All of this will create considerable problems for conservative churches wishing to maintain the integrity of their confession in all aspects of their work. In particular, my own church body is wrestling with what to do with and how to administer our historic colleges and universities. We have already found it impossible to keep two schools open and their closing has created wounds and worries throughout our church body. Now we are looking at the future and trying to predict how it will be possible to maintain these schools as confessional colleges and universities whose mission is wholly consistent with our own mission and purpose. We have a school in California where the government continues to threaten church schools by withholding state grant money from those schools who resist the efforts of the state to be inclusive of all areas of social justice and gender equality. We have other schools already competing with state schools which have free or nearly free tuition. We have schools whose primary mission has changed over the last 50 years and who serve primarily non-Lutherans and non-LCMS Lutherans. How do continue to keep these schools viable and yet at the same time keep their confessional integrity consistent with our own? All the while we fear the day when the government will not provide educational loans or loan guarantees as long as those schools fail to comply with the progressive vision of rights and privileges.
Roman Catholics know exactly what this is about since their own social service agencies have largely been locked out of such work as adoption, foster care, etc... because they will not place children in the homes of gay couples. Roman Catholics look at their own schools and universities and wonder if or how these schools may be called Roman Catholic while tolerating or even encouraging a diversity of views from students and faculty that contradict their own catechism and faith. Roman Catholic hospitals may not only be forced to pay for reproductive services for their employees but also to offer abortions and other reproductive services in conflict with the their own teachings and faith.
The only people who are not looking at this direction with some fear are those churches whose larger work is already aligned with and reflective of the progressive and liberal agenda gearing up steam within the early days of this presidential administration. These same churches have already reshaped their doctrine and practice to be consistent with the social justice and gender identity movements. It is no big deal for their agencies to follow the lead of the churches which have established and nominally supported and retained ties with them. They welcome their alignment with the government and society at the same time the few but large conservative churches fear it.
I can see why the government wants churches to shed their umbrella over all the things they do and restrict its constitutional guarantees to its most basic identity -- people gathered in a place for worship. I can also see why the churches want to retain the agencies with which they also practice the work of the church in addition to worship. But what I can also see is that both are not compatible and that we are destined to see larger conflicts over the horizon.
"We have already found it impossible to keep two schools open and their closing has created wounds and worries throughout our church body. Now we are looking at the future and trying to predict how it will be possible to maintain these schools as confessional colleges and universities whose mission is wholly consistent with our own mission and purpose."
With a Concordia University System (CUS) college and a university (and its law school) already closed, another CUS college has announced it will close at the end of this summer. All three schools had less than 5% of the student body identified as LCMS (The Lutheran Witness, November, 2018), and closed because of serious financial problems (one school's loans of $36.6 million from LCEF have been declared in default; another school has outstanding LCEF loans of $23 million). Furthermore, at least two of the schools had ongoing problems maintaining confessional standards among the faculty and students. One school had a recent problem maintaining its academic accreditation, and the closing of another CUS school resulted in a $305 million lawsuit against the university, CUS, LCEF, and LCMS.
Recently another CUS university (with <5% LCMS students) announced it was letting go 51 faculty and staff members and closing 15 academic programs due to budget concerns.
The problems that closed the three schools did not result from the ChiCom virus, but from decisions, actions, and approvals that have been made by the schools, the CUS, and the LCMS over at least the past decade or two. And now there is a Task Force proposal to the LCMS BOD to dissolve the CUS and replace it with a new Commission for University Education (CUE), which would focus on "a new process of theolgical accreditation," while the property of the LCMS universities "would no longer be the property of the Synod." However this is handled will be decided at the next Synod convention whenever that may occur.
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