What should concern delegates?
The situation regarding Concordia University Texas (CTX) is sad for all parties involved. Calls for repentance aside, the CTX story has only been told from the Synod leadership’s perspective. You can find their description in the June 2023 Reporter Online, which together with the Synod President visitation report (Workbook Report 64, Pages 173-179) offers one side of the controversy.
The response of the CTX President, Dr. Don Christian, was not printed — only an incomplete statement summarizing of his response. We are all waiting to hear from both sides, hoping and praying — and working – for reconciliation.
Texas District President Mike Newman attempted to set the record straight from the perspective of both sides. His even-handed review can be downloaded from the Our Congregations — Our Synod article about his investigation and report.
There are many issues in the current 7-03 resolution to address, most of which can be summarized as “evaluation and opinion without the evidence or rebuttal.”
As in the past several years, back-and-forth communication between St. Louis and Austin has been limited. In fact, after the Presidential Visitation, there was silence from the Synod President’s office for more than 9 months. It wasn’t until February that the report was shared with CTX.
One must ask — if the situation with CTX is as egregious as President Harrison suggests in his Workbook report, why was there no communication or action taken immediately? If the report is accurate, why would the Synod President fail to act to protect students from CTX allegedly demonstrating “its reluctance or unwillingness to allow Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions to be the source of Lutheran identity and mission”?
In addition, Synod is in the middle of a $302M lawsuit with HotChalk regarding Synod’s control over Concordia Portland. What effect will passing this resolution have on the claims of HotChalk against the assets of the LCMS?
In specific, delegates will want to pay attention to at least the following issues:
The sixth Whereas (lines 19-21) states this action deprives the LCMS of an institution to train and certify church workers. That’s the decision of the Synod BOD and CUS, but it doesn’t have to be the decision of the convention delegates. We can insist Synod develop a pathway — or use the existing colloquy process — to certify church workers trained at CTX. If the same school with the same faculty certified church workers for service in May of 2022, what has changed in their ability to certify church workers in 2023?
The seventh Whereas (lines 22-25) suggests CTX has “undergone significant mission and theological drift away from LCMS doctrine and practice” without any real evidence. This assertion has been challenged by the CTX Board of Regents (BOR), staff, faculty, district leadership, students, and others. However, their rebuttal report and/or testimony to the contrary has not been published for delegates to consider.
The ninth Whereas (lines 30-32) states there was extensive communication before the November action of the CTX BOR. The record of documents suggests otherwise. Quoting from the June 2023 Reporter article only reflects the one-sided communication by Synod leaders with CTX. It carefully omits responses.
The thirteenth Whereas (lines 44 and 1-18) summarizes CCM ruling 23-3006. It refers to Bylaw 22.214.171.124.i (line 12), but fails to quote pertinent sections of the bylaw which may, in this circumstance, give the CTX BOR the right to act when the “corporate existence of the institution” may be in jeopardy: “(6) Serving as the governing body corporate of the institution vested with all powers which its members may exercise in law either as directors, trustees, or members of the body corporate, unless in conflict with the laws of the domicile of the institution or its Articles of Incorporation. In such event the board of regents shall have power to perform such acts as may be required by law to effect the corporate existence of the institution.” CTX suggests “corporate existence” was the case due to an undisclosed resolution from the CUS to the BOD that could cause their consolidation without the BOR consent.
The sixteenth Whereas (Page 140, lines 24-28) suggests that requested information was denied Synod’s BOD by CTX’s BOR. CTX reports they followed Synod Bylaws and refused to share their donor lists and other personally identifiable information requested by Synod (Bylaw 1.5.4.a.1 and 126.96.36.199)
What can be done about it?
Many questions need to be answered before delegates can in good conscience consider this resolution. This resolution as it stands now should be amended, defeated, or replaced with a resolution directing all parties to examine their part in failing to work together to an amicable conclusion, repent of their actions, and return to the table to consider another pathway toward a future ministry — or affiliation model — with CTX.
Shouldn’t we change the title of the Resolution to “To Call Concordia University Texas and Synod Leadership to Repentance” and be asking everyone involved to exhibit the humility of Christ in their lives, repent of their actions — or inactions — regarding the relationship between CTX and Synod? Isn’t that the Christ-like thing to do?
Ask to delay or table consideration of this resolution until a full report — including ALL documentation of the correspondence between CUS, Synod’s BOD, the Synod President’s office, and CTX — is made available for delegates to consider.
If delegates aren’t allowed to see the correspondence, why not? Aren’t the delegates meeting in convention the highest authority in the LCMS?
Ask President Harrison why he delayed for more than nine months before sharing his report and concerns with CTX leadership and the Synod.
Ask for the text of the November 2022 proposal from CUS to Synod’s BOD to be shared with delegates prior to voting on this resolution.
Ask to hear from President Christian and other CTX BOR members prior to voting on this resolution so delegates may consider both “sides” of the conflict. This may include Texas District President Newman and CTX President Don Christian.
Ask what “all appropriate actions” referred to in the fifth Resolve (Page 140, line 44) may include. Is this going to entail a long, expensive lawsuit pitting the interpretation of Texas corporate law against Missouri law and Synod Bylaws?
Ask what effect passing this resolution may have on the $302M HotChalk lawsuit against the LCMS. If LCMS exerts this kind of control over CTX and the decisions of the CTX BOR, how can we assert we had no control over the decisions of Concordia Portland’s BOR. Doesn’t this put us in danger of ascending liability? (See the Our Congregations — Our Synod article on ascending liability)
This resolution calls for public repentance and the return of CTX to the CUS system. There is clearly miscommunications and misunderstands in this matter. A CCM opinion, which has not stood the test of agreement at a convention, is being used to interpret conflicting Synod bylaws. Public calls for repentance without the whole story being shared with delegates is not helpful for reconciliation.
Ask if our Synod BOD contemplating legal action against CTX or its BOR? What will that cost Synod to accomplish? How much has it cost us already? What, if any, are the goals of such a contemplated action?
Will members of Synod working at CTX be removed from the roster for continuing to work or teach there? Will the voting records of rostered members of the BOR be used as a reason for ecclesiastical discipline?
This resolution should be significantly amended, tabled, or defeated.