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.
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.