It is with deep sadness that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod acknowledges that Concordia College Alabama (CCA) has announced it will be closing due to financial reasons. The school’s Chief Transition Officer, Dr. James E. Lyons, has informed the LCMS that CCA has been developing a closure plan to assist CCA’s students, faculty and staff affected by the closure.
The Synod has long recognized and appreciated the important educational, cultural and spiritual role CCA has played in the Selma, Alabama, community and valued CCA as a unique opportunity for ministry. It is for this reason that the LCMS, the Concordia University System, other Synod-related entities, and countless individual members and congregants have provided CCA with significant financial, operational and spiritual support throughout the institution’s existence.
During the past several years, CCA, faced with growing financial and operational difficulties, has requested assistance from the LCMS and its related entities, who have prayerfully studied the situation and offered counsel and financial support. Indeed, the Synod continued to voluntarily grant funds to CCA, including some $5.2 million over the past decade.
In fact, since July 2006, of the total subsidy (not including scholarships) given to the 10 campuses of the Concordia University System, CCA alone has received more than 44 percent of that amount. But in spite of this assistance and funds from other sources, CCA — whose own efforts to stay viable have been robust — was not able to achieve acceptable and sustainable financial performance.
The school has hardly been alone in facing such difficulties. In recent years, many small, private, liberal-arts colleges have closed owing to financial pressures and other factors, such as low enrollments and small endowments. Religiously affiliated colleges have been particularly hard hit, as have historically black colleges and universities. Moody’s Investor Service, in fact, predicted in 2015 that closures of small private colleges would triple in coming years.
The Synod must continually evaluate how it allocates its limited resources in the face of so many worthy mission-and-ministry opportunities both at home and abroad. This often requires the Synod’s Board of Directors to make difficult decisions in following the principles of wise and faithful, Scripture-mandated stewardship.
LCMS outreach to black Americans began in 1877, when the Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America sent missionaries to form black congregations throughout the South.
In the early 1900s, the pioneer educator Dr. Rosa J. Young — the daughter of slaves who later would be known as “the mother of Black Lutheranism in America” — established a school for African-American children in Rosebud, Alabama. In 1922, Young was influential in the founding of the Alabama Lutheran Academy in Selma, a school established for the purpose of training black Lutherans as pastors and parochial schoolteachers for the Alabama mission field. This institution would come to be known as Concordia College Alabama.
For more than 40 years, the Synod has had a department focusing on black ministry and, more recently, established its Urban and Inner-City Mission. LCMS Black Ministry Family Convocations have regularly been held since 1978. These forums have aimed to, among other important goals, develop strategies to help congregations reach out more effectively with the Gospel of Christ among black Americans. Following the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., the Synod called a domestic missionary, the Rev. Micah Glenn, to serve as executive director of the newly created Lutheran Hope Center in Ferguson.
In these and other significant ways, the Synod’s commitment to black ministry remains firm. Today, across the Synod, there are about 100 predominantly black congregations and 300 involved in black ministry. Under God’s grace, the church will strive to build on these numbers. In the meantime, we thank the Lord for all the blessings He has provided through Concordia College Alabama for nearly a century, and we pray for all of those who will be affected by the closure.