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[Episcopal News Service] In a letter to Bishop Mark Sisk, chair of the board of trustees for the General Theological Seminary, the eight striking faculty members have accepted the board’s invitation to accept “provisional reinstatement” and to enter a process of reconciliation. A conflict between eight of the 11-member faculty and the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, who became GTS dean and president in July 2013, was made public late in September when e-mails and letters from the departing professors to students were circulated and the professors announced a work stoppage.
The full text of the Oct. 20 letter to Sisk follows.
Dear Bishop Sisk,
Thank you for your invitation to come together to find a way forward.
We receive this invitation in the good faith in which it is offered. Thank you also for acknowledging that healing is not an easy thing to accomplish; we are appreciative of both the alacrity with which you seek to facilitate our return to work and the attention you are giving to a long-term process of reconciliation for the entire Seminary community.
We accept your offer of reinstatement to our positions, and the salaries and benefits outlined in our contracts in effect prior to September 25, 2014. We look forward to being able to do this as soon as possible. Like any member of the Seminary’s faculty we agree to abide by the terms of the Seminary Constitution, Bylaws and policies. Given some of the confusion that has arisen about these texts in recent weeks, we will need you to provide us with copies of them: this would help us as we seek together to work within them. We are pleased to see that during the “cooling off period” all of the parties’ respective legal arguments and positions will be reserved.
We also commit with energy to the holy work of reconciliation which we understand to be very important for the health of the entire institution and all of its constituent members: faculty, board, administration, staff and students alike. You mentioned in a telephone conversation the possibility of using a Mennonite group to facilitate this process. We heartily accept this proposal, since we have great respect for their expertise in this area.
If, God forbid, at the end of the academic year we find that the collective process of reconciliation has not worked well, we ask that there be some understanding that appropriate severance will be made available to enable us and our families to make a transition. Lest we be misunderstood here, let us state clearly that we will devote ourselves fully to the difficult work of reconciliation this year.
As you know, one of our principal concerns has been to ensure that the seminary workplace be one of mutual respect and collegiality. As we move forward and return to our work, we ask that you consider the appointment of an ombudsperson agreeable to all sides who would act during this “cooling off period” as an interlocutor and safe person to whom complaints could be referred if need be. This will help all of us to feel less on edge and safer, and so will be an indispensable means of helping the process of reconciliation to work well.
As an important sign of our movement forward together, any public acknowledgement of these agreements should be issued together.
Thank you for this very positive step forward for the sake of our Seminary, our students, and staff and God’s church.
Professors Davis, DeChamplain, Good, Hurd, Irving, Kadel, Lamborn, Malloy.