Crusty has just now read the statement from the General Board of Trustees, which may be found here.
The following post was written over a week ago, as COD expected this outcome. What is truly sad is that Crusty has only had to change about 10% of what follows.
A few weeks ago, Crusty offered some thoughts on the situation at General Seminary. It has turned out to be far and away the blog posting that has had the most views in the illustrious history of Crusty
|Betcha didn't know Erasmus said that.|
Silence is not necessarily a bad thing. Scripture says even fools who keep silent can seem wise, lest they open their mouths and dispel that notion. COD discussed this in his previous column, noting that often with regards to intense conflict, only those persons directly involved can really know what is happening, and at times it's wise for people to hold off on speculating who are not involved. That's part of what is happening, Crusty supposes, with the silence in the church around what is happening at General Seminary. COD is sure many are waiting to see what emerges -- which, BTW, is an easy thing to do when you're not the one who is no longer being paid and whose health insurance is no longer being contributed to by those claiming to be your former employer, and probably only New York's robust tenant's rights laws are keeping you from being evicted.
But it needs to be named that discretion is not the only reason for silence. Though the exact situation is still unfolding, and not all the facts are known, there is still one very clear issue which is before us: the weaponization of resignation by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, and now by the full Board of Trustees, which was used to wrongfully terminate contractual employees. For much of what follows, Crusty will be focusing on this particular issue: the manipulation of the Executive Committee of statements by eight of the faculty to interpret those statements as resignations. This is to put aside other matters, like the question of the dean's misconduct or the decision by the faculty to move towards declaring a hostile work environment -- all of those matters are complex, and involve back-and-forths that not all of us are privy to.
But of this weaponization of resignation, there should be no concern about the facts involved, no need for discretion, on this particular aspect of this controversy. We have the letter from the eight faculty to the Board dated September 17, expressing their concerns; and their statement of September 25, where they claim they will not teach or attend worship or meetings. We have the terse statement from the Board of Trustees accepting their resignations. We have the adamant reply from the faculty they in no way, shape, or form submitted their resignations. While many aspects of this conflict are unknown or in dispute, the content of none of the preceding is in dispute by any of the parties involved.
The fact we are being asked to accept this bold faced manipulation is an insult to the church, let alone the gospel. It is nothing more than a violent attempt at restructuring an ecclesial institution through falsehood and deception.
The silence in the church around this unconscionable manipulation by the Executive Committee, confirmed by the full Board of Trustees, to terminate employees without due process is what truly saddens Crusty Old Dean. The silence around this cannot be from discretion, since the facts are all in the public domain. Perhaps the silence is from fear: fear from people that those with the power who have manipulated processes to strip people of their due process and terminate them; fear
|Also, @KanyeHauerwest will not play scheduled concert on the Close.|
Because of this silence, Bishop Mark Sisk's question, as quoted in The New York Times and found here, remains unanswered: "I think the trustees felt, who are these people?"
Since this question has been echoed throughout the church, unanswered, to our collective shame, allow Crusty to offer a few replies.
--Who are these people?
They are people who were employed under the conditions of their contracts. If the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees feel they are in breach of contract, and are failing to perform their duties, they could have proceeded along those lines. But they did not proceed in that manner, because, you know, that would take a long time and be messy and involved following procedures and policies, so they are seeking to remove them without due process. Perhaps it is because they have been bleeding money for a good decade or more, and this is a way to avoid paying severance, or even permitting them to receive unemployment. Or, even worse, a naked and cynical effort to dangle a sword of Damocles above them, permitting those that dance to the tune they pipe to rejoin the faculty but being rid of the meddlesome ones.
The statement from the Board of Trustees reveals the naked, blatant, manipulative reality here: the farce of resignation was created to allow the Board to decide, on what terms, they might or might not permit the faculty of their choosing to return. Faculty are invited " to request provisional reinstatement as professors of the seminary."
Further compounding this injustice, the statement from the Board then somehow has the gall to proceed to state: "The Executive Committee stands ready to meet next week to hear requests of any of the eight former faculty members for reinstatement and to negotiate the terms of their provisional employment for the remainder of the academic year." The same body that invented their resignations is now the entity that will determine, based on no basis or grounds laid out, the conditions of their provisional employment?
The Board of Trustees has laid waste to the whole notion of contract. The reason this is important, lest we forget, is not just because of models of best practice, or our commitment to fairness and justice, but because of the way covenant reflects the fundamental nature of our relationship to God. From the covenant of Noah, to the covenant with Abraham, to the covenant with Jacob, to the covenant with Moses, to God's chosen people, to the new revelation in Christ Jesus, God has been in relationship with humanity, promising to be our God if we will be God's people. The Board has laid waste to covenant. This is why this matters, and why this is not just an ivory-tower academic squabble. If we, in the church, are going to make contractual relations entirely dependent on the definition of those in power, then we have defouled a core principle of how the church reflects, at its best, the divine relationship.
--Who are these people?
They are faculty members at a seminary authorized and accredited to operate by the Association of Theological Schools and the New York Regents. National and state authorization and accrediting agencies have standards governing employee termination. The Executive Board and Board of Trustees may feel they have the right to do what they have done, but that doesn't mean they have the right to be a licensed and accredited institution. Crusty certainly hopes that the New York Regents and Association of Theological Schools will investigate this matter, now that the Board has made "provisional" employment dependent on whether you dance to their tune.
--Who are these people?
They are professors at an Episcopal seminary, which purports to "respect the dignity and worth of every human being," a church with a long and sustained engagement with the labor movement, a church with numerous resolutions from General Convention taking stands on fairness and justice. This has become yet another chapter in the hypocrisy of the church, eroding any credibility in speaking to labor issues and fairness in the world. Let the world see how we treat our own employees, and let them judge as we deserve to be judged. Instead, in something reminiscient from The Grapes of Wrath, the Executive Committee has decided to bring in replacement faculty. Crusty comes from Boston, and we have a word for people brought in to replace those wrongfully terminated. They are scabs, and this is a scab seminary.
Since nobody has bothered to answer the question, "Who are these people?" those are just a few thoughts on who they are. But some other questions remain.
The question still remains: Who are the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees to think they can get away with this blatant misrepresentation so as to deny people due process? Again, this is why the situation at General matters: if due process depends on the largesse of those in power, if we are to weaponize dissent, what's to prevent any Rector who fails to follow a rubric of the Book of Common Prayer to be summarily charged with abandoning the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church and be deposed until Title III, Canon 12, Section 7, without any due process and completely circumventing the Title IV disciplinary process? Crusty has had several friend elected bishop, and, when he asks them how it is going, many roll their eyes and say, "I just need to turn over about half of the rectors in my diocese." Well, problem solved, if due process is no longer in effect in The Episcopal Church. Find a way to depose them. It'll be fun, like "Where's Waldo?", except with real people.
The question still remains: Who are we as a church to sit by and let something like this happen? Are we even capable of being shamed by our own silence, the only critique coming from without instead of within? If we are to accept these "resignations" by the Executive Committee, then we live in
|Wonder if Terry Gilliam is an Episcopalian.|
The question still remains: With all this talk about restructuring, is there a church left to save?
Requiem for a seminary? Requiem for a church which calls white black and black white, and calls things resignations which are not resignations. Shall we be a church where petty oligarchies can run roughshod, whether in seminaries, or dioceses, or parishes, divorced from their constituencies?
Get thee behind me, Episcopal Church. You're not worth critiquing anymore.