“The growth and development of our Concordia University System (CUS) is one of the most remarkable stories in all of U. S. higher education,” writes Concordia St. Paul President, Rev. Dr. Tom Ries. (For a full copy of Ries’ article, click here or the link at the bottom.) Our Concordia’s are asking for support from LCMS congregations. They want Synod to change the governance model of our university system to allow greater flexibility in the selection of members of their Boards of Regents. They ask that we pass a CUS overture at 2018 District Conventions and again in Tampa in 2019 (the CUS overture will be the subject of a future Congregations Matter article). As Ries writes: “The greatest need for help from the church at the Concordia institutions today is a change in the governance model, specifically the formation and responsibilities of the boards of regents….Approval by the Synod in convention
As 2016 drew to a close and Synod President Matt Harrison’s salary ballooned to $252,573 from $210,156, Harrison ended his lucrative year by laying the blame for declining LCMS membership in the laps of what he considers not-pregnant-often-enough LCMS women.
In the past months, several District presidents wrote powerful pastoral letters in opposition to the recent Ecclesiastical Supervision contrived and enacted by the Harrison administration. Use these links to review each of their letters. Council of Presidents Chairman, Rev. Ken Hennings, President of the Texas District. Past Council of Presidents Chair, Rev. Larry Stoterau, Current President of the Pacific Southwest District Rev. John Denninger, President of the Southeastern District Other District Presidents have done the same. More and more LCMS leaders are voicing their opposition to the unconstitutional change to Bylaw 2.14. President Harrison sought this power. But Harrison couldn’t do it alone. With the support of the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors (BOD), President Harrison and Secretary Sias bypassed the Council of Presidents and the expressed will of the Milwaukee Synodical convention.
In early 2017, our Fort Wayne (CTSFW) and St. Louis (CSL) Seminaries suddenly learned Synod was backing away from $400,000 in budget commitments to help with the two seminaries’ ongoing expenses for Synod’s Global Seminary Initiative (GSI). With no warning, each seminary has to manage a $200,000 loss of promised financial support from the International Center. Worse Than a Budget Shortfall, It Was a Broken Promise All of us are familiar with budget shortfalls. They happen. But here’s the rub. Both of our seminaries have been participating in Synod’s Global Seminary Initiative knowing that money to assist them with the real costs of these programs is in the LCMS operating budget. The Global Seminary Initiative Has Been Successful Through the GSI, dozens of foreign students came to Fort Wayne and St. Louis to study. These students received various amounts of seminary subsidies. Fort Wayne and St. Louis professors traveled around
With a letter to the congregations and rostered members of his district, District President (DP) John Denninger of the Southeastern District joined the growing number of LCMS leaders voicing their opposition to recent and unconstitutional bylaw changes giving final ecclesiastical supervision to President Harrison. At President Harrison’s request and Secretary Sias’ hand, the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors (BOD) wrested the constitutional, historic responsibility of ecclesiastical supervision from District Presidents. Without vote or action of the Milwaukee Convention, the BOD gave this responsibility to one man. The President of Synod now is the de facto ecclesiastical supervisor of the LCMS. Harrison has taken ecclesiastical supervisory decisions away from our 35 District Presidents. He relocated those life-changing decisions to his own desk inside the secretive International Center in St. Louis. Wrested Power Over Congregations First, Council of Presidents Chair, Texas DP Hennings stood his ground against this dangerous
Last Friday District President (DP) Ken Hennings sent an unprecedented, public letter to the rostered members of his district. The letter explains the drastic change that the United List majority of the Synod Board of Directors adopted in May regarding ecclesiastical supervision. But Hennings did more. The letter explains why District Presidents in Synod are no longer the final ecclesiastical supervisors of churches, pastors, teachers, DCEs and other church workers. Our new, changed reality? Synod President Harrison has taken that job for himself. District President Hennings clearly warns of the consequence this bylaw change brings: “It is necessary that I personally make you aware of the significant changes to the process of ecclesiastical supervision in our church body. The board of directors of the Synod has adopted bylaw changes that give the ultimate responsibility for your (and your congregation’s) ecclesiastical supervision to the President of the Synod. In other words, if
“Among You It Will Be Different” It was a simple request. A mother asking for positions of power and influence for her sons. Then it all broke loose. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. The other disciples became indignant with James and John. And the Master settles the issue with these words: 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT) Jesus does not need political posturing. He needs
Sadly, our Synod is moving toward a greater centralization of power. Despite the LCMS being historically a Synod of congregations bound together by a common confession and walking in love, we are more and more ruled by an administration in the International Center bent on control. If we resign ourselves to a Synod with centralized control, we will never have freedom from fear as workers in the harvest, freedom from church-political agendas that limit the Gospel — and we will never be free to be the Church our Lord has called us to be, nor fulfill His commission for us as followers of Jesus.
Congregations Matter© believes we need a change of leadership in the LCMS. Either the current leaders need to change the way they are doing things — or we need new leaders. Four Reasons for a Change of Leadership There is a lack of cooperation with and support of our district elected leaders — especially our District Presidents. Congregations don’t matter — neither do our District Presidents. The centralization of power in the office of Synodical President sought by our current administration is dangerous for our Synod now and in the days to come. This is an unprecedented power grab in the history of our church. At our last convention, President Harrison showed his lack of trust for the Boards of Regents, theological faculties of our Concordias, and our District Presidents (and the congregations that elected them) as he became the agent of approval of all theological faculty Synod-wide. In addition, at the