There is a struggle going on in our synod over supervision. Dr. John Johnson, president of Concordia Chicago, has taken a weak position in this struggle. We have argued that it is wrong for the professors of our colleges to sign a petition that defends someone who is unrepentant about breaking the fifth commandment and more importantly, teaches a theory of education that is godless and pagan. We called the president’s office last week to alert him to this situation and he has been kind enough to respond. We thank him for that but quite frankly are appalled by his response. Here is his response in full:
Greetings from Concordia University.
When I arrived back from an extended campus absence, my administrative assistant shared with me your message of concern about the inclusion of some Concordia University education faculty on a petition in support of Dr. William Ayers. I appreciate hearing from you.
It is unfortunate that the current pre-election climate has contributed to the heightening of rhetoric from various “sides” which is less than agreeable and clear headed.
Dr. William Ayers is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago and over the years he has taught hundreds of students, both undergraduates and graduates in the UIC College of Education, including those members of our education faculty who decided to indicate their personal support of a former teacher in this way.
While their decision may seem misguided to some, I can assure you that these faculty members do not support the past actions of Dr. Ayers nor share many of the philosophical statements articulated in the petition.
This is borne out in their own records of teaching at Concordia which have always been consistent with the mission of the institution and its Christian character.
While they will be reminded that public expression of privately held views are not to be accompanied by identification of the name of the institution, there is nothing in the “Limits on Academic Freedom” document which they sign along with their faculty contract which would serve as a basis for ordering them to delete their names.
In the struggle over supervision President Johnson has chosen to supervise with a light touch, if at all. This is a light touch that comes right out of LCMS Inc.’s playbook of political correctness. This is not the professor that I knew at the seminary some 25 years ago. His form of exercising supervision over these teachers does not stand the test of a conservative, Bible-believing, Lutheran Confessions-confessing church. He has chosen to allow the signatures to stand as expressions of academic freedom. Since when do pastors and teachers in the LCMS have the freedom to support a public and open breaker of the fifth commandment and a purveyor of a godless, pagan theory of education based on anti-authoritarianism? We are called to a humble, Christ-like attitude of servanthood that not only accepts authority but is pleased by grace through faith to submit to God’s headship?
The petition signed by these professors is not only intended to claim that Bill Ayers is a good guy, despite the fact that he fire-bombed houses and institutions back in the 1960’s. It also supports his approach to education which is based on questioning dogma, orthodoxy, and authoritative claims. That is not a Christian philosophy of education. More than that, it flies in the face of a Christian philosophy of education which is built upon dogma, orthodoxy and authority.
President Johnson’s answer is that the professors under his supervision do not share many of the philosophical statements articulated in the petition. That assertion just does not make sense to me. This is a twisting of the English language. Even a third grader knows that when one signs a petition one is asserting agreement with the petition. Defend these professors in whatever way you want but we still have a serious problem at Concordia Chicago. We have professors who either are too ignorant to understand what they are signing or actually believe what they have signed. It is our Christian duty to stay as far away from Satan and his lies as possible. We ought not to be associated with them in any way imaginable. Even if there was a petition circulating to make Bill Ayers the dog-catcher of River Forest, it would be wise for Christians to stay as far away from that petition as possible because it is going to bring discredit on the Gospel (consider Paul’s teaching on being above reproach in the letters to Timothy and Titus). I learned this very truth and others while at the seminary from Dr. Johnson himself.
I do not understand what is happening to our synod. I do not recognize it. Do you? Professors at one of our universities are signing a petition in support of a Marxist anarchist. This just does not make sense no matter how you rationalize it.
The church is not a business. It is a family. We are the body of Christ. We do not cave to the demands for self-expression and individual rights that are the false doctrines of our society. We do not speak with the language of political correctness. We speak our Father’s tongue that has been given to us in His word. We stand humbly and steadfastly in support of God’s revealed word and confess it in the face of Satan and his lies.
I had Marxist professors at St. Louis University who I have some respect for as individuals and who are interesting persons, much like the claim here in defense of Professor Ayers, but I would never sign a petition in support of their godless, Marxist approach to philosophy. This is what our Concordia professors did by signing the petition in support of Professor Ayers.
Let me try another tack. There are plenty of conservative, Bible-believing, Christian colleges and universities where this behavior would not be tolerated, despite any claims to academic freedom. Why is Concordia Chicago not one of them? This is mind boggling. Even the synod’s handbook, which has been high-jacked by legal jargon, is still quite clear that fulltime professors of our colleges can be held accountable to uphold our LCMS religious culture.
I plead with Dr. Johnson to stand on a stronger solution than his stated response. I suggest something along these lines. Ask the professors to sign a statement asserting that they erred in signing the Ayers’ petition and then print that recantation on the university’s website. We cannot have teachers on our college campuses who sign petitions in support of people who have openly and publicly broken the fifth commandment with fire bombs and who base their philosophy of education on a godless, pagan ideology of anti-authoritarianism.
We are looking for a synod that properly understands supervision. We want a synod that has pastors, professors and presidents, from the lowliest pulpit all the way up to the office of the Synodical President, who are supervising doctrine under Christ’s right hand kingdom reign (I Peter 5:1-3, Galatians 1:6-12, Acts 20:17-38). Instead we get a synod that is more interested in supervising structure in the left hand kingdom with all of its cutting edge organizational principles. This synod needs to leave the congregations alone to handle their left-hand kingdom issues and start doing what God has called it to do and what the congregations look for it to do, by taking a stand on the right hand kingdom truth of the Gospel. For that matter, we also ought to expect our colleges to uphold Christ’s left-hand kingdom reign over this world by upholding a Christian worldview instead of caving into a worldview of Marxist-anarchism.
We look forward to reading your comments and concerns on this matter below.