By Melanie Ave
ST. LOUIS (July 21, 2013) — Many Christian colleges and universities have lost their denominational focus and in some cases, their Christian identity, according to a resolution approved Sunday by Synod convention delegates.
To help the 10 colleges and universities of the Concordia University System retain their “distinctly Lutheran” identity and biblical teachings affirmed by the LCMS, delegates adopted Resolution 5-01A by a vote of 75 percent.
The resolution “To Encourage Continued Faithful Witness by the Concordia University System” requires each school to develop a strategy to help students with “unbiblical cultural challenges” on issues such as evolution, sanctity of life, human sexuality and marriage.
The CUS Board of Directors and the LCMS president will receive reports about the “intentional strategy” to be developed by each of the schools.
The resolution was one of three approved Sunday from Floor Committee 5 (Seminary and University Education).
The strategy will become a “key part” of regular visitations by the CUS president and the Synod president.
The resolution included parts of Resolution 5-05, which will be presented later this week, and 5-10, which has been shelved by the committee. It calls for the Synod president to convene a task force that will make recommendations to the 2016 convention about:
• The “confessional Lutheran identity” in all CUS schools;
• Ways to strengthen all CUS connections to the Synod;
• The composition, size and selection of boards of regents; and
• governance issues.
The Rev. Dr. Robert Hartwell, pastor of The Village Lutheran Church in Bronxville, N.Y., spoke against the resolution for “pope-ish authority by the Synod.”
Several delegates spoke in favor of the resolution, including the Rev. Dallas Dubke, pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Corning, Calif.
“We need a little top-down encouragement at our universities regarding what in fact is encouraged and taught,” he said. “Part of the purpose of this resolution is that there is encouragement for solid biblical teaching. What an opportunity to teach the young people who are not Christians at the universities.”
One delegate asked for the CUS presidents to weigh in on the resolution.
Floor Committee Chair Rev. Dr. Dale Sattgast, president of the LCMS South Dakota District, said he spoke to representatives from every college, university and boards of regents and received a “consensus” of support for the resolution.
Sattgast said the resolution will provide an “opportunity for communication” between the CUS and the Synod.
“We’ve got an incredibly wonderful system with the Concordia University System,” he said after the vote. “But the nature of students has changed dramatically over the years. This simply gives the opportunity for nice discussions to take place between the Synod, the Concordia University System, the president’s office … regarding oversight, regarding the mission of the universities and so on, in a frank and a trustworthy way.”
Delegates also adopted two other resolutions presented by the Seminary and University Education floor committee.
The convention approved Resolution 5-02A with a 95 percent vote. The resolution calls for the LCMS seminaries, districts and congregations to support the Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) initiative and encourage new pastors and their wives to participate in PALS.
PALS is a collaborative effort of the national Synod, LCMS districts and individual congregations that brings together groups of recent seminary graduates for worship, study, sharing and mutual support. Pastors are typically involved for their first three years of parish ministry.
Hundreds of pastors have participated in the initiative, which began in 1998 to help ease the transition for new pastors from seminary to congregational life.
Before the vote, one delegate asked for more discussion about the successes or failings of the initiative.
“It is going very well,” Sattgast replied. “We have had the request to extend the PALS program because it is going so well.”
Sattgast said he was “blown away” by the convention’s support of PALS.
Delegates also approved Resolution 5-15, which recognized Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill. The university will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2014. The resolution declared Oct. 12, 2014 as “Concordia University Chicago Sunday” throughout the Synod and recognized the university for its “34,000 alumni sainted and living, who have served and lead in churches, schools, institutions and communities throughout the world through a variety of vocations.”
Floor Committee 5 is scheduled to return on Tuesday with more resolutions.
The Synod convention is meeting through July 25 under the theme “Baptized for This Moment,” from Acts 2:38-39.