Concordia University Plan for the Future? A consolidated Concordia?

LCMS_corporate_sealWhat I mention in this article is my opinion and thinking out loud.  It was prompted by the Synod President’s comments after the same-sex marriage decision of the Supreme Court (see his interview with Issues Etc.).  He stated that student loans may become a problem which would greatly affect the Concordia University System.  Here is a way around it I offer as merely a starting idea (which would of course require all sorts of expertise to actually make happen).  I know many people are tied to their colleges and they have served a good purpose in the past, but if we are looking at losing the whole system, it may behoove us to be forward-thinking enough to prepare to sustain something for the good of the church.

Time to disconnect from the government’s provisions (that money comes with strings attached, and we will see them very clearly in the future).  This means likely that we could sustain only one University/Seminary on our own and keep it viable.  The solution then is to sell off/rearrange/reallocate the Concordias.

The trick would be to pick which one to keep.  An obvious suggestion would be Concordia Austin as it resides in a state that has shown itself more protective of religious freedom than others.  Another probable situation would be the Fort Wayne campus, which has room to expand, but also has some stipulations that it reverts back to the original donor if Synod tries to close it down or sell it.  (there would be financial gain from selling Austin).  There are probably other properties with similar arrangements, but I don’t know of them.

The sell off would be interesting.  We have a lot of premium property.  There is a lot of money that could be raised for the support of the new single Concordia University and Seminary.  This would still be in keeping with the purpose of the Concordias because the goal is to have one that is sustainable without government funding.

The rearrangement of staff could also be good.  There have been problems reported from the Concordias in regards to teaching and the need for more Lutheran teachers.  A consolidation of universities into one allows for the “cream of the crop” to become the new faculty.  Imagine a theology faculty built from the best of the two seminaries and Concordias?  Other departments would benefit as well from such a centralization.  The result would be a quality Lutheran education taught by outstanding Lutheran teachers no matter what major.

The reallocation is the biggest question mark for me.  No doubt, many gifts and endowments have been given to the various Concordias.  How they all get moved to the new one is a legal matter I have no expertise over, but someone out there has it, and honestly the point of this article is to get people thinking about how to get “lean and mean” as a Church, starting with one of the areas that will likely be hit first.

Think of other possibilities.  The headquarters for the LCMS could also be housed in this new campus, and the current corporate headquarters could be sold and its proceeds could help support the church’s work in the new place.

The changing landscape of American culture should stir us to forward thinking about how to prepare.  If we wait to react on many of these kind of things, it will be too late.
This is all just ideas.  The Synod Convention is an opportunity for some of these ideas (or others) to be brought forward to be acted on (even if study is necessary as a first step).  Please feel free to comment with ideas about the Concordia Universities below.




Concordia University Plan for the Future? A consolidated Concordia? — 32 Comments

  1. This article raises some good points.

    I think that we would need at least two campusses, though.

    A bigger potential concern than even being disqualified for federal loans would be whether an education at a Concordia would stop being considered a qualification for graduate school or employment. That needs to be thought through very carefully, unless we want to use Concordia only and exclusively for Lutheran church/school worker candidates, which would be unfortunate.

  2. One issue that you didn’t consider in your scenario – travel. Such a place would have to be near a major metropolitan airport with direct flights from around the country, with as much competition as possible to keep costs as low as possible. That isn’t Ft Wayne. It would also be helpful to have the same for international flights, and that certainly isn’t Austin, neither is it St. Louis. Which is why in your daydreaming scenario with current properties Ann Arbor, with plenty of land, 25 miles from Detroit Metro and River Forest, landlocked, with ORD and Midway, (plus the rail options at Union Station) would be at the top of the heap. I would imagine that this was one of the major reasons why the ELCA in their creation in 1988 chose Chicago as their headquarters, right by ORD.

  3. @The Rev. BT Ball #2

    I would imagine that this was one of the major reasons why the ELCA in their creation in 1988 chose Chicago as their headquarters, right by ORD.
    Just yesterday, someone on line described California as “the second worst state, after Illinois”. And they were only discussing politics, not the proximity of Higgins Road.
    Sorry we closed St Johns; now that Kansas has turned toward the confessional side, it might be the best choice. [Too bad we don’t have a school in Wyoming/Montana!]

  4. Helen-
    well I have been a resident of Illinois since 2004, and they sure are right about the politics, freedom and financial aspects of Illinois!

  5. Dear BJS,
    Realistically, the businessman in me says, “draw back, circle the wagons”, the Churchman in me says, “stay in the world”, retreat a bit and keep plugging.

    Being a student at Wheaton College, a very good school, they in one campus are being faced with the world being more hostile to a Christian way of life and teaching.

    Just because you have a few or one campus, it will not be any easier in reality.

  6. Having the headquarters of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod somewhere other than in Missouri has its irony. And maybe there would be a little rumbling at this place if there were such a move.

    “An obvious suggestion would be Concordia Austin as it resides in a state that has shown itself more protective of religious freedom than others.”

    Concordia University-Texas certainly has the land for the headquarters, being located on 339 acres (of which 225 acres is a nature preserve). However being located in a northwest corner of the People’s Socialist Republic of Austin, the LCMS headquarters would be subject to some of the city ordinances promulgated by the leftist-moonbat city council (e.g., stores can’t have plastic bags; pay for paper or bring your own).

    As for flight connections, Austin (while not a hub) has direct flights to England, Germany, Canada and Mexico, and direct connections to major U.S. airports with flights to/from airports throughout the U.S. and the world.

    Oh, and Texas has no state income tax, and Austin gas prices are around $2.35 for regular.

  7. Praise God that we are finally beginning this discussion to prepare for inevitable future persecution of our Confessional Lutheran Church. We must now move forward with these ideas without delay to end our entanglement with all federal and state financial aid services. We should learn from Hillsdale College, Grove City, New St. Andrew College and Seminary, St. Thomas Aquinus College and other independent schools how they have thrived untangled with federal and state money with attached regulations and mandates.

  8. The death of our 10 Concordia Universities has been
    greatly exaggerated. I realize Concordia, Ann Arbor
    is now a satellite of Concordia, Wisconsin. However,
    it is not much of a possibility that the 10 would ever
    shrink to 1.

    President Matthew Harrison is on record saying that the
    LCMS needs two seminaries and that both St. Louis and
    Fort Wayne are doing a good job in preparing pastors.

  9. Pastor Scheer,

    While much of what you say echoes many of my own thoughts from the past, I would think that such a major consolidation of the Concordia would presuppose that we regain some degree of unity in doctrine and practice first. Otherwise, how do we trust the idea of one seminary under the control of a divided synod? The liberals are still trying to close Fort Wayne and consolidate it with St. Louis (think not consolidate, but eliminate). This move would centralize all politics in one, far more easily controlled situation. How would our Synod have faired in the past if we’d only had one seminary at the time of the 74 walk-out? St. Louis today has some pretty questionable practices now, what if there were no other alternative?

    In theory, I agree completely but the other side of the coin may be that there is some safety in numbers. While some of our institutions might fail, others will likely benefit. Personally, I believe our Concordias went the wrong way when they stopped being solely church worker colleges and universities. Graduates from recent years have a much different church worker ethic than back in the days of ministry only orientation.

    One thing is certain, we must get out from under the federal thumb and if that means that some of our Concordia’s go away, then so be it.

  10. Call me the black sheep here, but I sure wish it were possible to learn to be a pastor at a church instead of a seminary.

    It would be cool if the confessional churches could somehow directly give ministerial courses instead of having to go to a centralized seminary. This would be a boon for those unable to travel to a seminary because of money or family situation.

    I know it’s a bit of a pipedream, but in light of what could potentially happen as alluded to by Pastor Harrison, maybe DE-centralization is an option as well.

  11. SCHEER: “How they all get moved to the new one is a legal matter I have no expertise over, but someone out there has it,”

    ME: Not so hard as you might imagine, so long as merging is done properly. The legal doctrine of Cy Pres (pronounced “sigh pray”) would easily be applied to both the existing endowments & likely most “deferred” gifts, like bequests and charitable remainder trusts.

  12. As a parent of a Concordia grad I can state that Concordia Ann Arbor has already divested itself of the Perkins loan money from the government. This took place last year in the middle of her paying back the loan. It was switched from one payment facility to another which is government run, we were told by the payment procurer, because Concordia Wisconsin/Ann Arbor no longer participates with the Perkins loan program. That was a mess and we’ve so far seemed to have lost 2 payments in the transfer. But it is being done. We can and should do without government funds to keep the integrity of our faith based learning institutions. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water though by consolidating those learning institutions that have become liberal in content. Concordia Ann Arbor was a disappointing surprise for my daughter but because she was grounded in the Lutheran faith and doctrines, she was able to navigate the programs and come out a solid Lutheran day school teacher. Unfortunately, not all students come into the program with that background and the college years are a little late to be instilling basic doctrinal views and practices.

  13. @Felicia #14

    What Felicia seems to be saying (and it’s borne out by comments elsewhere) is that there is very little that is Lutheran and worth saving in some of the Concordia’s . [That may date from the time they thought it necessary to be called “universities” (usually dropping “Lutheran”) or the rot may have been there already.

  14. @Carl Vehse #9

    I don’t understand.  I’m a former credit union officer.  Each credit union operates independently under volunteer management.  The credit union employees are paid by the credit union.  Credit unions can easily open up branch offices wherever there are sufficient members in the area.

  15. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I appreciate Pastor Scheer’s post and ideas. There is a lot to “chew on” here.

    We could end up with a situation in the USA where the government is “bound and determined” to close all private schools that do not teach the doctrine that “gay is okay.” But I doubt that is where we are headed.

    The government can justify what it recently did to marriage laws by explaining that it was an expansion of the privileges of marriage to another group who were not served by that institution prior to the new law. No one is attacked in the June 2015 decision, and some are benefitted.

    BUT—If the government were to withhold funding from private schools that do not approve of gay marriage or homosexual behavior, it would actually be an immediate and personal attack on students and their parents—millions of them, not just those in LCMS, Evangelical, or Catholic schools. Jewish, Islamic, Mormon, and Historic Black Colleges would also be affected. No smart politican wants to “go there”!

    How would the government determine whether a particular doctrine of marriage and sexuality, as held by a religiously-affiliated college, was not “kosher”, and on that basis withhold student loans, Pell Grants, Sallie Mae, work study, etc.? It would have to make a theological judgment, which government in the US cannot do, because to do so is to make an “establishment of religion,” admittedly in a negative sense.

    Most private colleges and universities in the US have religious roots, though we might consider the religious commitments of most to be dubious at best in the 21st century. Even Stanford University has a “university chapel,” though is basically Unitarian, as far as I can tell.

    Having said that, the LCMS does seriously need to look at its university system. There is a synodical Task Force that is supposed to be working on this, and is supposed to report to the synod prior to the 2016 convention. I want to see what they come up with, before making any judgments.

    As I have said before, if we claim to be Lutherans, education at all levels is part and parcel of our commitment. Look at the writings of Luther and look what he actually did in practice. Look at the writings of Walther and what he did in practice. Walther said that we not only need to train pastors and teachers in our schools, but also secular vocations, so that German-Americans are not relegated to the most demeaning tasks in society.

    Primary, secondary, and higher education is in our blood and our heritage. Significant years of training for our pastors, teachers, and deaconesses is also part of what we are as a church. We cannot shirk these tasks, though they be costly for all involved. If we lose our schools, we lose our churches. It is as simple as that.

    That doesn’t mean that all of our LCMS colleges are operating at efficiency levels, that we need ten schools scattered unevenly around the country, that we need every program or degree that they offer, or that they are affordable to those who need the church-worker training they offer.

    Liquidation of a campus is always a huge capital loss, unless another group seeking identical use is ready to buy. This is called a “sunk cost” that cannot be recovered. If private colleges are going out of business because of government interference or threats to withhold funds, then everybody will be selling, it will be a “fire sale,” and a huge loss for everyone. Better to sell when everything is flourishing in private academia, not when things are at their worst.

    The CUS system was “sold” to the synod with the promise that its managers would work on and succeed in establishing a big endowment for all the schools. As our current LCMS Treasurer reported, I think last year, this key promise has never been fulfilled. Colleges cannot operate today without big endowments. As a result, our biggest challenge is not the U.S. government, but the U.S. dollar and the lack thereof.

    As to the seminaries, our forefathers were smart to have two of them. The Bible says “iron sharpens iron.” Small schools like seminaries tend to have group-think, controlled by their president or a leading theologian. How can there be real “peer review” if you have to “get along” by favorably reviewing your colleagues’ work?

    For example, in the LCMS, look at the book reviews at either CJ or CTQ, when faculty members review the work of their own seminary colleagues. Hardly a critical word is ever spoken–because they have to live and work with those colleagues. But when CJ looks at CTQ, or vice versa, the critical judgment comes out. This is good, and this is a Lutheran way of doing theology in the church.

    Both the ELS and the WELS are handicapped by having only one seminary each–and little or no criticism is allowed within each faculty–although plenty is directed toward LCMS theologians. 🙂 We probably deserve it too! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Sorry I won’t be able to continue this discussion past Monday evening, due to heading out of town. Thanks to Pastor Scheer for initiating it.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  16. The state and federal government financial assistance in the form of grants and federal subsidies of student loans are provided to everyone without sexual discrimination. Government agencies watch the minority groups such as LGBT people have no only access to financial benefits but the right to promote their sexuality with freedom of speech. What if gay students demand gay professors along with restrictions on “hate” speech that is critical of sexual advocacy even if the “hate” speech comes from a sermon quoting the Bible. Any school attempt to limit the rights of students for religious reasons will mean a lawsuit for the school.

  17. Dear Mr. Placer,

    I am not afraid of lawsuits, are you?

    Christians have been placed under much greater duress than mere lawsuits in the course of their history. Personally, I was threatened with expulsion from the synod in the past, and some people tried to accomplish that, including Waldo Werning. Others were successful in firing me from CHI, with great financial loss to my family, since I was unable to find any work for a year at the beginning of the great recession, and I had to sell my house at a big loss in the same period. I have already paid with my “skin.” So what?

    I am not one to pick a fight, as many people know. I have “turned the other cheek” when personally attacked by members of my own synod. In the same way, I have no desire to be in conflict with any group or individuals in our society. I will give LGBT people their “dignity,” and will refuse to demean them as persons. I have never demeaned anyone intentionally, so why should I do that now? I do feel sorry for LGBT people, because they lack the blessings of a properly ordered marriage. At the proper time and place, I will also teach what the Scriptures teach about homosexual behavior, as I must do as a Christian preacher in my synod.

    The Supreme Court decision did not approve of lawsuits for the things you describe. It only “extended the marriage franchise.” The LGBT people may think that they can inflict their particular moral doctrine on other people, but a couple of lost lawsuits will prove otherwise.

    The LCMS has been in court before in order to protect its parochial schools. See the cases in Wayne Schmidt, “The Lutheran Parochial School” (Saint Louis: Concordia Seminary Press). If we have to go to court, then that is what we will have to do to protect our own rights as religious organizations.

    In this task, we would not be alone–you can be sure of that. It will be “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” along with conservative Lutherans, other conservative Protestants, Amish, Methodists, Pentecostals, African-American Baptists, COGICs, orthodox Jews, Islamic, Mormons, etc.

    By the way, President Harrison has done a superb job in this area of representing our synod’s interests before the government. I am thinking of the congressional proceedings regarding the Affordable Care Act and its abortion provisions. He is just the right guy to be president for this time in our synod–and it looks like we will need his talents in this area for a long time.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  18. It is time to consolidate, there’s no doubt about that. Our colleges have increasingly emphasized secular education, and we have fewer church work students than in the past. Considering changes in the laws of the USA, now is the time rather than wait. But I doubt that it will happen, in spite of the fact that our Synod shrinks significantly year after year, and there’s little doubt that this will continue. A Synod that will likely be around a million in 20 years doesn’t need 10 colleges.

  19. I am very sorry Pastor Noland about your financial losses and suffering especially when they come from the institutional church. The issue before us that remains unsettled is how will the Supreme Court’s newly discovered right to same sex marriage in all 50 states be reconciled with First Amendment rights? Our Concordia Colleges and Universities participate in state and federal grants and guaranteed student loans so our schools are not allowed to discriminate against LGBT people not only in the packaging of financial aid but in school policy toward LGBT rights on campus. Does that mean our schools must support gay weddings on campus, gay student clubs and advocacy no matter what our claim as a religious affiliated school? Notre Dame had to comply with equality under financial aid law Title 9 by allowing a school funded gay club. Notre Dame officials said that such a club would be contrary to Catholic teaching but at the same time the school supported student Jewish and Muslim clubs whose doctrines about the deity of Christ reject Catholic doctrine. I do not know how the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage will play out against our First Amendment rights but whoever pays the piper calls the tune. If Hillsdale College, Grove City College and other religious schools can thrive apart from government subsidy then we must learn from them how to do the same.

  20. I think this type of sentiment is both ill informed and dangerous. As an occasional reader of this website I get the sense that most of you don’t actually have first hand experience in dealing with the CUS directly. You “hear” things and you “feel” things, but very rarely do you actually produce any credible proof of your claims. It is both anecdotal and alarmist. CUS schools have the opportunity to share Christ and do so. My “sense” of this sort of response is you don’t really buy into Luther’s ideas on vocation, that you don’t really see the validity of a career or a pursuit that is not church work related. But that is just my sense. Perhaps I, too, have had a knee jerk reaction. Maybe my suggestion would be that we start selling off all those struggling churches. Many of them are in prime locations and that money help the synod. We could consolidate our congregations and then the pastors who were in small and struggling churches could be reassigned to something where they’d be more successful. But you know, that might be too much. Might be a bit of the baby with the bathwater.

  21. @Tag Henderson #22

    Thanks for the comment. You realize that congregational property is not owned by the synod right? It may be necessary to consolidate congregations at some point, but it is not synods job. The universities on the other hand are synods property and business.

    I haven’t counted how many times in the OP that I mentioned this is a think piece to try to get ahead of things. Never meant to figure all of it out. Church workers should be the first priority not because of vocational confusion but that we have nowhere else to train them, while any good university combined with a great campus ministry can train almost every other vocation.

  22. I have not read all of this but I’m surprised to see a confessional pastor suggest throwing out Concordia Nebraska for Texas. A lot of trouble comes from Texas, honestly.

  23. “A lot of trouble comes from Texas, honestly.”

    And it’s past time, that such trouble, if still unrepentant, should be suspended and booted out of membership in the Missouri Synod.

  24. @Felicia #14

    > Concordia Ann Arbor has already divested itself of the Perkins loan money from the government.

    In our case the “Perkins” (subsidized) loan is a smaller component of the payment package.

    Why would UNSUBSIDIZED loans be hard to replace (from non-government sources)?

    Whatever it takes to tell the Fed Gov to take a hike is what will be needed.

  25. The best philosophy I have been taught on this, interestingly enough, came from a professor at a secular U. He happened to be Methodist, but otherwise brilliant. He was correct in his ed philosophy, if not his theology. He said education has intrinsic value, and that turning the American education system, K-12/college/university into job training/career training was a mistake. This seems to be in keeping with the classical education model, of which I am a proponent, but not a beneficiary. Concordia as well as the ‘Lutheran’ High Schools need to teach Lutheranism, i.e., theology, biblical languages, church music, liturgics, etc., and maybe some teacher credentialing/certification requirements in the classical subjects.
    If a student wishes to gain career training, he would be better off attending city college, and getting himself to Church AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE.
    As for consolidation and locations, I think focusing on priorities would produce a down-sizing. Then sell off the under utilized real estate and send the liberal teachers DTR (down the road) or offer them ‘retraining’.
    Some of the better faculty is very much needed at the K-12 level.
    A house cleaning (reformation) is LONG overdue.

  26. @ mbw #27
    > MO synod barely elected Harrison in 2010. Lukewarm.

    Being a voting member at the 2010 convention, I remember it a little different. Having a sitting President who was up for re-election, Pres. Harrison was elected on first ballot which has never been done before.

    On July 13, 2010, Kieschnick was defeated for re-election by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison. The vote was 643 to 527 (54.9% of ballots cast).

  27. @St Stephen #28

    “If a student wishes to gain career training, he would be better off attending city college,”
    Other than this statement, I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I attended a community college as an older adult, and my experience was that they spend the first year or more (re)teaching high school to a large percentage of the students. It was appalling to see the scholarship monies being squandered. A professor that I befriended agreed. Many of these kids were taking elementary math!
    I would say that a vocational institute that specializes in training specific to a field of employment would be a better use of funds. I would also love to see the apprenticeships of old return. Of course, the trade unions would have to get on board with that or be stripped of their power.
    The Concordias and our primary/secondary schools should be teaching Lutheran education, which IS classical!

  28. @helen #30

    2001 Jerry Kieshnick 50.8% on 4th ballot, even though Dean Wenthe led first 3 ballots.

    2004 Kieshnick 52.8% on 1st ballot, against 3 conservatives and eventual 1st VP Bill Diekelman. Liberal sweep because of poor picked-on Dave Benke.

    2007 Kieshnick 52.3% on 1st ballot, against 3 conservatives and Diekelman again.

    2010 Matt Harrison 54.3% on 1st ballot, against Kieshnick and 3 barely-got-any-votes conservatives.

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