Uproar about the Future of the U of Minnesota Chapel, by Pr. Rossow

Never before have I gotten so many e-mails suggesting that a story be posted on BJS like this one that is spreading like wildfire throughout the Lutheran blogosphere. The Minnesota South District of the LCMS has plans to sell the University Chapel.

I have a call into the president of the district, Lane Seitz to get his take on the matter. He was in a staff meeting and so I left a message asking for a return call.

For more information on the proposed mission plan that would sell the church you can click here. There is a well documented case being made that such a sale would not be in the best interest of the church and of confessional Lutheranism. I know that the chapel has been a seat of confessional Lutheranism for as long as I can remember, going back a few years when Pr. John Pless was the pastor, now a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.

These are difficult financial days for the church which call for drastic measures. This however, looks like a plan to replace a good solid Lutheran presence with numerous smaller, less traditional Lutheran outposts. We welcome your insights and opinions below.

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.


Uproar about the Future of the U of Minnesota Chapel, by Pr. Rossow — 69 Comments

  1. Seriously, after 20 years, Seitz needs to go. I pray for the MNS district to think long and hard who they wish to elect as their spiritual leader, because right now it look like they a business guy running the show.

    (I am angry and sad for all my past friends who attended both campus minisries to see what heartache they must be going through)

  2. @Jason #51

    Seitz needed to go YEARS ago. However, until the layity of the MN South realize this, Seitz will stay. I, by chance, attended the last MN South District convention on the day of the Presidential vote as an observer, and the vote was not even close to reelect him.

  3. Perhaps we could confine ourselves to the facts of this matter, which are bad enough, & leave Pastor Meyer & speculations about his possible motivations out of it?

  4. I haven’t read everything, but I am kind of wondering if this isn’t the Board of Directors, whose election was characterized on BJS as “handing the conservatives their lunch(es)” at their last district convention?

    Interesting, if true.


  5. It seems that Boards of Directors are always wrestling with money issues. Dr. Noland has spelled that fact out above (#47). Contributions are down, and the historic downward trend continues. One would think that with the plethora of stewardship programs available, this problem could be solved. The most recent one, “Faith Aflame” can last up to five years. The synod has encouraged designated giving, so unrestricted giving has decreased.

    Dr. Noland, unwittingly perhaps, has hit on another stewardship issue (see #47 above) that, it seems to me is quite relevant. His discussion of the conflicting philosophies of ministry is strikingly apt. What we are dealing with here is stewardship of souls. A direct correlation exists between attendance and offerings (hello?). Perhaps the most serious aspect of this stewardship of souls is in the number and neglect of inactives. Dr. Noland has hit on the urgency of stewardship of the souls of our young people. At the risk of being misunderstood, I hold that the mission to our own members, active or inactive, is no less important than our mission to the unsaved. What are our districts doing to help their congregations with Stewardship of Souls? And why, of all ministries, would a campus ministry be closed? I’ve seen it happen in my district–the effects are devestating, not only for our young people, but for the active members. You can connect those dots any way you like!

    I’d appeal to the Minnesota South’s BOD to re-consider this move, and to get their respective bods in gear with real concern and action centered on Soul Stewardship. That will take care of the money problems.

    Johannes (flak jacketed)

  6. I saw Issues Etc. at the university chapel a few years ago, and some friends of mine went out to dinner with Jeff and Todd. The possibility of having a true missionary outpost sold off like so much junk from your garage is disgusting. Using the money to fund a ‘mission plant’ is kind of like selling a BMW for pennies on the dollar so you can by a scooter. Really. Did Paul do ‘mission plants’ or start churches? Who is man enough to smack these people upside the head and show them the door? Don’t go away mad, just go away. I think Willow Creek has some openings.

  7. @Pastor Matt Thompson #23

    There is some vacant office space at ULC since the Counseling Center moved out. I am fairly confident that we would be willing to house as many District staff as would fit. It would certainly be a way to cut overhead costs and free up funds that could be used for missions without selling the only physical presence the LCMS church has at the UMN and Mankato campuses.

  8. @Rosa #58
    Glad someone wlese suggested it as the idea was in my head too. There’s also a large chapel attached to the office areas so anytime district officials wanted to pray, worship, etc, they coudl. They would also see the evidence of the campus ministry first hand. Lastly, I’m not sure how much the propoerty in Burnsville would garner the district in a sale? I did note that in the financial documents the campus ministry costs are about the same as the administrative costs. Just sayin….

  9. @Carol Rutz #60
    That is one of the things that has been happening on both sides of the fence. Unfortunately, for district and synodical supported activities, everything is taking a hit due to decreased giving. How much is due to th eeconomy and people not making and giving as much, how much is due to the bleed of membership FROM synod and districts and congregations, and how much is related to people having focused giving to specific mission opportunities is a good question. If anyone has facts or statistics, I’d be interested in seeing them. Synod and district finances have been negatively impacted and it doesn’t look like it’s gettign better any time soon.

  10. Martin R. Noland :
    … in the LCMS we, unfortunately, disagree on our philosophy of ministry.

    If we say “theology” instead of “philosophy,” what about the koinonia fest that is the LCMS where we mostly disagree just on practice, not on doctrine (see the BJS thread on the koinonia program)?

    In the spirit of these festivities, wouldn’t it be better to say: while we most certainly agree on our philosophy / theology of ministry, that agreement does not mean reasonable people — all equally committed to the Lutheran Confessions — may not disagree on what’s the best practical approach to ministry warranted by local conditions (such as a university campus).

    And the important learning step for all of us who’ve traditionally gotten comfy in our uniformity ghetto would be to get better at dealing with diversity in practice and actually support those who are doing the opposite of what we’re doing in our place.

    Or we, in the same spirit of love and mutual respect, at least should be willing to say: while we — due to lacking clarity in bible and confessions — presently do not have a theology of the ministry upon which we could agree (or with which we could disagree), we are prayerfully on the way towards formulating such a theology that could accommodate compatible understandings of the pastoral ministry we presently find in our synod.

    Come on, people, synodical word gymnastics ain’t that hard as long as you don’t consider concrete cases where all that fine lingo is just swept aside by the harshness of reality.

  11. @Carl Vehse #42

    Whoever did the job did change the season to Easter and adapted the acronyms to LCMS-typical orgs. — credit where credit is due!

    But then again, the person replaced stronger “pastoral presence” with blander but more inclusive “caring presence” (advice # 11). So, I’d call it a draw on the improved / made it worse scale.

    My favorite is advice # 9:


    Sure, you need more voices in the choir, more volunteers for the nursery, more help for the
    upcoming bizarre, and of course, there is always a need for more money in the checkbook to meet the budget, but focus on welcoming visitors and learning about ways the church can be helpful to them, and there will be opportunities in the future to discuss some of these things.

    I take this to mean: if you follow this advice, you’d better be ready for plenty of help with “the upcoming bizarre” — it’s taking place right now at ULC in Downtown Mpls. Because it’s a strange, strange world we live in.

    This strangeness comes about when we focus on human activities instead of God’s: the inclusive fellowship around a pot of coffee (advice # 8 ) instead of exclusive fellowship around word and sacraments; our celebrating (advice # 12) instead of God’s saving judging and forgiving.

    DISCLAIMER: Such difference of focus, because “focusing” is a practical activity, does not constitute doctrinal disagreement, but merely practical diversity.

    Get with it!(TM)

  12. @Rosa #58
    Actually if I remember right, MNS District used to be based at the ULC property. But then they moved down to their current facilities, which used to be by a LCMS church. That church closed down and hence the District offices are now off in the middle of no where, or at least it felt like no where every time Pastor Kind and I drove out there to talk with them.

    I do like the idea of the District selling off their office space and moving back to ULC. That has a nice symmetry to it.

  13. When will we wake up to the fact that some people will do just about anything to promote their point of view? Some have been able to work behind the scene and pull off things that we wouldn’t even try. Case in point; “The Alley”, look how they were able to manipulate that whole issue to their advantage. They were able to turn the delegates to the last district convention against anyone standing against “The Alley” and ignoring the real issue of whether it was even a Lutheran church. It was because of this issue that we have the MNS BOD that we do today. I am very thankful that we have people that are getting the word out on wonderful campus ministry at the U of M.

  14. ULC (and Gamma Delta) was a wonderful refuge for a “spiritually lost” teen when I attended U of M some 50 years ago. There I received wonderful direction and spiritual food. Will write a snail-mail letter to Dr. Seitz and the board of MnS.

  15. With this campus ministry and Fr. Kind’s necks on the block, it is all too painful to remember the campus ministry at Milwaukee and Fr. Wiest. Lord have mercy.

  16. Ironically, the sainted Pr. Wiest and his family were frequent worshippers at ULC while he was fighting his cancer and undergoing his bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota. ULC’s close proximity to the UMN campus not only serves the campus ministry, but also the pastors have provided pastoral care to some being treated at the hospitals on campus.

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