Dr. Daniel Gard, Professor of Exegesis at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the new president of Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois. This is a wonderful blessing that is very positive for the proliferation of our Lord’s Gospel in the LCMS. President elect Gard is both confessional and a leader. That is a way too rare combination in our LCMS bureaucracy. This is a watershed event for the LCMS.
It is a watershed event because this is the first big ballot that has been cast on the coattails of LCMS President Matt Harrison. Harrison is in his second term and the mushy middle of the LCMS electorate is coming to respect him and elect likeminded officials. These days Synodical politics mirrors national politics. There is a left a right and a middle and it is the middle that determines where we go. The right and the middle combined in the last two synod conventions to elect Harrison and in some cases, Regents (Board of Directors) who approach church in the same manner as Harrison. This is the case in River Forest where a confessional leader was elected president – Dr. Daniel Gard. We pray that this is a trend that will continue.
A sign that the River Forest Board is pretty solid is the fact that this election was a no lose election. All three of the candidates on the final slate were strongly confessional and good leaders. I know them all personally. Dr. Fickenscher was my Dr. Father (Doctor of Ministry, Concordia, Fort Wayne) and I had him for class as well. Dr. Scott Murray is one of our synodical vice presidents, was one of my professors and I have been hosted in his home in Houston. Dr. Gard was also a part of my dissertation review team. They each would have brought much needed strength to the university. Dr. Fickenscher would have been an incredible fund-raiser for the institution. Dr. Murray would have brought incredible scholarship to River Forest. Dr. Gard brings what may be needed most at this time. He is a genuine, kind person who is also a strong leader.
I mentioned above that confessionalism and leadership are a too rare combination in the LCMS. The Harrison administration has brought us plenty of confessionalism and plenty of leadership but not always in the same person. It is my opinion that Dr. Gard is one of those rare people that has both along with kindness and fairness. Gard is a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Naval Reserves. I have seen that he has the strong leadership skills that go with that title.
He will need every ounce of leadership that he can muster to be president of River Forest. We have documented here on BJS the several challenges there.
A university president is not the god of the university so he will not be able to snap his fingers and make changes. Change, if it happens at all, will be slow and deliberate. But I am convinced that with Dan Gard captaining the good ship Concordia-Chicago, the odds are the highest they can possibly be that changes that serve the Gospel of our Lord will come. Dan Gard is sincere, straight-forward and like our Lord, is fearless when it comes to facing the Enemy. Confessionalism and leadership are a much desired pair particularly in the hands of a genuine and fair man of God.