Thursday, July 13, 2023

Inclusive might mean rejecting Jesus. . .

In 2016, Concordia University of Edmonton did the unthinkable.  The school, led by a Lutheran president, cut its ties to the Lutheran Church-Canada.  They caught the leaders and people of the LCC off guard and shock waves went throughout that church body and even across those concerned about the universities of the LCMS.  The decision of the board was seen as a sign of the times for university education.  In reality, however, the school had been operating largely as a secular institution for some time.  The financial support from the LCC and the numbers of Lutheran students had declined until it was less than marginal.  In one fell swoop, the board that controlled the institution erased every mention of its Christian heritage and every commitment to that heritage in its mission statement.  Then the president resigned from the clergy roster of his own church body.  And it was all done in the interests of preserving and growing the school.  President Gerald Krispin insisted his school would be better off without its Lutheran Church affiliation.  “It’s all about inclusion." he said.  "That’s the big issue. And we want to be an inclusive university.”  Their Lutheran connection was a scandal to their prospective students and a drawback to those already enrolled and ended up, in the view of the board, impeding their mission.

This was a story about how the interests of the church body that had owned and sponsored the university conflicted with the felt interests of the university -- at least as this was the observation of those who had been charged with the best interests of both.  Now the same thing may be happening in the LCMS.  Concordia University Texas has made no secret of its thinking that its identity as an agency of the Synod and their perception of the well-being of the school not only compete but must be mutually exclusive.  Its current president has made no secret of his intention and the direction of his leadership in this regard and he appears to have the support of at least a majority of the board members.  But is this necessarily the case?  It is as if one within the marriage insists that in order to be faithful they must be unfaithful.  Is that a legitimate statement of the situation within a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod university?  Is it a fair description of the dilemma of the members of the board of regents and the official leaders of that school?  Is it impossible to be both faithful in the exercise of their fiduciary responsibility to the Synod and to the college?  Must they distance themselves from the LCMS in order to better fulfill their mission as a university?

These are some of the issues at play when the LCMS meets in convention in a couple of weeks.  Many of the issues are remarkably similar to what already took place in Canada.  We have schools who sincerely believe that their association with the Synod conflicts with or competes with their goals and pursuits as a university.  It will be up to the delegates at the Convention to decide if that claim is justified and to hold the schools, their leaders, and their boards of regents accountable to the Synod that established those schools -- with the idea, at least in the beginning, that they existed to further the very objectives of the Synod stated clearly in the first part of our constitution.  For my part, I am not convinced.  In fact, I am persuaded that the fiduciary responsibility to the Synod and to the institution is not only not in conflict but very much the same cause and duty.  But I will not be voting.  Others will.  I pray that even if we make the right decision as a church body, we will not be too late in challenging what has become an all too familiar mantra about what is good for the Church is not good for the university.  Our schools should not have to reject Jesus in order to be faithful, authentic, and excellent academic institutions.  If that is the case, we have far more at stake here than one Concordia.


Dr.D said...

This really cannot be a surprise. Concordia-Texas is located in deep blue Austin, TX. Austin is about as far to the left on every issue as can be imagined. Look at UT-Austin, one of the most radical schools in the country! Concordia-Texas campus is only about 1 1/2 miles from the UT Campus, so I sure they fall under the UT umbrella of influence.

I would suggest that the best solution is to relocate Concordia-Texas out of Austin. Most of the state is conservative and at least nominally Christian. The big cities, such as Austin, Houston, Dallass, and San Antonio are quite a different story. I say this as a native Texan, living in north east Texas.

Fr. D+

Carl Vehse said...

Concordia University-Texas used to be a few blocks from the UT-Austin campus, but in 2008, Concordia moved to a new much large campus about 15 miles northwest of UT.