Last February, the Board of Regents (BOR) of Concordia University Texas (CTX) asked the Concordia University System (CUS) and the Synod Board of Directors (BOD) to engage in a discussion regarding a change of relationship with the LCMS. Since then, there has been a campus visitation by a team led by President Harrison…and silence – until now.
On November 8th, given the silence from Synod leadership, the CTX BOR voted to implement their plan. You can read about what led up to this in the CM article “Concordia Texas Regents Vote for Improved Local Governance.”
The CTX decision was followed by an immediate condemnation from the Synod President and the Synod BOD. Months of silence and stonewalling have now turned to condemnation as the first public, written response to the CTX BOR request. It took all of three days to respond.
Who Has “Standing?”
Included in Synod leadership’s condemnation statement was the phrase “to set this matter before those who do have standing in the church.”
That’s a good idea. The people who have “standing in the church” are all of us – the congregations and members of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
We – the members of Synod – have elected people to represent us and our interests. For one thing, they fulfill the fiduciary responsibilities of oversight and securing the futures of our Concordias on our behalf. In that work, they represent all of us.
Who have we elected? First of all, that’s local Boards of Regents for all of our Concordias. Others, too. The Synod Board of Directors, the Synod President (regarding certain issues), and the Concordia University System leadership.
By electing people to serve us, we don’t lose our “standing” as members of Synod. In fact, we are the ones with the ultimate standing. As members of Synod, we are required to judge the actions of our leaders, give them direction on how they will serve us by our resolutions, and affirm or change leaders and direction with our votes in convention. And we have more standing: we are to give them counsel as they do their work on our behalf.
Bonds of Love Over Bylaws
Our standing changes things. We are a Synod of congregations. Whatever “standing” we have in Synod comes from our bonds of love, not our bylaws.
Our “standing” is God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and the unity that brings us as we gather around His Word and Sacraments. It’s our common confession we’ve pledged ourselves to. Our “standing” comes from our love for one another — and the commitment to serve one another as we serve the Lord Jesus.
That “standing” causes us to submit to one another instead of out-power one another. We live by submission and obedience rather than power and control. You can read more about this in the article “Are We a Top-Down or a Bottom-Up Synod?”
There is not a “Synod” organization somewhere out there that has power over us and calls us to serve them. Synod leadership at all levels serves us and the work of Jesus Christ among us. And, as Article VII of our LCMS Constitution reminds us, our Synod organization “is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers.” Therefore, Synod stands under us, not over us.
Leading Rather Than Condemning
Because they serve us, leadership in our Synod should look and act differently. For that matter, we all should.
Instead of delaying the CTX BOR’s request for a conversation, every effort should have been made to have it.
Instead of an official visitation without an official report of findings, those we have elected to lead should be entirely transparent with all of us in Synod, let alone those who were visited.
Instead of hiding issues during Synod Board of Directors meetings by entering into executive sessions, members of Synod should not have been surprised that there was an issue with CTX. Surprisingly, the first real public information for members of Synod came in the form of a statement condemning the CTX BOR from Synod leaders on November 11th.
That’s a big thing to hide.
“Organizations” hide things and use power, position, and standing to control. God’s people ought to be transparent, trustworthy, and open. The work of Jesus Christ deserves no less.
Why Not Share the CTX Proposal?
If we are to be a transparent Synod, why not share the proposal from the CTX BOR as vigorously as the proposal from the 7-03 Task Force?
Instead of condemning the brothers and sisters in Christ we’ve elected to care for our CTX, why not let the members of Synod decide if their proposal is worth consideration?
And wouldn’t it be beneficial for all of us to hear the concerns the Synod President and the BOD have with the CTX BOR proposal? That would help all of us determine what is best for our future together.
That’s what the Church did in Acts 15. They put the circumcision issue out on the table for everyone, listened to all the voices, and ONLY THEN acted. And when they acted, it was for love’s sake and the advancement of the Gospel, not for the sake of institutional authority or chain of command or control.
Acting Another Way
What if we did it another way – a churchly way – a brothers and sisters in Christ kind of way? Instead of condemning others, why not lift them up as an example of creative thinking? Why not recognize the variety of gifts God has given His Church and taught in Scripture? Doesn’t that sound Scriptural to you?
After all, even our own LCMS Constitution encourages that we “develop an appreciation of a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith” (Article III.7).
Our Synod forefathers obviously believed “none of us is as smart as all of us.” We should, too.
Let’s Take A Breath and Trust
The Lutheran identity of Concordia Texas is secure. You can explore all they have to say about what they are doing to sustain and enhance it on their webpage Lutheran Identity. You’ll be impressed. You can trust them in word and deed. They prove it every day.
Let’s all acknowledge that reality. And, as all of our press releases from Synod regarding the closing of a Concordia state, let’s all remember we’ve created these schools as “independent entities” from Synod.
The independent status of our Concordias doesn’t suddenly become a reality as they are closing in hopes of avoiding ascending liability issues. You can read more about “ascending liability” in the upcoming article “Synod, Universities and Ascending Liability.”
Our congregations and Synod need the kind of leadership and creative problem-solving the CTX Board of Regents has shown. More importantly, we all deserve better than the silence and condemnation they have received from our leaders up to now.
Boards of Regents don’t suddenly gain authority and responsibility —standing — when a school is closing. All of our Concordia Boards of Regents have standing now.
After all, we’re not a hierarchical denomination. We don’t have bishops or popes. Synod leadership “is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers.” All of us are in this together.
It’s our congregations…our Synod – and our Concordias.