Reinstate the faculty unjustly dismissed from General Theological Seminary

By Simon Barrow
October 11, 2014

The tragic and deplorable situation at General Theological Seminary in New York, USA, where eight loyal faculty members at present stand dismissed for their action in seeking to address "a workplace with a retaliatory and hostile environment", is one which has regrettably sad echoes in other situations in religious bodies I have known over the years.

As inherited church institutions face the difficulties and traumas of negotiating their transition into an era in which old certainties and privileges have eroded, one of the common responses has been to adopt an over-enthusiastically technocratic spirit – often to the cost of patterns of behaviour and response which one might want to call properly Christian, both in terms of the way they treat people and in the way they justify themselves pastorally and theologically (or not, as the case may be).

Elsewhere on Ekklesia there is a report of the disturbing recent developments at GTS (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20931). I have personal and professional reasons for feeling particularly distressed at what has been happening there. Dr Deirdre Good, a noted New Testament scholar and one of the eight faculty unjustly dismissed, is a valued friend. She was also a much appreciated contributor to several events sponsored by Ekklesia in 2007, in connection with her fine and important little book, Jesus' Family Values We have published a number of her articles over the years, and we are shocked and dismayed that someone of such integrity, along with her seven colleagues and their loved ones, should be treated in this way.

It is to be hoped (and, more than hoped, ventured) that the Episcopal Church's leaders, Bishop Mark Sisk and the Board of Trustees at GTS will now recognise that the only right way forward is to drop the pretence that the eight faculty members have 'resigned' (when they intended to do no such thing), take immediate steps to reinstate them, and address in a proper way the important concerns they have raised about the just, graceful relationships which ought to be central to the church's modus vivendi. There is an opportunity to do that at a meeting between faculty and board on 16 October. It is in everyone's interest that this is opportunity is grasped, and that the voices of many thousands of people raised in support of Dr Good and her colleagues are thereby also heard and responded to.

In the meantime, I am pleased to have signed the petition by tenured, assigned and independent scholars from the US and elsewhere in support of the GTS8, and to have contributed to their solidarity fund, and would urge others to do likewise.

For those with questions or wanting more information, a helpful FAQ has been produced, which can be accessed below in *.PDF format.

* More information: Safe Seminary website: http://www.safeseminary.org/ and on twitter: @safeseminary

* Fund to support the GTS8: http://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/support-the-gts8/243315

* FAQ on the GTS situation from the eight sacked faculty members: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/gts_faq.pdf

* Facebook page to promote a general petition for reinstatement of the eight GTS faculty: https://www.facebook.com/events/331354327039048/

* GTS8 general petition direct, on Change.org: http://www.change.org/p/board-of-trustees-of-general-theological-seminar...

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of the religion and society think tank Ekklesia. He was formerly assistant general secretary and global mission secretary for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and has been involved in adult theological education for many years.

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