I’ve put in interview requests with a few of the Minnesota South leaders who made the decision to sell University Lutheran Chapel. This includes the District President and the Mission Exec. I haven’t heard back from them yet but will let you know as soon as I do. In doing background research, there were a few things that struck me.
The most obvious is the parallel with Issues, Etc. That program was canceled — and its hosts fired — on Tuesday of Holy Week. This previously top-secret plan to sell ULC was made public on the same day of Holy Week.
The other parallel with Issues, Etc. is that the moves were made in the name of cost-savings but reflect a deeper conflict over church and theology. This sounds like a battle over whether campus ministry should adopt church growth techniques (of which the Minnesota South is fond) or be a church centered around Word and Sacrament. ULC is known for its liturgical and sacramental approach. And while it has a reputation for producing some wonderful pastors, deaconesses and average laypeople, it has created a vibrant community without resorting to the latest trends and fashions.
Everyone I spoke with about the move mentioned that ULC’s model of sacramental, liturgical worship is at odds with the direction Minnesota South is moving in its mission funding and focus. (A cursory look at the resources on their web site also indicates this.) They say the battles between the district and the chapel go back decades. As in, at least to the 1980s. These are serious tensions and, according to the documentation I’ve seen thus far, there have been multiple attempts by the district over the years to control ULC and its resources.
In any case, the general mood seems to be that the decision to sell congregational properties is short-sighted at best. At the very least, though, this is about much larger things than finances. I’ll keep you posted with updates.