President of Concordia Chicago Defends Signing of Ayers Petition, by Pr. Rossow

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.


Pastor Rossow




About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


President of Concordia Chicago Defends Signing of Ayers Petition, by Pr. Rossow — 20 Comments

  1. Leaders of the LCMS keep making more and more ungodly decisions in the name of freedom, political correctness, and keeping the peace. Instead of keeping the peace the Body of Christ is divided and some of us wonder if certain institutions and leaders of the church can be trusted anymore.

    Can we trust the leaders with our children at all LCMS sponsored youth gatherings? Can we trust the institutions with our children at all LCMS schools? Can we trust the leaders with out children at all of our churches? It appears many in leadership need to prove to us that they are trustworthy when it comes to teaching the one true faith in Jesus Christ.

    May God bring us to repentance as a synod. May we repent of our idolatry and our loveless, careless, open mindedness during this present age and return once again to the one true faith in Jesus Christ.

  2. Is there anyone with authority over Johnson? District President perhaps? I’m new to the synod and unfamiliar with the power structure.


  3. Concordia University-Chicago Board of Regents:

    Dr. Thomas M. Buck, M.S., Ph.D., Chair
    Mr. Richard H. Blatt, B.Sc., M.A.Ed.
    Mr. Chris Nelson, B.S., M.S.
    Mrs. Elizabeth Duda, B.A., B.S., LL.D.
    Mr. Terry Pfortmiller, Secretary
    Mr. Kirk Farney
    Mr. Robert Rauscher, B.S., Vice-Chair
    The Rev. Dan Gilbert
    Mrs. Kathy Schulz, B.S., DCE Certification
    Mrs. Dorothy Hildebreandt, B.A.
    The Rev. Mark Schulz
    The Rev. Philip S. Kaufmann, M.Div.
    Mr. Fred A. Wittlinger, B.A

  4. My comment in an earlier post “Throw the rascals out,” now includes a waffling University president. But that’s not surprising, most of the bureaucracy of the LCMS are in the same boat – some in the bow and others in the stern – some leading and others following, but all lazily and thoughtlessly drifting down the stream of theological and social liberalism.

    Let me predict that the District president will give you a similar answer as will anybody that responds from the synodical office building.

    Jesus still sits on His throne and says: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” – and it is so!

  5. Kyrie, eleison! I wrote more but decided to return to this simple prayer which I/we sing every Sunday morning in the Divine Service. We are in such a mess. May the Lord keep us safe from those who seem to be bent on compromising every part of the faith.

  6. Just so everybody knows, the list of the Regents taken from the RF website is from prior to the last convention. I recognized that Kathy Schulz was elected and now serves on the BoR at Concordia Portland. She served the max. amount of terms at RF.

    I’m not sure who else on that list might no longer be on the board.

  7. Is there anyone out there who has the time to get phone numbers and addresses for these board members? They need to hear from us. Please e-mail me at [email protected] if you are able to help with this.

    Pastor Rossow

  8. I find it has been my way to cast things in the best possible light. I suppose this lets that which is wrong remain unchallenged more than it should, however I have also found that hasty words can do damage, and I suppose in the end that I must find some balance.

    Not knowing Ayers from a hole in the wall, I still have some questions about what is wrong with the petition.

    The petition seems to be talking about examining what we are taught (by authorities), and particularly that which is unconsidered. Isn’t this what the Bereans did? Isn’t this what Luther did? Questioning and investigation of received wisdom are certainly the basis of the scientific method and if we had just accepted what we were taught we’d all be strict disciples of Aristotle. If those who attend Lakewood Church don’t investigate the claims of its pastor, they will have little chance of escaping the prosperity gospel. And it’s always seemed to me that going after the fundamentals of a doctrine or teaching – investigating it from the perspective of a cynic or opponent – is the best way to understand its strengths or weaknesses.

    Without criticism, doctrine gets flabby. Without questioning, one’s understanding is limited. I don’t understand what the deal is.

  9. Something I forgot: not all questions or corrections are disrespectful of authority. Some young thing was asking on Higher Things radio if correcting a teacher who had an incorrect Biblical understanding was wrong. I’ve thought that it would be an imperative for anybody with respect for truth and for fact, and any worthwhile authority should be thankful for correction.

  10. “Dr. William Ayers is Distinguished Professor of Education…”
    SO WHAT? Talk about lipstick on a pig!
    This is acadamia-speak. (And also church-speak.) As long as you have “Doctor” in your name somewhere everything is o.k.
    Maybe my “Doctor of Loophole Jurisprudence” from Fergle University (I’ve got the certificate, T-shirt, and coffee mug to prove it)could get me a position at River Forest?
    “Dr.” Ed Weise

  11. Bubbles,

    You raise a good point. Please read the rest of the articles that I have posted on this and you will see why signing this petition is wrong. I do not have time for a lengthy response at this point. This will have to suffice.

    No one is opposed to teaching our students to think. We want them to learn how to think. However, that is not the same as questioning dogma, orthodoxy, and authoritative claims. We as reasoning Christians have authoritative claims that are above questioning. We come to the universe in awe because it was created by God. We study in order to know. Ayers teaches a philosophy of education that says we study to question authority which questioning is to result in overthrowing the system. (Please read Romans 13 and you will see what God says about “the system.”) You must read all of Ayers – he is a pagan, godless, Marxist-anarchist and his phislophy of education reflects this. The real scarry part is that our education profs at Concordia Chicago have not only studied under him, but have signed a petition in support of him personally and his education theory.

    Please let me know where I am wrong on this.

    Pastor Rossow

  12. Ayer’s philosophy is the new dogma. The devil’s dogma…old as the Garden.
    But we’re not supposed to question THAT, right?

  13. OK.
    So, why the limp noodle from the president?

    If you work for AB and you are seen in public drinking Coors,
    depending on your position in the company your job could disappear.

    If you work at Chrysler and drive a non-domestic car you don’t park at the front door.

    Michael Jackson (sorry only one off the top of my head) promotes Pepsi and is seen drinking Coke he loses his job.

    A retraction by these professors is totally in order.

    If you don’t believe in what your employer is promoting then how can you be effective for your employer.

    You can’t take the religion out of a religion-based college.


  14. to John #14, you have “hit the nail on the head”. If folks in LCMS, Inc. and the University “system” want to be like secular businesses then let them take the hit when they diverge from the “company line”. I, personally, lost jobs when I wouldn’t comply with company policy & procedure, i.e. dogma & doctrine, so why shouldn’t university professors and Presidents. The same applies to SPs and DPs, too!

  15. There is a more pervasive problem here than just signing an Ayers petition. The Christian teaching education system is filled subversive philosophies that go unchecked.
    An example: I have yet to hear of a Lutheran Ed. educator say that Abraham Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, which says the pinnacle of an educated person is ‘self-actualization’ (meaning: I am free of guilt to do what I want, as long as I am happy), and the underlying assumption (in Maslow’s writings) that men are basically good – thus opposed to original sin – is wrong. That is just one educational philosophy that is taught to all of our new teachers and is never considered in light of Scriptural teaching (nor even in research, which does not bear out this heirarchy at all).
    Somehow, many parts of our Univerity system have separated themselves from a solid theological foundation, as if a couple of classes on the Bible fill the need for a “Lutheran” education, and the rest of the classes can be just like a secular education. And it has trickled down into our high schools and elementary schools also. There are, of course, exceptions, but overall there are deep systemic issues which need to be addressed.

  16. Furgeson,

    You are so right. We could not even begin to count the problems. I am privileged to serve a church with a Lutheran school and we have an excellent staff. They are all godly people. They have faithfully supported thier pastor’s lead, particularly our principal. However, there have been various pinch points over the years that have revealed some real fundamental, ideological differences. We have not had time to explore them and have been blessed as I said above, with a great spirit of unity. If there were time or if a given issue ever rose to the point of serious contention, there would need to be a lot of discussion about these matters.

    I am guessing that there are plenty of pastors out there who know what I am talking about but would not want to state these things publicly. I am blessed with a school staff that is supportive of a liturgical, confessional church and that along with a great deal of professionalism has helped us not only survive but thrive. We thank God for that.

    Pastor Rossow

  17. John # 14 said:

    “If you don’t believe in what your employer is promoting then how can you be effective for your employer.”

    Well maybe the problem is that they ARE promoting their employer’s position.

  18. Today Bill Ayers made local Chicago newspapers as a Naperville High School and a bookstore have cancelled appearances of Bill Ayers. (Daily Herald Newspaper, Section 1, page 11).

    The Daily Herald reported, “Ayers, a Glen Ellen native who is an education professor at the University of illinois at Chicago, co-founded the Weather Underground, an anti-Vietnam War group responsible for bombings at a series of public buildings in the 1960s and 1970s.”

    I have sat at the feet of some individuals whose personalities have been impressive to me, but with whom I disagree. My care for their person would be misplaced by signing a petition to support their postion.

    It seems that our secular world gets this as Bill Ayers appearances are being pulled. Do our faculty fail to see this? If they do, and yet continue to support such an individual, I would say it is time for new faculty.

    President Johnson, please reconsider and revisit your conversations with your faculty. This is a black eye, not academic freedom.

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