Kurt Dunkle elected dean, president of General Theological Seminary

Posted May 15, 2013

[General Theological Seminary — Press Release] The Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle was elected on May 14, 2013 to be the 13th Dean and President of The General Theological Seminary in New York City by the GTS Board of Trustees. He will officially begin serving as Dean and President on July 1, 2013.

In his address to the Board of Trustees following his election, Dunkle said, “we need to return importance to the word ‘General’ in our title; we are The General Theological Seminary. We are the seminary for the entire church, not just one aspect or discrete group. We need to embrace the meaning and importance of being The General Theological Seminary in preparing for the leadership of the entire church.”

Dunkle voiced another goal in his first year of making sure that General is “joyful, thankful and useful: joyful in serving our mission of creating real leaders for the 21st century church; thankful to God for providing us this wonderful opportunity for ministry in Jesus’ name; and useful to the Episcopal Church. I am so excited to see how this joy will unfold, how we can be most useful to growing our faith communities. This is a wonderful time to be an Episcopalian and a great time to be at General. Alleluia!”

Before coming to General, Dunkle served as Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Orange Park, Florida, a parish that experienced significant growth under his leadership. Just before his arrival in 2006, 965 of the 1,000 members had left the parish because of disagreements with The Episcopal Church. Today, the parish has over 500 members, an average Sunday attendance of almost 200, an expanding parish day school of students from preschool through eighth grade, a new organ, and emerging programs and parish life created from scratch. “I like to grow things and people,” Dunkle said.

Prior to his ministry at Grace, in his first call after ordination, Dunkle served as Canon to the Ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, with responsibilities for staff administration, deployment, and representing the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard in all aspects of diocesan life, particularly managing clergy and congregational conflict.

Dunkle is a graduate of General Seminary, where he earned the Seymour Prize in Preaching and served as a member of the Admissions Committee. Previously, he worked as a partner at Rogers Towers, the largest law firm in Jacksonville, Florida. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Florida’s College of Law, where he served on the Editorial Board of the university’s Journal of Law and Public Policy, and his bachelor’s degree from Duke University.

Dunkle believes one important characteristic of General Seminary’s future mission will be to teach future leaders how to help faith communities thrive. “Right now, one of the fundamentals largely missing in seminaries is how to grow the church in numbers of participants and in depth of engagement with Jesus Christ,” he said. “Training leaders to grow people and institutions, not just maintain them or even manage the decline gracefully, is essential in our Episcopal Church today. The Church and General should not just focus on survival; it’s about thriving. We need to develop a culture where thriving is the norm, and having more people in our Church with an increased focus on Jesus is the key to thriving.”