What Price do You Put on the Gospel? Minnesota South District Treasurer Encourages Board to Sell the ULC Property, by Pr. Rossow

What price do you put on the Gospel? Apparently the price is three million dollars. We have just learned that the Minnesota South District Treasurer has recommended to the district board of directors that the University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) property be sold for three million dollars to the Doran Construction and Development Company for private purposes.

This is an odd recommendation. The ULC is a thriving parish and campus ministry on the University of Minnesota campus. Why would you eliminate an effective parish in the midst of one of the largest concentrations of Lutheran college students in the country? What price do you put on the Gospel?

The district’s plan to replace the campus ministry is untried and experimental at best. You can read about the haphazard plan on the ULC website where the ULC members have catalogued the endless and experimental efforts to replace the campus pulpit through the years.

This also seems like an odd recommendation since ULC parish and alumni have started a campaign to raise funds to purchase the property from the district. Officials from the District are aware of this plan and have encouraged it. It seems odd that the parish would have to purchase the property from the district since it was Lutherans from Minnesota who raised the funds to purchase the property in the first place, some sixty years ago, and build the beautiful and reverent chapel and adjoining kitchen, hall and Sunday School rooms. At the very least this ought to be a decision for the district convention voters and not the board of directors.

Again this seems like an odd recommendation since the Chapel has been self-sufficient for the last several years. This is not a ministry of the district. This is a parish that the Lutherans of Minnesota created so that there would be an altar and pulpit on the Minnesota campus. It is not subsidized by the District but the District is now stepping in and saying that they want the money that could be generated by selling the altar, the pulpit and the earth that they have sat on for the last couple of generations, where countless people have come to the faith, been edified in the faith and many of whom have gone on to our seminaries and are now passing that same faith on to folks all around the country. What price do you put on the Gospel?

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

What Price do You Put on the Gospel? Minnesota South District Treasurer Encourages Board to Sell the ULC Property, by Pr. Rossow — 162 Comments

  1. If the MN South District is really in so much financial hardship, perhaps they should be trading in their swanky, high-rent office space in a valuable district of Minneapolis rather than “the altar, the pulpit and the earth” that has served the students of Great Minneapolis for the last couple of generations. I echo the words of Pastor Rossow. What price do you put on the Gospel?

  2. Absolutely shameful. You cannot serve both God and Mammon. It appears as though the MN South District may have to grapple with that question and give us an answer soon.

    If MN South District had to vote on it, shouldn’t MN North be included since I think they were originally one district when this all started?

  3. 120,000 people times $25 equals three million dollars. If the district wants to sell it so bad, let’s buy the property. If it’s just about the money, the district shouldn’t care who they sell to and who buys.

    120,000 people is 6% of the LCMS if there are 2 million members.

    Reasonable? Doable? Now that there’s an actual price on it from the District, I think it’s doable.

  4. I know Pastor Kind was trying to raise $1M (with $50 gifts) but wasn’t sure of the time frame. Is the MNSouth so far behind on their bills that they’re fighting off collection calls? What’s the rush?

  5. @Josh Schroeder #4

    I would give something and I don’t even live there. KFUO-FM was lost due to money-oriented theology. The situation at hand affects fewer people but is even more serious. We can’t have lawyers and business people calling the shots in our church and selling things that many people contributed to over the decades.

    I pray this will be stopped.

  6. @Sandra Ostapowich #5
    Boy, those apartments will be great, too bad the Gospel will be nowhere to be found.

    Why have we lost our pride in what God has given us? Our Gospel is the pure Gospel, nothing more, nothing less. Only a few other denominations maintain the same pure Gospel, the rest poison souls with false teachings. If we restored our confidence in the Gospel that God has given to us, it seems like we wouldn’t be so interested in giving up such places as ULC. But hey, if we are just one of many denominations out there and we basically all believe the same thing anyway, leave the sheep wandering the campus of the U of M to the Baptists or Pentecostals or some others who will teach them to despise their baptism..

    If money is the issue for MNS, cut staff, cut administrative costs, sell administrative property, do everything you can before selling altars and pulpits (unless those things which serve the Gospel are not that important).

  7. @Josh Schroeder #6
    Josh. they aren’t interested in giving ULC a chance. That’s the point. They gave a nod to them earlier to try to raise the funds, and now are accelerating everything, which was their plan to start with.

  8. They are doing this in a hurry because they know it is their last gasp. They will all be voted out at the District convention next June, but by then it will be too late for the CONGREGATION at ULC.

  9. Instead, sell the MN South District offices and apply the money to ULC.

    Isn’t it obvious which of the two is actually serving the Gospel?

    It should be equally alarming to wonder what the MN South District office would DO with $3-million if it got its hands on it.

    But circuits and pastoral winkels in the MN South ought to be investigating what recourse they have. Ultimately, even though “outsiders” can and should pledge their support, isn’t it only the people and pastors of MN South who can get things done? I suspect that even the synodical president and the synod’s Board of Directors don’t have any say about it. Even if substantial support is raised, the MN South District probably has the “constitutional” right to do as it pleases . . .

    . . . which makes one wonder whether overtures need to be passed to protect the interest of members of the synod from the bureaucrats of the district (who were elected by the members of the district to serve in the best interests of the district and the Gospel).

    Are there any instances where districts have tried to salvage their budgets by preying on troubled congregations instead of praying for them? Is there any evidence of a bureaucratic mindset that certain congregations are not viable congregations — and that the money gathered from the sale of their property could best be spent elsewhere — especially as in the case with “district property”?

    Are other university chapels around the country set up with the same kind of district charter — and are they vulnerable to similar action in the future? (Anyone remember the St. Louis Seminary’s purchase of the nearby Roman Catholic school? Wasn’t that under the Johnson administration? I haven’t heard about that boondoggle for a while.)

  10. @Sandra Ostapowich #10
    Sandra, I don’t remember exactly other than it is also being sold, but without any controversy because it is largely ineffective and it was not an altar/pulpit ministry. It is also not nearly as valuable. But, as I said, I don’t remember for sure. I have been focusing on ULC efforts heavily.

  11. @Rev. Joel A. Brondos #12
    At the last district convention there was a motion on the floor to basically protect ULC from sale (I hope I am remembering this story correctly) but the delegates were told it wasn’t necessary because the market was down so much that ULC was not in danger of being sold at this time. So, being the obedient and trusting sheep that they were, they didn’t have the vote. This was very foolish……….

  12. The district has been wanting to do this for a very long time and has been waiting for the moment.

  13. My mistake, those plans for the 412 Lofts are not on the same property as ULC – they’re a block over diagonally. It’s still the same developer.

  14. @ Noreen Linke #14

    Underlying the MN South District’s treatment, I believe, is a serious issue about which the members of synod are for the most part ignorant, namely, the standard operating procedures informally endorsed but firmly entrenched in the practices of synodical and district bureaucrats known as the John Carver method of Policy-Based Governance.

    People really ought to investigate this. You might be surprised at how things are done in the name of this form of governance which lends itself so well to the current situation of selling ULC.

    This model of governance basically states that the president or CEO of the organization can do whatever he wants to — unless the board has specifically told him not to. Or in other words, the board sets up certain boundaries via policies — and as long as the administrator doesn’t cross those boundaries, he/she is free to act as he/she deems necessary.

    Now, this may seem to be a good thing, keeping boards from micro-managing the non-profit organization and putting their trust in “the professional” they’ve hired to get the job done. However, it may also provide a lot of wiggle room for administrators to do some things without any real consequences for their actions.

    If you want a positive summary of what the Carver Policy-Based Governance is, check out their website:

    http://www.carvergovernance.com/

    If you want to read critiques of the Carver Policy-Based Governance, check out these sites:

    http://qut.academia.edu/AlanHough/Papers/219148/The_Policy_Governance_model_a_critical_examination

    http://ouroneotacoop.blogspot.com/2009/02/policy-governance-is-system-of.html

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070419135038/http://iog.ca/about_us.asp?pageID=24

    http://policygovernancechandlerchimes.blogspot.com/2007/10/policy-governance-editorial-in-sun-news.html

    http://policygovernancechandlerchimes.blogspot.com/2007/10/evaluation-of-governance-control-in.html

    http://policygovernancechandlerchimes.blogspot.com/2007/10/viability-of-carver-policy-governance.html

    Some members of synod might call into question the propriety of the use of the appropriateness of the Carver Policy-Based Governance system in our synod by submitting overtures to the district or synod conventions — while others may think that the Carver governance model is just fine.

    Personally, if I were the executive director of a synodical board, I would LOVE this policy. But as a former member of a synodical board, I think the members of synod really need to be made aware of how business is being conducted so that they can make informed decisions — and in some cases not be naive at how things get done . . . like selling ULC.

  15. “It was largely ineffective?”

    “It was not an altar/pulpit ministry.”

    Is that right…

    Tell that to the 117 college students who attended our two services this past week.

  16. I feel physically ill by this news. Lord have mercy on the board of directors of this district and may He preserve His church in this congregation.

  17. @Noreen Linke #13

    @Monte Meyer #18

    I would say that CLC helped in my formation as a pastor. I attended CLC under Rev. Matthews and helped plead for it to be continued (rather than shut down) after my freshman year at MSU (now and at that point changed to MSUM). I also had some conversations with the new campus pastor, Rev. Meyer during the next year. I would say that it had an effect upon me, even to this day.

  18. “In 2009 there was a task force formed to study the possibility of selling the Campus Ministry Properties. The task force found that it was not advisable to sell the properties. There were also numerous memorials submitted for consideration at the 2009 MNS District convention concerning the sale of these properties. 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.”
    Neal Breitbarth

    So much for promises…….

  19. If I were an elder or on the council of a church in that district, and this went through, I’d start the process to move the congregation out of that district into one of the non geographical districts. We live in a time where it’s not about what’s right or wrong, but what’s possible to do or convince people to do.

  20. @Monte Meyer #18
    Again Pastor Meyer, my apologies. I would argue that the solution to all of this is not selling off or shutting down any of these campus ministries. It is short-sighted and ill-advised.

  21. @Monte Meyer #18
    My apologies. I would like you to know that I was told that ULC was so full this past Sunday that my daughter and son-in-law (who are members there) couldn’t find a seat. So, we both are in the same boat and I argue that shutting down/selling off effective campus ministries is NOT the answer. It is short-sighted and ill-advised.

  22. Even if CLC or ULC were only two or three students in attendance, they would be serving their intended purpose. The Lord gives the increase, the Holy Spirit is the one who calls and gathers. The effectiveness of any congregation is measured according to its faithfulness to Christ and His teachings, not to its attendance.

  23. Comment deleted because violation of our anonymous posting policy — no valid email address given.

  24. Perhaps this will usher in regime change in the District level? I’m tired of not seriously running good confessional candidates for office at the district level because we feel an incumbent is somehow ‘entitled’ to his current position unless someone is retiring. Use the authority we have in our conventions to vote them out. Just as was done at the last Synod convention.

  25. @Rev. Joel A. Brondos #18

    I despise the Carver model. I kow when my former congregation was looking at visioning (which they did far too often instead of actually trying to do what they already had), this came up, mostly in the obard of elders. I did read the one hard back book. Then when I got to district BOD, part of the info given was a booklet from Carver, like condensed notes.

    So here you are, on a church council or board of directors. Assumably (and foollishly thinking) being elected to what is thought to be the highest govening body, you would find some of the best and brightest, and would want them there for their wisdom and faithfulness. Guess again. Carver models set up the CEO (i.e. pastor, DP) to have almost carte blanche autocratic control. Want to be Berans who tests the spirits? Forget it. Power of the Keys in the congregation? Nope. Congregational polity historically set up by Walther? You get episcapol structure that mimcs the opertations of the Roman Catholic Church.

    SO what do you do when you waste time at a meeting? Go through reports form the programs UNDER the CEO. How do you know if they are accurate? Hard to say, since you are not allowed to micromange, and by implication maybe not even allowed to poke your nise into those direct kind of details. So why bother having board meetings? Because secular corporate law requires them, through constitutions we have submitted.

    We would be better off to stop prostituting secular business models. We are NOT a part of the world, we are only IN the world. We cover our lampstands with its muck and grime, obscuring our light, and I just don’t think God is too happy with that. What we have gotten is maybe a district in financial trouble, cutting its nose off to spite its face. Back when I lived in the Twin Cities. I had friends and have worsipped (more than once) at ULC and CLC. This development makes me want to throw up.

  26. @Paul Faulkner #31

    My anecdotal observation is that in some areas, the ultra-conservative folks(confessional to some here) would rather sit back and complain, than to actively participate in district activities.

  27. @Monster Cable #29 ,

    Do you know of any situation where the shoe has been on the other foot? I cannot think of a single one. What I do know of is countless examples of confessional district presidents being very patient with what you call “missional congregations” (BTW – “missional” is a non sense, made up word), respecting thier autonomy all the while giving the good confession to them.

    So, your critique is misleading, not based in reality and vacuous.

    TR

  28. @Noreen Linke #13

    Reliable sources report that the District Treasurer informed the BOD that due to the poor real estate market in Mankato she recommended NOT selling the CLC property at this time, but waiting until the market improved on that campus… This would imply that CLC could still be on the block.

    Pr Monte Meyer are you able and willing to comment on this report?

    This proposal to sell ULC is a blatant attack upon the church – it is devoid of christian love and compassion. An earlier suggestion from the district leadership that ULC can find other accommodations and would be granted a pittance in assistance from the district is laughable and just points more clearly to this administration’s dislike (maybe even hatred) of ULC and all that it stands for.

    I pray that the board makes the right decision this morning and rejects this proposal, I pray also that the members of the board and the administration see the error of their worship of mammon and seek forgiveness. If they do go ahead with this proposal (which will no doubt take place in executive session – a cowardly, spineless act ), the consequences for this district and the synod at large will be enormous.

    If they do go ahead and choose to sell – will all of you on this site, and others that you know, support the maintenance of ULC and help it found a new physical home – not just by your words but by concrete actions of financial support??? Let us not just talk!!! – Let us show how angry we are and set up ULC once again – free from the shackles of the district and its misguided thinking.

    Pray for ULC, pray for the BOD to do the right thing. Lord preserve Your flock at ULC. Lord have mercy!

  29. This is strictly a guess, and *not* a recommendation, but if the feelings in Minnesota South are as strong as they appear to be here, should the District Board of Directors vote to sell the property, someone will file suit to block the sale.

    At that time, all bets will be off.

  30. @Monte Meyer #19

    Pastor Meyer,

    So are you for selling the congregation’s house of worship at U of Minn. ? Will selling that property help fund your ministry somewhere else? I don’t know you or the circumstances, that’s why I’m asking.

    I understand you do campus ministry at another university in Minnesota (if the google search I did was accurate).

  31. @David Hartung #34

    David Hartung,

    I guess you weren’t at the last Synodical convention or didn’t read the election results.

    It is my observation that often people in “church administration” often act more unethically than the corporate business people they claim to be emulating.

  32. It never ceases to amaze me how enamoured the LCMS is with this business model or that business model. In my years in business I have seen a myriad of business models and methods come and go. If you really want to get a good grasp on what business is really like and the effectiveness of business models and methods there is one book I would recommend. “Conduct Expected” by William Lareau gives the most honest and down to earth look at business.

  33. As I see it the property is essentially held in trust by the Minnesota South District, as a pro forma matter after the division into the Minnesota North and South Districts. This move now by the Minnesota South District is a gross betrayal of that trust and wholly incompatible with the spirit of the original intent.

    It is similar to some denominations where the congregational property is held in trust as a pro forma matter by the national body, such as the Episcoplians, Methodists, and most ELCA congregations. Quite frequently in these denominations there is a similar betrayal of the spirit of that trust and the property is siezed by the denominations, often for crass financial reasons.

    This has been a huge problem in these bodies from which we have been spared in the LCMS because for the most part we do not have local property ostensibly held by the denomination. But sadly there is considerable evidence that some of our leaders would enthusiastically follow suit if we did not have that exception. In those odd circumstances where they have (or in the case of the congregation in Oakland think they should have) some control over valuable properties they habitually see dollar signs and make a beeline for the developers just as quickly as the leaders in those liberal denominations.

    In contrast I attended a meeting recently at a congregation in another district, with valuable property, that was considering closing. I was so proud of the district president. He knows that the district, which is suffering financially, would get the proceeds from the sale of the property. Yet his entire emphasis was on the mission possibilities in their area and finding a way to help the congregation stay open and fulfill that mission. He truly inspired in them that night a new hope and sense of mission. THAT is the kind of spirit and leadership we need! And thankfully on the national level that is the kind of leadership we now have. Sadly the Minnesota South District apparently didn’t get the memo yet that the old strictly business-minded model that was taking over the LCMS has now been replaced by a renewed MISSION-minded model. Maybe they’ll get the message at next year’s district convention.

    Ralph

  34. @Rev. Joel A. Brondos #18 Having been involved with this form at a fairly large congregation in Michigan I can honestly say it is an unmitigated failure. Especially in the area of Pastor as CEO leading to dire consequences if the CEO has no shepherding desires. Of course their will always be budget considerations and leaders will have to make prioritized decisions but the Church Of Christ does not function like a business. WE must be wise with the use of money but never at the exclusion of Word and Sacrament and human contact. In a world of increasingly isolated people we need to be the one place that is different and stop copying every new secular business trend that comes along. BTW many business have given up on PBG because it has been found to be unwieldy and cumbersome and slows down their output and they too have had their share of disconnected CEOs. When I think of the heritage of Gods Word we are blessed with and the trampling it takes under the feet of our leaders it is maddening.

  35. I certainly don’t want the ULC to lose their building. I think that this could have all been prevented of pastors had stopped encouraging their congregations to quit giving to MN South Missions because of some beef they had with the leadership. This is the unintended consequences. Don’t support missions – and all of a sudden – things you actually like are affected.

    It looks like my building (the CLC) has been devalued so much that they are going to wait. I’m fine either way – I’ve seen this handwriting on the wall 10 yrs ago – and have made plans to move on campus if I need. But my situation is different than the ULC in that they have a constituted congregation. But I have my own issues as well – we have a very large campus ministry – we average well over 100 students each week – and we will need to make adjustments as well. But if it can be done – and I think our best years are ahead for both our campus ministries!

    There are lot of churches in MN South who could have prevented this by sending mission money into MN South. It’s too late to start crabbing about it now.

    BTW – Pr. Kind has been very gracious with me – I think we have a good working relationship. We do look at some things differently – but again – he has been nothing but gracious to me. I think you need to be patient and get all the information though – from what I heard – there are some really terrific options for them if they do indeed sell the building. Lu found 3 other places which are near which are very nice – and probably cheaper. If people keep their heads and stop putting the WORST construction on this – I think there is a very good chance that a favorable outcome could indeed happen.

    Let’s pray that God’s presence and peace lead to that conclusion..

    Monte Meyer
    Campus Lutheran Chapel

  36. Every single Minnesota South District officer should be voted out of office ASAP.

    If Minnesota South insists on selling the property, then why not sell it with the stipulation that the developer must build an LCMS campus religious center on the first floor and let the District rent it for $1 per year in perpetuity.

    Who would like to make the following motions at the next LCMS national convention:

    Since LCMS districts are not going away, ALL campus religious centers should be taken away from all districts. Create a new, independent district that comprises campus ministries only. It would report directly to one of the existing missions boards in St. Louis. Higher Things should have a leading role in directing/administering this new district. Regarding property, include a stipulation that campus religious center property cannot be sold unless 100% of the proceeds are used to purchase and/or build a new property in a more desirable location within walking distance of campus.

  37. @Monte Meyer #43
    I understand that regarding budget cuts, districts are forced to make choices. The problem is that districts such as Minnesota South are choosing to kill off Confessional ministries in order to preserve Church Growth garbage.

    Campus ministries should comprise their own district.

  38. Pray tell – what church growth garbage is MN south financing by the sale of the ULC?

    I can’t wait to hear your answer….

  39. http://www.dorancompanies.com/about/community/

    “The Doran Companies and our employees are active in our local communities, at our children™s schools, in many associations and also contribute financially to community projects, causes and charities. This commitment to be involved is something that we encourage as a way to share our talents and resources in an effort to strengthen the fabric of our communities.

    Some examples of our contributions:

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  40. Pastor Tim Rossow :@Monster Cable #29 ,
    What I do know of is countless examples of confessional district presidents being very patient with what you call “missional congregations” (BTW – “missional” is a non sense, made up word), respecting thier autonomy all the while giving the good confession to them.
    TR

    Missional: From the Hebrew MESHUGENAH

    “Mad, crazy, stupid; to go astray, wander.”

  41. Pastor Meyer, the districts campus plan explicitly mentioned the alley as a potential for campus ministry even though its a cottage grove church with no connection to any campus.

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