Part 1 of 2. In a move that surprised Concordia University Presidents, President Harrison and Secretary Sias will propose the elimination of all Concordia Boards of Regents at the Tampa Convention in 2019 to centralize control in St. Louis.
However, in a statement to Congregations Matter, President Tom Ries of Concordia, St. Paul, revealed that our Concordia University Presidents are unanimously opposed to Harrison’s plan.
Revealed in a July 9 letter from Secretary Sias to President Harrison that was shared with Concordia University leaders and their boards several months ago, Harrison plans that our Concordia campuses will be replaced with a single President over all of our Concordias.
And more. In the plan devised by President Harrison and developed by Secretary Sias, local Boards of Regents will suffer the same fate.
Click here to read the letter from Secretary Sias to President Harrison and Dr. Dean Wenthe of the Concordia University System that was shared with all Concordia University Presidents, administrations and their Boards of Regents.
Convention Resolution Run Amok
Milwaukee Convention delegates agreed to the continuation of a special Concordia University System task force. They gave this task force four specific responsibilities: strengthen all CUS institutions’ connection to the Synod; review the size and selection of Boards of Regents; review governance structures; review the selection process for presidents.
Nowhere was this 7-02B Task Force charged with consolidating control of our local Concordias. CLICK HERE to download and read the entire 7-02B resolution.
Tampa delegates beware: Harrison plans to bring this proposal to the 2019 Tampa Convention using broad interpretations of narrow charge from the 2016 Milwaukee convention. Bylaw proposals have already been drafted and are just waiting for a Harrison-handpicked appointed floor committee to bring them to Tampa.
Concordia Presidents Oppose This Plan
Concordia St. Paul’s President, Dr. Tom Ries, revealed the unanimous position of our Concordia Presidents In a statement to Congregations Matter:
“The 7-02B Task Force proposal does not reflect the thinking of the presidents of the Concordia colleges and universities on the kind of governance model that is needed for governing large and complex institutions of higher education. The pressing need of the institutions is for regents who bring capacity to influence and advocate for each institution as a Christian college or university in its regional context, expertise in areas related to each institution’s specific operational needs, potential to provide or identify financial support, and personal commitment to high quality higher education in a confessional Lutheran context. Each institution should determine how many regents are needed, and an effective means to find them from within the congregations of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod should be established by the institutions and the church body working together. This proposal, unfortunately, does not advance these aspirations.”
Power Grab by Harrison and Sias
United List candidates Harrison and Sias are plowing new ground: such a power grab has never been proposed to a convention before.
Our beloved Synod works best when St. Louis serves local congregations and their local Concordias. With this proposed centralization of all of our Concordia Colleges and Universities from the International Center, it is clear President Harrison’s administration prizes control over service.
If 2019 Tampa delegates allow this, instead of being served by Synod our Concordias will now be serving a centralized Board of Regents under the direction of Matt Harrison.
These jewels of our Synod, founded and developed now-sainted faithful members of the LCMS, will lose their local identity, support and programs — all because of false fears promoted by President Harrison and Secretary Sias.
Because Greater Control of Our Concordias is “Good for Us”
From his letter, Secretary Sias believes this unprecedented proposal to centralize control over our Concordias responds to the “direction” given by 2016 Resolution 7-02B, citing the “loss” of Concordia, Edmonton (an institution not even in the LCMS) and the phrase “To preserve the Concordia colleges and universities as institutions of the church, it is necessary to strengthen their structural bonds with the Synod…”
President Harrison’s actions in the past two conventions are instructive: raise the level of fear and people will respond by giving him more centralized control. Secretary Sias seems to share that philosophy. Just read some of Harrison’s written statements and proposals to Synod:
- There have been abuses in the districts which contradict the Bible and the Confessions (President’s Report, Page 4). We have to fix that!
- Not all of the District Presidents can be trusted (President’s Report, Page 5) because some are moderate and others conservative — and some misinterpret the Confessions.
- Despite the requirement of Bylaw 22.214.171.124 that all full-time theological faculty must have prior approval of the CUS Board, more control is needed. The President of Synod must personally interview all full- and part-time faculty of our Concordias (Resolution 7-06 resulting in changed bylaws, now 126.96.36.199.3)
- Lutheran Identity Standards are necessary (5-01A Task Force Report, page 262) in order to maintain our Lutheran identity on campus. We can’t trust our Lutheran faculty or Lutheran College or University Presidents and their Boards to accomplish this task.
- Despite CUS Academic Freedom Policy (2002 and 2010 versions) additional clarity must be given. We can’t give too much leeway to our Concordia faculties.
- Greater control over the “ecclesiastical supervision” of District Presidents is needed (Task Force on Dispute Resolution Report, appointed by President Harrison in April 2015, page 300).
Our Concordias Can’t Be Trusted?
In addition, Secretary Sias notes that all of the Concordias need to be safeguarded against the “actions of individual actors” and believes this proposal would advance that cause.
In other words, local Concordias — their Presidents, their Boards of Regents, and their faculties and staffs, indeed their local constituents, donors, districts and congregations — cannot be trusted with the “Concordia brand.”
Our local Concordias cannot be trusted? Our Concordias need protection from one another? Our Synod needs even greater control? There is danger if we don’t clamp down on them?
It is hard to believe the LCMS has a Synod President and Synod Secretary who see their partners in ministry as untrustworthy and needing more centralized control, but that’s what the evidence seems to say about President Harrison and Secretary Sias.
We need leadership in our Synod that trusts its partners and doesn’t seek centralized control over our Synod and it’s Concordias.
Congregations — and local control of our Concordia Universities — matter.
Read more detail about this dangerous proposal in Part 2 of this article: “Harrison Plans to Centralize Control of All Our Concordias.”