Education and Formation

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The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle
Dean and President

Many of you have heard or read my standard speech about what we do at General Seminary. In case you missed it, here it is: “We only do two things at General: Education and Formation. Each needs to be roughly in balance, and each needs to be integrated.”

In the past few years, we have spent a great deal of time developing the second of these two concepts: formation. We have heard from the wider church that formation is fundamentally important to our future mission and the overall sustainability of General Seminary. We have worked hard to make sure our formation is as fine as our education continues to be. And I am pleased to report that we have succeeded in doing so.

Chapel attendance and participation through student-led Eucharists is up, and faculty buy-in is universal. Daily lunch in the Refectory continues, and it is a joy to witness the theological lingering over coffee and cookies. This semester, we have radically changed student advising by establishing groups that now meet every Wednesday morning in faculty apartments, rather than just a few times a semester. This is working out very well.

The net result is that formation is re-solidifying at General.

But what about that other focus: education? It’s time to address that upfront again.

The Spring 2016 issue of GTS News Quarterly focuses on academics at The General Theological Seminary. I encourage you to read it over. Throughout the issue, you will see that the academic preparation here for church leadership in the 21st century is as strong as ever. Just like General Seminary well prepared many of you, our alumni, recently or in years past, we are rising to the challenges of our current environment by preparing future leaders for the church equally well.

This semester, we have dozens of academic offerings of all types by over fifteen faculty members of all types. One of the great benefits of being in the center of the major metropolis in our country is the breadth and depth of specialists and experts in practically every field. We are taking advantage of this abundance like never before at General. The use of expert faculty is not incidental or ancillary or some sort of second choice; it’s intentional. But, instead of imagining what they are doing, read about them throughout this issue.

Scholarship is growing, not just for our students, but for the entire church. In the next few pages, you will read about a new book from Prof. Michael Battle, a major academic paper presentation by Prof. Todd Brewer, and the research and translation projects of Prof. Clair McPherson.

The wider church confirms what I have been witnessing: our faculty are being invited to share their expertise. For example, Affiliate Professor of Liturgy, the Rev. Dr. Kevin Maroney, recently was asked to be one of the seminary professors to advise The Episcopal Church’s Marriage Task Force, in preparation for General Convention 2018. Another example is Adjunct Prof. Stephanie Spellers’ recent appointment to the staff of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, as Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation, in addition to continuing her residential academic duties at General. The list goes on.

In addition to the scholarship of our faculty, you can read about the travels and accomplishments of some of our talented students. The academic opportunities at General have allowed these students to shine in the world at large.

General Seminary is also engaged in ensuring fine academic leadership. Our focused search for a chief academic officer is ongoing, and the candidate pool is deep and wonderfully diverse. I fully expect someone to be in place by early this summer and look forward to the ministry of this new Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs to expand our horizons. I look forward to continuing the refinement of our ordination-focused M.Div. (Strategic Pillar I), growth of a newly energized non-ordination track, vocationally focused M.A. program (Strategic Pillar II), and helping identify the right partners and affiliations (Strategic Pillar III) for increasing our academic capacity and program strength.

Now, back to that familiar speech: “Education and Formation.” Without high quality and serious education, formation will be vapid and shallow. Similarly, without intentional and integrative formation, education is narrowing and useless to the wider church. Strengthening both together serves to form leaders who can—and will—help grow the Body of Christ and our beloved church.

I hope you read every word of this issue. I have always been proud of our academics at General, now more than ever. I bet you are, too.

As always, I enjoy hearing from you. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns.

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