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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

 

President's Community Update - August 27, 2010

GTS Community Update from President Lowrey
August 27, 2010

Friends,

These are busy days for our faculty, students, and staff members as we are all gearing up for Orientation Week and the start of classes. Many of us have the added anxieties of moving into a new home and beginning life as students after many years away from school. It’s a time of new beginnings for everyone. Throughout the turbulent times in our lives worship and prayer are always powerfully centering elements, and so in the days ahead I would invite us all to be present in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd for as many of the services as we are able and, of course, to be faithful in our daily prayers. You have received several updates from me over the summer (also available at www.gts.edu in the Newsroom section). This update will fill you in on important new developments in several areas.

Seminary Finances
As explained in my last update, GTS and M&T Bank finalized a $5.3 million short-term loan on August 9. We are drawing upon these funds for current operating expenses. The loan will be repaid from the sale of residential units in the building known as Chelsea 2,3,4. Revenue realized from this sale is also expected to reduce the Seminary’s overall bank debt by up to $3.9 million. While the loan achieves the critical goal of sustaining us through the upcoming school year, it is a small component of the following four-point plan that the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and I are working on to achieve financial and institutional health:

•    Eliminate all significant debt. The Seminary cannot afford to service its $33 million of current bank debt (which, with the sum the Seminary has borrowed from its endowment, totals $36 million). Moreover, GTS is an institution that should really carry no debt whatsoever.

•    Restore our endowment.  The Seminary’s current $13 million endowment must be restored to a level of at least $50 million to yield sufficient revenues to sustain operations.

•    Balance our budget. With a negative cash flow of over $5 million annually, we must find ways to reduce operating expenses and increase revenues.

•    Refresh and renew our institutional health and mission. Financial instability has had an understandably negative effect on our programs and mission.  We need to refresh GTS to full institutional health and vibrancy. This will be a major focus of Bishop Peter James Lee, our new Dean.

Together the first two points of the plan, eliminating debt and restoring our endowment, represent a “swing” of over $60 million. We are actively investigating how the Seminary’s current assets can be leveraged to generate this sizable level of cash. The specific actions that we must take to effectively eliminate our debt and restore our endowment are currently being formulated. Even while they are in the formative stages it is clear they hold much promise but involve risks and pitfalls as well.  I hope to continue this process and, with the Executive Committee’s approval, to be able to submit a detailed plan to the full Board of Trustees at their meeting in October.

New Operational Structure
The elements of our four-point plan cannot be undertaken sequentially but must be achieved in tandem with each other. Toward the goal of balancing our budget some very difficult staff reductions have been recently implemented. I regret to report we have had to do a reduction in force this past week that included staff members in a number of GTS departments. I would like to thank all of those leaving GTS for their dedication to the Seminary and for the contributions they have made to our mission. We were as generous as possible with the terms and conditions of the notice and severance and, it should be noted, Tutu Center Coordinator and M.Div. student Chris Ballard resigned in order to undertake full-time study. These staff reductions, along with other related changes, will generate over $500,000 in savings. Although we anticipate no further significant reductions in our work force, we are working on some additional departmental reorganizations. The outcome of this I hope to report to you in my next community update.

New Working Group

Our life together last year and over the summer has been significantly impacted by increasing use of the Close for outside events and weddings. This is a sizable revenue stream for the Seminary. Another change to which we must adjust is the presence of our neighbors in the Chelsea Enclave. While these changes can involve understandable tensions, I do hope we will not succumb to having a fortress mentality about our Seminary. The church commissioned by Christ after all exists for the world and not the world for the church.  To address the very real issues of privacy and security however, I have asked Billy Webster, our Director of Admissions, to convene a working group composed of staff, faculty, and students to consider ways in which the tensions arising out of our new openness can be effectively addressed.

Conduct Compliance Officers
This is a new title for the position held by Prof. Deirdre Good until her sabbatical term began. It assures that the Seminary has designated officers to whom any member of our community can bring concerns about sexual harassment, the safety of our children, or instances of discrimination of any kind. I am pleased to report that Debra Bush Ford, Financial Aid Administrator and Drew Kadel, Director of the St. Mark’s Library, are now our Conduct Compliance Officers. You may turn to either of them in complete confidence with any of these concerns knowing they will take immediate and proper action.

IT Survey
A survey of the Seminary’s information technology will be underway shortly, aimed at increasing end-users’ abilities as well as the capabilities of our network. More on this in future updates.

Calendar
As mentioned in a recent email concerning Orientation Week, we are working to consolidate several Seminary calendars to create a single, all inclusive source for all Seminary programs and events. In the meantime, please note that the designated purpose of the calendar on the Seminary’s website is to inform external audiences of public events happening at the Seminary.
The calendar on iGoogle is the seminary’s academic calendar. I plan to have news for you soon about a new comprehensive calendar for all events.

Tuesday Nights
Seminary alumni/ae from not too long ago will remember the wonderful sense of community enabled by having an evening meal together following the Holy Eucharist on Tuesday nights. I am pleased to report we have reinstated this supper and that it will be free to members of the community. It will be a simple meal consisting of a hearty soup, salad, bread, and, I’m told, a scrumptious desert. Please plan to make this a part of your week.

Our Faculty
I  would also like to recognize our esteemed faculty for all the work they have done over the summer to prepare for the upcoming school year, not only to prepare the full slate of offerings for the Michaelmas term, but also for the work of Dr. Ted Gerbracht in arranging courses featuring our splendid adjuncts and visiting professors.

Bishop Peter James Lee
As reported earlier, Bishop Peter James Lee, will be joining us for several events during Orientation Week and, after completing his ministry at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, will arrive as our Dean on September 30, in time to officiate at our Matriculation Service.  Those of you present for Orientation will want to extend to him a warm GTS welcome.

I realize that nearly all the news in this update involves change, something all of us have difficulty with from time to time. But I would challenge us that our stated mission is to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world. We, as the church, are in the “change business” and have been agents of change from our earliest days.  So, as we begin this school year perhaps the challenge before us is to actually embrace change, knowing its proven potential to reify our mission in the world!

As always, I’m pleased to meet with you to discuss questions or concerns you may have about items in this update or other matters related to our life together. Simply contact Chris McFadden to schedule a time with me. Best wishes for the exciting days ahead!

God’s peace,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey
Interim President

The Rev. Canon C.K. Robertson Sermon

Sermon preached at the Eucharist in The Chapel of Good Shepherd, General Seminary
October 15, 2010 on the occasion of the meeting of Seminary Board of Trustees

The Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson, Ph.D.

 

I don’t like spicy foods. It’s strange, really. My mother loved her food fiery hot, the spicier the better. If it didn’t bring tears to her eyes, she said it was too bland. One might think, then, that it is in my blood, but no. A little black pepper is about as exciting as I can handle. So when I see something with curry or tabasco, I face a dilemma. I cannot get rid of it, so my only recourse is to dilute it somehow, add enough of something else—anything else!—to make it manageable. I cannot change the spice into something it is not, but I can find a way to make it less…effective.

Jesus’ words in this reading from Matthew’s Gospel offer an intriguing challenge to us today here at The General Theological Seminary. These words about salt and light come, we know, immediately after the Beatitudes. They form a bridge between the final blessing for those who are reviled and persecuted for Jesus’ sake to the practical challenges found in the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount. As such, these words about salt and light are properly understood as being words not for the masses but for those who claim to be disciples and disciple-makers, those whose actions, not just their words, would reveal whether they were building on solid rock or shifting sand. Indeed, as one of the first parts of the first set of teachings in this Gospel, these words about salt and light ultimately look towards the end of the story, to the risen Jesus’ command to make disciples, to baptize, to teach. Thus, while helpful for any part of the Church to read, these words are especially apropos for a system whose entire purpose is the training and formation of ordained and lay leaders to fulfill that great commission.The words are so familiar, however, that we may lose the essence of what is being said. We all know how the phrase “salt of the earth” is used to describe nice, decent, ordinary folk…but Jesus is talking about a lot more than simply being nice. Salt may be a preservative, but it does not preserve the status quo. No, that which it touches suddenly tastes different. In its own way, it spices things up. Light operates a little differently. It, too, is an additive, in that it is not inherently a part of the thing it touches. But when it touches something, when light makes contact with what was formerly in darkness, then suddenly it all seems different. Salt enhances, light exposes.

Both are change agents.

As some students here have heard me repeat, a former Army Chief of Staff once said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance a lot less.” We need salt. We need light. No, we need to BE salt and light for the sake of all those who live outside the walls of Chelsea Square. Now, change for change’s sake is not what Jesus was talking about. After all, we know that if you pour a pound of salt onto your friend’s meal, she is not going to be very happy about it. And if you shine a really bright light towards a colleague, he will probably shield his eyes since you are actually preventing him from seeing anything around him. Salt and light are to be added in appropriate amounts to those things you want to enhance or see. But I am not convinced that the danger before our Church is one of being too salty or too bright. No, I think the greater danger we face is the dilution of salt by adding in so many other unnecessary things. With light, we don’t even have to put it under a bushel; our danger is in hiding it behind multiple layers of stained glass so that you can barely make out anything else in the room. The danger for us is not too much change; it is the avoidance of it at all costs.

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says, “but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?” It is, of course, a rhetorical question. Sodium chloride cannot lose its internal properties, but if it is diluted enough where you barely know it’s there, how in the world can you purify it, bring it back? The obvious answer is: you can’t. And once the Church has become irrelevant, how in the world can we hope to be a transforming agent for the world? Having lived and worked in the Church of England when I was doing my doctoral studies in Durham, I saw firsthand how few people went to church other than for special services of “hatching, matching, and dispatching,” as they said. I watched as the same parish church that was full to overflowing on a Saturday for the funeral of a beloved villager had only eight people in its pews the next day for Sunday Eucharist. When I asked one friend in my village why he did not go to church, he looked perplexed and innocently said, “Why would I?” The issue was not that he was against it. Rather, church and Christianity-as-represented-by-the-Church was, quite simply, irrelevant. We are not living in England or Europe, but in this case, sadly, we are catching up to them much faster than we want to admit. Only a few years ago, it was just the mainline churches that were in decline, as we were reminded again and again by other more robust denominations and independent megachurches. Now the most recent research shows that decline is almost universal, as the Southern Baptist Convention even experienced decline. When one Episcopal colleague heard this, he actually cheered. I hardly think any cheering is in order. “Why would I?” is a more pervasive, more perilous challenge before us than the usual inter- and intra-denominational conflicts that consume so much of our attention, our time, our energy. “Why would I?” is a question we must be able to answer.

Both before and since I became Canon to the Presiding Bishop, I have had the privilege of serving as a consultant, an outside voice, to congregational and diocesan leaders. Each time, I have begun by asking them a question: “Why do you exist? Why does you church, your institution exist?” I receive various responses, including looks of surprise, annoyance, or even anger. One vestry person actually shot back a verbal retort, “How dare you,” he said, “We’ve been here for over a hundred and fifty years!” I quietly replied, “I didn’t ask you how long you’ve existed. I asked you why you exist. What difference does it make to the world around you now that you are here?”

Years ago, in the first parish I served after ordination, I worked alongside a remarkable lay staff person named Louisa. Wherever she went, she exuded life. With whomever she met, she left an impression. When the cancer she thought was long gone suddenly reappeared, everyone around her began to mourn and grieve for her. She alone seemed unbowed; disappointed, yes, but unbowed. Not knowing she was walking up from behind, one friend was caught saying to me, “How awful that she is dying of cancer.” “Not so,” Louisa interjected, “I am simply living with cancer!” Until the moment she took her last breath this side of Paradise, Louisa did just that. Is it any wonder that lay leaders, priests, even a couple of bishops came to see her before she died, not so much to bless her as to be blessed by her.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, “Times change and situations seem to change, but there is still a great need for prophets, for God's ambassadors, to stand up and be counted.” This is true for us as individuals, and perhaps even more for us as institutions. Let us be living institutions, not dying ones. Dying institutions worry and expend their energy on preserving themselves and the status quo; living institutions are committed to doing whatever is needed to help effect the transformation of the world around them. Dying institutions are obsessed with immortality—with making sure they survive in the way they have always known; living institutions are open to the death of some things, knowing that only then can they experience the resurrection that leads to a new life. Every week, we proclaim that we are a people who believe in the “resurrection of the body,” but more often than not our actions say that what we really mean is that we believe in the “ongoing preservation of this body as we know it.” Resurrection people invest their five talents in change and as-yet-unknown possibilities. Preservation people horde and hide their one talent, burying it so that they pretend there is no risk.

Jesus had little problem provoking his listeners, including—no, especially—those who claimed to be God’s ministers. He did this because he desperately wanted to see them be what they could be. He wanted them to be salt, he wanted them to be light. He wanted them to be disciples and disciple-makers, change agents for the transformation of the world. Now, as then, he invests time and energy in such leaders, that we might dare not to cling to what we think can never change, but to open ourselves to new possibilities and resurrection hope. Let us be salt, let us be light, to the glory of God.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Program in Spiritual Guidance of Children

14 September 2010

GTS to Offer New Program in the Spiritual Guidance of Children

New York City – Beginning this fall, The General Theological Seminary (GTS), in partnership with the Center for the Theology of Childhood, will offer an innovative certificate program in the spiritual guidance of children. The program will provide both academic learning and practical training for leaders who seek to nurture children’s relationship with God. The Rev. Dr. Jerome W. Berryman, noted author, educator, and founder of Godly Play®, will join members of the Seminary faculty in teaching courses about children’s spirituality, theological views of children, wonder and play in a theological context, and the spirituality of children in literature and film, as well as parables, biblical theology and liturgy with a focus on children’s spirituality.

“Children have a natural, deep spirituality,” said the Rev. K. Jeanne Person, Director of General Seminary’s Center for the Christian Spirituality. “They know God even before stories and symbols. They need adults who can nurture their sense of the holy and help them discover a language for their faith.”

General’s new program will equip faith community leaders, clergy, chaplains, educators, parents, and others to offer spiritual guidance to children. Courses are designed in intensive formats, taking place over a period of a few days or a weekend, to allow students to pursue study concurrent with other commitments, such as jobs and families. Dr. Berryman will teach the program’s inaugural three-day course, Theology and Children: Past, Present and Future, on the weekend of October 22, 23 & 24, as well as The Spirituality of Children on November 10, 11 and 12. The Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy, GTS professor of liturgics, will teach Children’s Spirituality in Worship on November 13 & 14.

Because the certificate program is new, General will offer rolling admissions this academic year which enables prospective students to apply at any time. The Seminary is also offering a discounted introductory tuition for students who pay for the entire program before October 1, 2010. Students are also welcome to register for individual courses to enhance their ministries, spiritual lives and relationships with children. Detailed information about courses and the certificate program, including housing options, can be found on the Seminary’s website, www.gts.edu. 

 “We’re delighted to be partnering with the Center for the Theology of Childhood in creating this unique program,” said Dr. Ted Gerbracht, the Seminary’s chief academic officer and himself a 35-year veteran of teaching and directing Christian education in a parish. “It’s really a groundbreaking venture for the Seminary,” he continued, “one that connects all the resources of the academy with children, who are the church’s future.”
For more information on the Certificate Program in the Spiritual Guidance of Children, contact the Rev. K. Jeanne Person, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285,
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www.gts.edu



An Open Letter to General Seminary’s
Faculty, Staff, Students, Friends, Alumni/æ, and the Church at Large
May 20, 2010
I am pleased to share with you the good news from the Board of Trustees meeting which took place earlier this week.  The Board adopted a Plan of Action that will provide financial viability for the future.  I regret the negative rumors about GTS that have been circulating this spring; I know some of you were alarmed by them.  The challenges General faces are real and are similar to challenges faced by many seminaries in our changing times.  However, I am confident that the plan just adopted will provide the financial security needed for the next Dean and President to move General Seminary into a vital and exciting future. 
Over the past ten years we have made strategic investments in Chelsea Square to preserve our urban campus, to develop the new library, to develop the Desmond Tutu Center and other innovative possibilities.  Our improved facilities now support our evolving programs much better, and building maintenance now takes a significantly smaller share of our annual budget.  In order to make the necessary $70 million investment in rehabilitating our aging buildings, the Seminary has taken on $33 million in debt.  The Plan of Action defines the steps that will meet both the financial and the programmatic challenges, steps that will secure the financial vitality and ensure the continuance of General Seminary in the future as it seeks to meet the needs of a changing church. 
The plan involves two primary parts.  The first part involves developing a $10 million pool of capital to bridge the gap between the present inadequate cash flow and the future when revenue streams will cover the cost of loans and operations.  In four to five years the revenue from the Desmond Tutu Center, from the endowment (at 5%), from the annual fund, and from tuition, fees, and room rental will meet the expenses.  The challenge is to get from here to there, and the way is to develop this $10 million operating reserve.  We will develop this capital by selling condominiums within Chelsea 2, 3, 4 and by raising funds from our closest friends and supporters.  The second part is a reduction of our annual costs by refinancing our loans to obtain a lower interest rate.  We are in conversation with several other Episcopal institutions that have very generously offered assistance for this part of the plan. 
Some have raised concerns about selling any part of our historic and beloved property.  In truth, we might have avoided the past few months of anxiety if we had been more willing to sell once we knew we could not build the seventeen story building on Ninth Avenue (which meant a loss of $15 million in anticipated revenue).  We have looked at many different options and determined this is the best alternative.  The specific apartments in Chelsea 2,3,4 have always been rented to outside tenants since they were created by the 2004 renovation of the building.  Selling them will not affect our mission or our program.  We already have people who desire to purchase them, so we do not have to look for buyers.  Included in the sale will be an option for the Seminary to have first refusal when they may be sold in the future.  Together with modest philanthropy, they will provide the desired $10 million reserve. 
When we have fully implemented this plan, I believe General Seminary will be on a path that will be more fiscally healthy than it has been able to achieve since the 1970s.  We will not be on easy street, but we should be viable.  Most of the deferred maintenance, which was the Seminary’s hidden debt, has been rectified.  We will be drawing a sustainable amount from our endowment.  And we will be putting funds aside in a plant fund for ongoing capital improvements. 
In the midst of these concerns about seminary finances, we have not lost sight of the program developments that are underway.  Adoption of the Plan of Action allows us to continue the work of developing new areas of and new approaches for theological education. 
  In the next few weeks we expect to hire the Alumni/æ Professor of Christian Formation and begin developing the Center for Continuing Education.  This position is funded by the endowment developed in the previous Leaders for the Church capital campaign and a grant from the William Woods Foundation.  In the Michaelmas term the Center, in collabor ation with the Godly Play Foundation and the faculty of General, will offer a Certificate for the Spiritual Guidance of Children.  The Rev. Jerome Berryman, the originator of the Godly Play curriculum, will work closely with the Center as advisor and instructor. This Certificate will become a requirement for certification of those who train Godly Playfacilitators. This development is an example of what I believe represents a new direction for theological education:  we are developing the program in collaboration with another entity (the Godly PlayFoundation); it will serve particular needs of the Church both in the U.S. and in Europe; it will enrich our M.Div. program; and elements of the curriculum will be available on-line. 
  We continue to strengthen our primary degree programs.  Archbishop Peter Carnley, former Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, will be on the Close during the Michaelmas 2010 and Easter 2011 terms as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Anglican Studies.  He will teach both systematic theology and ethics.  Archbishop Carnley received his Ph. D. in theology from Cambridge University in 1970 and is widely known and highly respected in the Anglican Communion.   He has authored a major work on resurrection theology, Structure of Resurrection Belief, as well as Reflections in Glass: Trends and Tensions in the Contemporary Anglican Church. 
  The gift of $5 million from Polly Keller Winter and Christoph Keller, III to complete the library, reported to you earlier, is a major step into the future.  The Board has named the library the Christoph Keller, Jr. Library in honor of the former Bishop of Arkansas who was a courageous and wise leader of the Church during the struggles for integration and the ordination of women.  We are moving toward completion of converting our card catalogue to electronic form and the architects are developing construction documents. We have also begun conversations with Virginia Seminary regarding sharing the costs of off-site storage and future digitalization of a portion of the library. 
  The Center for Christian Spirituality under the leadership of the Rev. Jeanne Person has developed important new initiatives and is moving forward financially as well as programmatically.  This academic year, the CCS opened the way for M.Div. students to earn a Certificate in Spiritual Direction concurrent with their M.Div. degree, enhancing the attractiveness of the M.Div. program and leading to higher enrollments in spiritual direction practicums. The CCS also introduced a one-credit weekend course in spiritual direction supervision that was fully enrolled; in June 2011, the CCS will offer a mid-week version of this course to meet the scheduling needs of local clergy who are spiritual directors. Going forward, the CCS will continue to explore new formats for teaching and will participate in the seminary’s discernment about offering a D.Min. program. 
  The Anglican Studies distance education program in partnership with the Diocese of Rochester and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School has made significant progress this year.  Again, this represents new developments in our curriculum, a creative collabor ation, and delivery of theological education using electronic means. 
  Despite the publicity concerning the financial condition of General Seminary, it appears we will have a strong enrollment for the coming year.
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This is a crucial time for The General Theological Seminary as the Episcopal Church continues to struggle with decline in membership and dwindling support for its theological seminaries. 
Population growth in this country since the early 20th century has been in the urban areas.  Rural population has been in decline for at least a century and small town population has been, at best, stationary.  The mainline Protestant churches in this country are well-established in rural com munities and small towns, as well as in suburban areas.  However, we are less well-established in our major urban centers.  One can only surmise that part of the decline of the mainline churches is their failure to respond to the changing urban populations and urban environment.  General Seminary is the only truly urban seminary for the Episcopal Church.  An urban seminary where students experience life in the city and which can focus on issues involved in metropolitan ministries is essential to our church. 
General Seminary brings a particular focus in terms of education and formation.  Our academic excellence is supported by an outstanding faculty and the most important library collection in the Episcopal Church.  Our emphasis on liturgy together with those programs offered by the Center for Christian Spirituality balance the importance of academic preparation with an emphasis on spiritual formation.  This balance is essential for the formation of leaders who will be steadfast and creative. 
General Seminary is just beginning to develop new and exciting directions for theological education. In addition to the new programs just listed, the opening of the Desmond Tutu Center has brought new opportunities for programs, both those sponsored by the Seminary and those brought to us by those from outside.  The presentation before graduation on science and religion by Sir John Polkinghorne, noted physicist and priest, is just one example of the opportunities this facility provides to the students and faculty of the Seminary, and to all of New York, as well.  By achieving these innovations, General has laid the groundwork for future innovative collaborations and partnerships. We believe the future of theolog ical education will require such new models to complement the traditional, residential seminary program. 
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the Dean and President of General Seminary these past twelve years.  It has certainly been an adventure.  I have been surrounded by an amazing staff. We have struggled at times, we have responded to threatening challenges, and we have enjoyed one another’s presence and commitment.  Every person works out of a deep commitment to the mission of this Seminary and to the Good News of God’s all-inclusive love for all people.  We have been supported by alums and friends of the Seminary.  I look forward to the transition to the next Dean and President.  I believe the plan approved by the Board of Trustees will allow the new leadership to continue the process of re-inventing theological education, moving the Seminary into an exciting future. 
Faithfully,
Ward B. Ewing, Dean and President

Lang Lowrey Appointed Interim President

6/10/2010

General Seminary Appoints Interim President

New York City – In accordance with an action plan made at their meeting last month, the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary on June 9 unanimously approved the Rev. Lang Lowrey III, 56, to be the Seminary’s Interim President. Lowrey is currently founding vicar at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Georgia and also serves as a senior partner in two Atlanta based firms, Renova, a bank restructuring and consulting company, and Genesis Business Advisory, which provides management and investment services to small- and mid-sized businesses.

Seminary trustees decided that the serious financial challenges currently faced by the Seminary would be most effectively addressed by dividing the position of Dean and President into two separate positions, a practice common in most academic institutions. As President, Lowrey will have all constitutional powers previously lodged with the Dean and President; however the Seminary will also begin an immediate search for a Dean to have oversight of the academic and day-to-day operations of General. “We believe Fr. Lowrey is uniquely qualified to lead the Seminary in addressing its immediate challenges and to prepare the way for longer-term leadership beyond the interim period,” said Chair of the Board’s search committee Dr. Michael Gilligan.

After college at Georgia Tech and Georgia State, Lowrey owned and ran several successful ventures before selling them to create Buckhead Technology Angels to incubate emerging technology companies. He twice was selected to run Fortune 500 firms facing difficult challenges, implementing complex turnaround plans and securing robust equity events. Following a period of discernment, he responded to a call to ordained ministry. As a postulant from the Diocese of Atlanta, he attended Candler School of Theology and was ordained to priesthood in 2004. Following parish ministry in Florida, Fr. Lowrey was asked by Bishop Neil Alexander to plant a church and day school in the Diocese of Atlanta.  This new start involved locating, financing and purchasing land, designing the facility, building the church and most importantly, finding parishioners.  St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church and Day School is now fully established, and is in the process of calling a rector to replace Lowrey, the founding vicar.

“Fr. Lowrey brings to GTS a unique combination of skills that match perfectly the Seminary’s immediate institutional needs,” said Board chair the Rev. Canon Denis O’Pray at a gathering of students, faculty, and staff following the Board meeting. “He has high-level and proven abilities in the areas of management, finance, and administration while also possessing an in-depth knowledge of the Episcopal Church and its ordained ministry.” Following the remarks by Canon O’Pray, Lowrey addressed the community. “God is offering us a great opportunity,” he told those assembled in Seabury Auditorium. “Dramatic actions are needed within the next sixty days but the opportunity to take this task and to succeed is truly awesome. We need to embrace the reality of the situation but I have confidence in our collective abilities.” O’Pray said that Fr. Lowrey would begin work immediately, before the departure of the Seminary’s current Dean and President, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, so that there is ample time for the two to work together to ensure a smooth transition. Dean Ewing had announced in December of 2009 his intention to retire and, with his wife Jenny Ewing, to return to their family homestead in Ten Mile, Tennessee. On the evening of May 18 over 300 well wishers attended a Festive Farewell to the Ewings held in the space that will become the Seminary’s new library.

The General Theological Seminary in the heart of Manhattan is a vibrant community dedicated to the critically important enterprise of theological education.  Founded in 1817 as the first seminary of the Episcopal Church, General cherishes its heritage while enthusiastically embracing the challenges of preparing leaders for the church in a changing world. Over the past decade, the Seminary has made a $70 million investment in preserving its landmarked campus; has opened a major conference facility, the Desmond Tutu Center; and has undertaken one of the largest geothermal initiatives in the northeast. General’s new state-of-the-art library is slated to open in 2011. The Seminary extends a warm invitation for all constituencies to share in its mission and in the excitement of its ongoing life.

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Media Contact:

Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
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(212) 243-5150 x285
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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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