By Kevin Armbrust
MILWAUKEE — On Tuesday, Aug. 1, at The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) national convention, LCMS English District President Rev. Dr. Jamison J. Hardy, vice-chairman of Floor Committee (FC) 7, presented Resolution 7-03, “To Call Concordia University Texas Leadership to Repentance.” The resolution follows the decision by Concordia University Texas (CTX), Austin, Texas, to separate itself from Synod governance.
The ensuing conversation led the convention chair, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, to extend the time allotted for debate. During debate, the convention expressed its desire to hear from both LCMS Texas District President Rev. Michael W. Newman and Dr. Don Christian, CTX president and CEO. Both expressed their view that CTX desires to be a faithful Lutheran institution. Newman also explained his work as ecclesiastical supervisor.
President Christian stated, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for this opportunity to address the delegates.
“With me is the Rev. Michael Newman, president of the Texas District, and Kristi Kirk, provost at Concordia. We stand before you today as members of the Synod who love their church, love their Lord, and love the institutions and people we serve.
“Let me begin by saying that it was never our intent to have to stand here today and speak to a body of believers so distraught over this issue. From the moment we began exploring a new model of governance, we sought dialogue with the church.
“Where that has not happened, and where we might have contributed to the lack of constructive dialogue, we ask for forgiveness.”
President Christian continued to explain three points — the first and second outlining the actions of the CTX Board of Regents (BOR) vis-à-vis the actions of the Concordia University System (CUS), the 7-03 task force and Harrison’s report. During the third point, Christian asserted that the CTX BOR remains the sole governing body of the school.
FC 7 asked Christian Preus, LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) member, to respond. Preus noted that President Christian said in his third point that the BOR remains the sole governing body of the institution. “Dr. Christian is maintaining the position of the action of the Board of Regents, directly contrary to our [LCMS] Constitution and Bylaws, in breaking itself from the governance of you as the delegates. He expressly confirmed that. That is precisely the nature of this resolution. It affirms the Bylaws. It affirms the CCM [Commission on Constitutional Matters] opinion. It affirms that the actions taken by Concordia, Texas, were wrong.”
An amendment was offered and defeated that would have changed wording and deleted the direct condemnation of the actions by CTX and the CTX BOR. Yet others noted that reconciliation is the goal of the resolution as written. Furthermore, it was noted that reconciliation without repentance and a return of the university to the Synod is not possible. The Synod has a process for resolving disputes, outlined in the Bylaws, but as long as CTX asserts its independence from the Synod, using that agreed upon process is precluded.
“Truly, the goal of everyone in this room is reconciliation. But as we know from our Lord, the only way true reconciliation happens is through the blood of Jesus Christ that covers every sin,” said the Rev. Michael Schuermann, pastoral delegate from the LCMS Central Illinois District. “In order to be reconciled, sin must be proclaimed, and sin must be acknowledged that one might confidently and gladly stand in the forgiveness of sins in Christ. I commend the committee for calling all who have erred in this matter to repentance.”
The resolution outlines the actions of the CTX BOR that need correction in the Whereases, noting that “On April 4, 2023, the CTX BOR took action to affirm its illegitimate and wrongful purported separation; and … the CTX BOR, the CTX president and certain CTX administrators have steadfastly refused to accept the advice and admonition of the President of the Synod, Synod BOD, and CUS BOD, and have overtly and directly defied the final and binding CCM Op. 23-3006.”
Dr. Bernard D. Bull, president of Concordia University, Nebraska, Seward, Neb., addressed the assembly as an advisory delegate and from the point of view of a new Concordia university president. “I was delighted that presidents and Synod all sat at the table to discuss things. We keep coming to the table to speak and work through it. It was disappointing to find that, one day, one seat at that table was empty — the seat occupied by CTX. This absence broke our trust. I desire CTX to come back to the table so that we can discuss these matters.”
In all that was said, every speaker affirmed the desire for reconciliation as the goal of the convention’s actions. Those who spoke pro and con on the resolution and the proposed amendments agreed that the church is called by her Lord to reconciliation. Some desired reconciliation as the explicit goal without language of condemnation for actions taken. Others advocated the direct call to repentance as found in the Resolves of the resolution as presented.
After much discussion and debate, the resolution was once again before the delegates as originally presented.
“The delegation was very disciplined and responded in appropriate ways,” said the Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray, chairman of FC 7 and LCMS third vice-president. “I think the issues were clarified by President Christian. And so it became a fairly easy resolution to adopt on the part of the delegation.”
In the end, the resolution passed with 716 votes of the 999 cast (71.67%). Now the delegates and all in the Synod are commended to pray for CTX, the other Concordias, the Synod and the church at-large, that all might hear and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ, that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be the root and substance of reconciliation, and that the Synod would remain faithful until the Lord’s return.
Dr. Kevin Armbrust is director of the Graduate School and special assistant to the president at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
2023 LCMS convention — Focus on universities
Floor Committee 7 Chairman Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray, Advisory Commissioned Minister Dr. Russell P. Dawn and LCMS Board of Regents member Christian Preus discuss the Concordia University System governance proposal.View video
Posted Aug. 1, 2023/Updated Aug. 4, 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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