Friday, March 18, 2016
Issues for all Church Owned Universities and Colleges. . .
That said, this whole episode raises questions that must surely ripple through church owned schools, specifically the colleges and universities of the LCMS. To whom are these schools accountable? To alumni, to funding sources, to faculty and staff, to the students who attend now, to the boards of regents, or to the church? I am not going to answer for them but I hope that this question is faced squarely and soberly as every LCMS college and university looks at what happened to a sister school to the North.
What happens when the Church no longer supplies any significant funding source for these colleges and universities? Do we lose all credibility to speak to the issue of who these schools are, what they do, and to whom they are accountable when we as the Church no longer supply much more than a name and a history to their daily operation? For this is surely true of nearly every college and university within the LCMS (and even our Seminaries) -- we supply only the most marginal of funding sources and have left our schools to fend for themselves in the pursuit of the dollars to finance the education they provide.
Would it be possible for one or more of our own Concordias to request and to be granted independence if we as a Church are unwilling to provide funds and those who administer these schools believe that their future lies with some distance between them and the Church? If it is possible, should it be and would it be preferable for us as a church body to absorb the financial loss of property and the emotional loss of a school rather than be on the hook for these schools when and if they face tough financial futures?
To whom are the Boards of Regents responsible -- to the church as a whole, the individual school, or to a prudent and responsible exercise of their fiduciary roles to sustain an institution? It is clear that Concordia Edmonton's board felt the most important thing was to ensure the survival of the institution. Is that the most basic responsibility of those who serve to administer our schools as executive staff and oversight boards? (I am not speaking here of by-law but of moral and practical responsibility.)
Finally, Missouri has usually requested that those who serve as Presidents of our colleges and universities also be ordained members on the clergy roster of our church body. Krispin says that the two responsibilities conflict and create an impossible gulf for one man to bridge. Is this the future of our own church body and our schools? Have we created a gap which no man can bridge in fulfilling his responsibilities as a member of the church accountable to that church body and as the chief steward of the individual institution and its survival?
I hope and pray that these questions are faced head on by those in the halls of power and those sitting in the pews. Clearly the situation has changed from the day when the primary mission of nearly every Concordia was to provide training for church workers AND to provide churchly education for lay members to fulfill their own callings in the baptismal vocation given them as the children of God. In more than half our Concordias, the population of church worker students is so statistically insignificant that the school can hardly justify the faculty and curricular resources to keep these front and center and the small numbers of students virtually disappear into the fabric of what have become largely professional schools with an almost invisible religious studies program.
I wish it could be said that the situation in Canada is an anomaly that the same thing could not possibly happen here. But unless we bury our heads in the sand, we must face these problems and challenges while there still may be time to deal with them effectively -- for the good of the church and for the well-being of the schools and universities we love to call our own.
BTW Lest we think we are alone in this, Rome also faces the same kind of challenge -- colleges and universities Roman Catholic in name only. Even flagship schools like Notre Dame have been under fire for their institutional identities that flaunt or at least come before their identity as a school of the Church. We are certainly not alone in trying to figure out the muddle of how a school can be a school of and for the Church and still be viable -- even flourish -- on the landscape of today's ever changing collegiate environment.