Decent and Good Order

April 26th, 2011 Post by

People who are trying to communicate with the Minnesota South District of the LCMS about the plan to sell off University Lutheran Chapel are being more or less shut down at every turn. One pastor wrote to the District President and got a reply that said something about how everything should be handled in “decent and good order.” So he ruminated on that and listed 8 things that constitute “decency and good order” in the district. Here are the first four:

  1. A task force was formed to discuss these matters in September 2010. The Board of Directors of MN-S apparently forgot to tell ULC that a task force had been formed to discuss the selling of their property. Good thing that someone from ULC happened to read the BOD minutes in late March to learn about the existence of the Task Force! Then, ULC didn’t find about the content of the meeting until April 15, 2011! It’s divinely lucky that ULC even got to go to the meeting where the plans to sell their buildings were being proposed to the Mission and Finance Committees! You know, so that all can be done… “in decent and good order.” Check the timeline here.
  2. As you notice from the emails that from the district officials, we are being told not to reply to their emails. The District is being transparent and open about discussing these things while NOT allowing discussion on them! Hmmm… is that troubling to you? This, of course, is done, “in decent and good order.”
  3. The Campus Ministry Task Force completed its assignment, developing a comprehensive plan for expansion of campus ministry to the colleges and universities located within the District, while exercising responsible stewardship of limited resources.” (here). What do they decide? They are going to “expand” the campus ministries by SELLING the church property of a vibrant congregation! I’ve worshiped at ULC – even taught and preached there. At the top of this post is picture – look at all the people! That congregation is alive! Is this your definition of “in decent and good order?”
  4. The District President’s email says that the Task Force’s proposal hasn’t been heard by the MN-S BOD. The problem here is that three of the members of the Task Force are members of the BoD! So, when the BOD considers this “proposal,” they are considering something written by three members of the BOD! Another three of BOD members are on the Mission Committee that the Task Force presented the proposal to at the April Meeting! And remember that Finance Committee that the proposal was presented to? Yeah, there are members of the Task Force on that committee too! I’ve included a chart of how diverse the people involved in this are! If you email me, I can send you the list with snail mail addresses so you can drop a letter to them (Praedicabitur in Tectis!!) By my count (and I got my degree in Classical Latin, so you might check me), seven of the twenty members of the MN-S BoD have already approved this plan in some way, shape, or form. In Louisiana, we’d call what’s going on “dirty” politics. In Illinois, it’s par for the course (grin). But, what’s it called when you really wanna do something in the Church? We call it “decent and in good order.”





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  1. Rev. Don Kirchner
    April 26th, 2011 at 23:14 | #1

    May 9-11 is our (MN North) annual joint pastoral conference with MN South. I hope ULC will be addressed.

  2. boaz
    April 26th, 2011 at 23:15 | #2

    My understanding is that the land is valuable for condos/apartments because it’s close to the University. Why can’t they sell the land with the condition that the chapel be incorporated into any construction on the property with ULC having exclusive use of the chapel in perpetuity? Has this been considered?

  3. Jason
    April 27th, 2011 at 06:23 | #3

    @Rev. Don Kirchner #1

    Get as many pastors to speak out against this as possible. We need a full court press on this insanity.

  4. Concerned Seminarian
    April 27th, 2011 at 07:44 | #4

    @boaz #2

    If the land is valuable enough, I’m sure a contractor would be more than willing to build a new church building (smaller) and use the remainder of the land for condos/apartments.

    My home church has actually had a few offers of this sort since it has a nice big field; I don’t think any of those offers actually made it past my dad to the voters’ meeting!

  5. April 27th, 2011 at 07:59 | #5

    The Board of Directors of MN-S apparently forgot to tell ULC that a task force had been formed to discuss the selling of their property.

    task forcez are fun.

  6. Kebas
    April 27th, 2011 at 08:27 | #6

    St. Peter’s (ELCA) in New York City is located just off the lobby of the Citicorp center. Part of them selling their city block was that Citicorp would build them a new church as part of the complex that they can use in perpetuity.

  7. helen
    April 27th, 2011 at 08:32 | #7

    Has anyone looked at the list of “potential campus ministry” sites?
    I grew near Albert Lea; I remember no college except one that was tried and failed. Someone might be doing Saturday classes there by now.
    At any rate, Albert Lea was served by an LCMS congregation and several churches which are now under the —a umbrella, surely enough to handle any educational need. [Albert Lea is largely where farmers who can afford it go to die in a Lutheran nursing home.]
    Northfield and St Peter are the homes of —a colleges; I doubt our “missional” friends seriously intend to invade their turf! Concordia, St Paul, doesn’t need the mission board; they have Pastors on staff!

    Looking at the picture of ULC and considering the listing of the “Alley” as a ministry site, I want to cry.

    Is Samson on the task force?

  8. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    April 27th, 2011 at 11:06 | #8

    One has to wonder why a man who is elected to serve the people of his district would not desire greater amounts of communication from those same people?? Is anyone from his district able to answer that question. My DP always answers straight to the point!

  9. April 27th, 2011 at 11:28 | #9

    synodocat :

    The Board of Directors of MN-S apparently forgot to tell ULC that a task force had been formed to discuss the selling of their property.

    task forcez are fun.

    Yes – the task forcez is used to play Jediz mind tricks on those they serve. DP could stand for Darth _____.

  10. April 27th, 2011 at 12:43 | #10

    task forces haz teh best free lunchz.

  11. Albert Hughes
    April 27th, 2011 at 12:59 | #11

    ” Woe unto those by whom the temptation comes….”

  12. helen
    April 27th, 2011 at 13:33 | #12

    @synodocat #9
    task forces haz teh best free lunchz.

    Lavish dinners and soft hotel beds, too, I’ve heard. :(

  13. April 27th, 2011 at 14:50 | #13

    MN South District is doing what they have attempted to do with campus ministry there for at least 20 years.

  14. Joe
    April 27th, 2011 at 16:04 | #14

    helen :

    Is Samson on the task force?

    I don’t get it.

  15. Former Anglican
    April 27th, 2011 at 16:44 | #15

    @boaz #2
    Besides being blinded by dollar signs, the leadership of MNS is not interested in seeing the current ULC congregation stay where it is – why? Because the congregation is too liturgical, confessional and sacramental for their liking. They crave a blazing, missional, church-growthy approach to reaching students – even though history shows this was an utter failure in the MNS District in years past. ULC is just too much of a thorn (or spear) in their side for them to pass up the opportunity to dispose of the building and more.

    Let’s pray that they do not plan to sell it to Woodbury Lutheran (the parent of The Alley) so that The Alley can take up residence. The Alley now has a “satellite” location at Jehovah Lutheran Church on Snelling Ave in St Paul.

    Lord have mercy!

  16. Steve Gehrke
    April 27th, 2011 at 17:40 | #16

    Read the ULC history here: http://www.ulcmn.org/About/History.html

    ULC was a pioneering congregation in contemporary worship in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It didn’t work, despite $200K (in 1970’s dollars) renovation to make the church CoWo-friendly, as the congregation was down to about two regular attendees by the time Rev. Pless arrived in 1983 (though the early 80’s decline could be blamed on circumstances surrounding the Synod’s disaffiliation from the ALC). Thus the CoWo approach to Lutheran worship for college students at the University of Minnesota has thus already been tried at ULC and failed. In contrast, ULC has thrived as a confessional congregation for over 25 years since the end of CoWo at ULC.

    See also the Holy Tuesday posting and comment thread about how ULC’s transitions from CoWo to confessional if you haven’t already.

  17. Jason
    April 27th, 2011 at 17:44 | #17

    Some thoughts from the time I lived in the Twin Cities.

    ULC is not that large, I have visited it numerous times. I do not remember much more than a decent medium sized building, a house separated only by a drive way, that led to a small parking lot for 20, maybe 30 cars. (30 is pushing it) The only reason it could fetch $2 million is because it on on the campus proper. To sell to a developer for condos? Try condo, singular. Any kind of tall type condo/apartment building, well I can only see one such structure that would be designed to fit. And selling it? It already is a vital mission outpost for students, like freshman who are required to live on campus and likely have no vehicle transportation of their own. It would be like our reaching to Nigeria from Ethiopia. Not smart at all. Try staying in Nigeria.

    Also having friends and visiting Woodbury Lutheran, they are a model of Kieshnick’s et al vision of the church. Large of wealthy, owning mutiple satelites (dare not spin off daughter congregations and heaven forbid lose control of them), Nasdasy signing the recent letter of 40 (hinting at political learnings), CoWo CGM and the like. I just never cared for visiting that place. Of course they would be the ones to launch The Alley.

    And when I was at CSP, I knew Jehovah was the closest congregation. The impression I got from the rumor mill was it was an eccentric, small, partially ethnic congregation. I always thought of it as wierd. For me it is not a leap to see them jumping on board to be The Alley’s satelite. Maybe they desperately needed a life line from dying or becoming irrelevant.

    I’ll say it again, this whole thing makes me sick to my stomach, and I can imagine it to be worse for my friends who have gone through ULC while at college. We cannot pray enough for our brothers and sisters under attack from the chaotic mechanisms of Satan.

  18. Richard Sutis
    April 27th, 2011 at 18:17 | #18

    Strange story ,and lack of full transparency in any LCMS organization is disturbing
    Good story for the newspaper and Minn Law Review,but some basics are missing:
    Secular questions are 1)who has title to the property,and what are their intentions.?
    2)Assume some mortage may also be in place and be participants.
    3)Is critical mass sufficient to fund and support the facility/staff ?
    Boaz#2 and Former Anglican have it right and seem to know the area,but the decision will legally come from the property owners. I recall Oakland had a similar issue a year or so ago in a church closing debate..
    While many want high LCMS decentralization,it would seem this is a case for the Synod to mediate! A proper organization would provide transparency.We dont need loss of LCMS reputation !
    A couple of years ago in ,I was involved with a secular partnership which wanted to cash in valuable factory land and negatively displace the workers. Holding fast (as the titleholder) allowed retention of the jobs and an increased valuation of the property.
    ,Whoever has the title has countless options–those who dont have title have only publicity.
    Because of the lack of transparency by the MnS district,my guess is they dont have title,but if not,I cant understand why the congregation just doesnt say No Thanyou and end the story.

  19. April 27th, 2011 at 18:59 | #19

    Answers to all these questions are available in the documentation at ulcmn.org. But to save you the time of having to read through it all…

    1. MNS District owns the property. They need money because people haven’t been giving to the District/Missions as much as they have in the past (some have blamed confessionals and implied that “our plan” has now come back to bite us). Their intentions are to sell the property to fund other District Mission endeavors and reconfigure campus ministry entirely in such a way that there are no centralized campus ministry congregations on or near the campuses and instead encourage area congregations further away from the campuses to start programs for college students with $5,000 annual grants from the District.

    2. The property was purchased and built upon in the 1940’s. There is no outstanding mortgage. ULC has been the primary occupant of the building since that time, and the property was built for the purpose of having a permanent home for the campus ministry that had been going on at the U of M since 1925.

    3. ULC provides for its own staff and administrative expenses out of offerings. The District pays for the utilities and maintenance of the property, and pays a small stipend to ULC to manage these affairs on their behalf. ULC pays rent ($41,535 for 2011) to MNS, as does another group that rents the parsonage ($18,000 for 2011). ULC turned down the $5,000 in programming subsidies from the District this year. So of the $76,700 budgeted by the District for ULC, it actually only costs the District less than $13,000. Compare that to the cost to MNS for the other campus ministry in Mankato which is about $150,000 without any rent or other income to offset that expense.

    It’s a little deceptive to lump the two campus ministries together and imply that both are equally responsible for the financial burden of “Campus Ministry” in the District when one is costing 10x more than the other.

  20. Rev. Fritz Baue
    April 27th, 2011 at 23:14 | #20

    I was assistant pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Rochester, MN, from 1981-86 (MNS District). We met for pastoral conferences at Madden’s Resort. It was there that I became friends with John Pless, who entered the district in 1983.

    This was when he was still a pipe smoker, before he went to Ft Wayne, fell in with evil companions, and switched to cigars. During those years Otts Cloeter (a cigarette smoker) was DP. Dean Nadasdy was I believe at Woodbury, and possibly exposed to Holy Smoke. Art Yunker, a true Lutheran pastor who wrote the monograph, “Toward a Theology of Pipe Smoking” was at Holy Cross, Rochester.

    Speaking of Holy Smoke, I recall that in those days Cloeter brought in Kent Hunter for a big workshop which all pastors were supposed to attend. Hunter said that Church Growth was going to be “a new Reformation, not in doctrine but in practice.” As CG was put into practice, Yunker was run off from Holy Cross by a group of CG parishioners, and Pless was under constant pressure to conform to the “new Reformation”–one of its principles being similar to Marxism in that you have to speed up history by eliminating reactionary elements. Pless ended up at Ft. Wayne and Nadasdy at St. Louis. He that hath ears to hear…

    PS Whatever happened to Kent Hunter?

  21. April 27th, 2011 at 23:49 | #21

    Whatever happened to Kent Hunter?

    No doubt, overshadowed by other CG know-it-alls unencumbered by even the pretense of Lutheran theology.

    But the damage he did is still everywhere in the LCMS.

    TW

  22. Rahn Hasbargen
    April 28th, 2011 at 06:55 | #22

    @Rev. Fritz Baue #20
    Hasn’t the term “church growth” become what is called a phantonym, which is a term used to describe words that means the opposite of what a typical user thinks it means?:

    http://www.proofreadnow.com/blog/bid/27238/Words-that-Mean-the-Opposite-of-What-You-Might-Think

  23. Rahn Hasbargen
    April 28th, 2011 at 07:02 | #23

    @Rahn Hasbargen #22
    By the way, given the state of the MNSD and parts of the LCMS, I am beginning to think the term “Decent and Good Order” is becomming another phantonym, which is the whole point of Mollie’s column here in the first place……

  24. Pr. Tom Fast
    April 28th, 2011 at 07:10 | #24

    I have worshipped at ULC several times over the years. One can hardly begin to recount the good that has been brought about through that place. IMO, John Pless and David Kind are two of the very finest pastors in our entire synod. Is it any wonder that ULC is a model congregation?

    Lane Seitz is an extremely competent administrator. I respect him. And I say that as one who doesn’t always agree with his decisions, to put it mildly. But he works very hard and knows a lot about leadership. And that’s what mystifies me about this matter. He knows far better than I that you cannot make such a radical change without thoroughly vetting it with the peeps. I hope he realizes that whatever merit there might be to this plan, it has not been communicated to the rest of us and so this train needs to slow down.

  25. Pr. Tom Fast
    April 28th, 2011 at 07:15 | #25

    Oh, and I agree with Dr. Seitz that this matter needs to be handled with decency. ULC is too important to be used as a political football. Why taint the great work done there by acting in unkind fashion. And I say that as an expert in being unkind. :-)

  26. Rev. Steven W Bohler
    April 28th, 2011 at 07:45 | #26

    Rev. Baue,

    Where might I find that monograph on theology and pipe smoking? Seriously. I have been a pipe smoker since I was 16 (33 years now). On LutherQuest a while back we had a discussion on cigarette smokers/cigar smokers/pipe smokers and what it says about their personalities and theology.

  27. Rev. Don Kirchner
    April 28th, 2011 at 08:21 | #27

    Pr. Tom Fast :Lane Seitz is an extremely competent administrator. I respect him. And I say that as one who doesn’t always agree with his decisions, to put it mildly. But he works very hard and knows a lot about leadership. And that’s what mystifies me about this matter. He knows far better than I that you cannot make such a radical change without thoroughly vetting it with the peeps. I hope he realizes that whatever merit there might be to this plan, it has not been communicated to the rest of us and so this train needs to slow down.

    And experience in administration concludes that one ignores a reporter to one’s detriment. For the reporter will write the story, with or without one’s input or explanation.

  28. Darrell
    April 28th, 2011 at 09:18 | #28

    @Rev. Steven W Bohler #26

    There are links to it here: http://takethestand.net/?p=331

    This appears to be a scanned PDF version of the typewritten(!) original.

  29. Former Anglican
    April 28th, 2011 at 10:33 | #29

    @Pr. Tom Fast #24
    Pr Seitz may be characterized as a competent administrator, but the evidence in dealings with ULC do not agree with that. MNS District, in the persons of Pr Seitz and Meier, have not kept to their committment to meet with ULC on a regular basis (not a good example of decent and good order, or open communication) – see Pr Kind’s comments on page 4 of the Ministry Understandings document posted on the ULC website (www.ulcmn.org).

    You should also have a look at a document on the MNS district website – it makes for interesting reading. The link on the website is Mission Information > Mission News & Resources >Missional Bookmark (Power Point Presentation) – http://mns.lcms.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=e4ubGX_MOVM%3d&tabid=102&mid=460

    Have look in particular at pages 5-9, and especially page 6.

  30. Pr. Tom Fast
    April 28th, 2011 at 11:07 | #30

    @Former Anglican #29
    That’s why I said this mystifies me.

  31. Former Anglican
    April 28th, 2011 at 11:13 | #31

    @Pr. Tom Fast #30
    Of course you are right… I apparently skimmed over that part of your original post – sorry.

  32. helen
    April 28th, 2011 at 12:08 | #32

    I have been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist”. [You have been warned.]

    We have had a very unexpected “changing of the guard” at the IC, and the “SP is God” design in the “restructuring” is now in someone else’s hands, though he didn’t want the “BRTF” changes.

    However, we seem to have a majority of DP’s who liked the regime and the progress to non-Lutheranism that was/(is still) going on. They, despite the pre eminence of the SP, are pretty much “king of the hill” in their own bailiwick. They think they hold the ‘power of the purse’. (Actually, they are all hard up because their congregations don’t trust them to spend wisely, only to spend beyond their means.)

    Consideration of Lutheran doctrine and practice, and a serious attempt to “walk together” as envisioned in “Koinonia” (also in Scripture, the Confessions and Walther, incidentally) is a threat to the “princes” who wish to continue doing as they please.
    Solution: remove as many Confessionals as possible, especially the influential ones like ULCMN.

    Question: are the confessionals able/willing to do something about it (as they did with Issues, Etc.)?
    Or will they wring their hands and say, “Too bad, so sad” as another confessional stronghold hits the dust? And, no doubt, another confessional Pastor or two, sits ignored in “Candidate Active” status.

    [It would appear that the size of the property is not great enough to solve MNS' money problems, so an ulterior motive is logical.]

    Perhaps the threat of needing to become Lutheran can be averted and we can go merrily to a CoWo hell [singing "Friday"? or "Sunday"?] after the next convention.

  33. Old Time St. John’s
    April 28th, 2011 at 12:44 | #33

    @helen #32
    I agree, but ULC has to take the lead.
    If they can negotiate a reasonable price with the district, or appeal to the SP to help them resolve this, and they need money, I know that we will step in and send them some. Whether it will be enough is in God’s hands, but I for one would like to help. It doesn’t seem like it’s time for that yet, though. Who knows where that money would go now? Who actually owns the endowment that pays most of the bills now? Where will that ownership go if the church building is sold? These things must be clear before people start writing checks.

  34. Rahn Hasbargen
    April 28th, 2011 at 13:09 | #34

    @Old Time St. John’s #33
    Given my connections to this issue, I have been asked to limit my comments. I will say the following:
    (1) This issue is at a VERY sensitive phase, and things could move quickly in one of many directions, some possibly surprising to outsiders.
    (2) The ULC web site posts in the lower right hand corner what ANYONE can do right now:
    http://www.ulcmn.org/Files/Pages/SaveULC.html
    (3) You must trust that the ULC congregation (including it’s Pastor, Elders, and Members) is doing what it can to survive as a congregation. What the mission and location of that congregation will be is to be determined. However, I do trust the congregation to stay true to it’s confessional roots.

  35. April 28th, 2011 at 15:52 | #35

    No matter the outcome of this decision it is a a great time to be sharing the Good News.

    I can see why a plan to relocate University Ministries away from expensive and potentially lucrative buildings sounds attractive. The Arch Diocese of St Paul and Minneapoplis relocated the Neuman Center from a prime spot on University Avenue to St Lawrence a congregation 3 blocks off campus. Neuman Center is now hosting a mass at Cauffman Union on campus every week in addition to 4 at St Lawrence every Sunday plus weekdays. Obviously their ministry didn’t stop once they left University Avenue.

    The difference is that this plan to relocate ULCMN seems very vague right now. We all know that the church can never be confused with the buildings that it meets in; but buildings especially next to campus are sure convenient places for congregations to meet and for outreach to happen. So I guess the bigger question is what’s the plan for the next step.
    Just a thought
    Pax
    John

  36. Johannes
    April 29th, 2011 at 06:15 | #36

    Todd Wilken :

    Whatever happened to Kent Hunter?

    No doubt, overshadowed by other CG know-it-alls unencumbered by even the pretense of Lutheran theology.
    But the damage he did is still everywhere in the LCMS.
    TW

    So, Pastor Wilken, tell us how you REALLY feel!

    Having had experience with Hunter, I find your opinion somewhat restrained. I believe he is still around, and in Corunna, Corunna, Indiana. I hesitate to say any more.

    Johannes

  37. April 29th, 2011 at 10:29 | #37

    For those of you who would like to send an email regarding ULC to the Minnesota South Board of Directors, here’s the list, with a few of their email addresses.

    Rev. Dr. Seitz mnspres@mnsdistrict.org
    Rev. Meier peter.meier@mnsdistrict.org
    Rev. Bode
    Rev. Dr. Griffin pastorgriffin@trinityjanesville.com
    Rev. Tewes
    Rev. Gehrke pastorgehrke@gmail.com
    Rev. Otte whotte@charter.net
    Ms. Clemmensen
    Rev. Schulze schulzer@charter.net
    Mr. Bartels
    Mr. Bartley
    Rev. Stoebig tstoebig@beautifulsaviorlc.org
    Mr. Roegge
    Mr. Krause
    Rev. Dr. Heining jheining@charterinternet.com
    Mr. Block
    Mr. Drevlow
    Rev. Lehmkuhl
    Mr. Nordquist
    Mrs. Baumgard
    Mr. Ash
    Ms. Henry

  38. John Rixe
    May 2nd, 2011 at 17:15 | #38

    An appeal from 51 campus pastors and workers supporting ULC….

    http://ulcmn.org/Files/Save%20ULC%20Files/appealforulc.pdf

  39. confessionallutheran
    May 10th, 2011 at 23:16 | #39

    Former Anglican :
    @boaz #2
    Besides being blinded by dollar signs, the leadership of MNS is not interested in seeing the current ULC congregation stay where it is – why? Because the congregation is too liturgical, confessional and sacramental for their liking. They crave a blazing, missional, church-growthy approach to reaching students – even though history shows this was an utter failure in the MNS District in years past. ULC is just too much of a thorn (or spear) in their side for them to pass up the opportunity to dispose of the building and more.
    Let’s pray that they do not plan to sell it to Woodbury Lutheran (the parent of The Alley) so that The Alley can take up residence. The Alley now has a “satellite” location at Jehovah Lutheran Church on Snelling Ave in St Paul.
    Lord have mercy!

    I was thinking the same thing. The district advertises the alley all the time but never ULC especially at Concordia St. Paul. They would rather support a non-denominational church flying under a Lutheran flag then a true Lutheran Church because they don’t want the truth, it hurts.

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