Combined Pastors Conferences of Minnesota North and South Vote Resoundingly to Bring Chapel Sale to the District Convention, by Pr. Rossow

We thank one of our faithful BJS readers for sending us some breaking news on the University of Minnesota Chapel story. The pastors of both Minnesota North and Minnesota South had a combined conference this week in Brainerd. (Can’t you just smell the pine trees? Maybe that’s Babe the Blue Ox I am smelling.) It is not unusual for these types of conferences to have some votes on motherhood and apple pie matters but this year it was no quiet walk in the woods.

The following resolution was submitted by a group of concerned pastors, replaced with a milk toast version by the conference program committee but then called back to the floor in its original form by the assembly and passed resoundingly. It was reported that the voice vote was at least 75% in favor of the motion. That is pretty significant since there were probably 100 – 250 pastors in attendance. (Maybe someone in attendance can give us an idea of how many were there.)

It will now be interesting to see what President Seitz and the board of directors decide to do. If they stay the church growth course they have already charted they risk alienating not only their own pastoral conference but also that of Minnesota north. We will keep you posted.

by Joint Minnesota South/Minnesota North District Pastors Conference

Maddens Resort, Brainerd, MN

May 11, 2011

Whereas, Minnesota South and Minnesota North District pastors believe that care for the souls of students and strong campus ministries play a vital role in the mission of the Church; and

Whereas, a proposal is being planned for presentation to the Minnesota South District Board of Directors on May 17, 2011 to sell Minnesota South District campus properties and restructure Minnesota South District campus ministries; and

Whereas, this proposal would greatly affect the congregations of both the Minnesota South and Minnesota North Districts and the Synod at large; therefore

Be it resolved, that the joint Minnesota South/Minnesota North District Pastors Conference urge the Minnesota South District Board of Directors to refer this entire matter to the Minnesota South District Convention.


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.


Combined Pastors Conferences of Minnesota North and South Vote Resoundingly to Bring Chapel Sale to the District Convention, by Pr. Rossow — 42 Comments

  1. This is all highly interesting especially since ULC has been pointed out in the reporter as being one of those who bespeak of the great work being done in Campus Ministry!!!

  2. This is great news. At our 2009 district convention there was a resolution, submitted by several congregations, that called for the district to retain ownership of the properties and not sell. I was a delegate to the 2009 convention and I remember asking why the resolution “To Retain Ownership of our Campus Ministry Properties” hadn’t come before the convention? I was told that the boards involved with the decision had decided that selling the properties was not in the Districts best interests and they would not be pursuing the sale. The “Resolved” of this resolution reads as follows; “that the Minnesota South District in convention direct the Board of Directors of the District to discontinue any and all consideration of the sale of these campus properties.” Hopefully this same resolution can be brought to the next convention and pass.

  3. There was something like 350 pastors registered in attendance for the conference. The vote was the last order of business on Wednesday, just before noon and adjournment, so I am sure that some of those pastors had already left for home (Brainerd is a long drive for those of us who live in the corners of the state). However, I know of that at least one pastor who often leaves early stayed just for this vote (that would be me). It wil be interesting to see if this makes any difference in the approach of the MNS BOD.

  4. I know I sound like a broken record, but if you haven’t yet written and sent a snail-mail letter to the MNS BOD c/o the Rev. Dr. Lane Seitz (Board of Directors – MNS District, LC-MS, c/o President Seitz, 14301 Grand Ave. South, Burnsville, MN 55306) then please do it now. The ULC needs and deserves your help and prayers.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills
    ULC class of ’85

  5. I think the best vote would be if all of these pastors had their congregation donate $400 dollars towards the University Chapel.

    1 Corinthians 8:13-15: For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need so that their abundance may supply your need. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

  6. @Eric Donnelly,

    While getting congregations to financially aid ULC is certainly admirable and worth consideration, we need to be mindful that we’re dealing with property worth over 2 million dollars.

    My question is that if the District does decide to go ahead and sell the property, would they give the ULC members first chance at purchase and/or a certain amount of time to come up with the money to purchase it? Even if the District did make such a gesture, and even along with outside financial support from other congregations, could ULC come up with that amount of dough to purchase the property from the District, at least within the next 5 years? Doubtful, unless there were some very wealthy private benefactors. I’d think the District would realize this too. Secondly, even if the District did give ULC time to purchase the property, I highly doubt they’d want to see other congregations in their District suddenly divert funds to support ULC that normally would end up in their coffers, especially when you consider that the proposed sale of ULC is for relief of a top-heavy District which has become financially-strapped. (By the way, it would be interesting to see a study for all districts in the Synod as to the ratio of District Administration in terms of Staff to District population in terms of total congregation members. I can’t but wonder if MNSouth District might be on the high end of such.)

  7. It really wouldn’t be fair to ask ULC to buy the property that they worked so hard to get in the first place. Let me explain, the ULC was started from donations from people that saw a need for Lutheran presence on the U of M campus. So if they were to buy the property they would in essence be paying for it twice. In a like sense, how would you feel if you worked had to buy a house and then after you paid for it you were asked to pay for it again? The ULC worked hard to help raise the money to start their church and buy the property.

  8. Let me see if I have this right, the ULC was established by private donations (none from the district?), but they somehow didn’t get title to the property? How did the district wind up with the title? I can guess that initially there was no incorporated body to hold title, but once established the district should have transferred the title, unless of course they had put up some money too. It would seem a little more light needs to be shed on this proposed transaction by those who were intimately involved in it at the time.

  9. I’m confused. Minnesota Lutherans of my generation already paid for the building. Why should Minnesota Lutherans of the current generation pay for it again?

    The district gets its money from Minnesota Lutherans. It has no money of its own.

    John Rixe
    Member, ULC-Gamma Delta, 1958-61

  10. My impression is that there is a difference between a district that holds property it has purchased with the intent to use it for establishing congregations (which donors wholeheartedly supported with their gifts), vs. the district holding property for investment purposes only to sell when it has appreciated. If this is the case, the district should be up front with the donors about its intent. I remember being confused by a similar occurrence in LaCrescent, MN – (MN-South.) The district owned some property there which had been purchased with the intent of establishing a congregation on the site. Years passed and the congregation was not able to proceed for some time. Eventually, the district gave them an ultimatum because the property had appreciated significantly. They were to purchase the property back from the district or the district would resell it on the open market. Of course, the property had appreciated significantly. I too thought that since the property had been purchased using funds donated by members in the district to support mission congregations, why ask MN-South Lutherans to pay for it a second time?

  11. @John #12
    John, I can understand that perspective. In the case of Messiah Lutheran Church in La Crescent, whom I currently serve as pastor, it was, in a sense, an interest free loan. Had the congregation waited to purchase property on their own when they were ready, they would have had to look outside the city limits or pay about 6 times what the district paid. I should also mention that we have since built a building on the site and as of March have moved into the building. I also think the “ultimatum” gave the congregation a necessary nudge to buy the property from the district who had held it in good faith for us.

    I think our case, and other cases, have set a fairly responsible president: that when the district purchases property for congregational use, it does so in good faith towards the congregation and does not seek to turn a profit from the sale of the property to the congregation. That said, there are certainly differences between ULC and Messiah Lutheran in La Crescent. It would seem fall within the spirit of the president that has been set to sell the property to ULC for the amount that the district had invested and not saddle ULC with a mortgage equal to the “market value” (which can be whatever a realtor pulls out of their hat).

  12. @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld #13

    That being the case, what did the MN- South district pay for the ULC property? Secondly, once this is established and since the issue is coming before the next district convention, congregations should begin preparing memorials that the MN-South District allow ULC to purchase the property from the district at a price equal to what the MN-South District paid for it.

  13. I guess I should say that one would assume the issue would come before the next MN-South district convention on the basis of the result of the motion passed at the MN North and South pastors’ conference.

  14. @John #15
    Technically the resolution was simply an expression of the desire of the majority of the MN pastors assembled at Madden’s. The resolution’s weight was that of voice (and I’d say it sounded like 2/3s of the pastors were in favor of the resolution, at least from where I sat in the room). The task force has not officially presented anything to the board, and the board has the freedom to listen to the desire of the pastors assembled or to ignore it.

    As to what the cost of ULC was, that is a good question, and might not be the easiest to answer… for example what numbers (maintenance, improvements, etc) should be included? I would hope that an agreement could be worked out, in the open, with full transparency and Christian charity. I would guess that it might take some time for an exact number to be put forward.

  15. My understanding is that MN was all one district at the time of the purchase of the ULC church and student center. So the folks in MN North are, of course, interested in the issue.

    Has ULC been paying rent for all those years? I would think the “maintenance, improvements” plus taxes would have come out of that rent – if there was indeed rent.

  16. Respectfully, I don’t follow.  Minnesota Lutherans already paid for the building decades ago with the intention of establishing a campus ministry.  This building serves students.  Students don’t  have money.  Why are we asking them to pay for a building with no mortgage already paid for from past generous donations.   Help me understand.  Please go slowly.

  17. A couple of points are important to keep in mind… is MN South that is financially liable for any future costs associated with this property, not MN North. So, although it is nice to know the pastors of that district are concerned about campus ministry, any vote they participated in is largely irrelevant. If MN North is interested in assuming a portion of any future financial liability with the property, I’m sure an arrangement can be put together. (roof, mechanical systems, etc.)
    Secondly, the district has a responsibility to be good stewards of all the resources of the district which continue to decline. Shouldn’t the board be required to ascertain whether or not the resources being devoted to ULC are being put to the highest and best possible use? When I look at the proposal, that is what I see. Who knows..there may not be a significant market for this property, but I would think it would be in the best interest of all the MN South congregations to examine whether or not these resources are being put to their highest and best use.
    Another point…concerning the rental of the property. It is my understanding that while ULC does pay rent, it is significantly less than the market rate so if repairs/upgrades and major maintenance are needed it is coming from the district coffers.

  18. I see that the MNS District has both an “Assistant to the President: Missions” and an “Assistant to the President: Missional Formation.” Does it really need both? Couldn’t it save some money by combining these?

    In the Pacific Southwest District, we used to have four “mission and ministry facilitators.” Over the years, several congregations submitted overtures to eliminate them, but the responsible floor committee twisted that into an overture that would commend them instead, and so they were kept. Two of the positions eventually were eliminated because there was no money to pay them. I don’t know that anyone misses having them. I don’t know the ordained man, but several years ago I heard the laymen who is an MMF try to manipulate people by quoting from Malachi and telling them they were required to tithe and send more money to the district. I’m glad that Pr. Cwirla stood up and rebuked him.

    How much of a bureaucracy does a district really need? I guess it needs a district president, but how many more people does it need. The synodocrats may have the best of intentions to help the congregations, but in practice they sometimes do more harm than good.

  19. @Matthew Mills #19

    Really? That’s what you got? The ESV doesn’t say what “it” was, within that very lilmited context. (out of context?) The NIV (for it’s issues) states what “it” was: perfume.

    John Rixe, this story is about the woman who annoints Jesus’ feet with perfume. So in a sense, she was giving her best, and her first fruits, to Jesus. Kinda like Abel giving a good offering to God in Eden. The disciples bitched about that “waste of money.” Cain offered God leftovers. He kept the best for himself, to probably feel good, or develop strong healthy livesock. But he kept for himself. Jesus called them to the carpet about their material ways. He said how the woman would be remembered for her beautiful offering. And guess what, her story is in Matthew, and everyone does remember her.

    We HAVE a ministry to students at U of M. It is incredibly foolish to give that up. To think that some congregation a bit away is going to do the same things that the current congregation is doing is ridiculous. Dinkytown is it own neighborhood, its own culture. A number of students do not have adequate tranportation bwy9ond city bus routes, but with many things on campus, why would they care to leave? With all the distraction and workload from classwork, it is doubtful they will alway take the time to look for an LC-MS chapel, they’ll maybe take what is still left in the area. (which would no longer be us) I will say again, MN Souths dumb idea is like sending missionaries to Nigeria, but actually dropping them off in Congo, and letting them figure out out to cross an international border. This will never be a good idea.

  20. Concerned,

    1) I believe that when ULC was purchased/built that all of Minnesota was one district; funds for its construction included moneys from what is now the Minnesota North District (that is, the Minnesota North District helped buy and build it). When the one district was divided into two, the Minnesota North District was not (I believe) reimbursed for what it had contributed to ULC; I am sure there was no desire for that. But Minnesota North still retains a strong interest in ULC, and rightfully so.

    2) Many congregations of the Minnesota North have members attending (or who have attended, or will attend) college in the Twin Cities; many of these students have, are, or will be going to ULC.

    3) Many congregations of the Minnesota North District support ULC with offerings, as a mission.

    4) ULC is a model that many in the Minnesota North District hold up for campus ministry. As such, what happens to ULC is important to them.

    5) As brothers, we should be willing to listen to advice from one another. This resolution has no binding force — it could not — it merely is a word of advice from brothers to brothers: do not act hastily; see what your congregations wish to do by bringing it to the district convention. To me (as one who voted in favor of it), this resolution was a word of friendly advice to the MNS BOD, pointing out that they do not need to take the burden for such a drastic decision unto themselves. Indeed, it is probably wise NOT to do that, but rather to bring it to the whole district for the thoughts and wishes of all.

  21. “Concerned” #21 says:

    “It is my understanding that while ULC does pay rent, it is significantly less than the market rate so if repairs/upgrades and major maintenance are needed it is coming from the district coffers.”

    Can we assume from the above statement, that the rent (albeit less than market rate) does not currently cover the cost of repairs/upgrades and major maintenance needed?

  22. @Jason #23
    I was trying to EXPLAIN the rationale of proposed sale of the ULC (my dear second home during my four years at the U of M) not JUSTIFY it. It is an absolutely awful line of reasoning even if the money were being spent on the poor rather than administrative overhead or a glitzy new ad campaign. Jesus rebuked the disciples for it, and in my letter to the MNS BOD I quoted Jesus’ rebuke to them (If you haven’t done that yet then close the browser and “get ‘er done” now: Board of Directors – MNS District, LC-MS, c/o President Seitz, 14301 Grand Ave. South, Burnsville, MN 55306)
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills
    ULC class of ’85

  23. @Matthew Mills #19
    @John Rixe #18
    Matt 26:8,9

    Actually, not a bad choice of verse, from a “conspiracy theorist’s” POV.
    The idea that a working confessional church should be destroyed to create an “endowment” for more “Alleys” really sticks in my throat! Reminds me very much of Judas!

    @Jason #23
    The disciples bitched about that “waste of money.”

    Actually, one disciple complained, Judas,
    who kept the common funds and (John implies) stole from them.

  24. @Matthew Mills #26

    I apologize for over reacting. Looking back, you have been very good at articulating responses, and I missed the satire. My fault.

    And thank you for pulling that Bible verse. It got me to think, and I wrote a response, knowing that many would see, to clarify what I was thinking and to hopefully provide depth to context. if anything, it may reveal a potential disgrace operating among the decision of the MN South BOD. I admit I am sensitive becuase of the tangental connections I have had with ULC and the people there.

    And also thank you for being a broken record, posting on many threads how to write the the Board, so that it cannot be accidentally missed. Again, sorry for my emotional reaction.

  25. @helen #29
    Thanks Helen!
    But I should probably have explained my choice. W/ no explanation Jason thought I was on the “silver counting” (vs. “ointment pouring”) team.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills
    ULC class of ’85

  26. @Jason #30
    No need, your reaction was spot on, you just went for the wrong target. I was in a hurry or I would have explained myself better.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills
    ULC class of ’85

  27. What irony, the latest Reporter has a section highlighting the wonderful campus ministry in the LCMS and one of the pictures is from…University Chapel. Apparently the editors didn’t get the memo from Minnesota South District.

  28. Oops, it’s actually in the President’s newsletter insert, May Reporter, page 3. While the article doesn’t speak about ULC, the picture is an interesting choice.

  29. @Redeemed #25
    It may be fair to assume that the rent paid by ULC does not cover “all” maintenance and repairs, though that rent has increased over the years. According to the ULC website, rent for this year is $41,353, and $18,000 for the parsonage (rented by a group called People of Praise). It is very interesting that the MNS district’s Campus Budget shows only budget numbers for prior years – what were the actual expenses?? –

    As I understand, at one time the ULC rental income was to be put in to a separate account for the purpose of maintaining the property. Apparently this was never done: the rental income goes straight in to the district’s general fund. Few if any “capital improvements” have been carried out at ULC over the years, in part because it would appear that the district is not capable of long term planning for the care and maintenance of its assets (comment #21) – they don’t have a capital improvement account/fund – this is NOT being good stewards of the district’s assets.

    Rev Bohler @ #24 is spot on! While the district holds title and is liable for the ULC property, it was commissioned and built at a time when Minnesota North and South were one district, so the whole state supported and contributed to the cost of construction. It would seem reasonably surely, if nothing else, that MNS owes a duty to share plans and information about what it is thinking of doing with ULC, with MN North. MN North students still attend the U of MN Twin Cities campus (as do students from all over the LCMS) – so having a solid, grounded and successful campus ministry would seem of interest to all, IMO.

  30. One slight correction to the article above. It was the convention resolutions committee that presented the alternate resolution, not the convention program committee, unless I am mistaken.

  31. Rev. Franck,

    You are correct, it was the conference resolutions committee not the conference program committee.

  32. @helen #29
    I totally agree with this. There is no need to open these non-denomination churches flying under a Lutheran Flag. The district is turning to the world instead of to God’s word. Their focus is more on making the service an entertainment function then what is truely meant to be. According to the Aley’s mission statement it takes the “going out to the alleyways to bring people in.” If you look at where the alley is located I highly doubt any of those 6 figure salaried people are really living in the streets or Alleys.
    The district is really wanting to push the traditional confessional Lutheran worship out and one easy way to justify this is by money. Why don’t we sell the district offices and have them work out a church? Also cut down on the positions there and send the people there out into the mission field doing something useful.

  33. The MNS BOD meeting to vote on this was scheduled to be held yesterday (5/17). Has anyone heard the results of this meeting? I cannot seem to find any information.

  34. @Rich #40
    Nor can I Rich,
    Pastor Kind posted the following at the Save University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) facebook page ( ) yesterday:

    “We just returned from the District BOD meeting. I was allowed to give a 20 minute presentation (to be posted on our website soon) and then take 20 minutes of Q and A. It went as well as I thought it could go. Tom Walker and Kristen Weber from ULC attended with me. After the presentations were over, the BOD went into executive session.”

    This morning he added:
    “At this point I haven’t heard anything from the Board. I am hoping to get some information today.”

    I’ve been peeking back at the “Save ULC Facebook” site all day assuming that’s as likely a place as any to get the scoop on the board’s decision. Closed meetings, executive sessions, secret decisions, it all strikes me as a strange way to shepherd Christ’s Church.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills, ULC ’85

  35. The resolution passed by the MNS BOD has been posted at the ULC website (text is below). Not sure if this is good news or not, but at least ULC is still in the battle.

    WHEREAS, the 2009 Campus Property Task Force recommended that the Minnesota
    South District develop a comprehensive plan for campus ministry; and
    WHEREAS, the Campus Ministry Task Force was appointed by the Minnesota South
    Board of Directors to develop such a comprehensive plan; and
    WHEREAS, the Campus Ministry Task Force has made its report to the Board of
    Directors on May 17, 2011; and
    WHEREAS, Rev. David Kind, pastor of University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis,
    and Rev. Monte Meyer, pastor of Campus Lutheran Chapel in Mankato, have made
    presentations to the Board of Directors; and
    WHEREAS, the Mission and Finance Committees of the Minnesota South District
    unanimously recommended that the Board of Directors determine the true market value of our
    campus properties; and
    WHEREAS, Rev. Kind has indicated that he is not opposed to assessing the value of the
    University of Minnesota property; and
    WHEREAS, Rev. Meyer is open to selling the Campus Lutheran Chapel property;
    therefore be it
    Resolved, that the Minnesota South District Board of Directors authorize the District
    Treasurer to hire a commercial real estate broker to determine the true market value of our
    campus properties and report back to the Board of Directors; and be it further
    Resolved, that University Lutheran Chapel be encouraged to research its ability to
    purchase at fair market value the University of Minnesota property that they currently rent from
    the District; and be it further
    Resolved, that the campus pastors be invited to attend the Board of Directors meeting at
    which the report is made; and be it finally
    Resolved, that no action will be taken to sell our campus properties until the Board of
    Directors has received a report from the District Treasurer.
    A motion was made, seconded, and carried to adopt the resolution at the May 17, 2011 meeting
    of the Minnesota South District Board of Directors.

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