October 20, 2014
Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,
One of the seminaries of the Episcopal Church, General Theological Seminary in New
York City, is in turmoil. Eight of the faculty members refused to teach because of their
differences with the Dean. These faculty wanted a genuine conversation, but their process was
one of pressure. In response the seminary’s Board of Trustees backed the Dean and summarily
dismissed the faculty. Many of these faculty members are tenured, so the conflict has escalated
into issues of labor law. General is also dealing with deficits to the point that many people are
questioning if the seminary can survive. Founded in 1817, General is the oldest Episcopal
seminary, and the only one owned outright by the Episcopal Church.
As many of you know, I am a retired Navy chaplain. The Navy has a core value that is
absolute. Regardless of the circumstances, what happens on your watch is your responsibility.
When you understand this premise you instinctively resolve matters before they become
problems. The Dean of General Seminary is the person in charge. This is his watch, and he has
failed. Now he has a severely reduced faculty, alumni who are taking sides, and a Board forced
to defend him in the midst of a firestorm. It is too late. These matters should have been worked
out collegially a year ago. Now the damage is done, and the person responsible should be
As a Church we have a clear model of leadership. We see it unfolding when people
become deacons, priests, and bishops. We call the overall service an ordination but it is the
consecratory prayer that makes the person a deacon, priest, or bishop. Ordain means to raise
up. The Church collegially makes a decision to raise someone to leadership from its ranks.
Consecrate means to call out. God separates someone from the group for special service. In
consecrating God confers with no one. This tension of raising up from within and God’s calling
out is the essence of leadership and is a useful model both inside and outside the Church.
When communication is emphasized and the leader works collegially, God is able to craft a
vision in which everyone can participate. The prospect for success in this environment is high.
Everyone is affirmed. A dream becomes reality because of its merits more than who proposes it.
Clearly this has not happened at General. As a result, the end of a once great seminary is now a
real possibility. With my love and best wishes, I am,
Your brother in Christ,