Letter to General Seminary Alumni/ae From President Lang Lowrey and Associate Dean Patrick Malloy

(This letter was sent by USPS mail to all alumni on our mailing list. If you did not receive the print version, and to confirm your contact information is current on our distribution lists, please email Jonathan Silver at silver@gts.edu) March 13, 2012

Dear GTS Alumna/us,

We are pleased and humbled by the warm response we have received to last month’s update letter. As we emerge from crisis and engage in the hard work of continuing our new strategic planning initiatives, we are fortified by the support of our alumni/ae and our faith in the future of the Episcopal Church. As our Church keeps up with the changing realities of our world, we are committed to building up our community to form theological leaders, keeping your alma mater an educational and spiritual community you can look to with pride.

This month we seek to clarify how the next phase of the Plan to Choose Life will strengthen our mission, and our community, and will position GTS as a leader addressing the challenges facing our Church and the Christian faith. We are fully aware that with progress, there may be an underlying sense of sadness and loss, and we share that with our community. However, as much as we cherish our heritage, we acknowledge that we must embrace change. As we, and the Church as a whole, are tasked with shaping the clergy and lay leaders of the future, we are motivated by a vision of GTS as a transformative force at the forefront of theological education.

We now see the crises of the past as compelling agents of transformation and renewal, provoking an accelerated action plan. We are assuming leadership in the following ways:

  • We have made an important enhancement in the life of our community by bringing back the Tuesday night meal, by adding breakfast (at no additional cost to students) before or after morning services, by scheduling frequent community meetings, and by increasing our emphasis on community worship.
  • The Board of Trustees has set to work crafting a visioning document as a starting point for conversation with all stakeholders about our mutual vision for the future of GTS. This is intended to be an open, living document which will undergo change, just as GTS is changing and the world is changing. Its goal is to suggest how GTS can best honor its mission “to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world.” Opportunities for sharing the report and receiving your input will be announced in the near future.
  • We are strategically filling vacant faculty positions and making better use of adjunct faculty – bringing in internationally recognized theologians with world-class credentials.
  • We are exploring and initiating new and financially viable programs in light of changes in the Church and the world:
    • Working with the Communication Office of the Episcopal Church, we are supporting Digital Formation. The creation of this program has been guided by two GTS students with the goal of helping both clergy and lay leaders throughout the Episcopal Church appreciate the importance of understanding the use and effects of social media in the church. “Formation” is a part of the program’s name because it hopes to address not just technology, but how we are shaped into the image of Christ and embody our Baptismal Covenant.
    • As stewards of both our Chelsea Square campus and of the glorious but fragile Earth we all share, we have initiated a program in Environmental Stewardship. The program improves the physical fabric of our campus while reducing operating costs, building upon the investment the Seminary has already made by completing the largest geothermal initiative in NYC. Guided by the significant “green” legislation passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, the principles of the program are a foundation of all our new renovations.
    • We are leveraging new technologies to enhance learning on our campus: rethinking education in the digital age, utilizing interactive resources, and providing expanded digital capabilities in our new library.  Digital Formation is supporting the transformation of technology on our campus and GTS is also moving quickly into the world of distance learning with the acquisition of cutting-edge video conferencing capabilities. Over time, we hope to make many of these resources available to our alumni/ae.
    • GTS is committed to stewardship of our Seminary campus and to maintaining a balanced budget while preserving all of its traditional functions – both educational and communal.
      • Buildings that were sold have been replaced with new renovations which have given us substantially the same number of housing units in less space. These renovations have also created modern amenities and state-of-the-art technologies.
      • The Eucharist on February 7 in Seabury Auditorium made good use of the newly renovated space and included a liturgy that re-dedicated Seabury Hall; it was a wonderful spirit-filled occasion for everyone. The group that planned the liturgy will continue to work together, bringing the same level of shared responsibility and creativity to the community’s weekly Tuesday evening Eucharist.
      • We are opening up GTS to the greater community in vibrant new ways. Last year a CBS Christmas Eve special was filmed in our beautiful and historic Chapel of the Good Shepherd featuring a service of lessons and carols. Last month we hosted a day-long event on church art and architecture led by one of the country’s leading sacred space planners, Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA. The Tutu Center was filled with enthusiastic participants representing architects and church leaders, as well as GTS students and faculty.
      • We are building a culture of best practices which assures the community that, after weathering and responding to crisis, we are restored and reborn.

We count on you to add your voice to the spiritual harmony that will be the future of GTS. As we continue to reach out to you, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments.

God’s peace,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey                                                                                   The Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy

President                                                                                                              Associate Dean