Some more news on Concordia, Portland.

Sad we have to find out these kind of details from secular news agencies rather than the church body we belong to together.

The Oregonian has been digging into the closing of Concordia, Portland. There is much to be gained from their recent article. Here are some basic summary points:

-We got into deals that did not help us (Hotchalk sounds like a major ripoff).
-Administration apparently hid details (from the looks there were few people who knew details of agreements and so forth). This does not include Pres. Ries who just took over in January.
-We tried to make our college just like any worldly endeavor, with high salaries (for administrators, not teachers) and so forth. Pres. Schlimpert went from 175K a year in 2010 to 310K in 2017. He retired just a while ago, and according to the news article he did so with the financial state of the college in poor shape and a long-term contract only going worse for the college.

Given the lack of information available in minutes (not to mention how long it takes to get official minutes) perhaps “executive session” usage should be lessened across synod’s boards, councils, and commissions.

According to the article, this was years in the making. Why didn’t the 2016 and 2019 Conventions of the LCMS bring synod up to speed? The general message of those conventions when I attended them was something close to “everything is good”. A review needs to be done on how the LCMS is using its communications and what information is being communicated vs. what information is not.

How many other Concordias have made bad deals and are operating in such a worldly fashion? We won’t find out because the LCMS has a track record of not telling us bad news or something that will reflect poorly on the institution. Maybe some individual Concordias can show leadership on this (after all, with two Concordias closing in the last few years, it’s not like continuing the status quo will build more confidence in their long term viability). Maybe some districts could show the greater synod what transparency looks like. No one can offer real help unless they know the real problems we are having. Somewhere along the way, it seems we lost some integrity for the sake of positive spin and advertising. Or maybe we’ve just become incompetent to handle these things. It’s a sad tale, and I am just waiting for the next chapter to unfold. Too bad it will take the world’s media to get us information like this Oregonian article provided.

9 thoughts on “Some more news on Concordia, Portland.

  1. The major takeaway from Selma was the following:
    The reports sent to Synod every three years are not reliable.
    This same issue rears its ugly head again. If the board of regents and president of the institution wants to present itself well and sweep everything under the rug, then they are the ones to blame.
    At the convention a resolution requiring synod entities (read: Boards of Regents) to give the Synod BOD correct information when asked came up. I don’t remember exactly what the context was, but this was DEBATED! It should be a no-brainer. But I can tell you for a fact that the BOR of Portland, and the same goes for at least one other BOR, thought of itself as an adversary of the Synod President and BOD. They wanted Synod money, but no responsibility to Synod. They wanted to pick their president and resented any input from President Harrison.

  2. @George – The Synod President gets to appoint a member of the Regents to be his representative. If there was information being hidden, it was being hidden from the Regents then (or the Synod President and his representative weren’t communicating).

  3. I have been notified that both Seward and Bronxville have had contracts with HotChalk. The details of course are not available. Bronxville is under probation with accreditation and also had to get a large loan from LCEF for the remainder of the year according to BOD minutes.

  4. Pastor Scheer,
    You’re right, of course. You offered two possibly concerning possibilities. 1) It is possible for the administration of a school to hide information from the regents. That is incredibly dangerous in terms of liability, but I wouldn’t dismiss it as a possibility. 2) It is possible for the regents to enter executive session when discussing audited financial statements and therefore to have an implied threat to individual board members that releasing the information discussed there will result in legal action. This is also somewhat a stretch, but I suspect it has happened…

  5. Concordia College New York is probably going to be the next one to unceremoniously collapse with little to no genuine transparency from leadership and the official media controlled by such leadership. The primary responsibility (in my opinion) lies on the school administrators and board but I would definitely also fault other leaders (along with others who enabled such leaders) who presented a general message of “calm” when it’s obviously not true. Nobody wants to be a part of something that’s sort of conservative. Either be conservative all the way or be liberal all the way. (this is buried on the CCNY web site and you wouldn’t know about it unless you knew to look for it)

    Jeremiah 6:14 14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.

    Revelation 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

  6. I don’t see how more “transparency” would have led to a better outcome. A college is not at all like a congregation. In a congregation, the members are generally there for the long term, and it is up to the members to remedy the situation. A college has to replace its student body completely every four years,or so .If it lets it be known that it’s in danger of closing due to continuing deficits, it pretty much guarantees that it will close. After all, how many people are going to enroll in a college that may close before they can graduate? Very few.

    When the Concordias were solely for the purpose of training church workers and were heavily subsidized by the synod, transparency was essential because the money given to the colleges was directly or indirectly coming from the offering plate. Those days are long past, and it’s the tuition and fees paid by the students themselves that is the primary source of income.

  7. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently had an article on the matter of this lawsuit:

    As far as I can tell, no official Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod publication has reported on this yet, nor has Concordia University Portland itself. That has been standard operating procedure in such situations for decades.

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