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Spring Term 2011 at GTS

Spring Term Courses Offer Unique Learning Opportunities at General Seminary

January 21, 2010

New York City – Beginning in February the General Theological Seminary will offer a new roster of courses in which participants can explore their faith and expand their theological understanding while enjoying the beauty of the Seminary’s landmarked campus in the heart of the Big Apple. All courses may be taken for graduate-level credit, and accommodations are available on campus in the Desmond Tutu Center. To register and for further information (including full course descriptions) visit or contact Director of Admissions, William Webster at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 212-243-5150 ext. 280.

World Religions Prayer Practicum

In our increasingly pluralistic society, Christian spirituality is being strengthened by the encounter with other faith traditions. Participants in this course will gain a basic familiarity of the world religions and an ability to guide others in authentic Christian spiritual practices informed by interfaith understanding. Adjunct Prof. C. McPherson. Six Saturdays: February 12 & 26, March 12 & 26, April 2 & 16, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon.


A theological, experiential and practical exploration of Christian discernment from New Testament times to the present, with special emphasis on its social and political implications. Human embodiment and desire are also studied as special influences on the process of discernment.   Prof. Elisabeth Koenig. Thursdays 6:30-8:30 p.m. 

What is Islam?

This course is an introduction to the common religious, cultural and political base of what is popularly called Islam, concentrating on fundamental origins of the faith found in the Quran and in the career of the Prophet Muhammad, considering as well the beliefs and observances shared by most Muslims and some of the differences among them.  Adjunct Prof. Frank Peters, Wednesdays 1:30-3:20 p.m.

Faith, Film, and Popular Culture

Participants will discover the homiletical, scriptural, theological insights that movies can offer those who preach and teach the faith in the North American context. Screenings are followed by insightful analysis and interpretation.  Prof. Mitties DeChamplain, Mondays 1:30-4:20 p.m.

Children’s Spirituality in Literature and Film

The voices of children in literature and film are drawing keen interest from scholars around the world utilizing new models of literary, filmic, cultural, multi-cultural, psychoanalytic, theological, and feminist criticism. Students will examine books and films for children and those capturing experience of childhood for adults while learning to apply recognized critical standards, in addition to insights from their own perspectives.  Prof. Elisabeth Koenig, March 7-11 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 pm.

In God we Trust: Theology and the Marketplace

An engaging exploration of the marketplace where religion and economics meet, using theology to connect a vision of the world as an expression of God's grace with economic measures that account for future generations and the sustainability of the whole environment. Adjunct Prof. Susan Lee. Mondays 7:00-9:00 p.m.

The General Theological Seminary, located in the heart of New York City, educates and forms leaders for the church in a changing world. Founded in 1817 as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church, General offers certificate and degree programs including the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Theology. The Seminary is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a full-service conference center with sixty modern guest rooms.

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Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285,
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Advancement and Communications Offices Merge

General Seminary Merges Advancement and Communications Offices

President to Head New Office Joined by Associate VP and Three Staffers


December 3, 2010

New York City –In the interest of making its administration more effective, The General Theological Seminary (GTS) will merge the Communications Office with the school’s Department of Institutional Advancement, Seminary President Lang Lowrey recently announced. The new department will be called the Office of External Relations, a title the Seminary used in the 1980s for an office encompassing similar responsibilities. The new Office of External Relations will have responsibility for development, communications, alumni/ae affairs, and marketing Seminary programs. It will also oversee the Chelsea Square Conservancy, a group of Seminary friends and donors formed around preserving the Seminary’s historic grounds as well as the GTS Media Workshop, which makes recordings of GTS programs, including sermons from the Chapel, available on the Internet.

“Because fundraising is so critical to the mission of our school and will require my involvement,” said President Lowrey in making the announcement, “I will myself be providing primary oversight of this new department.”  Charles Knapp, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Alumni/ae Relations, Lowrey explained, has agreed to assist with the transition in leadership until the end of 2010. “Charles will be departing GTS on January 1 with our deep appreciation for the work he has done here,” said Lowrey. “In the face of troubling news about the finances of GTS last year, Charles and his team none-the-less raised an impressive amount for the Seminary’s Annual Fund—a figure that has set a recent high water mark in General’s history. I am very grateful to Charles for agreeing to remain with us to provide a smooth transition.”

The day-to-day operations of the new Office of External Relations will be headed up by Bruce Parker, former Executive Director of Communications who, with the merger, has been promoted to Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs.  A 1984 graduate of GTS, Parker has served the Seminary for the past 17 years and is the Seminary’s most senior staff member. “While his primary area of expertise will serve the communications and marketing side of the new office,” said Lowrey, “Bruce will also draw upon his many years of working in close collaboration with development. He has been intimately involved in planning and creating support materials for many of our fundraising efforts including the last capital campaign.”  Before joining the GTS staff in 1993, Parker served as a communications consultant to Washington National Cathedral, to Trinity Church Wall Street, and to the national offices of the Episcopal Church, and in this capacity provided support to many fundraising efforts.

In addition to Parker, the new External Relations team will consist of Senior Advancement Officer Donna Ashley, a 2006 graduate of the Seminary, and Director of Development Don Temples. “Donna has done excellent work for GTS and Don has also served us with distinction,” said Lowrey. “I am looking forward to directing the efforts of this promising new department at GTS.”

Also as part of the restructuring, Lowrey announced that Chad Rancourt, who has served for the last seven years as Media Coordinator in the Communications Office, will advance to the position of Director of Communications in the new Office of External Relations. A communications veteran with significant experience on Wall Street and in the advertising industry, Rancourt has been responsible for establishing a consistent graphics branding for the Seminary and for taking a key role in marketing Seminary programs.

Although the new office will also continue to provide a number of specialized production services, some internal support services previously provided by the Communication Office may need to be curtailed or appropriated to other GTS units. Similarly, the new office will maximize its efforts by accelerating the move to electronic communications and away from those venues that require paper. The move to electronic communications is both a cost consideration as well as a statement about stewardship of the environment. “I have met several times with the new External Relations staff and am excited by the synergy that I feel will be generated by this very talented group of people,” said President Lowrey in concluding the announcement. “Two members of the team are alums of GTS and all four have made significant contributions to the Seminary over the years.”

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Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285,
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Community Update

GTS Community Update -- November 30, 2010


As you know, this month has been a very busy time on the Close with the 2010 Alumni/ae Gathering, the Paddock Lectures, the Annual Lecture of the Anglican Society, and meetings of the Friends of the Library and the Associate Alumni/ae Executive Committee all having taken place recently. We both want to thank the entire GTS community for the wonderful hospitality that was shown to all our visitors. In this Update you will also find news about the implementation of the Plan to Choose Life and some important developments concerning our staff and faculty.

Alumni/ae Gathering and Paddock Lectures

The Matthews Room of the Tutu Center was filled to its capacity for the three Paddock Lectures, each of which featured the fine scholarship of the Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton ‘74. If you were unable to attend, please check upcoming issues of TWAG concerning the availability of recordings. Another noted scholar and GTS graduate, the Rev. Dr. John Kater ’66 was this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni/ae Award which was presented at a wonderful banquet in the refectory on November 11.

Contract Signed with Brodsky Organization
As you receive this Update a press release is also being finalized to announce that GTS and the Brodsky Organization have signed a contract leading to the sale of the GTS properties specified in the Plan to Choose Life. Although additional third party approvals are needed before the agreement is finalized, the signing of the contract clears the way for us to start implementing a number of components of the plan. Residents of Pintard Hall and of Dehon Hall will begin to be relocated and the Seminary will begin to end the practice of renting housing units to outside tenants living in 422. Please visit the Blogs section of the Rookery for the most up-to-date information about implementation. On the evening of December 7 the Seminary will be inviting residents from the surrounding neighborhood, as well as local media representatives, to learn about the Plan to Choose Life by joining us in Seabury Auditorium for a meeting with President Lowrey.

Relocation of Faculty Residences on the Close
As part of the further implementation of the Plan to Choose Life, the relocation of faculty residents of Chelsea 2,3,4 will also soon begin. Prof. David Hurd’s household will be moving into the Moore Building apartment previously occupied by the household of Prof. Drew Kadel. The soon-to-be vacated apartment of our retiring Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke, also in Moore, will become the new residence of the Kadel household. The Seminary is deeply appreciative of the patience and generosity shown by all students and faculty members who are being relocated as part of the implementation plan.

News from Prof. John Koenig and Prof. Elisabeth Koenig

Long time professors at GTS John and Elisabeth Koenig have informed us that they are investigating early retirement. Serving as Glorvina Rossell Hoffman Professor of the Literature and Interpretation of the New Testament, Prof. John Koenig joined the GTS faculty in 1978. As an effective and engaging teacher, he has enkindled a love of the New Testament in hundreds of GTS graduates. He is also a noted scholar and author having written many articles and several books relating biblical studies to the ministry of the church. Joining the faculty in 1986, Dr. Elisabeth K.J. Koenig, Professor of Ascetical Theology, is currently at work on a book about discernment and she teaches an extremely popular GTS course on the same subject. A sensitive and accomplished teacher, her foundations course in spirituality has served to introduce generations of GTS students to the inseparable connection between spiritual practice and social commitment. With special expertise in areas of patristic spirituality, fourteenth century English mystics, and the relationship between ascetical theology and psychology and art, she is frequently published in journals such as Theology Today. Our Easter term will feature a wonderful event at which we can all celebrate the impressive contributions John and Elisabeth have made to the life of General Seminary and express our thanks.

Chaplain’s Position

We were pleased so many were able to join the community on the afternoon of November 19 at a lovely reception to celebrate the ministry of our departing Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke. Stuart’s last day with us was November 22. His time here at GTS has been a blessing to all of us. The search committee under Bishop Lee’s direction has narrowed the field to several candidates who have been invited to the campus for interviews and a tour. A new Chaplain is expected to join the community in January.

Administration News

We both want to express our appreciation to Maureen Burnley for the energy and effectiveness with which she has assumed responsibility for the logistical implementation of the Plan to Choose Life, particularly the relocation of residences and offices. We are also indebted to the staff of the Business Office and Sandra Johnson, our new Interim CFO, for undertaking all the extra duties that have had a critical role in assuring a successful outcome to the agreement with the Brodsky Organization. Lastly, a special word of thanks is also due to the staff of the External Relations Office who worked so hard to insure a successful Alumni/ae Gathering. A prior Update informed you of the merger of the former institutional advancement and communications offices to create the Office of External Relations. This announcement will soon be made public in a press release that will be sent later in the week of November 29.  Also, a complete organizational chart of the Seminary’s administration will soon be added to the Rookery for your reference.

After chapel each morning, it has been great seeing so many students, faculty, and staff starting their day with our new “continental breakfast” in the lobby of West Building. We encourage you to join the community as often as you can for a hot beverage, pastry, and good conversation. After all, as we all know, the coffee hour is an inseparable part of the Episcopal experience.

As we return from our Thanksgiving holiday and as we mark the beginning of Advent, let us all give thanks for the innumerable ways God has blessed us, for the people we love, for the love we receive from others, and for the privilege of sharing a life of study, worship, and community here in Chelsea Square.

God’s peace,


The Rev. Lang Lowrey       The Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee
Interim President                  Interim Dean


January 2011 Course Offerings

January Courses Offer Unique Learning Opportunities at General Seminary

New York City --  Beginning January 10 the General Theological Seminary will offer four short term courses in which participants can explore their faith and expand their theological understanding while enjoying the beauty of the Seminary’s landmarked campus in the heart of the Big Apple. All courses may be taken for graduate-level credit, and accommodations are available on campus in the Desmond Tutu Center. To register and for further information visit or contact Director of Admissions, William Webster at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 212-243-5150 ext. 280.

Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet
No leader of a faith community and no spiritual director can afford not to know about the quiet devastation of clinical depression, which affects twenty million Americans. People of faith may have a unique relationship to this condition, including a profound shame that makes them reluctant to seek treatment and the popular insistence on perpetual cheeriness as a necessary condition of faith.  This class will examine depression as it is currently understood, as well as the ways in which its despair has been treated in Christian tradition. Adjunct Prof. Barbara Crafton, January 10-14, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.

Greenfaith: Earth Spirituality, Stewardship, and Justice Practicum
Imagine a world where in every community religious leaders speak influentially on the environment; where houses of worship use renewable energy, produce no solid waste, press for clean-ups of local toxic sites, and lead community efforts for environmental sustainability; and where religious educators teach children that caring for the earth is an ethical obligation. This course will offer participants theological and practical training to make this world a reality. Adjunct Prof. Fletcher Harper, January 24-28, from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.  

Biblical Theology for the Spiritual Guidance of Children

Biblical Theology is a discipline that studies the narratives, poetry and other literature of the Bible to discover how the writers of biblical texts understood interrelationships among God, humans, and the world. Such critical study will enable participants to reflect on how the biblical theologies influence our own theologies today. Students explore several foundational stories in the scriptures, focusing on how these give rise to our thought and talk about God and creation. Through lectures, discussions and small group exercises the class will consider the ways children hear, wonder about and interpret biblical stories.  Prof. John Koenig, January 15-16,  from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm.

Practicum in the Spiritual Guidance of Children

This practicum teaches the art of inviting children into the Christian language system in a way that honors their wonder and undifferentiated awareness of God’s presence. It is in this context that the skills of observation, the relationship of child development to the spiral curriculum, and the awareness of method, fluency in the curriculum, and foundational theory are experienced and critically reflected on.  Godly Play is the centerpiece of this supervised experience with special attention to key core presentations found in Volumes 2, 3, and 4 of The Complete Guide To Godly Play. Distinguished Visiting Prof.  Jerome Berryman, January 10-14, from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.

The General Theological Seminary, located in the heart of New York City, educates and forms leaders for the church in a changing world. Founded in 1817 as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church, General offers certificate and degree programs including the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Theology. The Seminary is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a full-service conference center with sixty modern guest rooms.


Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Associate Vice President for External Relations
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

President Lowrey's Report to the Board of Trustees, October 15, 2010

President Lang Lowrey's Report to the Board of Trustees 10/15/2010

Good morning!

I have been asked to take a few minutes to give a state of the union report to all of you after my first 100 days on the job as your Interim President.  Someone said yesterday that they wanted to thank me for the work I have been doing in the past 12 months.  Well, it’s only been a bit over 100 days but if feels like a year!

I regret that my observations of General in this short period of time have been primarily limited to the financial crisis which we are facing.  Yet before I address those challenges, I want to say that I have found General every bit what I imagined it to be.  Many of my friends and associates call me to ask what it is like here.  I tell them that the Close is a bit of a cross between Harry Potter and Jane Eyre with a radical hospitality, most wonderful people with a deep sacred nature…all grounded in the heart of the best of our Episcopal tradition.  It is truly a place that is a privilege to serve and a place of great curiosity.  Thank you for having me here!

It’s my observation that our Mission has been well thought through, thoroughly understood and the “pride” of a church that prizes General as its flagship among its other 10 seminaries.

What I have been struck with more than anything else in the first 100 days is a few facts that I have learned about theological education in The Episcopal Church.  First, I have learned that historically we have sent more than 80% of our priests to seminary.  Our church has been blessed by creative, talented and educated priests whom at a minimum have a master’s degree and often doctoral degrees.  Highly educated priests have resulted in a church built in the Anglican tradition that offers a wide berth of theological opinion under a deep and rich liturgical tradition.  Theological education has been our hallmark and our church has attracted million of so called “Thinking Christians” who don’t go around claiming “we are saved” but say rather…”We are saved now what?”

What is concerning, given that our church was built on theological education in seminaries is that last year only 50% of our priests that were ordained went to seminary.  What’s worse, I am told that we have as few as 250 in the MDiv program in all our 10 seminaries.  Now I am sure those ordained without seminary are very fine priests but this change in theological education will have a profound effect in our church over the next 10 years.  It will invite into our churches a new world view.  It will also threaten to change the very fabric of who we are as a church because seminary education is what has built our tradition.

Now, one might say…it’s no matter!  We don’t need 10 seminaries, perhaps we only need 3 or 4 of them (well distributed throughout the US).  In effect the seminaries will just consolidate to meet the needs of those who will attend.

It will also be said that students can’t afford a seminary education in these times.  Times are changing, we need to adapt to online or near-line education.  Students can go to local universities and continue working and be educated locally without Episcopal formation.  “Right sizing” is certainly the buzz word of the past few years…perhaps we too as a church should do the same.

This most certainly makes business sense.  Most corporations would agree…you must “right size” to meet demand.  The problem with this equation is that I have come into two Fortune 500 companies that thought that right sizing would solve the problem.  The one thing I have learned in both experiences is that you can’t “downsize your way to success!”

No, the only way to address the problem of declining demand is not to treat the “symptoms” but treat the “disease”.  Simply, even though we will likely have excellent priests whom go to local universities or are trained in online or near-line environments we will still need “theological marines” (if you will) whom although a smaller group can make more than a significant contribution to the church.   These are the same ones who will be receiving honorary doctorates with accomplishments a mile long like the ones we conferred last night.  These “marines” will be our bishops, our canons and our cardinal rectors.  We need seminaries if we are to survive as a church because I have seen first hand what right sizing does…it accelerates the decline rate because without well trained leaders (especially in a changing world) we will not have the leadership to change the trend of what is causing the decline in the first place.  

This will mean, of course, that we as seminaries (even if we consolidate to 3 or 4) will have to change.  Not only in our approach on how we teach a new generation but what we teach them.  For instance evangelism, pastoral care, practical theology and how to manage and grow a church will all be important additions to arm our “theological marines” to be ready to change the tide of our decline.  

Unfortunately, General does not have faculty in any of these areas.  We do not have any online capability and we are not serious about our “near line” commuter students.  (For instance, we do not have a class that starts at 8 am nor many after 6 pm and virtually none on Saturday.)  We don’t even have a handle on our commuter or part-time students in terms of enrollment.  We have much work to do if we are not going to be one of those consolidated or right sized seminaries.  Theological education times are a changing and we need to accelerate adapting our clear but “tired” mission rapidly if we want to be the “flagship” instead of the “sinking ship.”

Underpinning our need to make quick theological education changes, of course, is our longstanding financial woes.  It is hard to address “mission” when all you do is bale water every day with a $60 – 70 million hole in your boat!  Yet thanks to the valiant efforts of our previous dean and our chair (not to mention a very dedicated staff and faculty), they have found creative ways to keep the boat afloat.  

The problem is that despite their heroic efforts they were only able to treat the symptom and not the disease.  In doing so they could not “save General” per se but thanks to their hard work and good efforts they did make General worth saving.  The Chelsea Enclave project was genius and financially sound.  Tutu was genius, as well! Yet unfortunately it was based on a business model that changed in the middle of the project as a result of the economy, cost overruns and regulatory problems.  Deferred maintenance decreased, we had a generous donation of the library and geothermal (albeit very expensive with a long payback) was brought to the seminary.  All these initiatives resulted in improving our asset base over the past 5 – 10 years.  We can be thankful that the past 10 years under Dean Ewing resulted in so much progress for General in terms of our assets.

Unfortunately building up assets usually increases debt.  We are no exception.  Now we have $41 million of debt which is technically in default (yet which is temporarily cured).  Ordinarily this would not be problematic because we would have a means to service the debt.  Unfortunately in our case we do not.  We are losing $5 million per year and have no means to service either the $2.5 million which is debt service or the $2.5 million of operating loss which our students do not pay and which most higher learning institutions offset using earnings from their endowment.

The “dis-ease” in a financial sense is similar to our “dis-ease” in Mission.  We treat the symptoms and not the problem.  Heroically band-aiding it by reducing or borrowing from our endowment; increasing debt or convincing benefactors to fund operating losses and deferred maintenance.

Once again let me say that it is not only heroic how Dean Ewing held the ship together but amazing.  I am sure that he would have found yet another way to fund General for yet another year if the economy had not failed him.

Later today, you all will be discussing a new plan for General.  This is not a plan that treats the “symptoms” or denies the “dis-ease”.  It is a comprehensive plan which embraces the reality of our situation and treats the disease both in terms of our mission and in terms of our financial condition.  I pray that the reality of our situation will be embraced without looking back to find blame because in just a few years those whom have brought us this far might see their efforts turn fruitful as we attempt to eliminate debt, increase endowment so that we can have a balanced budget and re-envision our mission in changing theological times.

Finally, let me say that I believe just a few important changes can make a big difference in our future.  First, thanks to the hard work of our Director of Admissions we have brought in a large, new, energetic junior class this year.  They came here knowing the reality of the situation.  They have brought a new energy to fuel our mission.  Second, we have brought in two of our church’s finest statesmen, Archbishop Carnley and Bishop Lee.  Both bring a sense of stability and the promise of good things to come.  If we embrace the reality of our situation and continue to make important changes, perhaps this time next year we could be pleased.


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