Low Point near the High Line

The article in the New York Times yesterday was only the latest of many media considerations of the current dispute at General Theological Seminary in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Eight faculty members declared they could and would no longer fulfill their contracts unless seminary trustees addressed their criticism of Dean Kurt Dunkle’s leadership. The Board promptly declared that the faculty members had resigned and the Dean has since been planning to keep the classes going without them.

Among the nastier aspects of this situation are quotes in a faculty letter to the trustees that have the Dean expressing racist and sexist prejudices. On the other hand, the faculty members did take the risk of going over the head of the Dean; in my own experience on boards of directors, boards usually prefer to back the CEO in such cases. If the trustees don’t have confidence in him or her running the organization, they should find someone else to lead, rather than attempting to micro-manage alongside the appointed administration.

Although I have not myself been impressed with previous public statements from Dean Dunkle, and I find the faculty charges to be disturbing (especially the quotations), I am also sympathetic with students and alumni who are trying to stay on the sidelines in this dispute. The waters are muddy and it is by no means obvious to me what side God is on. Very sad. —J. Douglas Ousley

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2 Responses to “Low Point near the High Line”

  1. Chris Stromee says:

    Whatever is the actual issues are, ditching eight out of the ten full time faculty members is a boneheaded Board response.

  2. John Ubieta says:

    Something tells me there is more to this story than the NYT is willing to print or simply doesn’t know. In any case, it sends a very bad signal to all parishioners and is very demoralizing for the church as a whole. Based on this article, there is no difference between church authorities and any typical corporate board. Some of you may cynically say, of course not. However, when one thinks of the church, regardless of denomination, one thinks about a higher authority, meaning God and one doesn’t want to associate God with a petty corporate squabble. In the long term it is the vision or idea of God that becomes tarnished and thus loses out.

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