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A Letter from President Lowrey to GTS

8/18/10

A Letter from President Lowrey to the GTS Community


Friends,

The beginning of the Seminary’s Michaelmas term will soon be upon us, with Orientation Week slated to begin on August 29. I would like to summarize a number of important developments at GTS since my last letter to you in mid-July. You should all have received notice of the press releases on the loan with M&T Bank and on the appointment of Bishop Peter Lee as Interim Dean.

GTS and M&T Bank completed signing all the documents finalizing our $5.3 million short term loan on August 9. These funds are now available for the Seminary to draw upon for operating expenses. The agreement stipulates that the loan will be repaid from the proceeds from the sale of the four residential units in Chelsea 2,3,4. Depending on the revenue realized from the units, this sale is also expected to reduce the Seminary’s overall debt by up to $3.9 million. Among other prerequisites, the sale of the units will also enable us to build out the space for our beautiful new library. The Seminary is indebted to GTS trustee Sandra Johnson and to both Maureen Burnley and Frank DiMaiuta for their hard work in securing this loan. While this loan provides temporary stabilization, the real work is still before us: reducing our debt and building our endowment. Minimally, our endowment should be in the range of $50 million, about $30 million above where it stands now. So, in eliminating $33 million of debt and in increasing our endowment by $30 million, we are looking at a total “swing” of over $60 million needed to achieve an acceptable level of financial well-being. Clearly, this is a daunting goal but is one which I believe is achievable. Moreover, restructuring our balance sheet will not be enough in the long run, given the Seminary’s negative cash flow of $5 million each year. We will have to restructure our business model as well.

We cannot, however, confine our concern to improving the financial well-being of GTS without taking a serious look at our institutional health. For this reason I feel we should all be gratified to know Bishop Peter Lee will be serving as our Interim Dean. He brings to GTS administrative and pastoral abilities gained over a lifetime of distinguished service. As I work to help put the Seminary’s financial house in order, I am deeply thankful to know a person of Bishop Lee’s background and experience will be working here each day on campus to nurture and revitalize the academic and spiritual life of the Seminary. Bishop Lee and I have agreed on a number of areas where he will begin to focus his attention. These include addressing the concerns voiced by our residential faculty, finding new ways to ensure our adjunct members share in the full richness of Seminary life, and working to restore the Chapel as an active and relevant center of our life together.

Since Bishop Lee will not join GTS until our Matriculation service on September 30, I have begun to address needed changes in our worship, a hallmark of our life together about which many have voiced concerns. Oversight of the Chapel has always been a shared responsibility and we want to continue this collaborative effort between faculty, students, and staff, including the Rev. Dr. Mitties De Champlain as Professor of Preaching, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke as Chaplain, Dr. David Hurd as Professor of Church Music, and Mr. Jeffrey Roy as Chief Sacristan. However, to better utilize these talents and to gain the invaluable expertise of a liturgical scholar with significant parish experience, I have appointed the Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy, Associate Professor of Liturgics, to serve as Director of the Chapel with full responsibility for chapel life and worship. Recent discussions have affirmed our commitment to the daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer in accordance with longstanding tradition and our constitution. However we need to revisit our worship schedule and to introduce more contemporary elements of worship current in the life of the wider church. Accordingly, beginning with the upcoming term, the Eucharist will follow immediately upon Morning Prayer each day except for Tuesday. With the aim of restoring the centrality of the Tuesday night service as the “community Eucharist” we are planning to add an evening meal to follow. The schedule of morning classes has been revised to accommodate these changes. We are also taking a serious look at ways to be more intentional in our expectations about Chapel attendance for all members of the community.

In addition to our new Interim Dean and Dr. Malloy’s new role, I would like to update you on other recent personnel changes. The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Owens, Professor of Old Testament, has accepted my invitation to serve as Academic Advisor to the Dean. With Bishop Lee assuming responsibility for the academic life of the Seminary and Dr. Owens assisting, Dr. Ted Gerbracht will be departing his role as Senior Vice President of Academic Administration with the Seminary’s deep appreciation for his service. Ted has agreed to stay on board pro bono as Director of Special Programs.  This position will be focused on incubating both the Center for Christian Spirituality and the Tutu Peace and Reconciliation Center.  Both Centers have much promise, but have yet to realize the full potential of their visions.  Ted has graciously accepted to use his talents for at least 90 days to not only help progress these visions, but also to focus on making them financially viable going forward.  With Ted Gerbracht in a special projects role we will appoint the Rev. Jeanne Person as the new fulltime Director of the Center for Christian Spirituality including the Spiritual Guidance of Children program. Jeanne has done an admirable job in developing new initiatives at the Center for Christian Spirituality and in promoting them with great success.

In other personnel changes, the Rev. Dr. David Lowry who has been the Director of the Center for Peace and Reconciliation will be leaving us to become the new Director of the George Mercer School of Theology in the Diocese of Long Island. Dr. Lowry has been of great assistance in charting a future for the Center and we are grateful to him for his good work and we wish him well on his new assignment.

Lastly, at their August 5 meeting the members of the Executive Committee received the resignation of the Rev. Canon Denis M. O’Pray, effective with the October, 2010 Board meeting. This will mark the fifth anniversary of Canon O’Pray’s very distinguished tenure as Chair of our Board during which the Desmond Tutu Center and numerous preservation projects were completed. We are also grateful to him for his work in making a smooth change of leadership at GTS. I will provide timely updates as the trustees’ Executive Committee begins the work of nominating a new Chair according to the policy and procedures of GTS.

A number of other important changes have taken place over the summer. Most of our faculty offices have been moved to new accommodations on the fourth floor of the West Building where they have both a large conference room and a kitchen. As a result, the former faculty offices in Seabury Hall have been returned to student housing and the Faculty Common Room has become the Student Common Room. The space is modest but we have gone too long without a place for students to gather. In other improvements a study room for students has been created in Pintard Hall, the Seminary’s reception area has gotten a much needed face-lift, and a common kitchen has been installed in Edson Hall.  The Rookery (accessible from www.gts.edu) has become an online hub for GTS community news and information and now incorporates Faces, TWAG, and a host of other resources; the GTS website also provides access to a new electronic version of the GTS Catalog 2011 that was launched earlier this summer.

One other change that will be taking place later this fall is with our Chaplain, the Rev. Stuart Hoke.  Stuart’s agreement with GTS was to serve as Chaplain for one year which ends this Thanksgiving.  From all accounts Stuart has done a wonderful job in this capacity and we will miss him when he completes his assignment this fall.  Bishop Lee will start a search for a new Chaplain when he arrives in September (if not before) as the role of Chaplain is a very important position at GTS.

I very much realize we are living into a new reality on the Close with Enclave residents moving in, the Tutu Center operating at 70% capacity, and the increasing use for weddings and other events. I will be forming a new working group to deal with issues of security and appropriate usage so that the safety and beauty of the Close is preserved.

I look forward to seeing those of you who will be present for Orientation Week and everyone else shortly thereafter. Bishop Lee joins us on September 30 for Matriculation. If you have questions or concerns, my door is always open. Simply contact Chris McFadden to schedule an appointment or you may contact me by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I hope this update finds each of you well, refreshed and renewed by the summer months.

God’s peace,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey
Interim President

THE GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
440 West 21st Street, New York City, NY 10011   |   tel (212) 243-5150  fax (212) 727-3907

The General Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church is a tax exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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