Concordia Portland

LCMS Asks Concordia Portland to Leave Synod

In a surprise announcement from Concordia University Portland (CUP) Board of Regents, CUP informed LCMS congregations that Synod requested that Portland leave the Concordia University System (CUS) and become an independent Lutheran university.  You can find the full text of the announcement HERE.  This announcement sent shockwaves throughout the Concordia University system of 9 colleges and universities and congregations across the nation.

The Problem Isn’t Portland — It’s Synod’s Request

Announced on the CUP website on the Friday afternoon of the Memorial Day weekend, Concordia Portland leadership assured the congregations and families it serves that they will consider any action on this request with great deliberation.  Congregations Matter© couldn’t agree more.  We have full confidence in President Schlimpert’s leadership of the CUP team in response to Synod’s request.  CUP will be blessed by his delayed retirement to handle this issue.  Dr. Schlimpert isn’t the problem.  Nor is Concordia Portland.

The problem is the request.

Congregations in the Northwest and nationally must eye this request to CUP from Synod with great concern.  Since 1905 Concordia University Portland has faithfully served congregations and families, preparing both lay leaders and church workers to send into our Lord’s harvest while providing a first-rate education to all students.  Nationally recognized, CUP became one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation over the past decade.  You can read more about CUP in President Schlimpert’s welcome page on the Concordia Portland website HERE. 

But something has changed — and it’s not at Concordia.

2016 Milwaukee Convention Changed Things

In last summer’s Milwaukee convention, President Harrison and the United List added to their control of the Board of Directors of the Concordia University System (BOD-CUS).  Do you remember the stacked election results?  Delegates elected almost no one except Harrison’s “United List” candidates.  Now this  Harrison-controlled BOD-CUS seems the only place such a request could come from. 

The problem is simple

Usually only a financial or other catastrophe could cause emergency action to close or remove a school from the Synod.  According to Synod’s bylaws, the BOD-CUS only has the power to close a university upon approval of the BOD of the Synod plus either the COP or the school’s own BOR.  A national convention could do the same.

But there is no catastrophe.  And there was no convention action in Milwaukee.

This begs a question:  who in the Harrison administration made this request?  And why now?  And, barring a catastrophe, why weren’t the congregations of the Synod involved in this request?

Acting Top-Down Again

This request seems to be just another case of President Harrison and his United List elected leaders taking matters into their own hands — matters that rightfully should that belong to congregations.  This is the habit of our current administration and is dangerous for our Synod.

Whether or not Concordia University Portland should consider becoming an independent Lutheran university is not up to a Synod President, a United List heavy board, or any top-down group to decide.  It should be up to Portland and the congregations of our Synod voting in a convention.

Our LCMS is a Synod of congregations doing God’s work together, not a hierarchical denomination making decisions on their own without our members’ knowledge — or vote.

Transparency and Accountability Are Needed

A Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend announcement of this magnitude is more the habit of a political party trying to hide bad news from congregations than of the Church of Jesus Christ acting in transparency and accountability.  Members of Synod should look for the minutes of the Concordia University System Board of Directors meeting.  There one will see if this action was taken in the open meeting or in an executive session where no public record is available.

We should expect more of our leaders.  Either our leaders need to change the way they are acting – or we need to change our leaders.

We Need Your Help

If you would like to join the movement, here are some things to do:

  • Sign up for our email list and receive new posts from this site to become more informed on the issues.
  • Make sure your congregation passes resolutions to district conventions and national conventions that support this effort.  We must turn our LCMS leadership back to its historic role.
  • Elect local delegates to the District and National conventions who will vote for the primacy of congregations, not the primacy of the Synodical President and his administration.

And one more thing.  You have the responsibility to nominate men and women to serve as our leaders in Synod.  When it’s time to nominate a Synod President and others in 2019, let’s choose leadership that will support congregations, not use congregations to support them.

Congregations matter.    


  1. Over 20 years ago, when I was president of Concordia University Wisconsin, I recommended that the colleges in the CUS system be allowed to become independent Lutheran universities. The Board of Education was no longer able to provide anything helpful to the universities and Synod could no longer provide any meaningful financial support. The majority of presidents agreed at the time; however, unfortunately the majority were not balancing their budgets and could not afford to go independent.
    I would think most of the presidents would be receptive to becoming independent today. I do think, even if some should become independent, that they would definitely remain LUTHERAN and lean toward a faithful theological philosophy. Dr. John Buuck, President Emeritus, Concordia University Wisconsin.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Buuck, for your enlightening comment. The Congregations Matter editorial team concurs — decisions like this ought to come through proper channels and begin with the Universities.
    The issue congregations in Synod need to deal with is the top-down decision to ask Portland to leave made without transparency or accountability. Either our leadership needs to change the way they act, or we need to change our leadership.
    How have they acted? In the last minutes of the Board of Directors of Synod, when the issue of Concordia University Portland came up, the Synod BOD went into executive session and removed two of their members from the room because of “conflict of interest.” (see Page 41 of the minutes, available on the LCMS website)
    Their conflict? These two women serve on the Board of Regents of CUP. Why were they removed from the discussion of Synod issues regarding Concordia Portland?
    The members of Synod should ask themselves a simple question: if the Concordia universities belong to Synod, what are the two interests that Dr. Gloria Edwards and Ms. Kathy Schultz could have that would be in conflict with one another as they serve on the Board of Directors of Synod and the Board of Regents of CUP? Isn’t that the definition of “conflict of interest”?
    It seems that there is a lack of transparency and accountability here — especially since in “Executive Session” no action can be taken that is not affirmed by a resolution and vote in the “open” portion of the meeting.
    Another question congregations should be asking our leadership: Why does the Board of Directors of Synod move in and out of “Executive Session” 13 times during a meeting? What is being hidden from the Synod?

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