ridiculous. The RCC continues to grow apace everywhere, not just in the USA. I needn’t be a Roman Catholic to declare this, honesty requires it. But the Episcopal Church is in an enormous death spiral. They are losing members in large numbers, but more importantly they aren’t making any new disciples. Their membership is graying, and once the current priests bury all the gray-hairs, there won’t be much left to do except turn off the lights, lock the doors, and then sell the property. It’s already happening all over the USA.

  • rob

    we so need more Pastors from our Wisconsin Lutheran seminary ..
    many of our older baby boomer generation pastors are now retiring which is causing a pastor shortage..
    We have been blessed with wonderful pastors through the many years ..we love our Wisconsin Lutheran seminary.
    with its faithful to all the bible teachings professors
    and pastors. Here is our seminary’s web site..