The Four Pillars

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

In December you should have received another opportunity to offer financial support to The General Theological Seminary in the mail. I hope you responded in one of the suggested eight ways before the year’s end. A hearty “thanks!”

In that letter, I outlined how we are focused on three goals of sustainability: financial, missional, and cultural. While not yet home free, we are making substantial progress and there are clear markers of success. Here are a few highlights:

During the 2014-15 fiscal year, we experienced an increase in annual giving. Yes, in the midst of tumult, an increase, and not just from a few generous angels. You! We also welcomed five new fantastic faculty—two residential, full-time and three affiliate. Additionally, the church world is responding with renewed interest. Our entering class last fall was comprised of 14 great new students roughly spread across all degree programs. We also saw an historic drop in our annual operating deficit from $2.2 million to right around $500,000 this past fiscal year.

In other words, we are righting a ship that has been unsteady for decades. So, you may ask, what is going on at The General Theological Seminary to continue this good direction?

Recently, we articulated Four Strategic Pillars necessary to our long-term plan to achieve financial, missional, and cultural sustainability.

Completing implementation of The Way of Wisdom
for students on the ordination track  

After a successful pilot, we are rolling out this transformative and pioneering approach to seminary education and formation, designed to fully prepare our seminarians for Christian service in the modern world. The Way of Wisdom integrates all disciplines of seminary education to provide an enriching, contemporary, multidisciplinary experience that combines our traditional rigorous academics; hands-on experience in chapel service and parish ministry; and practical training in a wide range of subjects, from pastoral leadership to financial stewardship.

This approach culminates in The Wisdom Year, in which seniors have the opportunity to synthesize all they have learned by serving in real-world, part-time, paid positions in ministry settings. Our long-term goal is to attract classes of 15 to 25 full-time students through this singular program. The Winter 2015 issue of GTS News Quarterly focuses on this strategic pillar. I hope you let us all know what you think.

Developing and making available vocationally focused
Master’s degrees and specialized certificate programs

General Seminary is at the early stages of designing academic programs which combine both existing and new course offerings to prepare laypersons for careers in such areas as spiritual direction, pastoral care, pastoral counseling and youth and young families ministries and chaplaincies. Our goal is to develop the curriculum and capacity to accept 40 full-time-equivalent students. These programs will significantly benefit The Episcopal Church and other denominations, as well as supporting General’s efforts to achieve financial sustainability.

This second Pillar—an enhanced Master’s program—is tricky. We are working to build the finest preparation for meaningful lay ministry in the church. Since there are 20 million people within convenient commuting distance of Chelsea Square, we only need the proverbial—and literal—one-in-a-million each year. Perhaps you are one of those select. Let us know.

Expanding academic and formation opportunities
by forging alliances with other institutions  

By joining forces with other seminaries and educational institutions, students at each of these institutions will be able to tap into an even wider range of world-class learning experiences, at a time when financial pressures are limiting the ability of all of these institutions to expand their curricula. Our New York City presence, compelling integrated offerings, and the world-class faculty from throughout the tri-state area will make us a key beneficiary of these alliances and provide the basis for exploring even deeper partnerships. Fellow Episcopal seminaries are also natural partners for relationships of all kinds.

Frankly, this Pillar is tricky, too. It will continue to change the culture of General Seminary. But, we all know, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, that the era of all-residential, all-ordination-track training has been decreasing throughout The Episcopal Church for decades. We are just now saying it out loud. By teaming up with other institutions, General Seminary can increase what we have to offer the church, and do it more efficiently as well.

Undertaking a major gifts initiative 

The repair, refurbishment, and endowment of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd is a key priority at General, and will be the goal of a major gifts initiative, planning for which is timed for this year, with a quiet phase of fundraising next year and public announcement in September 2017, at the start of our 200th Anniversary Year.

You can read more about Pillar One in the Winter 2015 issue of GTS News Quarterly, which should have already arrived in mailboxes. Or you can go to to read all of our articles about The Way of Wisdom. I look forward to unfolding the remaining Pillars throughout this coming year.

As always, I’m eager to hear from you.

Kurt Dunkle first name signature