Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.Proverbs 9
Initially, our Concordias existed for the training of church workers. Tuition was supported by the offerings of our members. In the mid-20th century, the leaders of our synod looked at the growth trends for the previous century, and noticed that we were on track to have nearly 6 million members by the year 2000. Obviously, such a large church would need a large and active system of junior and senior colleges. So they set one up. And they did this just as two things happened: 1) Immigration from Germany pretty much fell to zero, and 2) So did the rate of population growth by births in middle America. The synod never reached 3 million members. But we had structures in place for a church twice that size. What did this mean? Normally this would have meant a rapid re-thinking of the system and a consolidation of our Concordias. But we managed to expand them just as college became a way of life for every American. There was a huge market for colleges and Universities. Our Junior colleges sought senior college, and then University status. Of course, each Concordia produced a fair number of church workers, so there was always a large constituency at conventions who would fight for their alma mater. That’s not bad: esprit de corps is a good thing. But it meant we didn’t need to make hard decisions, and so we didn’t make them. Now they are being made for us. Two Concordias have been closed. A third has been absorbed by one of her sisters, keeping only nominal independence.
One of the side-effects of the COVID crisis will be the popping of the college bubble. We can either 1) let the Concordias individually bleed to death, offering to back ruinous and unsuccessful loans that will drain our equity and make them worthless assets 2) Make a specific plan moving forward that looks at what the LCMS actually needs from her schools (programs, majors, facilities to achieve these things) and how best to provide those with the resources we have available.
We need to look at the need for various commissioned workers. How many teachers, DCE’s, DPM’s, Deaconesses, etc. are likely needed in the future? What sort of training is required to meet that need? How many graduates are serving in their field of training after 10 or 20 years? We don’t need mirror image tracks at all of our Concordias. Specialization of smaller programs at specific schools can not only save money and make oversight easier, but also insure we are meeting the needs of our congregations.
Is there a place for a Concordia that provides a unique Lutheran education for those entering secular professions? I think there is. I think there is a place for a trade school as well, to provide young Lutherans with the ability to enter the skilled trades as an educated citizen who has a thorough grounding in Lutheran doctrine so he can teach his family.
For too long we have played the world’s game of “education for education’s sake” with no consensus even about what constitutes a proper education. Increasingly Marxist ideals are being taught to our children. We need to settle on a Christian model of educating our people, and offer practical and scholarly education that matches our confession, instead of conflicting with it. This will mean fewer Concordias – but Concordias that are clearly and specifically focused on the Word of God, the education of the young, and preparation specific fields of service to our neighbors. Painful decisions must be made. But we can no longer offer 8 mirrors of the local public colleges – including their secular and atheistic governing philosophies. Those days are over, and if we move forward boldly and faithfully, I say good riddance to them.
Concrete Proposal :
Distinctively Luther Education that Prepares workers for the church & Prepares Lutherans for other careers.
In all cases, making sure we clearly confess Christ to the world.
There will be an initial meeting of the Presidents, Board of Regent Chairmen, and CFO of each Concordia University in the system. It will also include the Presidium of Synod, the CUS Board, and the Synod Treasurer.
At this meeting each University will present a report indicating their assets and liabilities (financial and otherwise) including but not limited to long-term contracts with vendors and any stipulations that would allow renegotiation of those contracts, their long term plans, long term needs, and long term prospects. Any liabilities intentionally left out of this report will be given no consideration by the synod or her agencies for assistance at a later date. (No hiding problems!)
Long term contracts that are detrimental to the long term health and wellbeing of the University will have an attempt at renegotiation, to hopefully prevent another sudden closure as with Portland.
After this meeting, the President of Synod, Presidium and CUS Board will meet, including the Presidents of the University as necessary and appropriate, to discuss:
- Prospects for each of our schools (short and long term),
- Needs of the synod (short and long term). “Needs” here means not only the need for church workers, but also the need for an educated Lutheran laity that can work in our congregations and our synod, and serve as citizen-leaders in their communities.
- Availability of Lutheran Professors in secular fields – i.e. the sciences, arts, etc. – to ensure that we provide a distinctly Lutheran education, not merely Lutheran oversight of otherwise secular or generically Christian teachers.
- Potential for including trade schools in the Concordia system, or converting one or more Concordias to Lutheran Trade Schools.
- Actual Mission potential of our Concordias, using available historical data on number of non-Lutherans who became Lutheran from attending a Concordia.
Programs which are inimical to the Christian faith and our confession will no longer be supported. Faculty from those programs who can teach in another department, will be offered a position, with the following understanding:
All faculty will be expected to teach classes in accord with our Confessional Commitment (Scripture, Book of Concord), and live according to the Ten Commandments. We will need to provide outplacement services – even long term ones – for faculty that are not Lutheran and do not wish to abide by this. Except in cases of incompetence, financial emergency (RIF, etc.), or refusal to find new employment, faculty will not be terminated under this section. They will be peacefully released to other institutions as much as we are able.
The Concordias will be refocused as institutions of Lutheran Higher Education, and the education at all levels will be explicitly Scriptural/Lutheran.
Concordias which, in the opinion of the CUS/Presidium, in consultation with the President and Board of Regents, will not be financially viable within the next 5 years, and can not be repurposed for other use in our synod, will be offered a one-time option to exit the synod, as long as none of their debt is guaranteed by the synod, and the synod incurs no liabilities, nor continues to have any existing liabilities toward them. The only condition is that, for branding purposes, they may not use the name “Concordia”. The synod will pay reasonable costs for a study of rebranding for them.
Schools which remain open will be given an assessment regarding their administrative structure, making it as lean and adaptable as possible. This will include consideration of removing themselves from federal funding. Compliance costs with federal mandates are enormous. What options would we have if we adopted an independent funding model? (i.e. The Hillsdale Model) Is it possible or desirable for us to do this? Would losing federal funds be made up for by the increased efficiency and desirability of our institutions? We need to explore this.