Dear fellow members of the General Seminary community,
Before graduation I promised an update on the way our three new faculty members came to us. Now that the press of year-end is behind us, let me take a few minutes, beginning with a word about process.
I am a fan of process. I am also a fan of good results. When they move together, it is all the better. At the same time, God gives us common sense and a discerning spirit to figure out when we can act slowly and when we need quick action. It’s so very, very Anglican: both/and.
For the three positions I am about to describe, there was just the right blend of process, speed, and good results. A beautiful both/and. No corners were cut on any and it looks like just the right people were brought forth. We have the built-in flexibility and community discernment to know when each is needed. Let me outline each in a little more detail.
As our needs for the upcoming fall were becoming clearer this past spring, we began to discern our needs for Anglican Theology and New Testament. At General, our procedure is for a search committee to recommend to the faculty, who will recommend to the Dean, who will recommend to the Education and Formation Commission of the Board, who will recommend to the Board. In our unique circumstances, the first step – a committee – was impracticable. So, we went right to our permanent faculty with two candidates who were already known to us.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Battle was a well known and extensively published Anglican theologian and was enthusiastically recommended to General by a senior theological educator. The Rev. Dr. Todd Brewer was already teaching New Testament for General in the Deacon’s Education Program and was fitting in well. In the initial interviews, our permanent faculty felt that based on their backgrounds and accomplishments, they would both make substantial and well-received contributions to General’s students and community. They spent a fair amount of time with Professors Battle and Brewer.
Then, to ensure that we were on the path to making good decisions on each, we went an additional step by asking a few members of the Education and Formation Commission of the Board of Trustees to personally interview each candidate. All along the way, preliminary board input was sought and, in the case of Dr. Battle, many already knew his work. Also, I checked former employers/supervisors and in the case of Dr. Brewer, one of our board members familiar with his doctoral program agreed to be part of the interview process. [Also, as with all employees at General Seminary, a documented background check is part of everyone’s employment.] At this stage, one of my additional roles was to also make sure each candidate, however well qualified, was supportive of our historical Big Tent approach of inclusivity at General. They are.
For both candidates, the Education and Formation Commission unanimously approved and then the Executive Committee of the Board also unanimously approved. This was all reported on during a board conference call the subsequent week, and at our May 18-19 regularly scheduled in-person board meeting all was affirmed. I look forward to both Professors Battle and Brewer’s move to the Close this summer and to your engagement with them this fall.
The search for an interim professor for liturgics took a different and much quicker path as our need was somewhat of a surprise. As with all discernments, sometimes the Holy Spirit calls elsewhere on a schedule different from ours. So it was with liturgics.
On Monday, May 4, we learned that we would need a liturgics professor for the fall. Professor Malloy recommended the Rev. Dr. Kevin Moroney as they had periodically worked together. I was particularly pleased he was in Philadelphia and easily accessible.
I immediately called our Board of Trustees chair, the bishop of Professor Moroney’s diocese, and received a fine report. On Tuesday, May 5, I spoke with Professor Moroney for a long phone interview and set lunch in Philadelphia for the next day. On Wednesday, May 6, we had a long luncheon meeting, concluding with a commitment on both sides to discern further, but quickly. By Friday, Dr. Moroney tentatively committed, but needed the weekend to make sure his family, church, and Lutheran Seminary commitments were fully accounted for.
On Monday, May 11, we had a new Adjunct Professor of Liturgics for the next year. I am so pleased that he is experienced and qualified. Again, God’s grace placed General Seminary and Dr. Moroney in each other’s paths.
Because the dean is historically and procedurally empowered to engage Adjunct Professors, no further approval was necessary. But, along the way, informal consultation with board members and permanent faculty was sought. Also, as we will begin a full search for a liturgics professor this fall, Professor Moroney’s commitment to General is only for this year. Of course, I have encouraged him to consider being a part of the full, Anglican Communion-wide liturgics search this fall and next spring.
Finally, I want you to know that all of this was wrapped in deep prayer by many participants in this discernment. That is an essential element for General to move forward. Engagement with God about our needs makes all of our human effort holy.
I hope this detail about new faculty discernment is helpful. As always, please call, e-mail or come by if you have any questions or have any advice.
May this breathing space of the summer be growth and refreshment for all of us.
The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle
Dean and President | General Theological Seminary