Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
At a special meeting held in July at The General Theological Seminary in New York City, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to call me to serve as the eleventh President and Dean of The General Theological Seminary. With mixed emotions, I prayerfully and carefully considered this call and decided to accept. In what follows, I shall attempt to share some of the facts surrounding the call, as well as the implications of my decision. As some of you know, over the past few years several dioceses have approached me to see if I might be interested in serving as Bishop in another diocese. While I was flattered by such expressions of interest, I responded to these inquiries by saying that my diocesan home was South Dakota. Over the past year and a half, three seminaries, two in the United States and one in Canada, asked me to consider providing leadership as President and Dean. As you know, I have an abiding interest in theological education for both ordained and lay ministry.
The selection process for a new President and Dean at the General Theological Seminary began nine months ago. With 135 nominations received for the position, the Search Committee comprised of faculty, trustees, staff and students worked long and hard to recommend to the Nominations Committee and Board of Trustees a person who would provide leadership for the seminary and National Church for the next decade and century. The General Seminary is a unique seminary in that it is the oldest (it will of be celebrating its 175th anniversary next month) and one of the largest of the eleven seminaries in the United States. It is the only seminary established by General Convention. In addition to training persons for the ordained ministry, General also offers degree programs at the masters and doctoral level in the various theological disciplines. Given its location in New York City, its proximity to the National Offices and its unique role, the General Seminary has a special leadership position in the Church and is also regarded as an intellectual and spiritual center of the Anglican Church. I sense in this election a personal call in taking what I have learned in South Dakota about ministry and sharing it with the larger Church through leadership at General Seminary. Given the many and varied challenges to the Church in our day and time, it is incumbent that we rehabilitate the meaning and function of theology in returning the task of being theologians to local congregations as communities of theological and moral discourse. New ideas, models and methods need to be explored as we anticipate ordained and lay leadership for the Church in the future. Our own Niobrara Summer Program and Vancouver School of Theology Program serve as examples of new approaches that might be replicated in other parts of the Church. Given these opportunities and challenges, I am excited about the possibilities in serving as President and Dean at General. I am also grateful for the education that has been a part of my experience as your Bishop for these past eight years. It is my hope that I can take the experiences here in South Dakota and bring them to bear in looking at new ways of conceiving of seminary education and theological reflection. I am also pleased that we as a Diocese will be able to return to the National Church an offering from South Dakota given the fact that we receive so much in the area of support from our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Church in the United States. It is my hope that you will share in that sense of gratitude and joy in being able to offer to the larger Church a gift from this Diocese.
Another feeling is the sense of grief, sadness and loss that comes with anticipating the move to General Seminary. South Dakota has been and will continue to be a spiritual home for me and my family. When I arrived a little over eight years ago as your new Bishop, I said that I felt as though I had come home. That feeling remains. My family roots here have expanded in getting to know each of you as members of the extended family that we call the Church. It will not be easy to leave. 1 love you and this land.
I have met with Diocesan Council and Standing Committee to discuss some of the implications of my being called to The General Seminary. A first step will be the need for me to receive permission from the House of Bishops to resign as the Bishop of South Dakota. I suspect this permission will be granted at the House of Bishops meeting in September. My resignation will be effective at the end of 1992. Between now and next spring, I will be taking a planned sabbatical at Ohio State University, albeit modified by the fact that there are a number of things that need to be completed to ensure a smooth transition and an orderly continuation of the ministry here in the Diocese.
In discussing the election of a Suffragan Bishop with the Diocesan Council and Standing Committee, it was decided to wait until a Diocesan was in place and then move ahead with the election of a Suffragan. Many of the other committees and commissions of the Diocese are in the midst of important and significant work which will affect ministry. It is my intent to provide leadership and support during the balance of the year to ensure that the hard work and dedication that have marked these varied diocesan ministries will continue and grow in the future. It is my hope that the next several months will be characterized by a caring and shared continuity with regard to diocesan ministry. While it is my intent to provide strong and supportive leadership in the next few months, I also recognize the need to ensure a smooth transition for my successor.
This letter comes with my deepest appreciation for your ministry and your willingness to share your many gifts and talents with me over the past years in the building up of the body of Christ here in the Diocese and state of South Dakota. Our shared ministry has been marked by joy and sorrow, crisis and development, pain and reconciliation, survival and hope. The Diocese has undergone change and transition that have strengthened and equipped it for ministry into the next century. The ministry that has been given to me as your Bishop would have been impossible without the support, care and love that I have felt from you. For that I am deeply thankful.
God Bless You.