The Wisdom of Both and And

001_GTS_Kurt_Dunkle_Headshots_cropThe Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle
Dean and President

The first time I ever considered that very Anglican phrase, “both/and,” I was seated in Sherred 1A, right here at General. It was how a now-retired GTS professor spoke about that seemingly simple concept to unravel decades-old quandaries.  At first, it seemed so foreign, until I remembered we were being taught to think theologically, not as the world had formed us.

As time wore on, thinking this very Anglican way – both/and – was so liberating and so empowering. Suddenly, rocky paths became walkable. By learning to think theologically, the high hills had been laid low; the crooked paths made straight.

Was Jesus man or God? Both/and. At the Eucharist, does the bread and wine remain bread and wine, or does it become the real and living presence of Jesus Christ?  Both/and. Do we have to die to get into heaven, or has it begun already and all we need to do is open our eyes to its fullness around us right now. Both/and!

Only in our church, engaging the breadth of Anglican theology, does this math work. While the rest of the world must labor within established mathematical principles, we are empowered to think in terms of not just 100% of something; we can authentically dwell in the 200% realm. “Both/and” is such an Anglican way of addressing sticky issues; I love how General taught me to think theologically.

So it is with The Wisdom Year at General.

One of the questions I increasingly receive is how we will fit practical, wisdom-forming experiences into three years of academics. More pointedly, will academics suffer? Sometimes the questions are about having enough time; sometimes the questions are about what we will emphasize; still others are about mechanics. In other words, academics or practical applications? Of course, you know the answer: both/and!

The Way of Wisdom and The Wisdom Year are not about choices and exclusions. They’re about embrace and integration. This next step in General’s Plan to Choose Life is not about moving away from our rich history of solid teaching and scholarship. Rather, it’s about integrating what we have done well for 197 years into what we need to do well for the next 197 years.

We have heard the Church’s cry to continue to do what General is well known for – outstanding academic achievement – but add to it those things which, because of our changing church, have become necessary elements of seminary preparation. “Send graduates to us ready to ‘hit the ground running’” we hear. We interpret that as not to eliminate anything, but rather to add to it those things necessary for leading congregations and faith bodies in the 21st century. Both/and!

No doubt, some will wonder about the mechanics and timing of how we add without taking away. Stay tuned as this Fall and Winter these details will be highlighted. Excess time will be captured and days will be filled, no doubt. But our guiding principal is to begin to replicate the life of a church leader in the fullest way possible. I hope our “customers” see this as preparing students for lives as active, rather than passive, leaders in our church.

Both/and is so key to our Anglican way of thinking theologically. It is central to the way we are approaching The Way of Wisdom and The Wisdom Year. Nothing will be lost; we will, however, gain a fortune.

Thanks for your great comments and support about this ground-breaking initiative. Without sounding too boastful, I think we are changing the face of theological education.  All for the good.

Kurt Dunkle first name signature





News Quarterly Summer 14_CoverThis article originally appeared in GTS News Quarterly, Summer 2014, The Way of Wisdom issue. To read all articles from General Seminary about The Way of Wisdom, go to