The Proof of the Pudding

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The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle

Dean and President

One of the delightful things about growing up is learning how humorous verbal misunderstandings had been in my youth. My mother kept a small notebook labeled “Malaprops.” It was never malicious; just humorous. For example, her best friend used to say she was wearing a “little casualty dress.” So, as I grew up, I listened for my own collection of malapropisms.

I always thought the phrase “the proof is in the pudding” was odd. Why the pudding, I thought? Is proof—as in yeast—something missing from pudding and, therefore, was the phrase more of a polemic? Perhaps, it had some Old English meaning lost on our contemporary ears about the composition of pudding. After all, the English still call dessert of all types “pudding.” Nevertheless, legions used it as a summary line of skepticism, with the doubtful possibility of being proven wrong for the fact just commented upon. I thought so until a few weeks ago, that is.

I finally heard someone use the phrase, in what I suspect has always been the right way. The proof is not in the pudding, as I had always heard. Rather, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!  Now that makes sense. You can talk all day long about some thing or some idea; but the true test is in the final analysis. After all, pudding is meant to be eaten, not speculated upon.

Seminary education is like that. We can talk all day long about thoughts and ideas and plans and curriculum. But, if the final product is not effective ministry, the pudding just tastes bad. In the Summer 2016 issue of GTS News Quarterly, you can read about some great new appointments, as well as the achievments of our students, graduates, alumni, and faculty—the proof in the pudding.

One of the most powerful proofs is how our graduates are deployed for work in the vineyard. It is with great pride that General Seminary graduates continue to be 100% deployed by, or shortly after, graduation in meaningful ministries. This year is no different and to make the point, we have been sending e-mails every week or so highlighting our graduates and their new ministries.

The breadth of our graduates new ministries is tremendous. So is the depth. Our young alumni are energetically beginning with jobs which touch many lives. The Rev. Charles Bauer was this year’s winner of the Edwin Cromey Prize for Excellence in Liturgical Studies and will now integrate his experience and seminary learning in his first call as Curate at Hickory Neck Episcopal Church in Toano, Virginia.

Mid-career alums are effectively using prior doctorates and other degrees to grow new branches on well-rooted stock. Before the call to ordained ministry, the Rev. Dr. Tommie Watkins, Jr., earned a Master’s in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Alabama, and spent over a decade doing HIV prevention and counseling in Miami and Birmingham, Alabama. He will now return to the Diocese of Alabama, where he has been called as Associate Rector at Canterbury Chapel Episcopal Church and Student Center, and he will also teach as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alabama School of Social Work.

Students preparing for lay vocations are making truly remarkable contributions to ministry and scholarship. Graduating M.A. student Libbie Schrader’s master’s thesis, “Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?” was recently accepted for publication in the Harvard Theological Review, expected to come out in early 2017. This is tremendous for a student!

Faculty pudding these days is also very good eating. This past year our faculty applied for and received the most Conant Grants in at least the last decade. Prof. Todd Brewer traveled to Egypt in search of discoveries about the Nag Hammadi texts; Prof. Michael Battle refined his reconciliation seminars with research in South Africa; Prof. Barbara Crafton is able to complete her next book, Called; and Prof. Clair McPherson will conduct a pilgrimage/tour/course of the spiritual centers throughout Early Medieval Western Europe. The proof of that pudding is very good eating, indeed.

General Seminary’s education and formation have nurtured these lives of ministry in ways which would not have been possible without, well, General Seminary. A frequent way parishes assess their current state of affairs is asking the pointed question of whether their communities would be affected, or even notice, if they were not there. In The Episcopal Church, General Seminary’s presence is definitely noticed. Any lack of the good pudding being made by our faculty and students would similarly be a huge hole on the buffet table of our Church.

General Seminary’s pudding is becoming tastier every day. Come have a bite. You will see that the proof of our pudding is definitely in the eating.

Kurt Dunkle first name signature
Kurt Dunkle first name signature