An Invitation for the MN South Board of Directors and President Seitz to Use His Suggested Method to Solve the Conflict over ULC, by Pr. Rossow

Does anyone deny that there is a conflict in the Minnesota South District over the dispensation of the University Lutheran Chapel property?

In the last edition of the Minnesota South District Reporter insert President Lane Seitz describes his own personal three-fold recommendation for resolving conflict. We ask him and the Minnesota South District Board of Directors to apply it in the current conflict between them and the University Lutheran Chapel Parish.

President Seitz has invented a clever and helpful “Three-C’s” method for resolving conflict:

  1. Conversation – Talk truthfully face to face with the person with whom you disagree.
  2. Confession – When we have misunderstood, lost our temper or sinned against another person we need to confess that sin and ask for forgiveness.
  3. Collaboration – Genuine Christian reconciliation involves seeking solutions to a conflict that are beneficial to everyone involved. It rejects a win-lose approach to conflict.

We may never know all of the ins and outs of the conflict between President Seitz and his Board of Directors with the parish of ULC and we do not need to but there has been enough publication of the situation that it is clear that President Seitz and the Board have not followed the “Three C’s” as closely as they could.

Has there been conversation between the parties involved? There has been some but it certainly has been lacking. First of all, the ULC has had to insert themselves into the decision-making process kicking and screaming all the way. (See the ULC website for documentation on how the parish has been left out of key points of the decision.)

Secondly, there have been numerous closed-door sessions of the board of directors at which the representatives of the ULC parish, including her pastor, Rev. David Kind, were disallowed from the conversation. Is there ever a time when a shepherd should be disallowed from a conversation that involves the future of his parish building? What is Lane Seitz and the Board hiding and what evil sway might Pastor Kind have over the Board that would make them fear his conversing on the matter according to Dr. Seitz’s own “Three-C’s” method of reconciliation?

Thirdly, when the closed-door, closed-conversation (contrary to the “Three-C’s method) was complete and a decision was made to sell the ULC property out from under the parish, there was no “Three-C” conversation but instead an e-mail sent from President Seitz to Pastor Kind at 5 AM the morning alerting Pastor Kind and the ULC parish of the fateful decision from the day before.

Has there been “Three-C” confession in this matter? I am in no position to call out any sort of sin in this situation. It is a crying shame for sure and there may have been sin committed to sell its building out from under a parish but I will leave that for others to decide. I do know this, the members of ULC parish feel violated and discern that an apology and a change of heart on this matter are in order.

Has there been “Three-C” collaboration in this matter? There has certainly been collaboration between the church growth gurus, including President Seitz and Mankato State campus pastor Monte Meyer, in the development of the new fangled method for campus ministry in Minnesota South and they might even claim attempts to collaborate with Pastor Kind and ULC but the end result is that the altar and pulpit which the ULC has used to faithfully administer God’s word and sacraments in the richest tradition of Lutheranism and the beautiful stone on which they sit are being sent to the Hennepin County Landfill. That does not sound to me like a solution that is beneficial to everyone. It sounds more like the win-lose solution that the “Three-C” approach is intended to avoid. 

There is a win-win solution available. ULC wants its building and the district wants funds for its new-fangled approach to campus ministry. The people of Minnesota South and North and Lutherans from around the country can be asked to donate funds again to buy back the building from the Minnesota South District and the district can use those funds to support their new-fangled approach to campus ministry and a stable, growing congregation in the heart of the University of Minnesota campus can retain its place for preaching the Gospel. Just a few weeks ago the President’s office gave encouragement to ULC to start a capital campaign to “buy back” its building but before they could get five weeks into a three year campaign President Seitz and the Board of Directors sold the building out from under them. That is a win-lose proposition.

Is any of us perfect at the “Three-C’s?” I for one am not. I think they are good advice however, and try to follow them or something similar that I learned from the Peaemakers group, as best I can in my day-to-day life. We call upon President Seitz and his Board of Directors to re-read the latest Minnesota South insert to the Reporter and re-attempt a resolution to this conflict by better applying President Seitz’s “Three-C’s” for conflict resolution.

Here is the pdf of the President’s article.

ULC website

Donate to ULC Capital Campaign

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.

Comments

An Invitation for the MN South Board of Directors and President Seitz to Use His Suggested Method to Solve the Conflict over ULC, by Pr. Rossow — 33 Comments

  1. Thanks Pastor,
    I think folks should send a hard copy of his own article to Dr. Seitz, w/ a short cover letter suggesting he try one of his three God pleasing (Biblical) ways to resolve the numerous conflicts he has had w/ ULC Minneapolis, rather than using the power of his district presidency to crush a faithful Lutheran congregation. Address below:

    The Rev. Dr. Lane R. Seitz
    14301 Grand Ave. So.
    Burnsville, MN 55306

  2. Call me cynical, but I don’t think that I’ll hold my breath for a proper response from the MNS-DP.

  3. When you see the word “conversation,” beware. That is a buzzword that means only that we talk and talk and talk, but nothing gets resolved. The E–A loves this word–you can “converse” all you want about their latest ordination folly, but nothing is going to change. I don’t wish to cast aspersions on Pres. Seitz, but the word “conversation” is an unfortunate choice. Despite its somewhat loaded baggage, I would suggest “confrontation,” in the best sense of the word. That is, confront the issue honestly, confront lovingly those with whom you disagree, and get the issue truly resolved. “Conversation” is all too often a toothless excuse to do nothing–which as we know, is indeed doing something.

    Johannes

  4. Who exactly has been charged with holding the District Presidents accountable to practice what they preach? Could it be…could it be…Yes! Memo to President Harrison: just do it.

  5. Paul Becker :Who exactly has been charged with holding the District Presidents accountable to practice what they preach? Could it be…could it be…Yes! Memo to President Harrison: just do it.

    Yes. He’s the president precisely for such a time as this.

  6. Paul,
    As much as I wish president Harrison had a voice here he does not. He is the ecclesactical supervisor and can step in when our theology or synodical rules have been violated but in this case neither has happened. He can talk to President Seitz but Seitz does not have to listen.

    @Paul Becker #6

  7. From the Constitution of the LCMS (with emphasis added):

    “The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the ADMINISTRATION of…all district presidents.”

    “The President has and always shall have the power to ADVISE, ADMONISH, and REPROVE.”

  8. Roger Gallup :Paul,As much as I wish president Harrison had a voice here he does not. He is the ecclesactical supervisor and can step in when our theology or synodical rules have been violated but in this case neither has happened. He can talk to President Seitz but Seitz does not have to listen.
    @Paul Becker #6

    He could also publicly express his opinion of the situation.
    He could visit ULC.
    He could attend a fundraiser.
    Indeed, he could HEADLINE a fundraiser.

  9. @Paul Becker #6
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen, the SP of the LC-MS can hold the DPs to the standard of our constitution, but not to the standard of the Holy Scriptures interpreted in light of the BOC 1580. So far as the Bible and Confessions are concerned, the Rev. Matthew Harrison can only advise and admonish. Whatever might be true of Pres. Seitz’ “three C’s” they are all better than the one he seems to have picked (“Crush”) but in this case the rev. Dr. Lane Seitz appears to be operating w/in his constitutionally legal rights as the CEO of the corporation that is the MNS District. So, if MNS has every legal right to sell the LC-MS Chapel on my alma mater, and use the proceeds to fund other district “ministries,” I’m afraid the best we can ask Pr. Harrison for is to be “St. Paul” to Dr. Seitz’ “Philemon.”

    As Onesimus was a runaway slave, Philemon had every legal right to have the letters “FUG” branded on his forehead, painfully marking him forever as a disloyal servant, and a flight risk. He had the legal right to beat him, the legal right to sell him to recoup his lost labor costs, and even the legal right to kill him outright. Paul did not contest Philemon’s legal rights, but still he wrote: “though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.”

    That’s what we want Pr. Harrison to do. First privately, and then, if necessary, publically, because as Onesimus was a blessing to St. Paul, the University Lutheran Chapel has been a blessing to generations of our synod’s young men and women. It has served them not only as a place of worship, but a place of refuge and comfort in a large and anti-Christian environment; forming and maturing their faith. Though today ULC costs nothing to either MN district, it still stands as the tangible symbol of the value which both Minnesota Districts have put on their children’s spiritual life and formation. Generations of Minnesota Lutherans have said: our children are worth the expense of this beautiful and functional place of worship.

    There have been open and heated disagreements between the congregation on the Minneapolis campus and the MNS leadership. Like Onesimus to Philemon, ULC has been at times, a source of frustration to Dr. Seitz, and I am sure that a lot of good work could be done with $3.2 million. But, as a permanent solution to a temporary problem, selling this Chapel would be as morally wrong and spiritually scarring to everyone involved, as Philemon killing his brother Onesimus. Sounds like the ULC and MNS DP need a Biblical model for how to resolve conflicts.

  10. @Old Time St. John’s #12

    @Noreen Linke #13

    @Former Anglican #14
    I’ve written to Pastor Harrison, and Pastor Fondow, and here are my assumptions (they may be “best construction,” but I don’t consider them “Pollyanna”):
    1) Pastor Harrison is aware of the situation, and knows all the players better than I do. He will do whatever he realistically thinks might help (but a few more letters couldn’t hurt.)
    2) The LC-MS SP couldn’t act publically to stop an LC-MS DP from ordaining their golden retriever w/out being accused of acting like the Pope in Rome. He’s got to pick his public fights carefully: the important question I can’t answer is “how do we get him to pick MNS vs. ULC?” (Anyone?)
    3) Dr. Seitz is convinced that he is right, and that the pottage for which he’s trading his birthright is very important pottage, and nothing I write will convince him of his error on this issue.

    That’s why I like this thread so much though. By focusing on Dr. Seitz’ own words in the MNS LW insert, we can very truthfully say “even if you are right, and ULC is wrong; what we’ve got here is not just a business matter, it is a genuine conflict with the potential to deeply hurt many real Christians, and drive away the very students you are trying to reach. What you wrote Dr. Seitz is correct: in the church, conflicts should be resolved in a God-pleasing way. Please prayerfully consider getting w/ your BOD, stepping back from the brink, and trying one or more of your three Cs.”

    I’m suggesting we write those letters to Dr. Seitz, and send them in w/ a copy of his own comments on conflict resolution, but I’m open to other suggestions.

    Pax Christi+,
    Matt Mills

  11. Dr. Seitz is convinced that he is right, and that the pottage for which he’s trading his birthright is very important pottage, and nothing I write will convince him of his error on this issue.

    This is the part that I really, really don’t understand. What makes this SO important to President Seitz? What is behind this unseemly haste, public relations nightmare, and downright unGodly action? There must be something important about this whole situation that I just don’t understand.

  12. @Old Time St. John’s #18
    I could guess, but it wouldn’t be helpful.
    The important point is that this IS important to Dr. Seitz, and I assume it would be a major disappointment for him to delay the work for which he wants the $3.2 million. We need to realize that we’re asking him to give up something he sees as God’s work for something he sees as worthless. We’ve both got something we see as gold on one side of the scale, and something we see as dross on the other, but we disagree about which is which. That makes it a church conflict though, and I think couching it in those terms is our best chance to get him to prayerfully reconsider delaying something that he is convinced is both right and proper.
    I’m going to give it a shot, and I ask the rest of the BJS folks to join me.

  13. Have MNS congregations considered sending a letter to the district informing the district that their usual contributions to the district will be going to ULC for the foreseeable future? That is the kind of practical theology that gets a BODs attention.

    +HRC

  14. The important point is that this IS important to Dr. Seitz, and I assume it would be a major disappointment for him to delay the work for which he wants the $3.2 million. We need to realize that we’re asking him to give up something he sees as God’s work for something he sees as worthless. We’ve both got something we see as gold on one side of the scale, and something we see as dross on the other, but we disagree about which is which.

    This is true, but why I am thinking about it is that it’s difficult to discuss something unless you understand the other person’s objectives. A ‘win-win’ is always best, but given MNS’s relative silence on their motives and such, it is hard to know what would constitute a ‘win’, at the most fundamental level, from their perspective.

  15. @Old Time St. John’s #21
    I think you’re right, and that Dr. Seitz would be familiar w/ the “win-win construct.” That is the kind of language most likely to resonate w/ him. Perhaps what we should be saying is: a clear “win” by the district turns into a permanent “lose” and a lot of deeply wounded Christians. To go back to his piece on conflict resolution, the BOD “wins” by pecking the ULC “chick” to death. A “win” by ULC unfortunately delays the BOD’s “win” and that would be a major disappointment for them, but it doesn’t give them a permanent “lose.”

    From their plan, they aren’t going to blow the whole $3.2 million (+ the other proprerty) anyway they want to budget the interest on the $3.2 (conservatively invested.) If they don’t need the whole wad all at once, could they phase in their other campus work over time? Could the pastor of ULC take responsibility for a few of the nearby “unserved” campuses gratis to lower the cost? I don’t know enough to be the negotiator for ULC, but I think there is room here for for something other than the stark Win-lose/pecked to death chick scenario which the MNS BOD has cued up.

    Now here’s the other question, where are all the BJS folks? Have they all run off to vent on a bad situation where they can’t change anything (Benke pt. III) rather than sit down and write some letters that might actually turn this situation around for a Confessional congregation in real trouble? I hope not, but … .

    Pax Christi+,
    Matt Mills

  16. Agreed Matt! You have offered up some really helpful comments. We might also point out to Seitz that being a bad neighbor in a neighborhood that is already unhappy about all the development is not going to help our mission outreach to students or make them warm towards the LCMS…….

    I think someone should start a new thread with this article and have a discussion about how this is not only bad for the Church, but it is bad for the neighborhood. I thought we were supposed to be good neighbors, in so far as it is God-pleasing to do.

    New editorial in the Minnesota Daily:

    There goes the neighborhood
    Development companies are destroying the character of student neighborhoods.

    http://www.mndaily.com/2011/09/27/there-goes-neighborhood

  17. Is this the legacy that the DP wants?
    A legacy of tearing down, rather than building up; of neighborhood unrest; of widespread disgust and suspician; of a ‘done deal’ made in secret and clearly in bad faith with those most effected by it? Really?

    Won’t it haunt him? Can he even imagine hearing ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant,’ about THIS?

  18. @Jason #30
    I would hope that he would. I would hope that any Pastor would care about whether his work is remembered for its service to building God’s kingdom or for tearing it down. I’ll bet that he does care, and what I cannot understand is how he can convince himself that he is doing God’s work in this matter. It’s incomprehensible.

  19. It will be of great help to you, as it has to me, to think of Lane Seitz first as a CEO and then somewhere down the line as a pastor. From my personal dealings with the man, that is how I believe he exercises his office.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.