Friday, December 2, 2011

The Vanishing Lutheran University...

One of the reasons why Lutheran schools are either not Lutheran or failing in their Lutheran identity:

California Lutheran University is an intentionally diverse community committed to inclusivity and respect for the dignity of each individual. As such, we seek to be a place of welcome for students, faculty and staff who are or come to know themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons.

Why is sex the first thing that always gets mentioned when you talk inclusivity and respect for the individual?

Simply put, everyone is welcome here. CLU’s students come from more than 20 countries and 30 different denominations and faith backgrounds. So no one is an outsider. That is one of the most deeply held values in the Lutheran tradition and nowhere more evident than on our campus. As a student at CLU, your personal convictions and beliefs will be respected and honored.

Why on earth would it be a hallmark of Lutheran values that Lutherans respect your personal convictions (unbelief) and honor your beliefs (translate that pagan or no beliefs whatsoever)?  Was not the purpose of the Lutheran university to bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ?

It seems to me that either we would be better served to cut loose such "Lutheran" schools from their "Lutheran" identity and heritage and let them have everything except the chapel as long as they agree not to call themselves Lutheran or refer to their Lutheran legacy ever again OR to make our Lutheran schools truly Lutheran with the central focus upon the chapel, our life together in the daily offices, and our Lutheran Christian conviction in the classroom.

ELCA has apparently chosen to have secular schools with a thin veil of Lutheranism as a nod to their past (or, more importantly, to the donors who are generally Lutheran and who think Lutheranism a good thing even on the college campus).  Missouri has apparently chosen to talk the good talk but to put contemporary worship in the chapel, support an evangelical identity overall, and, with the ELCA, make sure that donors know that they are Lutheran!  Others are smaller but more focused in their Lutheran identity (Bethany in Mankato, for example).

I fear that it may be that Missouri's schools are only a few degrees to the right of the ELCA colleges.  With Valpo truly in the LINO (Lutheran in name only) camp, the whole image of the Lutheran university may be slipping completely away.  And that, my friends, is a great tragedy.

I am just old enough to remember when attendance was taken at chapel and chapel was the pivot on which the whole college day balanced.  The liturgy was pathetic or completely missing, the homiletical art was uneven, but the pipe organ and the hymns kept our Lutheran identity present (that, and an occasional sung Matins!).  It was not perfect but these schools were a whole lot more Lutheran than they are today... and that is a tragedy of loss that we may not fully understand until the schools have completely slipped from our grasp.


Rich Kauzlarich said...

I regret to agree with you about Valpo. As a member of the National Council of the School of Arts and Sciences I have raised the importance of Valpo having a distinct Lutheran identity otherwise it becomes just a good small liberal arts college in the Mid West. At the same time I’m concerned with those in the LCMS arguing to pull the only LCMS pastor from Valpo’s chapel because the Chapel Dean is a woman.

Anonymous said...

Our LCMS Concordia College system
was designed to prepare teachers
and pastors for our parishes. When
they all became Universities their
appeal was to offer other vocational
choices to students. For example
Concordia University Wisconsin
recently added a new Pharmacy program
with a new mult-million dollar
building. In the meantime our
pre-ministerial program has become
extremely watered-down.

Anonymous said...

In the 1950's and 60's the major
corporations like Dow Chemical,
General Motors, Caterpillar Inc.
recruited Valpo for the moral
quality of their students as well
as their potential in engineering.
At that time Valpo was a shining
beacon with Midwest values.

BrotherBoris said...

As a graduate of Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, I have to say it was really focused on its Lutheran heritage, but without being legalistic or making non-Lutherans feel unwelcome. We had chapel every day and it was always well attended. Sometimes you had to hunt for a seat. Yet chapel attendance was not mandatory and no roll call was ever taken. On most days chapel was just a hymn sandwich with a short scripture reading and brief homily (and I mean really brief, maybe 5 minutes.) But on Wednesday we did Matins in full, and everything was chanted, even the prayers, and we sang the Te Deum. Most of my friends commented that we really liked Matins. On Wednesday nights we had Vespers with a full sermon. Vespers was always poorly attended by only a handful of people. There was NEVER any "contemporary Christian music". The fine Dobson pipe organ we had supplied all the music we ever needed and the chapel organists were fantastic. I have very pleasant memories of Bethany.

Anonymous said...

What good is it for a Valpo or Concordia student to be required to take two or three watered-down theology classes. Have such classes resulted in any conversions to the LCMS? The majority of students remain non-Lutheran. The LCMS should sell all of the Concordias and make them agree to strip the name Lutheran from their names. The LCMS would be better served by opening confessional campus Lutheran centers within walking distance of public universities.

Anonymous said...

The name "Lutheran" is so misused and stands for little. The telemarketers for the various pentecostal/evangelical things from youth events, concerts, to Bible class materials to fundraising call our Lutheran church. I've asked the last 3, do you call Roman Catholic churches too? They say no because Catholics disagree with the theology. I wish 'Lutheran' had that type of 'branding', so I don't have to continue to tell them that "we are not interested in what they are promoting because the theology/teaching disagrees with the historic Christian church and thus the Lutheran church too, thank you, bye." Apparently Lutherans out there are buying this junk or they would see "Lutheran" and not call in the first place.

John said...

I attended Concordia St Paul, in the early 60's. The campus was home to both Concordia Academy and Concordia College.

Morning Chapel was well attended. It was short Monday through Thursday, with the organists being students with varying degrees of expertise.

Ah, but then came Friday! There was a sermon, preached by one of the clergy/professors. The organist was either the late Dr. Paul Manz or Dale Fisk. What wonderful music flowed from that pipe organ when either was at the console!

The building was made the chapel in 1953, having been built in 1911, as the gymnasium. The online picture of the chapel, today looks like some generic "worship" center. Line the floor and it looks more like the gym of old than a Lutheran chapel.

I know a recent graduate who stated to me that the school is not diverse enough. I felt so sad. I felt that there is very little about Concordia St. Paul, today that is Lutheran, and students want it to be even less so.

Lutherans at CSP would do well to attend Sunday services at University Lutheran Chapel, about seven miles away. OH! Wait!! The MN South District has chosen to abandon that great congregation.

Anonymous said...

Another shout out for BLC!! I'm not sure how long ago BrotherBoris was there, but I just attended the Christmas at Bethany conert/service, and I was again astounded at the talent and skill of the musicians. (How many organs in our Lutheran churches today are as authoritative as Trinity Chapel's organ?) I was only gone for seven months (class of 2011), but it was long enough to make me not fully remember the excellent musical quality of this school. The opportunity for the nourishment (and planting) of the Christian faith is still plenteous.