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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.

 

# # #

Student/Facutly/Staff Perspectives on Plan to Choose Life

Student, Faculty, and Staff Remarks to the Board of Trustees, October 15, 2010


Student Perspective by Mr. Ian Kinman

Student Representative to the Board of Trustees
M.A. Student

Good Morning. My name is Ian Kinman, and I am here in my role as President of the Community Council to speak briefly to you. The council represents everyone at the seminary, including faculty and staff; however I will let Professor Owens and Billy Webster address the concerns of the faculty and staff directly themselves. Instead I will focus my remarks on behalf of the students and their partners, spouses and families.


Let me first say that regarding the proposal by President Lowrey, Bishop Lee and the administration, the community has strong and broad support for this plan. No one is pleased that the plan is necessary for the seminary’s survival; it is a terrible situation that we are in, and I have to be honest, there is anger in the community about how those entrusted with the stewardship and oversight of this seminary have clearly failed at their responsibility.

But the community is behind this plan; they are behind it out of a spirit of hope, a belief in the promise of renewal, and a trust. A trust in the future of this seminary, and its necessary role in education and its necessary role in formation.

Now there are many concerns that this community has about this plan. People are concerned about their homes, the homes of their families, and their children. We want to make certain that the plan continues the seminary's commitment to a residential program that is a unique and valuable part of our formation. We have concerns about timing and logistics, space for classes and space for our ministries. All of these concerns are valid, they need to be addressed, and they reflect the daunting nature of the challenges that we face. But this community has confidence in the abilities of the Dean, the President and the administration and staff to manage these changes in an orderly and open way. And we have confidence in these people’s ability to involve the community in the ongoing decision-making and design.

Why do we have this confidence? Our confidence is based on the openness, transparency and honesty that these people have shown the students and their families during this difficult time. And for that we thank them.

As someone who is an architect, it pains me a little to say this, but this community is not the buildings, it is not the real estate, it’s not the chapel. The most moving Eucharist I’ve been part of since coming to this seminary was in the Hobart Room. These buildings are necessary tools for our formation, as much as books and computers. But the substance of this seminary does not lie in those things. We are committed to our mission, and not to buildings. We are not worried about buildings themselves; we are worried about how buildings affect this community.

You need to Make This Happen. We’ve got one shot at this, so you need to Make It Count.

There are those who despair that this is the darkest hour in this seminary’s history, that there is no hope, and that we’re better off closing. We disagree. We think you have a chance to make this the seminary’s finest hour.

Thank you for your time.

 



Faculty Perspective by Dr. Robert Owens
Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees
Professor of Old Testament


Ladies and Gentlemen,


President Lowrey asked me briefly to share a faculty member’s perspective on the proposed new master plan.  I have not been able to meet with my colleagues since they were presented with the plan last Wednesday, but several responded to my request for comments.  What follows are my own words, shaped so as to convey also what I think I have heard from my colleagues.

Probably like all of you, the teaching faculty experiences three different bundles of thoughts and feelings at the same time.  First, we realize that this is a time of urgent crisis.  The institution at key moments in recent years has left undone what it ought to have done and has done what it should not have done, and we have had some bad luck.  Because of that, most of the freedom now to choose our own course has been lost.  In the face of imminent financial disaster, we have only two choices to consider:  survival or non-survival.  And there is very little time left to make even that simple choice.   Second, we feel immense gratitude, and no little amazement, that Lang Lowrey has been willing to give himself to the task of defining a path to survival.  Five months ago few of us thought that there was hope for anything but a more or less messy final collapse this fall.  The thanks we feel to him (and to those of you who stepped forward within the board to make the bold decision to invite him here)—the thanks we feel is one of the brightest parts of life at GTS just now.  He has literally thrown himself into this mission,   rigorously and also respectfully of us all.  Now we have a plan that offers a realistic possibility of new life for the seminary we all love, to be executed by someone with genuine financial expertise.  Third, while our pain is great at having yet again to cut back the space and buildings that we need for our programs, the prospect of truly reclaiming a solid financial foundation will make it worthwhile.

Most of us think that these changes, as immediately traumatic as they feel, will actually form the basis for new growth.  If this goes as envisioned, we can stop the steady stream of departing discouraged faculty, and begin again to attract and retain talented young teachers.  We can think of having the resources to innovate and adapt, without having to spend every penny and every ounce of energy just coping with yet another crisis.  More than one faculty member has expressed hope that the changed physical plant may even make it easier to think outside the box, to probe afresh how we can best do what the church needs us to do, without having every decision textured by that huge task of the care and feeding of historic Chelsea Square.  We love it; it is beautiful; but historic preservation is not our mission.  We are called to preach and teach Christ, to be fishers of people, not keepers of the aquarium.  Maybe, just maybe, the changed but renovated campus will make it easier for all of us to move forward with freshness.   We wish these changes would not have to be so drastic, and frankly, the loss of space is frightening.  But we know these changes are necessary, and we think that they may catalyze genuine progress in other ways.

As we support this plan, and give it our backing, there are two or three issues that we  teachers probably see as clearly as anyone, although Ian has already alluded to some of them on behalf of the students.

First, the heart of our mission is teaching, and, along with the wonderful new Keller library, the most crucial spaces for us are the classroom spaces.  We now do not have enough classroom spaces of the right kind.  We do not have a single classroom that will seat over about 35 students.  Many of our classes are that small or smaller, but some are not.  For larger classes, we are forced to use the Auditorium, which is a catastrophe as a teaching and learning space.  (These two Tutu rooms are out of bounds for our academic program.)  The first request we feel the need to register as you put this master plan into its final form is, Please, please do not forget how essential is the matter of adequate classrooms.

Second, renovation of student residences predominates in the improvements involved in the plan.  Who can be anything but thrilled at the prospect of all our students being able to live in modern, efficient accommodations?  Residential formation will continue to be a key ideal feature of theological education for the ordained ministry for most Episcopal students, and we are grateful that the plan provides for that.  At the same time, theological education will surely be rapidly changing in form in coming years.  We need to be honest about the fact that this plan is essentially building to the patterns of current seminary life.  No one can predict the future, but as we move forward with this plan, let us constantly ask:  Are we building and renovating in a way that will give our facilities maximum flexibility for the future?  For example, will the changed campus be able to serve students who may come to campus for 2-6 weeks several times a year for shorter, intensive study periods?  Are we including the infrastructure and support space for the electronically-delivered learning formats that surely must be a growing aspect of how we teach?

Last, we faculty are contractually required to live on the seminary premises.  This means that our seminary apartments are our homes.  If we are to renew and strengthen our institution, our faculty once again should include always some younger teachers who are in the child-rearing years.  With the reduction in faculty residences that this plan entails, will there still be apartments that will seem adequate to the prospective young faculty member who will be raising two or three children here?

A related pastoral footnote:  As the seminary apartments are our homes, they are as important to our physical and mental well-being as your homes are to you, wherever you live.  Moving is very, very difficult, even when you choose to do it.  When outside circumstances make you move, it can be even more unsettling.  I say this only by of reminder—perhaps an unneeded reminder—that those who will lose their homes as this plan is enacted deserve all the consideration we can give them.  It seems important for me to add that a faculty member who is now being asked to move for the second time in six years recently said that they feel more respected in their discussions with President Lowrey than ever before at GTS.

The seminary faculty celebrates the many hopeful prospects that this new plan opens.  Far beyond mere survival, which is the first priority, it really does seem to most of us that at last we have a real path toward a future for this educational ministry.   It is always uplifting for those who work here every day to have the trustees gather and to see your commitment to what we are trying to do, to see how much you too give to this ministry, to feel how much you care for our students.  We are in harness together.  This new plan will not be easy, but the faculty is ready to pull with you to make it work.   

Robert J. Owens, Ph.D.
Professor of Old Testament
10/15/2010

 

 


 

Staff Perspective by Mr. William Webster
Staff Representative to the Board of Trustees
Director of Admissions


Statement of Feeling – 10.15.10

Saturday would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. And while most people were understandably singing the song “Imagine” in tribute to his memory, I kept thinking of a song from the same 1971 album, “Gimme Some Truth.” If you are familiar with “Gimme Some Truth”, I highly recommend it to you.

Speaking on behalf of the administration, I can honestly tell you that we’ve been waiting to hear the truth about General Theological Seminary for a long time. And this week President Lang Lowery spoke the truth to us, about us, and for us….and we were relieved.

When it came time for the question and answer portion of yesterday’s presentation to the staff, what struck me most in terms of the reaction of my colleagues was the deep concern expressed for the well-being of the faculty, and especially the students, during this upcoming period of great transition and growth. They didn’t ask about reduced office space, having to share their work areas with two or more people, or about any inconvenience they themselves might face, but rather wanted to know what we would be doing to make the next few years easier for our students. To me, this illustrates the administration’s dedication to and understanding of this institution’s core mission – to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world. The overall sentiment seemed to be – what can we do to help?

After the meeting I asked one of the staff members…how do you feel? She responded, “full of hope.” I myself sat in the meeting feeling like I was on the verge of tears. And I had to ask myself if they would be tears of sadness or tears of joy. Probably a little bit of both. But what I and the rest of us felt mostly was relief!

The weight of the past few years has taken its toll on all of us, staff included. We were never fully aware of what was going on behind the scenes, what was really at stake, or even what the whole story of our financial situation actually was. There is tremendously relief for many reasons, not the least of which is that this plan finally puts to rest the debate about our identity as a residential community. In fact, this plan to choose life reinvigorates the concept. I can tell you that your admissions director went on record in the press a couple months ago, knowing nothing about any of this, affirming General’s commitment to residential theological education, and he has no regrets about doing so.

The staff does have some practical concerns. We wanted to know what would happen to the preschool (as those children are part of the fabric of this place), what would happen to the commuter lounge, the student lounge, the Deanery, the lockers, the mannequin in Billy’s office.  Some of us with experience in establishing LLC’s wanted to know more about how the Tutu Center would be structured, out of a concern that GTS remain the driving force behind the Desmond Tutu Center. At the same time, we affirm that Melinda Choi and her staff be given more freedom to run the Tutu Center like a business, a very, very successful business. And we believe this can be done with consistency and commitment to Bishop Tutu’s ideals related to Peace and Reconciliation.

In closing, President Lowrey described the next few years as General’s desert experience. For the staff’s part, we go into this willingly and with great optimism, knowing that it will not be easy. One of us asked Lang what he’d recommend we bring to the desert if we could bring only one thing. His answer was “faith.” I can tell you that the staff of General Seminary is faithful, to this institution, to its mission, and to the people of this community. And we stand united in favor of this Plan to Choose Life.
Thank you.

 

# # #

The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray Closing Prayer

Prayer for the closing session of the Board of Trustees meeting

The General Theological Seminary
October 16, 2010
The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray

On the occasion of the first plenary session to be convened following the Board’s heroic approval of the Plan to Choose Life.

Whew…what a hard climb, Lord Jesus!  Reminds me of ascending Mount Arbel in the Galilee:  exhausting, but the view is incomparable.  Below, the wadi though which you so often made your way from Nazareth to Jerusalem.  Out there, the Sea of Galilee, across, the Golan heights, below, Tiberius, and low on the horizon, Capernaum.  To see in one glance Lord so much of your life’s journey.  Thrilling.  Worth the climb.

So was this ascent of ours.  And now, with our future claimed, from this high place that we have reached, thanks to our skilled guide, we can see and appreciate so deeply where our old school has been, and, more exciting, where the new one will rise.

I see students, another century’s worth, coming toward the close, there to be formed and educated to be leaders for the church in a changing world.  I can see generations of children sweetly touched by Godly Play trainers who have certificated here.  I see our struggling church being renewed, almost against its will, it would seem, by those who have grasped here a theology and liturgy fit for a new age, taught by a great faculty.  I see field placement students trudging from 23rd and 8th [the subway stop] on their way back to school from their assigned parishes.  I think they are shaking their heads in disbelief at what they have found out there. I can see in the distance the dean and president who will one day stand on the strong shoulders of Lang and Peter, ready to work, but unaware of all that had to be done to prepare General for their season of leadership.

What a climb!  What a view!  What a future you show us , Lord.

Oh, look down there where Fulton’s Fish Market used to be:  I see Trustees whose names will never be known by future generations, whose contribution to this vision will go unnamed.  Their work done, they slip off the scene, tired but happy.

Lord Jesus!  Look! Do you see me among them?  I’m smiling, satisfied, fulfilled. My work is done.

Thank you.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, and Amen.

 

 

GTS Trustees Enact Plan for Restructuring

For Immediate Release
18 October 2010

GTS Trustees Enact Plan for Financial Restructuring and Elect New Board Chair
New Plan Leverages Assets to Eliminate Debt, Rebuild Endowment, and Balance Budget


New York City – Trustees of The General Theological Seminary, the oldest seminary of The Episcopal Church, unanimously approved moving forward with a comprehensive new initiative, the Plan to Choose Life, aimed at eliminating the Seminary’s $41 million of debt, restoring the school’s endowment, and allowing the Seminary to continue its mission with a balanced budget—all to be achieved within a period of eighteen to twenty-four months. The plan represents a $60 million turnaround achieved, in part, by the sale of several Seminary properties, yet it preserves General’s classic quadrangle known as the “Close,” as well as all the historic buildings fronting West 21st Street. In other Board actions, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, the Bishop of New York and a 1967 graduate, was elected to serve as the Seminary’s new Board Chair, succeeding the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray who served as Board Chair for five years.

“The adoption of this plan represents a comprehensive solution to financial challenges that have been a drain on morale and a serious impediment to the Seminary’s mission for many years,” said Bishop Sisk. “GTS trustees today took a bold but very carefully considered step to leverage assets through the sale of residential properties. The payoff is the substantial if not the complete elimination of all General’s debt.”

A subsequent step in the Plan, Bishop Sisk explained, will seek to find Episcopal or other not-for-profit partners to share in the ownership of the Desmond Tutu Center, the Seminary’s conference facility. The proceeds from the partnership would be used to rebuild quickly the Seminary’s endowment which, from its annual earnings, should enable General to achieve a balanced budget and to concentrate on its mission to educate and form leaders for the church.

“At the crux of our financial crisis we realized that this plan was the only alternative for a comprehensive solution that was achievable in a few years,” said the Rev. Lang Lowrey, the Interim President of GTS. “Someone at the table mentioned that our journey in the next few years would be similar to the years the Israelites spent in the desert and it called to mind a passage in Deuteronomy about choosing life and so the name for the comprehensive approach was born.” Lowrey admitted that in enacting the Plan to Choose Life, General will have a very busy and difficult eighteen to twenty-four months ahead. The trustee action enables the school to complete negotiations for the sale of the properties and the complex process of relocating students and faculty residents to newly renovated housing.

“The community is behind this plan; they are behind it out of a spirit of hope, a belief in the promise of renewal, and a trust, a trust in the future of this seminary, and its necessary role in education and its necessary role in formation,” said Mr. Ian Kinman, an M.A. student who also serves as President of the Community Council.  Kinman joined Professor Robert Owens, Academic Advisor to the Dean, and by Mr. William Webster, Director of Admissions, who respectively offered student, faculty, and staff perspectives on the Plan.  Bishop Sisk commented, “This was one of the most spirited and positive Trustee meetings we have had in years. I am delighted that the GTS community is coming together so quickly to make General the kind of place where our mission can flourish.”

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
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
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President's Community Update 9/15/10

GTS Community Update from President Lowrey

September 15, 2010

Friends,

With the school year now in full swing these have been days filled with new beginnings for many members of the GTS community. It was my first Orientation Week as your Interim President. I enjoyed the week tremendously and felt privileged to be able to welcome the 55-60 new students who are joining us this term—an impressive number and an increase over last year’s incoming class. Thanks to all who worked to make Orientation Week the informative and enjoyable time it was, particularly the Admissions Team of Billy Webster and Emily Beekman. Thanks also to our new students who have energized the entire community with their enthusiasm for the upcoming school year. It’s in part thanks to them that this semester attendance in Chapel has been so gratifying, as has been the very positive response to the new Tuesday evening meal following the Eucharist. This past Tuesday night 125 were in attendance at Chapel.

During Orientation Week it was a special pleasure to welcome to the campus Bishop Peter James Lee, our new Dean, and to have him celebrate the opening Eucharist. Thanks also to the preacher at the service, Chaplain Stuart Hoke, and to the Director of the Chapel, Prof. Patrick Malloy. I am also pleased to welcome the Most Rev. Peter Carnley AC to our campus as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Anglican Studies.  The former Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia and a noted author and theologian, Archbishop Carnley will be teaching two courses at GTS. We are indeed fortunate to have him with us. This update will alert you to several important upcoming meetings and events and will also explain some administrative changes here at GTS.


Trustee Meetings

In my last Community Update on 8/27, I referred to a four-point plan aimed at achieving financial and institutional health for the Seminary. The points can be encapsulated as follows:

  • Eliminate all significant debt.
  • Restore our endowment.
  • Balance our budget.
  • Refresh and renew our institutional health and mission.

As I also mentioned in this update, the first two of these goals represent a “swing” of over $60 million. With the help of Maureen Burnley and members of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, I have been working on the specific ways in which our current assets can be best utilized to achieve this very challenging plan. On Thursday, September 16 the Executive Committee will meet to review the work that has been done so far. Once refined and approved by them, the details of the plan will be presented to the full Board of Trustees at their meeting on October 15-16. If approved, the plan will be presented to the entire community shortly thereafter. Please keep the deliberations of both the Executive Committee and the October Trustee Meeting in your prayers as we seek to insure the continuance of the Seminary as a vibrant institution of theological learning.


GTS Departments and Staff

In the interest of making the Seminary’s administration more effective, the decision has been made to merge the Seminary’s Communications Office with the Department of Institutional Advancement. The new department will be called the Office of External Relations. This was the title the Seminary used in the 1980s for an office encompassing similar responsibilities, before the establishment of the present Communications Office. The Office of External Relations will have responsibility for development, communications, alumni/ae affairs, and marketing as well as the Chelsea Square Conservancy and the GTS Media Workshop. Because fundraising is so critical to the mission of our school and will require my constant involvement as President, I will myself be providing primary oversight of this new department. Charles Knapp, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Alumni/ae Relations, will be departing GTS with our deep appreciation for the work he has done here. 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 high water mark in General’s history. I am very grateful to Charles for agreeing to remain with us for a time to assist in the transition over to the new structure.


The day-to-day operations of the new Office of External Relations will be headed up by Bruce Parker, currently Executive Director of Communications. A 1984 graduate of GTS, Bruce has served the Seminary for the past 17 years and is the Seminary’s most senior staff member. I am pleased to announce that under the new structure Bruce will become Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs. While his primary area of expertise will serve the communications and marketing responsibilities of the new office, Bruce will draw upon his many years of working in close collaboration with previous development officers of the Seminary. 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, Bruce served as a communications consultant to Washington National Cathedral, to Trinity Wall Street, and to the national offices of the Episcopal Church, and in this capacity provided support to many fundraising efforts.

 

In addition to Bruce, the new External Relations team will consist of Donna Ashley who has done excellent work for GTS as Senior Advancement Officer; Don Temples, who has served with distinction as Director of Development and who will continue in that role, and Chad Rancourt, Media Coordinator in the Communications Office. I take pleasure in reporting that Chad, a valued member of the GTS staff for the last seven years, will advance to the position of Director of Communications in the new Office of External Relations.


Although fundraising will become the central focus of the new department, the office will also coordinate the effort to market Seminary program offerings, a responsibility previously lodged with the Seminary’s Marketing Team. The new office will also continue to provide a limited number of specialized production services, such as graphic production and photography. However, given reduction in force in each of these departments prior to the merger and the need to concentrate on fundraising, 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. Two members are alums of GTS and all four have made significant contributions to the Seminary over the years. I am looking forward to directing the efforts of this promising new department at GTS

In other staff changes, as many of you know, the Rev. Berto Gandara-Perea, our Director of Field Education, has also served as part-time priest-in-charge at the Church of the Intercession here in Manhattan. Berto has recently been called to a full-time position at Intercession and so will be leaving GTS sometime in October. He has done an excellent job in administering field education at the Seminary and in assisting our students with placements for Clinical Pastoral Education as well. Our prayers go with him in this exciting new ministry.

 

Given Berto’s departure and that of our Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke (whose term expires in November), we are looking at ways to better integrate spiritual formation, academics, chaplaincy, and field work. After our Tuesday evening meal on September 28th we will have a special forum on this topic and the community will be invited to listen and provide feedback on a plan currently under discussion.

Matriculation 2010

On Thursday evening, September 30, students matriculating at GTS this year sign their names in the Seminary’s historic Matriculation Book—as GTS students have each done for the past 188 years.  What an amazing book, containing the signatures of all who have gone forth from this place to minister in Christ’s name for nearly two centuries! It will be my first Matriculation Service as your President. I am told this is one of the most moving services we have at GTS and I’m looking forward to it. Officiating for his first time will be our new Dean, Bishop Peter James Lee. Whether you are matriculating or not, please attend this wonderful service. I also congratulate those who are matriculating as they are formally incorporated into this special community within the Church.

 

Until my next Update, please know that I welcome any questions or concerns you may have. Simply email me or see Chris McFadden to schedule an appointment.

 

God’s peace,

 

The Rev. Lang Lowrey

Interim President

 

THE GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
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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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