By Kevin Armbrust
MILWAUKEE — On Aug. 2, 88% of the delegates at the 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) voted to adopt Resolution 7-04B, “To Revise Bylaws to Revisit and Renew Relationship of Colleges and Universities with the Synod.” This extensive resolution, spanning some 25 pages in the Aug. 1 edition of Today’s Business, is the product of four years of work demanded by 2019 Res. 7-03, passed at the 67th Regular Convention in Tampa.
Floor Committee (FC) 7 Chairman Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray introduced the discussion of Res. 7-04B by asking the five Concordia University System (CUS) presidents to stand. “We are delighted to have those faithful leaders here with us today. All through the process of Floor Committee 7, they have adamantly described their desire to be more faithful and more tightly tied to the church, her confession, her teaching.”
Murray introduced the five university presidents: Dr. Michael Thomas, Concordia University Irvine, Irvine, Calif.; Dr. Bernard Bull, Concordia University Nebraska, Seward, Neb.; Dr. Erik Ankerberg, Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., and Concordia University Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Dr. Russell Dawn, Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill.; and the Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich, Concordia University St. Paul, St. Paul, Minn. The assembly then interrupted Murray’s next statement with a standing ovation.
Murray said to the university presidents, “We love and appreciate you, and I believe we will defend you to the ‘nth’ for the sake of a clear confession of Christ in our universities.” Turning to the assembly, Murray said the Concordia university presidents “unanimously support 7-04B.”
Christian Preus, a member of FC 7 and the Synod Board of Directors (BOD), provided the rationale for the resolution by describing the process leading to it. Preus reviewed 2019 Res. 7-03, which directed the Synod BOD to bring to the Synod a new university governance model, with the primary objectives to strengthen the CUS schools’ connection to the Synod and their confessional Lutheran identity. Along with these two main objectives came other necessary components, such as changes to the boards of regents and other governance issues. This resolution was the third time that the convention mandated that this governance system be updated, including similar resolutions in 2013 and 2016.
Preus explained many details of the process followed by the 7-03 committee during its work, including monthly meetings and regular communication with the university presidents and boards of regents, among others. The initial draft of the 7-03 proposal was sent to the Synod BOD, which then disseminated the proposal to the Synod for six months to elicit comments. Following that process, the work continued through this year. This all led to the submission of the resolution as found in Today’s Business for consideration by this convention. The conversations continued through Floor Committee Weekend and even after that. These two years of conversations — which followed the first proposed governance model from the 7-03 task force — brought about numerous revisions. The resulting 7-04B, while only lately put before delegates, was the result of these churchmanly conversations.
Preus then explained the main thrust of 7-04B: to propose a new governance structure that seeks to fulfill the objectives of the last three Synod conventions by focusing the role of the CUS on kingdom-of-the-right responsibilities. This oversight is accomplished through visitation. Second, 7-04B focuses kingdom-of-the-left responsibilities in the boards of regents of the universities. This new governance structure also maintains the Synod BOD oversight role under the Synod Constitution.
“Obviously… with a resolution like this, you are never going to get everyone to agree on everything. … We worked on … 7-03 … for over a year on a monthly basis,” said Preus. “I don’t think we ever voted. Instead, we talked. … We approached this as a team. … We are all a part of the same church body, and we all want the same thing.”
At the behest of the convention chairman, LCMS Secretary Rev. Dr. John W. Sias explained the role of the Commission on Constitutional Matters regarding Bylaw changes.
A delegate then requested prayer, which was provided by Murray, who prayed for wisdom and for faithfulness to the Word of God and in the name of Jesus.
Several delegates spoke for and against the proposed resolution, looking at the myriad changes it contains. Some delegates sought to highlight the “unintended consequences” that may result from passing such a comprehensive resolution.
Another delegate questioned whether ascending liabilities would occur to the Synod under 7-04B. In response, Synod legal counsel Matt Buesching noted that this resolution does not add any ascending liabilities to the Synod, noting that the First Amendment protects the right of religious organizations to subject its institutions to the church’s Constitution and Bylaws. Preus noted that this resolution does not expand the authority of the Synod BOD under the Synod Constitution.
After further discussion, including of academic freedom, the question was called and approved. The resolution passed to the applause of the assembly.
FC 7 then placed Res. 7-05A, “To Bring Accountability to Concordia Boards of Regents and to Improve Doctrinal Fidelity and Amenability to Ecclesiastical Supervision,” before the convention. Delegates expressed concern that the changes in this resolution create two levels of regents serving on university boards. Others expressed concern that the included Bylaw changes may cause fiduciary or accreditation problems for the universities. These concerns were addressed by the committee and others, noting that the proposed structure in 7-05A is currently the way that seminary boards of regents operate, with no issues regarding fiduciary responsibilities or accreditation.
The resolution passed with 824 votes (85.21%).
Murray then asked FC 7 member Dawn to read and present Res. 7-06B, “To Support Colleges and Universities of the Concordia University System,” which concludes with the final Resolved, “That members of LCMS congregations be encouraged to support the colleges and universities of the CUS generously and regularly with their prayers, time, talents, and financial resources, all to the glory and praise of Almighty God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
The resolution passed with unanimous vocal acclamation and applause. Murray then expressed deep appreciation for all involved in the committee’s substantial work.
Dr. Kevin Armbrust is director of the Graduate School and special assistant to the president at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Posted Aug. 2, 2023
2023 LCMS Convention
Under the theme “We Preach Christ Crucified,” the 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod met July 28–Aug. 3, 2023, at the Baird Center in Milwaukee.
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