Episcopal bishops oppose seminary's lease agreement with Catholic choral group over LGBT stance

The Chapel of the Good Shepherd at The General Theological Seminary of New York.
The Chapel of the Good Shepherd at The General Theological Seminary of New York. | Courtesy The General Theological Seminary/Virginia Theological Seminary

Episcopal Church bishops have objected to a New York-based seminary possibly allowing a Catholic choral group to lease space on its property because of the reported theologically conservative views of one of its donors.

Seven bishops with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island and the Episcopal Diocese of New York released a statement objecting to The General Theological Seminary reaching a lease agreement with the School of Sacred Music.

GTS, founded in 1817 and currently based in New York City, became affiliated with the Virginia Theological Seminary due to financial issues in 2022.

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The dioceses emailed a copy of the statement to The Christian Post this week in which the bishops said they “oppose the lease arrangement between” the seminary and SSM.

“We are concerned by the lack of full acceptance of the LGBTQ stance of its founders and the lack of transparency in its funding,” read the statement.

“We recognize the difficult financial situation of VTS/GTS with the General Seminary campus. We are also making difficult decisions about the future use of sacred spaces. It’s important to make decisions that align with our mission and values. Human dignity is not negotiable.”

Signatories of the letter include New York Bishop Matthew Heyd, New York Bishop Suffragan Allen K. Shin, New York Bishop Assistant Mary D. Glasspool, Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, Long Island Assistant Bishop Geralyn Wolf, Long Island Assisting Bishop Daniel Allotey and Long Island Assisting Bishop R. William Franklin.

According to the Episcopal News Service report, SSM is a group of lay Roman Catholics and a subsidiary of the Ithuriel Fund, a nonprofit with over $75 million in assets.

One of the major donors is Colin Moran, chairman and president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, which publishes the theologically conservative magazine and website First Things.

The Christian Post reached out to the School of Sacred Music for this story. The organization did not return comment by press time.

Nicky Burridge, spokesperson for VTS, told CP that SSM has a short-term rental agreement with the New York-based seminary that began last year.

“Any arrangement with SSM will be a commercial agreement, not a partnership or an affiliation,” explained Burridge, adding that the negotiations “remain ongoing.”

Burridge provided a statement from GTS President the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, who also serves as dean and president of VTS, who noted that the parties involved “understand the concerns of the Bishops and we share their commitment to inclusivity.”

“We have met with them to reassure them that we are confident about the due diligence we have conducted,” stated Markham. “The SSM is committed to a spirit of ecumenism and inclusion of all people. Even so, safeguards to ensure the Close remains a welcoming space to LGBTQIA+ persons will be included in any agreement with the SSM.”

According to a statement released last month by Markham, GTS had $7 million in operating expenses for fiscal year 2023 but only $4.3 million in annual income.

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