Rev. Tillotson’s Ridiculous Defense of GTS

Rev. Ellen Tillotson weighed in yesterday on the mess going on at General Theological Seminary in New York. Her article and the faculty’s response need to be read, but the short version is that the eight protesting professors were not fired. They resigned. Rev. Tillotson makes her case by talking about some of the things the faculty wrote to the Board of Trustees (of which she is a member).

In it [their letter], they said, twice, that they were unable and unwilling to work with Dean and President Kurt Dunkle and that unless certain changes were made, they would be “no longer able to serve in our positions at General” [sic]…

They stated again, at the end of the letter, that “If Dean Dunkle continues in his present position, we will be unable to continue in ours.”…

In [a] second letter, the eight members also stated that “the damage has been done,” “no working relationship is possible,” “we can no longer work with President Dunkle.”

Tillotson also challenges the narrative that the faculty had only one demand: to bring their grievances to the board. In fact, she says, the faculty laid out a series of conditions for the board to meet in order to have a discussion.

I feel like Rev. Tillotson has insulted my intelligence. I am in a bit of a leadership position. If someone presented similar complaints to me, I would see it as the start of a conversation. If the complaints came from several staff at once, in the form of a letter, I would interpret it as the opening gambit in a negotiating process (hence the conditions for meeting). I suppose if I were drunk or recovering from some kind of brain injury, I might ask, “So…are you resigning?” Basically, it is hard not to read Rev. Tillotson’s account and infer either that she and the entire board of GTS are lying, or they are extremely incompetent.

I am not an Episcopalian. I don’t have anything personally at stake in this issue except for the fact that one of my friends (whom I have known since 2004) is among those who have been fired. He has a wife with two kids, student loans, and a PhD in a market where jobs are few and far between. It is hard for me to see him, or anyone in his position, seeing a work stoppage as anything but a last resort. I am outraged for Josh, but I am also outraged by the obvious injustice (and possible illegality?) of firing protesting workers, particularly when it is a religious institution doing the firing. Is this how the Episcopalians respond to collective bargaining? They fire the people on strike and then lie about it?

Rev. Tillotson seems to be saying that what is going on at GTS is sad, but it is not her fault or the fault of the Board of Trustees. They are not responsible.

No matter what else you might think about this situation, that is just bad leadership.

Unfolding Events at GTS

A few days ago, eight faculty members at the General Theological Seminary in New York went on strike until their one demand was met. What was that demand? A meeting.

As of this morning, they have all been fired.

Here’s why you should care about this:

It is a spiteful act. Take a moment to read the original announcement. The protesting faculty took pains to be as diplomatic as possible, leaving readers uncertain as to what their specific complaints were. The word “heavy-handed” does not even begin to describe the administration’s response to their tact.

It is deceitful. The dean and president (who is also a reverend) announced to the student body that the protesting faculty had resigned. They did not.

It is unreasonable. The dean and president has basically fired people for wanting to talk to his superiors. In what universe is this an appropriate course of action?

It is stupid. Some of the faculty’s concerns seem to be about the president’s heavy-handed leadership style and his tendency to perceive discussion as dissent. He has not helped his case.

It sets a dangerous precedent. The erosion of the tenure system has already undermined academic integrity. If this act is allowed to stand, then a precedent has been set. Faculty protest against administration leads to termination. If you or anyone you love has any relationship whatsoever to higher education, then this is something to worry about.

I learned about this from a friend of mine at GTS. He is going through this right now. His wife also works at the seminary. They have two children. Here is how you can help them and the other people whose lives have been sent into a tailspin by this news.

1. Pray: Pray for my friend, his family, and his colleagues at GTS.

2. Share: Share this blog post. Share any of the links above. Draw attention to this issue.

3. Flood: The email address of the Dean and President is: [email protected] If I can acquire the contact info of anyone on the Board of Trustees, I will update this post.

Seriously, this is insane. They only wanted to talk.

If you have thoughts or credible information about these ongoing developments, please share.

Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 3): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense

Photo by Ikiwaner

An icon takes something material and makes it transcendent by pointing away from itself. I think the economy should work like an icon. That means the meaning of market activities cannot be found in a market. This is something we forget a lot of times. Part of what it means to be in a market society is that we work ourselves to death and never bother to ask, “Why?” Maybe I am nuts or maybe I am naive, but I don’t think this is what life is supposed to be like.

Continue reading Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 3): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense

Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 1): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense

The Virgin of Simon Mall
(Photo courtesy of Dill Hero)
Part one of a three part series where I explore the relationship between an Orthodox view of matter and political economy.

Being an Orthodox Christian means kissing a lot of icons.

Many Christians shun icons as some kind of “idol worship.” This is an old argument, going back to the eighth century when some Byzantine emperors decided to do away with images of Christ and the saints. Over about 150 years of debate, the church decided that to do away with icons was to deny the incarnation of Christ. As St. John Damascene wrote, to oppose icons is to be Manichaeans. Thus Jaroslav Pelikan said that the council that reinstated icons was, in a way, reaffirming the two natures of Christ. Matter could be venerated because Christ made matter good again. (Find a more “artistic” perspective on icons and a bit more history here.) Continue reading Christianity and Capitalism: Windows to Hell (Part 1): Why Christian Enthusiasm for the Free Market Doesn’t Make Sense