A Small Window to Save the Concordias and LCMS Seminaries

The defeat of Hillary Clinton in this year’s Presidential Election temporarily removes the target on the Concordia University System (CUS) and the two Synod seminaries. Whilst we no longer face an emergency from a capricious Title IX assault, the reprieve may only last four to eight years. That said, we should not discount Donald Trump falling in line with the current zeitgeist. The Synod has an urgent task to finalize the rationalization of its higher education assets before 2020.

This is what we know:

  1. The LCMS continues its multi-generational decline in membership and attendance.
  2. LCMS funding continues to shrink as a corollary of membership attrition.
  3. America is increasingly hostile to religious liberty.
  4. Tertiary education institutions are vulnerable to social engineering when they depend on federal funds in the form of direct grants or indirect student loans.
  5. CUS and Seminary tuition has paced national trends resulting in more indebted graduates.
  6. CUS is admitting more non-Lutherans and non-LCMS Lutherans in order to maintain viability.
  7. CUS no longer primarily graduates church workers to serve the Synod and Christ’s Church, despite the Synod’s mandate.
  8. There is little uniformity between the Concordias when measured by acceptance standards, graduation rates, and courses offered.
  9. The LCMS has abandoned doctrinal control over CUS.
  10. The LCMS is expected to subsidize and underwrite CUS.
  11. Alternate track routes to ordination are undermining residential seminary training.
  12. A rising number of LCMS congregations are unable to support fully trained pastors.
  13. Residential pastoral training and formation enrollment is low.
  14. Significant theological differences exist between the two seminaries, and these are reflected in their graduates.
  15. Synod higher education is grossly overcapitalized by several measures.
  16. The status quo is untenable.

 

The decision tree for what to do for the best outcome is quite simple (see diagram below – click to enlarge it). Some of the individual components are certainly complex, but the decision flow provides some clarity on what is needed. It will take great skill and leadership to carve through the vested interests at each current institution.

  1. A national university with an attached seminary would be the most sustainable long-term solution.
  2. A new institution should reject all Federal funds and federal student loans in the tradition of Hillsdale College and Grove City College.
  3. Full-time undergraduate enrollment of at least 3,000 students should provide efficiencies and economies of scale.
  4. Detachment from LCMS headquarters will be mutually beneficial, but the new institution must be wrapped in tight doctrinal supervision.
  5. All faculty and students would be contractually bound to abide by the teachings of the Synod.
  6. A policy of preferential hiring of LCMS members as faculty should be imposed in the tradition of Calvin College, which has never been at risk of losing its accreditation for its denominational-based hiring practices.
  7. The LCMS has the capacity to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for an endowment by selling some of the Concordias and both Seminaries as viable businesses or selling them for development, and / or asset stripping them.
  8. The campus of Concordia University Texas has the most potential for a national university and seminary and comes with an existing development plan that can be modified. CUT faculty would be required to reapply for their positions in competition with all other CUS faculty. CUT must be detached from all influence of the Texas District.
  9. A new institution should have a primary mission and mandate to graduate church workers.
  10. Church workers should be offered subsidized tuition worth 80% of a four-year degree, with the balance provided via private funds and loans. In exchange for the subsidy, church workers would commit to working for the Synod in paid employment for 5 consecutive years, failing which the subsidy would be converted to a pro-rated loan for repayment over a maximum of 15 years.
  11. M.Div students should receive free tuition provided that they are ordained, and remain rostered for 12 consecutive years.
  12. Alternate tracks to ordination should be ended except for the most exceptional circumstances.

CUS Reorganization

 


Comments

A Small Window to Save the Concordias and LCMS Seminaries — 47 Comments

  1. Just curious, upon what information are your statements about the current status of CUS schools based, how did you reach the conclusions you did, and what makes you think that none of the CUS schools are already upholding doctrinal supervision of those institutions and giving preferential hiring to LCMS members?

    Btw, the Title IX threats have not been eliminated with the defeat of Clinton for the presidency. The one facing Irvine has been through state legislation, not federal.

  2. @Sandra Ostapowich #1

    1) Information sources: research in preparation for our daughter choosing a college next year. For example, see //steadfastlutherans.org/2016/06/short-term-trends-in-the-concordia-university-system/

    2) I did not state that “none of the CUS Schools are…” I said that the Synod has abandoned doctrinal supervision, which works itself out in Pride clubs, hiring pagans, gender studies courses denying the order of creation, conferences / events that are anti-Confessional, open communion at chapel, hosting false teachers, and so on.

    3) Hiring – Again, I did not state that the CUS Schools do not hire preferentially. I said that it should be a hard policy in future. I am aware of instances where qualified LCMS members have sought employment at CUS Schools, but have been displaced by non-members.

    4) Agreed on Title IX, but we can agree that the locomotive force behind the ideology will lessen when the current ideologues leave.

  3. Dear Tim,

    Thanks for your fresh analysis of these issues. I’d recommend to you and BJS bloggers the New York Times Education Section for November 6, 2016. These two in particular:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/education/edlife/college-budgets-affect-your-education-but-its-not-all-bad-news.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feducation&action=click&contentCollection=education&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=9&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

    and here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/06/education/edlife/out-of-state-students-winners-and-losers.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-1&action=click&contentCollection=Education%20Life&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

    These article show how financial pressures are altering the public universities in the USA. States that have budget crises which have affected their higher education systems are losing students to public universities in other states that have had more controlled financial problems, but all schools are having to change their financial structures.

    The Chronicle of Higher Education, which nearly any decent public library has available for its readers, has more and similar data about financial troubles of all schools since the recession, not just the public schools.

    You talk about “rationalization.” That is a worthy goal, but I can tell you from experience that it is only a goal. Like our congregations and schools, our universities have a life of their own with “interests” and persons who will defend their college or alma mater against all change or against any restriction to their freedoms and goals.

    Here is an example of “irrationalization” (greatly simplified): The national corporation of the LC-MS (LCMS, Inc.) accrued an enormous debt in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, which became known as “historic CUS debt.” Its accumulation was caused by constant appeals for support and lines of credit from individual CUS leaders (presidents, CEOs, financial execs, etc.) to the LC-MS Board of Directors and LC-MS Conventions. These credits were never “paid back” by the individual schools, as far as I can tell, but left for the national synod to cover. This was one of the things that led the synod to tell the president at its 2010 convention to cut back operations staff, so that income and revenue could be used to pay down that historic CUS debt. President Harrison came into office with that mandate, reduced staff, and as a result that “historic CUS debt” has been paid down though it still exists in reduced form today.

    In spite of such problems, we not only need schools of higher education for our church-workers, we also need to have universities that are truly Lutheran for producing pious and educated Lutheran laymen who contribute to church and society. C.F.W. Walther was one of our earliest spokesmen in favor of the church supporting Lutheran colleges for Lutheran students in the liberal arts and other non-church-work disciplines.

    The perennial question is always: “What is the best way to do Lutheran liberal arts and other non-church-work education for Lutheran students today?” Higher education keeps changing in this country. If what we do as Lutherans gets too far away from what the rest of public and private schools are doing, our Lutheran graduates will not be respected and will not be able to find work in the areas for which they were trained. I am not saying that we should imitate the public or private schools in the area of their ideological/morality commitments–our differences there are why we have Lutheran schools.

    You should share your ideas with Dr. Dean Wenthe, the president of the Concordia University System. He and his board (i.e., the CUS Board of Directors) has made good progress in the few years that he has been there. An example is the statement of Lutheran principles in education signed by all the CUS presidents, except for Bronxville, which was also adopted at the 2016 convention by the synod.

    There are also two new books by CPH (with input from Wenthe) that address some of the theoretical issues involved: Scott A. Ashmon, ed. The Idea and Practice of a Christian University (St. Louis: CPH, 2015); and Bernard Bull, ed. The Pedagogy of Faith (St Louis: CPH, 2016).

    This week I include in my prayers of thanksgiving, my thanks to God for: 1) my elementary school teachers and youth leaders, who were products of Seward and River Forest; 2) my pastors during my childhood and youth years, who were products of Saint Louis and Springfield seminaries; 3) my professors, staff, and student peers at Concordia Teacher’s College, River Forest and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; 4) and all those at our seminaries and CUS universities who faithfully serve our Lord and his church. Thank you for reminding me to be thankful for what I received from this great cloud of witnesses!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. How do you put a “national university” in Texas and remove Texas District influence!?

    Last time I was told, the numbers of “church workers” being prepared in Texas was around 12-15%. And none of the confessional Lutherans of college age I know will go near the place, or recommend it if they did. [Yes, anecdotes, if you please to call them that.]
    CTX (Austin) is not interested in being a Lutheran school except perhaps the “enthusiast” brand! They dumped a brilliant organist and vocal teacher, because they are committed to guitars. They said, “Nobody wants organ any more”.
    [Two years later UT (Austin) was buying another good organ and providing facilities for increased enrollment.] And Seward has no trouble keeping its organ and choir program filled with students.

  5. I would favor ridding ourselves of the CUS and replacing them with two colleges for the training of church workers, one located at each of our two existing seminaries.

  6. @Martin R. Noland #3 Thank you, Pr. Noland. There is no doubt that the greatest obstacles to transformation will be a) vested interests and emotional ties, b) linear thinking by “experts” who are too close to the institutions themselves and / or are trapped within the bubble of higher ed administration. CUS has indeed made good progress under Dr. Wenthe, and I hope that it accelerates its activities to confront the national and Synodical realities that lie before us. God save our institutions for the good they do.

  7. @helen #4 Texas is certainly a problem for the Enthusiasm that infests the district, and seeps out of it into other Districts through propagation arms like FiveTwo. However, on a purely utilitarian basis, CTX appears to have most promise.

    Theological fumigation will be essential, though.

  8. @Tim Wood #6

    “Vested interests and emotional ties” did not save St John, KS, though some of its graduates mourned the rest of their lives.

    The most important thing is a solidly Lutheran seminary; I wouldn’t want to see CTS, Ft Wayne, moved. Men can get a good undergraduate education at a public university and if they are wise, they will get a second major/degree to fall back on, or have another marketable skill.

    [Seminary throws its confessionals to the wolves; I wish they could/would do something for the men who get mauled! (I’m thinking of you, Fickenshur!)]

  9. “CUS and Seminary tuition has paced national trends resulting in more indebted graduates.”
    Only speaking of my own experiences on a CUS Institution’s Board of Regents, when we approve tuition raises, we never want to be the most expensive in the region, but we also don’t want to be on the bottom of the list either. It is important to stay competitive with other institutions of higher ed for many of the reasons that were pointed out above, and that has a price tag attached to it. We also don’t want to let our facilities get run down and outdated either. As someone who has visited a LOT of college campuses (and stayed in their dorms), honestly, there’s quite a bit to be desired for a lot of our schools.

    “CUS is admitting more non-Lutherans and non-LCMS Lutherans in order to maintain viability.”
    Is this a problem? If non-LCMS students want to learn from an LCMS perspective, should they be turned away until they join an LCMS church because those are the only people we care to educate? I think not. Our Concordia don’t just train pre-sem men and pre-deaconess church workers, they also train teachers and DCEs and the whole alphabet soup — right alongside lay people who want to serve their neighbors through other secular vocations. If the quality and strength of these programs attract non-Lutherans, why would this not be seen as a good thing?

    “CUS no longer primarily graduates church workers to serve the Synod and Christ’s Church, despite the Synod’s mandate.”
    Where is this mandate that CUS schools *primarily* graduate church workers?

    “There is little uniformity between the Concordias when measured by acceptance standards, graduation rates, and courses offered.”
    What kind of uniformity are you expecting? Different regions have different competitive standards with the schools around them. Young people generally don’t go to school terribly far from home, so this is a factor to take into consideration. Have those standards been compared to other regional non-CUS schools? Why would they not be?

    “The LCMS has abandoned doctrinal control over CUS.”
    This is pretty bold statement to make. What is it based upon? Do you have insider knowledge that I do not, as a Regent? I believe representatives from CUS will be at our upcoming meeting, if I’m remembering correctly.

    “The LCMS is expected to subsidize and underwrite CUS.”
    It is? I’ve never seen that included on any financial information in 6+ years of meetings, nor have I ever heard it mentioned in any way that it is going on.

    “A new institution should reject all Federal funds and federal student loans in the tradition of Hillsdale College and Grove City College.”
    How many students do those institutions accept? How much is tuition, room, and board? And how do the students of those institutions fund their educations? It’s all good to be idealistic, but let’s have some pragmatism here too.

    “Full-time undergraduate enrollment of at least 3,000 students should provide efficiencies and economies of scale.”
    What does this even mean? Of scale to what? What makes you think that’s not already going on?

    “Detachment from LCMS headquarters will be mutually beneficial, but the new institution must be wrapped in tight doctrinal supervision.”
    Detachment in what way? Why do you think the current institutions are not wrapped in tight doctrinal supervision?

    “All faculty and students would be contractually bound to abide by the teachings of the Synod.”
    Faculty are not already? I know they are at at least one CUS school. I’m not sure how you would bind students to the teachings of the Synod…that’s not even required of confirmands.

    “A policy of preferential hiring of LCMS members as faculty should be imposed in the tradition of Calvin College, which has never been at risk of losing its accreditation for its denominational-based hiring practices.”
    This isn’t what the CUS schools are already doing? Which institution(s) has claimed to be at risk of losing accreditation for denominational hiring practices?

    “A new institution should have a primary mission and mandate to graduate church workers.”
    Why? Why shouldn’t laity have the opportunity to learn other subjects from a Lutheran perspective? You would relegate all others to institutions of other religions or the secular state schools?

    “Church workers should be offered subsidized tuition worth 80% of a four-year degree, with the balance provided via private funds and loans.”
    AFAIK, students who identify as church worker majors are given a more substantial discount on tuition than other majors.

  10. @Tim Wood #2

    1) Information sources: research in preparation for our daughter choosing a college next year. For example, see //steadfastlutherans.org/2016/06/short-term-trends-in-the-concordia-university-system
    There are a lot of generalizations made in those analyses.

    2) I did not state that “none of the CUS Schools are…” I said that the Synod has abandoned doctrinal supervision, which works itself out in Pride clubs, hiring pagans, gender studies courses denying the order of creation, conferences / events that are anti-Confessional, open communion at chapel, hosting false teachers, and so on.
    It was certainly suggested since it was included in your ideas for the future. It’s a pretty big leap to conclude that because of a couple of isolated situations that have grabbed attention (largely through social media and this website) that the Synod has abandoned doctrinal supervision. What kind of doctrinal supervision did it previously have that it does not now? What would you expect Synodical doctrinal supervision of an entire university to look like?

    3) Hiring – Again, I did not state that the CUS Schools do not hire preferentially. I said that it should be a hard policy in future. I am aware of instances where qualified LCMS members have sought employment at CUS Schools, but have been displaced by non-members.
    It is a hard policy now. All of the CUS Presidents got together, independently of any CUS Board or Synodical involvement, and established guidelines for the minimum percentage of LCMS faculty that would be hired/called to teach. What are the instances you are aware of where qualified LCMS members have sought employment at CUS schools but have been displaced(!) by non-members? First, they can’t be displaced if they weren’t ever hired in the first place. And second, how do you know they were the right fit for the position? Were you on the side of the committees and Board making that decision to know what the actual qualifications beyond the paper CV were? Are you also saying that CUS schools should give preferential treatment for the hiring of staff members too?

    4) Agreed on Title IX, but we can agree that the locomotive force behind the ideology will lessen when the current ideologues leave.
    No, I don’t think the direction of the presidential elections it will lessen those current ideologies one bit.

  11. @Sandra Ostapowich #9

    “Where is this mandate that CUS schools *primarily* graduate church workers?”

    From http://www.cus.edu:

    PURPOSE AND MISSION

    Higher Education: Statement of Purpose (1986 Convention)

    The colleges, universities and seminaries of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod exist to supply the higher education services needed to accomplish the mission of the church.

    Strongly committed to the Lutheran concept of vocation, synodical colleges and universities are liberal arts institutions which provide a Christ-centered spiritual and value-oriented environment for men and women who will be Christians in the church and in secular occupations.

    The objectives of the Synod include the recruitment and education of professional church workers. Therefore, central to the system of synodical higher education is the preparation of those who are called to serve through preaching, teaching and related vocations. Professional preparation for the pastoral ministry is the special assignment of the Synod’s seminaries.

  12. @Dave Scumacher #11

    Yes, absolutely. There are honorable vocations to serve God and neighbor in those fields. A mathematician may be pushed into Business or Accounting without learning ethics other than trying to make as much money as possible. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate the art of Lutheran artists like Ed Riojas and how he incorporates Lutheran theology and symbolism into his at.

    And I’m not sure what you’re talking about, which do not have a Lutheran perspective on theology?

  13. @Sandra Ostapowich #13

    Nobody disputes that. That wasn’t the point. Now, whether, or not it is legitimately the mission of the church to provide higher education for secular vocations; that I would likely dispute with you about.
    Spoiler: It’s not.

  14. @Sandra Ostapowich #9

    What kind of uniformity are you expecting? Different regions have different competitive standards with the schools around them. Young people generally don’t go to school terribly far from home, so this is a factor to take into consideration.

    I don’t know about “generally”; I know one Texas resident who went to Irvine, after looking at several other CUS colleges, even Bronxville. Another, after looking around, went to St Paul, from Texas. (Actually, I know three young Texans who went to St Paul…)

    At the very least, the theological curriculum should be Lutheran and why shouldn’t it be uniform?

  15. @Sandra Ostapowich #9 when we approve tuition raises, we never want to be the most expensive in the region, but we also don’t want to be on the bottom of the list either.

    This seems an arbitrary metric. Surely the primary goal should be to price yourselves to the needs and means of your constituents, and not to submit to peer pressure inflationary budgets? The fact that the CUS Schools are tracking national trends is cause for concern.

    If non-LCMS students want to learn from an LCMS perspective, should they be turned away until they join an LCMS church because those are the only people we care to educate? I think not.

    This is an odd statement. The very tiniest fraction of non-LCMS students choose a Concordia because they want an LCMS perspective. 99.9% are there because it’s the best fit for cash, distance, courses etc.

    Our Concordia don’t just train pre-sem men and pre-deaconess church workers, they also train teachers and DCEs and the whole alphabet soup — right alongside lay people who want to serve their neighbors through other secular vocations. If the quality and strength of these programs attract non-Lutherans, why would this not be seen as a good thing?

    Because CUS is for the LCMS, and it’s the LCMS that carries the risk. Secondly, the attraction of non-LCMS students runs its course as we have witnessed at Valpo.

    What kind of uniformity are you expecting?

    To the doctrines, practice and teachings of the LCMS.

    Different regions have different competitive standards with the schools around them. Young people generally don’t go to school terribly far from home, so this is a factor to take into consideration. Have those standards been compared to other regional non-CUS schools? Why would they not be?

    CUS does not exist to compete with other schools. It exists to serve the LCMS, and owes its establishment, survival, and future to the offering plates filled with the generosity of millions of past and present members. It would be good for the Boards to place that consideration ahead of the worldly competitiveness.

    “The LCMS has abandoned doctrinal control over CUS.”
    This is pretty bold statement to make. What is it based upon? Do you have insider knowledge that I do not, as a Regent? I believe representatives from CUS will be at our upcoming meeting, if I’m remembering correctly.

    If you, as a Regent, are unaware of heterodoxy in the CUS which has not been addressed, then I am unable to help you.

    “The LCMS is expected to subsidize and underwrite CUS.”
    It is? I’ve never seen that included on any financial information in 6+ years of meetings, nor have I ever heard it mentioned in any way that it is going on.

    Are you denying the millions the LCMS has poured into CUS to keep institutions afloat?

    “A new institution should reject all Federal funds and federal student loans in the tradition of Hillsdale College and Grove City College.”
    How many students do those institutions accept? How much is tuition, room, and board? And how do the students of those institutions fund their educations? It’s all good to be idealistic, but let’s have some pragmatism here too.

    Hillsdale is cheaper than nearly all the Concordias, as is Grove City (tuition + board + extras). They both have comparable enrollment to the CUS average.

    Why do you just dismiss it out of hand as idealism and impractical?

    “Full-time undergraduate enrollment of at least 3,000 students should provide efficiencies and economies of scale.”
    What does this even mean? Of scale to what? What makes you think that’s not already going on?

    You don’t understand economies of scale in higher ed?

    “Detachment from LCMS headquarters will be mutually beneficial, but the new institution must be wrapped in tight doctrinal supervision.”
    Detachment in what way?

    Detachment from capture by whichever regime is in power.

    Why do you think the current institutions are not wrapped in tight doctrinal supervision?

    From the evidence.

    I’m not sure how you would bind students to the teachings of the Synod…that’s not even required of confirmands.

    This is obtuseness for the sake of it. We discipline the impenitent, confirmands included. Holding mere students to the same standard would hardly be difficult given that they are signing contracts on admission.

    This isn’t what the CUS schools are already doing? Which institution(s) has claimed to be at risk of losing accreditation for denominational hiring practices?

    It is a perennial claim that if the Synod is “too involved” in hiring decisions, then accreditation will be at risk. It has even been stated from Convention floors.

    “A new institution should have a primary mission and mandate to graduate church workers.”
    Why?

    Because the Concordias were established to serve the LCMS. Just because they indulged in mission creep does not absolve them of their responsibility, if not obligation, to provide church workers to the LCMS who have the requisite vocational and theological training.

    Why shouldn’t laity have the opportunity to learn other subjects from a Lutheran perspective?

    There is no Lutheran perspective of amino acids or structural concrete. The schools should be encouraged to serve every vocation, which would be possible in a national champion, but the primary mission remains unchanged.

    You would relegate all others to institutions of other religions or the secular state schools?

    No, never said that.

    AFAIK, students who identify as church worker majors are given a more substantial discount on tuition than other majors.

    Yes, they do receive tuition supplements and / or breaks. My suggestion is to standardize it and drive toward making it the means to attract great students with a commitment to short-term service.

  16. @Sandra Ostapowich #10

    There are a lot of generalizations made in those analyses.

    And what is wrong with those generalizations?

    It was certainly suggested since it was included in your ideas for the future.

    No, you just jumped to another conclusion.

    It’s a pretty big leap to conclude that because of a couple of isolated situations that have grabbed attention (largely through social media and this website) that the Synod has abandoned doctrinal supervision.

    Again, you’re assuming far too much. How do you know that’s a couple of isolated situations blown up by social media and this web site. What are you talking about on Steadfast that was “blown up”?

    What kind of doctrinal supervision did it previously have that it does not now? What would you expect Synodical doctrinal supervision of an entire university to look like?

    You keep repeating that doctrinal problems at the Concordias are of no concern. Noted.

  17. Mr. Wood, you are welcome to dream for your Lutheran utopian (some may use the term “ghettoized”) higher ed institutions. Maybe they can herd unicorns on the campus as well! 🙂 You have all the answers you desire already, so there is no use wasting my time participating in this conversation any longer.

    However, do NOT assume that I believe doctrinal problems at the Concords are of no concern. Preserving and teaching faithful Lutheran doctrine at the Concordia I serve is always a top priority. I do not hesitate to express my concerns in conversations online, and I certainly do not hesitate to do so in the board room either.

  18. The problem and solution are both obvious. Discount money. Take money out of the picture. Yes, the church needs to support its servants, but at the same time the servants are obligated by the call they have from God to work without money. This last part is the most neglected. Pastors, profs, and church workers today are unwilling to suffer for the gospel like Paul, or the other Apostles. They always fear that if they do not say or do the right thing, the church politic will come down on them and release them from their call, fire them, or not pay them. OK. But this does not change the actual call from God to speak, preach, and teach, the true doctrine. The church politic, continues to trim around the edges any that seem to get out of line from its goals. This is why the Politic tree is always trimmed to fit the church politics desires. This is not necessarily the goal of Christ or in line with Matt 28, to teach all things whatsoever He commanded. Thus when these things are not taught He is also not with them. The church of Christ does not grow with out the proper teaching of law and gospel, yes both law and gospel. The righteousness demanded by God in the law, is the very righteousness given by God in the gospel. When teachers add or subtract from the law or the gospel for the sake of money, then the church has begun to serve mammon rather than God. Money from the federal government has become the prevailing interest. This money comes in, in large part due to the increase in courses and degrees offered which can be used to collect the money. The love of money takes on a higher value than the love of the gospel. After all a university with 5000 kids studying a high number of subjects costing $25,000 – $30,000 a year can then justify highly paid Concordia presidents, secretaries, and department heads. But now the total objective reason for the existence of the University system becomes diluted, unless of course, Religious study is mandated and moral living on campus obligatory. Some may question the word, ‘obligatory’, however at the university, the university is placed in the position of parent. There, in that position, it must be demanded that certain moral codes be followed. A person needs to be obligated to attend chapel. This is not moralistic, pietistic, or any other istic, or ism. It is simply the roll of the Christian parent. This must be done regardless of the loss of the student and therefore his/her money. This has everything to do though with the desire of the synod, college boards, and/or administrators to follow through, and be the parent. Yes, sometimes even a pastor may have to discipline a confirmation student in the roll of parent, so yes college profs may need to as well. But now, money is our guide. We can not live without the federal aid. We can not live without the big salaries. We can not live without loving the world from which we are to be divorced from. We still have the law and gospel. Let us hold to it, forgiving the sins of the penitent, and not forgiving the impenitent as long as they do not repent.

  19. I think one should also consider some of what Bethany Lutheran College (ELS) in Mankato, Minnesota has done to maintain itself. http://www.blc.edu

    In terms of the left hand kingdom we need to remember to defend private property rights in addition to the the first amendment. The entire Bill of Rights is for Christians as well. The same cultural trends will continue in North America for some time so while the incoming administration may be less aggressive in regard to churches we shouldn’t pretend all is well. I’m eagerly waiting to see what arguments columnist Rod Dreher has in his book on “The Benedict Option.” The recent movements toward a “cashless society” also may have ramifications for churches and church affiliated financial institutions. But I agree that churches and church schools need to get free of left hand kingdom strings as much as possible asap, and think about security.

    https://www.amazon.com/Benedict-Option-Strategy-Christians-Post-Christian/dp/0735213291/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479576562&sr=8-1&keywords=Benedict+Option

    I think what Dr. Wenthe is doing needs to be expanded into visitations to our campuses to reinvigorate a clear confessional Lutheran identity and practice to our schools. We need to get free of debt, free of civil entanglements as much as possible, and make full use of the Bill of Rights to defend the colleges and seminaries and publishing (and other LCMS institutions).

  20. @Sandra Ostapowich #20 You are not welcome to your smug condescenion and default worst constructions. “Ghettoized”. Really? That’s just appalling.

    You have all the answers you desire already, so there is no use wasting my time participating in this conversation any longer.

    You never wanted a conversation. You started your thread with leaping to conclusions, and putting words in my mouth, and never stopped.

    However, do NOT assume that I believe doctrinal problems at the Concords are of no concern. Preserving and teaching faithful Lutheran doctrine at the Concordia I serve is always a top priority. I do not hesitate to express my concerns in conversations online, and I certainly do not hesitate to do so in the board room either.

    This article was not about *you*, or *your* Concordia. This is about all the Concordias serving their original purpose and mission. These are your statements:

    what makes you think that none of the CUS schools are already upholding doctrinal supervision of those institutions

    What is it based upon? Do you have insider knowledge that I do not, as a Regent?

    Why do you think the current institutions are not wrapped in tight doctrinal supervision?

    I’m not sure how you would bind students to the teachings of the Synod…that’s not even required of confirmands.

    It’s a pretty big leap to conclude that because of a couple of isolated situations that have grabbed attention (largely through social media and this website) that the Synod has abandoned doctrinal supervision.[since deleted from Comment #10].

    Your quick dismissal of Hillsdale and Grove City as models, without knowing the facts, says the most. It’s a model our own Synod President has mentioned. I guess he’s just another sectarian chasing unicorns into ghettos.

  21. Herein lies wisdom; the consolidation plan faces the reality of our situation in a post Christian age wherein even our constitutional free exercise of religion is under threat. With the election of Donald Trump and his administration churches faithful to the Word of God have been granted a reprieve for perhaps four to eight years. The enemies of Christ and His people are regrouping and propagandizing the public for the next onslaught designed to close down our schools and seminaries. We have no time to lose and should begin implementation of this consolidation plan that will take four to eight years. The flow chart shows the end game if we say “no” to this plan, secularization and lose of doctrinal control. We must end our dependence upon state and federal subsidies. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune.

  22. @Glenn Niemann #22 LCEF may well have a role, along with every other agency that can contribute to capitalizing a reorganization plan. However, we must avoid the temptation to leverage too much debt for this purpose – the trends for the Synod suggest a hard road ahead where debt financing could become a noose.

    I don’t believe that we can undertake a reorganization of CUS without a parallel reorganization of the Synod. If we are serious about maintaining a Confessional Lutheran identity in our universities, then the same concern needs to apply to the Synod and its agencies.

  23. A lot of this discussion is based on the supposition that the CUS aren’t “Lutheran” or “Lutheran enough” While I’d guess that many BJS readers might hold a similar sentiment, is there a way to quantify this assumption that drives the need for your proposal?

  24. @anon #28

    A lot of this discussion is based on the supposition that the CUS aren’t “Lutheran” or “Lutheran enough” While I’d guess that many BJS readers might hold a similar sentiment, is there a way to quantify this assumption that drives the need for your proposal?

    It’s fairly evident that Portland is not Lutheran; they might fit in the elca. Even Sandra should be able to see that, and probably does.

    My alma mater, [once Lutheran, now elca] purposely holds its enrollment right around 2500 and it’s building and financial aspirations in line with that number. There is no need to be the “biggest”.

    We need the best teachers and pastors…neither of which have ever been the “best paid”. When you start measuring your job by “the money” you are not likely to do your best for the job.

  25. @anon #28

    During the 2013 convention, Resolution 5-01A was passed: “To Encourage Continued Faithful Witness by Concordia University System.” It contains language about the issue of “confessional Lutheran identity in all CUS institutions.” Part of the reason for the resolution stemmed from the President’s report to the Synod, Part 2, “Write proposals that seek to maintain and strengthen the Lutheran identity of our universities…”

    Additional, there were several overtures that led to this resolution, among them one from the Montana District (5-14) “To Require Investigation of Teaching of Evolution in Synod Institutions of Higher Education.”

    This leads me to believe there are some problems in our schools, whether or not they can be or are quantified, Dr. Wenthe might know.

    I remember during the discussion of Res. 5-01A, a delegate stood at the microphone and said that during the 1980’s (when the delegate was a student at one of the CUS schools), they were teaching theistic macro evolution (I believe that is the term that was used). This caused no little stir.

    A day or so later, it was announced that the delegate had met with a district president and CUS official(s) and someone apologized to someone. There is no record of any of this in the final convention proceedings. I went away with the impression that there were some strong arm tactics carried out in one of the back rooms.

    The bottom line is that it is well known in Synod that, at a minimum, the CUS system needs work when it comes to a Lutheran identity.

    Great proposal Tim. I really like your ideas.

    Blessings in Christ Jesus,
    Ginny Valleau

  26. The main problem with all of these articles is that they assume that CUS is one entity when in actuality each institution is separate. Each Concordia has the strengths and weaknesses mentioned to varying degrees. To try to make blanket suggestions without accounting for the extreme differences doesn’t seem to be very helpful. For example, should the staff be required to uphold the teachings of the LCMS? Yes..and the Concordia with which I’m most familiar does, in fact, require employees to sign a rather lengthy statement in addition to their contract affirming their responsibility to uphold the teachings of the LCMS. As to financial concerns…some of the Concordias have severe financial problems and some are financially stable.

    I also completely disagree with the premise that only church work education is important. When I have stated this concern previously, It has been dismissed as different than Lutheran grade schools or high schools because college students are adults. However, the rationale for requiring a code of conduct is that the university “stands in the place of parents”…presumably treating students as children. Again the Concordia I am most familiar with has a much stronger code of conduct than any of the other institutions in the area.

    As a last note, does the synod actually own the Concordias directly? Would it even be legal for the synod to unilaterally sell off the campuses without the approval of the individual institutions? Wouldn’t such a move create so much hostility that the remaining institution(s) would lack the support needed to maintain it?

    Finally, I would like to point out that the WELS university is actually looking to expand their non-church work majors rather than dismissing them as irrelevant. Presumably because these majors often help to finacially support the university in general and the more heavily subsidized church work majors in particular.

  27. @Joya #31

    The main problem with all of these articles is that they assume that CUS is one entity when in actuality each institution is separate.

    The are separate, but not independent. CUS functions as a sort of federation of common interests, but ultimate control and ownership resides with LCMS, Inc.

    Each Concordia has the strengths and weaknesses mentioned to varying degrees. To try to make blanket suggestions without accounting for the extreme differences doesn’t seem to be very helpful.

    Any of the Concordias is a hairs-breadth way from a bad Title IX decision on tuition or sports league participation that would kill them. Irvine is already staring down that barrel.

    The Synod has a fiduciary obligation to sidestep that knowing full well that it is a near and present danger. The situation precludes trying to firewall each institution individually because the Concordias have taken such divergent paths. That is, a parent cannot simply pick the nearest Concordia and expect their child to remain a Lutheran let alone a LCMS Lutheran.

    There are two overriding priorities 1) Preserve a Confessional Lutheran identity 2) Preserve asset and operations value.

    …sign a rather lengthy statement in addition to their contract affirming their responsibility to uphold the teachings of the LCMS.

    However, signing and enforcement are two different things.

    As to financial concerns…some of the Concordias have severe financial problems and some are financially stable.

    One of the options may be to offer the schools a buy-out that lets them become independent of the LCMS; but it won’t be free. Any historical debt and interest would also come to bear. There are dozens of ways to finance such deals.

    I also completely disagree with the premise that only church work education is important.

    Just to be clear – nobody is calling for only a pre-Sem and teacher training college, for example. However, the purpose of LCMS tertiary education is to provide pastors, deaconesses, and church workers.

    A large national institution might well have the ability to compete with other schools on price and quality of teaching in many other vocational pursuits. However, We must be very mindful of ensuring such a school can compete and is not just an outlet for kids with lower grades.

    When I have stated this concern previously, It has been dismissed as different than Lutheran grade schools or high schools because college students are adults. However, the rationale for requiring a code of conduct is that the university “stands in the place of parents”…presumably treating students as children. Again the Concordia I am most familiar with has a much stronger code of conduct than any of the other institutions in the area.

    Codes of conduct are a slippery slope because they become speech codes that stifle critical thinking and the pursuit of truth. It is much simpler to put, for example, an updated 1934 Brief Statement, in the contract. If you disagree with the teachings of the LCMS, then it’s not the school for you.

    As a last note, does the synod actually own the Concordias directly? Would it even be legal for the synod to unilaterally sell off the campuses without the approval of the individual institutions?

    Synod calls the shots.

    Wouldn’t such a move create so much hostility that the remaining institution(s) would lack the support needed to maintain it?

    Change can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. It can also be resisted and sabotaged. These are realities leadership has to deal with.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the WELS university is actually looking to expand their non-church work majors rather than dismissing them as irrelevant. Presumably because these majors often help to finacially support the university in general and the more heavily subsidized church work majors in particular.

    Are you talking of Martin Luther College or Bethany Lutheran College? That latter is owned and operated by the ELS. I’m not aware of MLC offering anything beyond church worker courses.

  28. @Dave Scumacher #32

    Correct. The Wisconsin synod owns and operates Martin Luther College, which is for training future pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. Teachers from MLC are certified and licensed by the state of MN, so can teach in public schools as well as receive calls to WELS / ELS schools. Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee was started by WELS laity but is self-sustaining. Bethany Lutheran College of the ELS is very similar to Bethany in function but is owned by the ELS.

  29. Just because Donald Trump has been elected to be our next President does not set aside the Supreme Courts unconstitutional ruling (unconstitutional because it is not based on the language of the Constitution as per the opinions of the dissents) respecting any ramifications connected with Title IX. If lawsuits are brought by the ACLU or pretty much any LGBTQ group, then the CUS will loose. I am glad that there are some contingencies in place not to knuckle under to such coercive government misuse of power, but that is insufficient. There are other models for universities out there such as Hillsdale College and Patrick Henry College. These institutions do not accept federal funds nor access Pell grants and the like. I like the idea of one or two “Church-worker” Universities. There is some danger in only one as we’ve learned the hard way in the LCMS and may learn again as our STL seminary continues to drift a bit. Simply put, we cannot either properly supervise nor fund the multitude of increasingly independent institutions of higher learning we now have. A major overhaul respecting how we train church workers needs to occur and the Title IX issue gives us the opportunity and challenge to do just that. Entirely new models of funding and a return to church worker preparation institutions should serve as the cornerstones for such restructuring.

  30. “Alternate tracks to ordination should be ended except for the most exceptional circumstances.” This concerns me because there appears to be an (perhaps unwarranted) assumption that after spending 4 years in a rigorous graduate degree program, a certain number of M.Div. recipients will voluntarily undertake “tent-making ministries” to serve the growing number of LCMS congregations that can no longer afford the salary and benefit packages to support full-time pastors. If a sufficient number of M.Div. students are not willing or able to do that, we may need to close a number of smaller churches across the U.S. – not a good option.

  31. @Jim S. #37 This is another phase of the required reorganization. The LCMS needs to start planning for domestic missions to serve struggling congregations using fully trained pastors who are available for assignment. For example, the money wasted on LIRS could be diverted to a national mission program that sponsors pastors to serve congregations. The hard reality is that the LCMS is no longer wealthy enough to be the global benefactor of Confessional Lutheranism. It’s time to be less ambitious abroad, and more faithful at home.

  32. We are talking as if we are still spending a lot of money on our Concordias. Also, how much are we really spending on LIRS that could be diverted to anything?

    What many consider to be the problem of the Concordias being more than teachers colleges happened a long time ago when all the junior colleges & their prep school were “upgraded” to four year colleges and had to get more students to viable. Before that students transferred to RF or Seward to finish their Lutheran teacher degree. Pastoral students also went to a Concordia junior college and then to the “Senior College” in Ft. Wayne. This also changed (perhaps due to the perceived liberals at the Senior College. In any carse let’s keep thing in historical perspective. There was a time when we spent a lot of money to fund our Concordias. Check out the percentage of the income of any of he Concordias that comes from Synod.

    Perhaps it is true that controll follows the money.

    I, too, liked the olden days when all the students were Lutheran church worker students and all the teachers act least learned to play enough keyboard to play hymns for their daily devotions in school.
    Sadly, those days are past.

  33. @Richard Lewer #39

    ” Check out the percentage of the income of any of he Concordias that comes from Synod.”

    It is likely that the largest percentage of income comes from state supplemented tuition. That’s the point.
    The fact that Synod does not have to supplement the university’s income, does not change the fact that the CUS are owned and operated by the LCMS. They can, and should be liquidated; replaced with two church-worker colleges that are not tied to government funding.

  34. I’ve read your many excellent posts and ideas. Several of them have floated very nice ideas. But the reality is that none of them will likely happen. As is true of most bureaucracies, The LCMS has taken on a life of its own, and those in charge have a serious interest in continuing its existence. Why? It mostly comes down to money, pension plans, salaries and benefits, endowment funds, and the value of the property itself. My suggestion is to take heed to your own faith and salvation. Know, study and learn the scriptures and the doctrines of the Bible. If God wants to save the LCMS, it will be saved. If it His will that it die a slow death, then so be it. The LCMS is like all human institutions, temporary. Put your faith and love in God, not he LCMS.

  35. @Rev.Loren Zell #41 Thank you, Pastor Zell. We are certainly on the back foot in the fight to keep the LCMS from flying over a final cliff of indifference and rebellion. As if to underscore the urgency of the need for transformation, just this week we got news that Concordia Portland’s President has publicly apostatized on the order of creation.

    LCMS Confessionals are likely to lose because bureaucracies are ruthless in suppressing threats to self-perpetuation, as you have noted. Let it not be said, though, that Confessionals did not warn of what would happen.

  36. Since I’ve retired I’ve had more time to study. Luther says that it is a loving thing to point out errors in doctrine. That is part of what God calls us to as Christians.

  37. @Tim Wood #43

    “…just this week we got news that Concordia Portland’s President has publicly apostatized on the order of creation.”

    I missed that but here is an interesting article about Concordia Portland. I know the media cannot be trusted to tell the truth but if only half the allegations are true, wow! I hope the LCMS is not liable for any of this.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2016/10/concordia_gained_thousands_of_new_students_–_and_a_federal_inquiry.html

    Again, great proposal from Tim. It would be good if it or a variation of it would be carried out. SOMETHING needs to be done!

    Blessings in Christ Jesus,
    Ginny Valleau

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.