I’ve written before about the storm brewing within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod over controversy at Concordia University Wisconsin – Ann Arbor. The controversy, so far as I can tell, is at least in part due to the inclusion in the Presidential Search of having a need for “diversity, equity, and inclusion” on the part of the candidates. One professor wrote about how this showed that CUWAA had gone “woke” and “Marxist.” I wrote that that reaction was unchristian nonsense. However, Rev. Matthew Harrison, the President of the LCMS, apparently decided it was worth a visit to CUWAA, and after that investigation, sent a letter to the Board of Regents. This letter has been published on various sites, though I haven’t been able to find it on an official LCMS front-facing website. If anyone has such an official source or any additional information, please let me know.
I wanted to write a response to this letter. For one, I am intimately connected with CUWAA. For another, the letter is timely in all the wrong ways, and I believe that needs to be addressed.
Harrison’s letter, after saying he and his people were welcomed to the CUWAA and given full access to things they requested, goes over a bunch of supposed bylaw violations that occurred in the presidential search for the new President of CUWAA. Harrison writes about how the “visitation team uncovered the following concerns…” and then lists a number of those alleged violations. Intriguingly, one of the supposed violations includes a lengthy note about how the list of candidates given was 38 names instead of the approved list of 11, which “especially belittled candidates from the CUWAA theology and philosophy departments, and precipitated the Schultz matter.” What Schultz matter? The Schultz matter about the former Professor of Philosophy who wrote the screed I responded to in my link above.
Going on, another concern listed is “changes to the faculty handbook include referring to the president with the pronouns ‘he or she’ and ‘his or her,’ in violation of the teaching of Holy Scripture that spiritual and doctrinal oversight in the church and its universities is given to qualified men. Accordingly, Commission on Constitutional Matter rulings have consistently ruled that presidents of CUS schools must be qualified men. Mr. Polzin’s errant council to the Regents, even after I spoke at length with the Regents in person, about this matter, is unacceptable.” I personally seem to have missed the Bible verses about universities being run by men. Of course, this kind of assumed Scriptural precedent is what qualifies for argument in much of the LCMS discussion related to women in the church and home. When arguments are provided, they’re unconvincing. (See, for example, my series of posts analyzing a Concordia Publishing House book on Women Pastors.)
A primary problem, Harrison notes, is “concern over the introduction of secular diversity, equity, and inclusion language and initiatives into the mission of the university. This philosophy is laden with ideas antagonistic to the sacred Scriptures, including great lies about human sexuality and race.” Once again, Harrison doesn’t delineate any of these alleged antagonistic ideas. And, to be fair, that’s probably outside the scope of a letter like this. But when the question is whether racism needs to be addressed at a university is apparently a live question, and a professor on the philosophy department who Harrison explicitly names as having been “belittled” somehow by being included among others in a list of names for possible President of CUWAA comments about how racism cannot exist on that same campus, red flags should be raised all over.
This letter was dated May 9th, 2022. On May 14th, 2022, a white man entered a grocery store in a zip code he explicitly targeted due to its high population of black people and murdered 10 people, shooting others before his arrest. He specifically cited the “Great Replacement” theory in his manifesto–the notion that white people are being replaced by non-white people through migration, differing birth rates, and more. I can personally attest to encountering the Great Replacement theory in LCMS schools, including at CUWAA when I attended speaking in class about how we needed to have a higher birth rate to keep up with or surpass Muslims. I’ve written about the racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism I encountered among men training to be pastors and teachers. I’ve also written about the unity of nationalism and Christianity I was taught in LCMS schools. Maybe the allegedly “secular diversity, equity, and inclusion” isn’t the bogeyman we need; maybe we need to refocus and acknowledge that racism is a real, true threat and that explicitly racist theories have been spoken out loud in classes at CUWAA before. I can’t attest whether that’s still happening, but the fact that it did happen and did so without any investigation from the President then suggests that actual, real life racism might be a more urgent issue to address than the latest right wing buzzwords.
Now would be a great time for President Harrison to take a step back and call out racism. Now is the time to acknowledge that it exists in the LCMS, in schools and churches, and to repent of it. Now is the time to strongly condemn the Great Replacement theory, which I personally have heard from LCMS pastors. Now is the time to take real, lasting steps for change that will work to bring God’s Kingdom here on Earth, as we pray daily. I hope and pray that President Harrison will rethink his dismissal of social change and instead work so that one day, we truly can have a church that reflects Galatians 3:28.
Formerly Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) or Wisconsin Synod (WELS)– A Facebook group I’ve created for people who are former members of either of these church bodies to share stories, support each other, and try to bring change. Note: Anything you post on the internet has the potential to be public and shared anywhere, so if you join and post, be aware of that.
Why I left the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod Links Hub– Want to follow the whole series? Here’s a hub post with links to all the posts as well as related topics.
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