Concordia University System:
Governance FAQs

Learn more about the treasure we have in our Concordia universities


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What are the primary challenges facing the Concordia University System (CUS)?

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  • In some ways, the institutions of the CUS have never been stronger, with excellent leaders who are united in their desire to strengthen the universities’ Lutheran identity and connection with the Synod.

    But the Synod’s Concordias are facing two powerful, adverse pressures. One is common to every institution of higher education: declining enrollment. Across the board, colleges and universities have been preparing for the coming “enrollment cliff ” expected to cause a 15% decline in enrollment beginning in 2025.

    The other is common to traditionally conservative Christian schools in the contemporary U.S. context: pressure to conform to unscriptural worldviews and agendas. In view of these pressures, the last three Synod conventions have made clear the church’s desire to respond by being proactive, not reactive.

 

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Why do we need Concordias to offer degrees for those not pursuing church work?

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  • There has never been a greater need for Lutheran institutions to train men and women not just for careers in the church (which is critically important), but also for secular careers.

    In a 1524 letter, “To the Councilmen of all Cities in Germany that they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools,” Martin Luther wrote:

    It is not necessary to repeat here that the temporal government is a divinely ordained estate. … The question is rather: How are we to get good and capable men into it? Here we are excelled and put to shame by the pagans of old, especially the Romans and Greeks. Although they had no idea of whether this estate were pleasing to God or not, they were so earnest and diligent in educating and training their young boys and girls to fit them for the task, that when I call it to mind I am forced to blush for us Christians, and especially for us Germans. Yet we know, or at least we ought to know, how essential and beneficial it is — and pleasing to God — that a prince, lord, councilman, or other person in a position of authority be educated and qualified to perform the functions of his office as a Christian should. Now if (as we have assumed) there were no souls, and there were no need at all of schools and languages for the sake of the Scriptures and of God, this one consideration alone would be sufficient to justify the establishment everywhere of the very best schools for both boys and girls, namely, that in order to maintain its temporal estate outwardly the world must have good and capable men and women, men able to rule well over land and people, women able to manage the household and train children and servants aright. Now such men must come from our boys, and such women from our girls. Therefore, it is a matter of properly educating and training our boys and girls to that end. (AE 45, pp. 367-8)

    With continually expanding programs of study, it becomes ever more critical to ensure that what is being taught in these disciplines, too, accords with the church’s commitment to the truth of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions

 

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What changes does the 2019 Resolution 7-03 governance model propose?

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    • Res.7-03:

      1. Reframes the role of the CUS to focus on right-hand kingdom matters through ecclesiastical governance, by which the CUS will guide institutions in accomplishing the Synod’s mission outcomes and expressing Lutheran identity in all spheres of university life.
      2. Clarifies procedures for formal ecclesiastical visitation. The CUS will assist the Synod president, who has the responsibility for ecclesiastical visitation of the Concordia universities, in seeing that the universities are following the 2021 adopted Lutheran Identity and Mission Outcome Standards (LIMOs). Universities will receive ecclesiastical affirmation, granting them the ability to prepare and certify church work students.
      3. Simplifies and updates bylaws related to CUS regents and university presidents and clarifies that the university presidents, in their capacity as spiritual heads of the institutions, will be overseen by the CUS, who may call up for review any action in violation of LCMS doctrine or practice
      4. Clarifies CUS boards of regents’ obligations and accountability in left-hand kingdom matters like finance, business and legal concerns.
      5. Provides greater detail regarding the process to close, consolidate, relocate, separate or divest the Concordias.
      6. Encourages and facilitates increased coordination and collaboration among the CUS institutions.

 

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What made 7-03 necessary? What problem is being addressed by the proposed governance changes?

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    • Each of the last three Synod conventions has called for a strengthening of the CUS schools’ Lutheran identity and connection to the Synod, along with review of the existing governance model. 2013 Res. 5-01A established a task force for this purpose and called for visitation by the CUS president and Synod president to the institutions. This task force developed Lutheran identity standards unanimously endorsed by the CUS presidents. These standards were passed by the 2016 convention and served as the basis for the 2021 LIMOs.

      The 2016 convention also passed Res. 7-02B, which continued the work of the task force and called for evaluation of the composition, size and selection of boards of regents and of the process for selecting university presidents. Then in 2019, the convention passed Res. 7-03, which called for the LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) — with the involvement of the Synod president, CUS university presidents, CUS BOD, CUS president and boards of regents — to propose a new model of governance that would attend to the 2013 and 2016 resolutions’ calls for enhanced Lutheran identity, strengthened connection to the Synod, and reevaluation of composition and selection of boards of regents.

      The culminating 2019 convention action directed the Synod BOD — with active involvement of the Synod president; the CUS BOD, Advisory Council and president; representatives of the institutions’ presidents and boards of regents; and others as needed — to propose a new governance plan for consideration and adoption by the 2023 convention. The process directed by Res. 7-03 required the concurrence of the CUS Advisory Council and the CUS BOD. (The committee submitted a preliminary draft overture to the Synod BOD in February 2021. Many more details of the process since that time are included in the Convention Workbook, R61, pp. 137–59.)

 

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What led to the latest version of the 7-03 proposal? Why has the Synod BOD submitted a late overture different from the one that originally appeared in the Workbook?

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    • At its May 19, 2023, meeting, the BOD resolved to submit a late overture in response to the assignment given to it by the 2019 convention. Following the 2019 convention, a committee was formed to carry out the assignment given to the BOD under Res. 7-03. This committee met monthly for 14 months and submitted to the BOD a proposed overture to modify the governance structure of the CUS and the Synod’s universities according to the directive given under Res. 7-03.

      At its February 2021 meeting, the BOD accepted this proposed overture and submitted it to the Synod for comment, as provided under Res. 7-03. This comment period took place between March and September 2021. The 7-03 committee considered this input, made changes to the proposed overture, and submitted a revised proposed overture to the BOD in October 2022. This essentially completed the work of the 7-03 committee; however, before the BOD’s November 2022 meeting, the CUS presidents requested the BOD to consider further modifications to the draft overture, resulting in the BOD postponing action on the final proposed draft overture.

      Before the October 2022 revised overture was considered by the BOD, the university presidents discussed a possible alternative approach to address the directive under Res. 7-03. LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison encouraged the presidents to pursue their alternative approach and to request the BOD to delay action on the revised proposed overture to give the presidents the opportunity to present an alternative approach. The BOD agreed. The presidents submitted their own revised proposed overture for the Board to consider at its February 2023 meeting. The Board considered this submission and encouraged further discussion. Also in February, a presentation was provided to the LCMS Council of Presidents by 7-03 Committee Chairman Christian Preus and Concordia University, St. Paul, St. Paul, Minn., President Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich, who was representing the CUS presidents. This presentation explained the two approaches being considered and their fundamental differences.

      Extensive discussions then occurred between representatives of the BOD, the university presidents, the CUS and LCMS Secretary Rev. Dr. John W. Sias. These discussions focused initially on two primary issues: first, the fundamental difference between categorizing the Concordia universities as “agencies,” as provided in current bylaws, or “affiliates,” as proposed in the 7-03 committee revised draft overture (Convention Workbook, R61, pp. 137-59); second, retaining the CUS but focusing its work on right-hand kingdom matters and changing the proposed “accreditation” process to an “ecclesiastical visitation” process. These discussions resulted in the late draft overture, which retains agency status for the universities and establishes a visitation process to be conducted by CUS. This late draft overture, while retaining a substantial portion of the 7-03 committee proposed overture, also makes other detail changes in conformance with these two fundamental differences from the 7-03 committee proposed overture. This includes changes necessary to address financial and governance issues that have evolved over the past several decades.

 

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Why is the latest version of the Res. 7-03 proposal not in the Convention Workbook?

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    • The development of an alternative proposed overture and the discussions around it took place while the Workbook was being finalized and going to print. Both the late overture adopted by the BOD at its May 2023 meeting (Ov. 7-27, TB, 1: 52–75) and the 7-03 committee’s current proposed overture will be available for consideration by Floor Committee 7. Comment and input are continuing to be received, including recent submissions from the CUS boards of regents. This is a continuing process, with Floor Committee 7 now considering how best to carry out 2019 Res. 7-03 and ultimately submitting a resolution to the 2023 convention. It is the convention that will decide whether and how to modify the CUS and the Synod universities’ governance structure. The willingness of the CUS presidents and the drafting committee of the task force to stay in the conversation until all parties felt that their concerns were addressed has been a remarkable display of churchmanship.

 

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Is Synod, Inc., trying to close Concordias to gain access to more liquid financial assets for its own use?

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    • No. Every iteration of a resolution to strengthen the Concordias and their connection to the Synod has been for the sole purpose of stewarding these resources for the long-term viability of the institutions and the way they enable the Synod to carry on the mission give to it by member congregations. Healthy, thriving Concordia universities benefit the whole church by preparing faithful church workers and laity able to approach their respective vocations with a zeal to confess the light of Jesus Christ and Him crucified in an ever-darkening world.

 

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What brought about the most recent resolution (2023 Res. 7-04, included in Today’s Business 1, pp. 141–65) to change the governance of the CUS?

 

    • View Answer
    • Res. 7-04, prepared by Floor Committee 7, reflects the continued development of the Board of Directors’ late overture (Ov. 7-27, TB, 1: 52–75; see above) as a result of continued conversation among the Board, the university presidents and their boards, the CUS, and now the floor committee members, with the benefit of additional input received by the floor committee. It is the product of years of tireless conversations among interested parties, poring over drafts repeatedly, and significant churchmanship. The floor committee, which involved two university presidents, two members of the CUS board, a member of the Board of Directors and others, were blessed to reach a common understanding in this submission. The floor committee continues to invite input and may still make changes before presenting a version of the resolution to the convention, which will ultimately make the decision regarding changes to the governance of the CUS. But the fact that these stakeholders came up with a resolution they can all support is a testament to their combined wisdom and zeal for the ongoing success of our Concordia universities. While in the abstract there might be a variety of approaches that could help the universities to thrive and to serve with fruitfulness, and while this approach was long in coming and may yet undergo further refinement as it moves to the convention floor, its consensus adoption by the floor committee — after prolonged and recently intensive discussion among all responsible parties — reflects broad support from those who will be charged to carry it out. It is therefore worthy of careful consideration by the convention

 

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