No room in the C.U.S. Regenthood

2016_SynodConvention-side2“There’s no room in the ‘hood for you!” That is the message that LC-MS parish pastors, commissioned ministers, stay-at-home-moms, and most laymen might get when they read the qualifications for the Boards of Regents of Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod colleges and universities.

This is an issue that will come up this month, as people consider nominating and being nominated for these regent positions—deadline is October 9th. We have all been alerted to these issues by the LC-MS Secretary (see this link). I am publishing this article, not for the sake of complaining, but to help any of you who are thinking about nominating or being nominated.

Here is what the bylaw says: Persons elected or appointed to a [CUS university or college] board of regents should be knowledgeable regarding the region in which the institution is located and shall demonstrate familiarity and support for the doctrinal positions of the Synod and possess two or more of the following qualifications: theological acumen, an advanced academic degree, experience in higher education administration, administration of complex organizations, finance, law, investments, technology, human resources, facilities management, or fund development. Demonstrated familiarity and support of the institution is a desired quality in the candidate. (LC-MS Bylaw

Similar qualifications are found in bylaw for the Concordia University System (hereafter CUS) Board of Directors. Also to be noted is that four congregations in Montana criticized bylaw in 2013 and proposed an alternate, which was not adopted (see 2013 Convention Workbook, pp. 215-216).

What does this bylaw mean? The term “should” is directive, but not absolute. The term “shall” is absolute. Note that such persons shall possess two or more of these qualifications. If they do not possess two or more of these qualifications, they cannot even be considered by the synod nominating committee. You might possess one of those qualifications, but not many of us possess “two or more.” What do these qualifications really mean?

Here is my take on the terms, which will probably have to be defined by someone official like the Commission on Constitutional Matters (aka CCM).

“Theological acumen” seems to ask for something more than what most LC-MS pastors possess. They all have theological competence. All those who have the M.Div. certainly have that. But “acumen” in the dictionary is defined as “quickness and accuracy of judgment; keenness of insight.” And you have to be able to demonstrate this too. So I think that this qualification would only be demonstrated by those who possess a S.T.M., Th.M., or Ph.D. in theology; OR who have demonstrated their “keenness of insight” by writing brilliant posts on their blogs, on Brothers of John the Steadfast, or an article in some peer-reviewed journal. I can think of many lay and clergy authors here at Brothers of John the Steadfast who have demonstrated this attribute.

“Advanced academic degree” means something more than a B.A. or B.S. Lots of folks have this, but many folks qualified in other areas don’t have it. I know plenty of folks who have “worked their way up the ladder” without any college degree, and who are brilliant in administration, finance, investments, technology, human resources, management, facilities, or fund development. This is part of what makes America great, namely, that you can succeed without jumping through all the hoops put up by the academic community. Steve Jobs wouldn’t possess this quality, because he didn’t even graduate from college, attending only one year at Reed College.

“Experience in higher education administration” is obvious, I think. Only persons who have been college or seminary presidents, vice-presidents, or deans of some sort, would qualify here.

“Administration of complex organizations” is not obvious. As to position, it seems to mean a president, vice-president, or treasurer/comptroller. Most non-profit organizations are not complex, though the work can be very frustrating. Complex organizations are almost all larger ones, like universities, that regularly have to deal in multiple dimensions such as: finance, law of all sorts, government regulations, investments, revenue development, marketing, distribution, computerized technology, corporate structure and management, personnel issues, labor disputes, facilities, property, equipment, maintenance, etc. Our LC-MS school principals have to deal with some of these issues, but not all of them to the same degree found in a university or a public, for-profit corporation. Our LC-MS pastors rarely have to deal with these issues, unless they are legally-vested as CEOs of a huge mega-church.

“Finance” would include corporate treasurers, bank directors, bank executives, the equivalent at credit unions and savings-and-loans, and C.P.A.s, but not clerks or other lower-level managers at banks or credit unions. “Law” would include attorneys and judges, but not paralegal or legal staff. “Investments” would include certified brokers and C.F.P.s, but not your average insurance salesman. “Technology,” I think, would mean Information Technology managers, but not mere programmers or technicians.

“Human resources” would mean managers of personnel departments, not staff in those departments. “Facilities management” means the person that hires and supervises other people to do maintenance and repair. “Fund development” means professional fund-raisers, such as employed by large non-profits and universities.

Where did this bylaw come from? It was first proposed by the now-extinct Board for University Education and the Concordia University (hereafter CU) regents at Portland, Saint Paul, and Austin (see 2010 Convention Workbook, pp. 202-203). It was adopted as Resolution 5-09B in 2010 (see 2010 Convention Proceedings, pp. 138-139). It was further refined, and added to the qualifications for the CUS Board of Directors, through an overture from the CUS Board of Directors, LCMS Board of Directors, and CU regents at Austin, Saint Paul, Nebraska, and Irvine (see 2013 Convention Workbook, pp. 208-215). It was adopted as Resolution 5-05B in 2013 (see 2013 Convention Proceedings, pp. 140-145).

Lots of questions arise: Why was this bylaw necessary? Did the Synod Nominating Committee in the past fail to put such people on the ballot? Did the convention fail to elect them? Did synod members fail to nominate them? Don’t we already hire people with such qualifications to do all these jobs at our colleges and universities, and to bring their expertise to the board when needed?

If our universities need these qualifications, don’t our seminaries also need them? Don’t both of our mission boards also need them? Don’t all of our synod-wide corporate entities—CPS, LCEF, CHI, CPH, LC-MS Foundation—also need them? Doesn’t our LC-MS Board of Directors, of all boards, also need these qualifications? Why not make these qualifications universal and absolute for all boards in the synod and districts?

I have one possible answer to these questions. These qualifications describe people who usually have money, lots of it. Among synod boards, only the universities ask for donations from their board members. If you have never served on a university or college board of regents, you may not realize that our college and university presidents, and their fund development directors, regularly impress upon their regents their obligation to give lots of money to the university that they serve.

Talk to any person who has been a university or college regent in the last thirty years, and they will confirm that they are “shamed” into giving. Of course, our pastors and teachers rarely have much to offer when it comes to their financial gifts, but even they are “shamed” into giving more than they can afford. I have heard many complaints about this over the years by pastors and teachers who have served as regents. Whether or not this is good or bad, you can judge and debate, but this is what happens.

Who is going to be eligible to serve? Your average LC-MS pastor who has an M.Div., but only that, will not be eligible. Very few of our commissioned ministers will be eligible—maybe a few principals of our biggest high schools and elementary schools, but that is about it. I am thinking that most public school teachers, government officials, surgeons, doctors, dentists, nurses, farmers, sole proprietors, LWML presidents, and self-employed professionals will also be excluded, as well as many other professions. In fact, most of the people who were in previous years’ Biographical Synopses would not be eligible, at least according to the data in those books.

Therefore, this article is a bit of encouragement, for you who are reading this, to seek out folks who are eligible according to these stated qualifications, and who are willing to give donations to the university they might serve. Get their permission, their information, and send in those forms before the deadline of October 9th, 2015.

As to whether these qualifications are wise or good, I will let the Brothers of John the Steadfast debate that. Maybe some smart guy or gal can cook up a good overture to revise these bylaws, and get it to the Secretary’s office before the February 1st, 2016 early deadline. I have already submitted four overtures to my own congregation on other issues, so I am not going to ask them to do one on this issue.

I personally think that, at the minimum, different qualifications should apply to pastors and commissioned ministers than those that apply to laymen for the regents and CUS positions. I personally think that too many of these qualifications are too vague, and that one absolute “shall have” qualification should be sufficient for a layman. Sometimes the most qualified people have only one demonstrated skill, but in that area they are true masters—and have been rewarded amply for it by society with position, wealth, and other benefits.

As for me, personally, I am not an elitist. I don’t think all the wisdom in the world is to be found in those who have all the money, or who have captured all the choice positions in business and society. I believe that Leviticus 19:15 applies to Christians today: “Do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great.” James repeats this admonition against favoritism with his exposition of that theme in James 2:1-9.

We certainly need the talents expressed by the absolute “shall have” qualifications in the bylaw I have analyzed, but we may not need all of them in our university regent members. And I think we can do this without excluding others who have so much to contribute from the talents our Lord has given them (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?

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