Steadfast Guest — ULC: Looking Back and Looking Forward though the Eyes of a Layperson

by Douglas Denzler

One month ago I watched my place of worship, University Lutheran Chapel; hold is final service and close its doors forever.   The congregation was forced to leave by an eviction order by the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, its president, and Board of Directors. For almost 13 years this building was the place where I worshiped, got married, and watched my son be baptized.  What had occurred was personal and brought me much disappointment. The District has treated a faithful and strong campus ministry and congregation with complete disregard and disrespect.  In short, we felt betrayed.

 The animosity the District has had for ULC dates back for more than 30 years.  Within those years ULC has been the subject of the district’s scrutiny and attempts to close the chapel.  The reason for this in my belief was theological differences.   Finally at the 2012 district convention a resolution was passed that ULC and MNS District set aside differences, drop lawsuits, and move forward. Only ULC honored the wishes of the convention and vacated our chapel within a week. However, the disrespect and animosity that had been ongoing by the district was ongoing up to the day before the (sale) closing of our building. The day before the closing I witnessed several individuals leaving the building with the kitchen cabinets and countertops.  There was also a gentleman going around with a bucket removing all of the doorknobs from all of the doors.   What was so disappointing was the fact the kitchen cabinets and countertops were designed, shopped for and installed by the congregation.   Although it was requested that we take them with us it was denied only to find out later that the District had given them to someone else.  What purpose does the District have for these or will they blindly stand by and watch these items be destroyed or given to someone else?  For ULC, we now must appeal to the construction company to grant us permission to remove the altar and the stained glass windows. Our requests to take the altar and stained glass have not been denied, but have been put before Doran who now owns the building.  The District argued that they could not give us these on their own because Doran was purchasing the property and these were fixtures.  However, this did not stop the District from removing other fixtures which they wanted to take; their reasoning is dishonest at best.  ULC had also made a request to receive the cornerstone but that request was also denied as the District had decided to take its ownership. One wonders what value the MNS sees in this as they certainly held no regard for ULC’s purpose on campus and what the founding members set out to do.

Through all of this, the District has failed to recognize that they have alienated the Lutheran students of the University of Minnesota by taking away the place where they can come and receive God’s gifts.  I feel they have served only themselves and their own interests rather than reaching out to the men, women, children, and students of ULC in Christian love.  They had even failed to live up to their very own mission statement to be “a unified network of people and congregations actively engaged in the mission of Jesus Christ” based on their actions against ULC and others.

The road ahead for the congregation is still very much unclear at this point.  Even though the congregation has received its $2 million gift from the Minnesota South convention, there are uncertain times ahead such as where the congregation is going to establish herself and funds to pay for a new chapel on campus.  However, in spite of all that has gone on, we are still here and more united as a congregation than ever.     I have no doubt we will persevere.  Pastor Kind has led by example on how to truly live the Christian life by continually underscoring to us that we are to love and pray for our enemies and to keep our focus on Christ. By this example, we have become a closer congregation and he has also guided us through these trials and tribulations.

Mr. Denzler and his family at ULC

As I look back at all that has happened, I recall Pastor Kind’s final sermon at the chapel in which he said “…and as I said before, if we have Christ, we have every good thing. And so our calling is to be faithful, not to worry about the glorious outcome, not to fear the enemies who would destroy us, but to hold tight to Christ and to confess Him before the powers of this world, both within the Church, and outside of the Church.”  I find comfort in these words because it reminds me that Christ will provide for His church and will protect me from those who are out to harm me.


Douglas Denzler has been a member of University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis for almost 13 years.  He lives in Shakopee, MN with his wife Susan and son Jacob.

Associate Editors Note:  With this post we want to remind our readers to keep ULC in your prayers as they deal with the hurts of these past years and also look for a new place to call home.  If God has given you the means, considering also financially supporting ULC as they will need more funding in order to serve the campus of the University of Minnesota.  Click here to donate to ULC.


Steadfast Guest — ULC: Looking Back and Looking Forward though the Eyes of a Layperson — 112 Comments

  1. @Pastor Sehrgutensteinhammershmidterfellenrau #45
    I have been intimately involved with the ULC situation for over a year now and do not recall Doran ever offering ULC worship/storage space in any plan. ULC attempted to contact Doran several times, and one representative of ULC actually did talk to Doran early on. What plan are you referring to that would have accommodated ULC? Which representative of Doran made this offer to which representative of ULC (specifically)? Another development company whose offer was not even considered by MNS had a plan that offered ULC worship/storage/office space. This offer was even for more money than Doran’s offer, but MNS rushed to sign the deal with Doran, wholesale ignoring the offer from the competing company. This action sent a message, and not a complimentary one.

  2. Pastor Sehrgutensteinhammershmidterfellenrau :Doran offered worship space plus storage in the designs (if accepted).

    Please quit repeating that lie. That the MNS district, or anyone else, claims it to be true does not make it so.

    At no time did Doran contact Pastor Kind, any officer of ULC, or even any other member of ULC to make such an offer or anything similar.

    Glen Meints, Pres

  3. @Pastor Sehrgutensteinhammershmidterfellenrau #45
    A full time worker (proven in the field) would have set goals and worked with local congregations for this to prayerfully happen at all 24 campus sites.

    You mean (e.g., Monte Meyer), with a district salary (not what the parish pastor earns on average) could flit around telling parish pastors what to do about campus ministry in their own towns? 24 of them? Twice a year maybe?
    I’m sure they’d be grateful to have yet another sleek district talker on their case!
    If campus ministry can be done by the local congregations, what makes you so sure they aren’t doing it, without another district program writer!?

  4. Pastor Sehrgutensteinhammershmidterfellenrau :Perhaps a ULC member or the pastor can clear it up. What are the real numbers? I don’t want inaccuarcy.

    As I noted in an earlier post, I am concerned with this line of thought and this line of questioning, since it seems only to be directed at ULC, for some reason. (And, Pastor S., I don’t mean just from you.)

    I do not have any historic or family connection with ULC but I have been following the situation there online, increasingly disturbed about it, since the spring of 2011. I have family in Wisconsin, and on a trip to visit them in April of this year was able to fit in a visit ULC for the first time, for a Sunday worship service. The church was quite full. I noticed that the worshipping congregation appears to have mostly a college age/young adult and young married couple demographic. Given that, I have been surprised to read the numbers cited here–neither 10 nor 24 seemed consistent with my admittedly brief observation.

    Since the questions about how many college students are increasingly pressing here in this thread, I checked with ULC and was told that in their report to the MNS district for the spring, 2012 semester, they indicated an average student worship service attendance of 59 students, 80-90% of whom are from the University of Minnesota. They have several worship services and quite a few other student-oriented activities weekly, but this figure is just the number of students in the worship services.

    Additionally, the ULC website includes the following paragraph:
    ‘ULC is the only congregation in the city of Minneapolis that has shown consistent numeric growth (members, attendance & giving).’

    I don’t think that asking about growth or attendance is the best way to assess a congregation, but ULC gives every indication of excelling in these areas as well as in the others that I think are more important.

  5. Helen – it’s amazing how you can toss out invectives with such ease – with no basis in fact or substance. Truly amazing.

    But to be fair – you are only repeating and perpetuating a falsehood which I repeatedly attempted to correct at the highest levels among your friends – and yet they refused to correct the record. So FOR the record – here it goes:

    There was a time that a person in the district asked me about their idea of Campus ministry facilitator. They told me they wanted to restart or plant more campus ministries in Mn South. I listened to their ideas – gave a few of my own (among them was, sending out student interns which would work WITH the local parish pastor to bring students to Word and Sacrament ministry – which was met with HOWLS of derision from your side because it violated their idea of vocation – well, that is, until Rev. Bart Day said essentially the same thing on a KFUO interview – which I have the clip copied).

    After their presentation – and question of whether I may be interested in the position – i asked a simple question – “Would my salary be bumped up with the added work and responsibility?” And this is a direct quote – “Well, do you like your work? There will just be more of it.”

    No salary bump – no cushy office space and leather chair – just me in my same 40 yr old desk and metal chair in my office at the room at the Campus Lutheran Chapel – AKA “Hosanna Highland”.

    Nothing has been mentioned recently. I’m guessing that their plans have been altered after the convention. At this point, I’m planning on just finishing the rest of my contract while contemplating my next vocation.

    I asked for the record to be corrected by your side more than once – but they never, ever changed it. I have worked very hard to keep silent and just go with the flow – considering the source(s). But now it’s time to correct the record, although I doubt it will make any difference. I am so disappointed in how this has all been handled in so many ways.

    For the next 2 1/2 yrs, I am the campus pastor serving the people of Minnesota State – Mankato and surrounding area. My building is in the process of being sold – and I have no idea of what my future holds.

    Monte Meyer
    Campus Pastor – MSU-Mankato

  6. @Monte Meyer #6

    The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17) Blessings on your ministry.

  7. Pastor Ted Crandall :
    @Monte Meyer #6
    Exactly what part of what Helen wrote is “repeating and perpetuating a falsehood”?

    Technically, none that I can see. However, the inference is made that Rev. Meyer supported the MNS plan that has resulted in the incipient destruction of ULC’s chapel in order to gain a salary bump, so I understand why he takes offense to the post. I doubt that anything would have turned out differently for ULC if he had stormed out of the meeting he describes. If the board’s plan had been adopted, his current call would have been eliminated, so I can understand why he’d consider the alternative position being floated to him.

    It appears that MNS Board’s actions have damaged Rev. Meyer’s ministry at CLC to Mankato State as well. I appreciate the update on CLC’s status, Rev. Meyer, I’m sorry how this mess has affected your ministry as well as ULC’s.

  8. Steve – thank you, but please don’t put words in my mouth when talking about the MNS BOD. I will not toss them under the bus in any way, shape or form. I have my own opinions on how we got to this position in the first place and there is plenty of blame to go all around – more than you are willing to admit I think. I spoke to Pres. Harrison at the MN South Convention and expressed my opinion to him. He is a very gracious listener, and I appreciated his willingness to hear another side of the story.

    But I think I’m done for now. I said my piece and I’m not willing to dissect each word I’ve printed.


    Monte Meyer

  9. Dear Rev. Meyer-
    From your post it did not sound like CLC or yourself were in a better position as a result of the Board’s decision to sell CLC and ULC. I did not mean to imply that you personally were blaming the Board for this, though I don’t understand who else could be held responsible for the decision to sell. However, I must be missing some point you mean to convey since I don’t understand the part about “plenty of blame to go all around – more than you are willing to admit I think”. Maybe you are referring only to how things turned out for CLC? Or do you mean that some past actions of ULC forced the board to sell their chapel? I have trouble understanding that. I am a ULC alum, met my wife there and was married at the chapel by Rev. Pless, and am on the same page with their theological and liturgical views, so I admit to being biased to ULC’s side of the story, still I don’t know what blame for the sale I’m not willing to admit to.

    I understand if you don’t want to flesh out your response in this forum, I’m just saying that your last post is very cryptic to one who is willing to try to understand ‘another side of the story’ but has only the MNS Board’s minutes and convention resolution to go by – and those don’t make the Board look like they had any concern for ULC’s ministry.

  10. They took the door knobs and corner stone? Ugg!

    Just can’t resist-

    Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast!
    He took the Who pudding! He took the roast beast!

    He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
    Why, that Grinch even took the last can of Who hash!

    Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
    “Now,” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”

    Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar.
    And the last thing he took was the log for their fire.
    On their walls he left nothing but hooks and some wire.

    And the one speck of food that he left in the house
    Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.

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