Christian News in Brief (Spring 2021)

Found: President for CSL | Concordia, Portland Woes Continue | LCMS CTCR Speaks Against the Practice of Online Communion

Found: President for CSL

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis has finally completed its search for a new president. Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast declined the call to serve as the seminary’s 11th president in Spring 2020. A second round of the process resulted in the calling of Rev. Dr. Thomas Egger to be the new President. Dr. Egger has been on the faculty at CSL since 2005. He has accepted the call and will replace the Interim President, Rev. Daniel Preus. Dr. Egger will have a difficult task ahead. The key issues at CSL will be restoring trust by the wider church after a series of controversies over doctrine have taken place. Another more immediate and yet perhaps related issue is the dramatic decline in new seminarians. These first years will prove crucial to the churchly role of CSL and its new President.

New Presidents all over the Concordia University System

In 2019 Concordia Chicago received its new President, Dr. Russel Dawn (formerly of Concordia, Irvine). In January 2020 Concordia Irvine received Dr. Michael Thomas (formerly of Concordia, Portland). At the same time Concordia, St. Paul received Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich (formerly of Concordia, Seward). Concordia, Seward (Nebraska) also will be receiving their new President, Dr. Bernard Bull in August. Notable in these new presidencies is the trend to have laymen serving in that office. Also notable was the effort of some within the LCMS to put forward women to serve in this authority-wielding office. Following this academic year Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry is retiring as well and a new presidential search for both Concordia Wisconsin and Ann Arbor is underway.

Seminary Confesses in the Face of Fears

The faculty of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharine’s, Ontario has issued a Gutachten (faculty opinion) entitled “Facts and Faith: What we know to be true in the face of a pandemic”. The opinion offers the Church at large a faithful assessment of the situation and a proper theological mindset with which to approach the variety of issues presented to the Evangelical Lutheran Church by the Coronavirus pandemic. The opinion can be found at: https://concordia-seminary.ca/2020/06/23/faculty-opinion-facts-and-faith-what-we-know-to-be-true-in-the-face-of-a-pandemic/

Missourians Postpone Their Convention

After going to extraordinary lengths, including a voting initiative involving every congregation, the LCMS has decided to postpone the National Convention from 2022 to 2023 in order to give Districts another year to conduct their own conventions. The effort to postpone demonstrated some differences in opinion, as the Council of Presidents was in favor, but a letter from Rev. Dr. Michael Kumm, chairman of the Synod’s Board of Directors, expressed some misgivings about the plan and its related costs and rush to action. The votes are now in, and the synodical convention has been delayed until 2023. Terms have been extended for elected and appointed positions.

Synod Open for Business?

The International Center of the LCMS, which serves as the LCMS headquarters, has been largely shut down for almost a year now due to concerns over Covid. Required work has been done remotely by employees. This should raise some questions for readers – if such work can take place remotely and if we can manage without having a dedicated headquarters for almost a year, perhaps it’s time to think about revamping our normal work processes and where that work needs to take place. As far as business headquarters go, the price for real estate may soon decline as more and more businesses revamp their operating models due to lessons learned this past year.

Concordia, Portland Woes Continue

Concordia University, Portland (CUP) continues to find itself in the news. After the closing of the University was announced in February 2020, there has been a variety of responses from within the Church, academia, and the secular world. Hotchalk, a business with which CUP contracted for online degree programs, has sued the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church Extension Fund for $302 million in damages. The lawsuit was also reportedly a reason for the failure to successfully sell Concordia Portland’s law school, which was based in Idaho, to Concordia University, St. Paul. Continued news articles are trying to draw in the issue of the student clubs at CUP that advocated the acceptance of the LGBTQRUS agenda. The media have not been friendly to the church in this matter. The entire scenario reminds us of the monetary cost of secularization and the high spiritual cost of doctrinal compromises at LCMS universities.

Concordia, New York Closing Down

Concordia College, New York announced that it will close at the end of this academic year. It had struggled after being under probation with its accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It also has seen some difficulty after Hawk Newsome, an alumnus who was honored last year with the “Servant of Christ” award, has become a very vocal advocate of violence towards the police and government. No statements have been made about this honored alumnus. Lawsuits by former students and employees have also harmed the college. This will mark the third Concordia to shut down in recent years. In each case, the number of students seeking to be trained for service in the church has been very low and the number of Lutheran students and faculty continues to decline.

LCMS CTCR Speaks Against the Practice of Online Communion

This has been called the “Age of Absurdity.” During times in which people perceive a crisis, temptation comes for sinful innovations to be introduced into the Church. Some congregations in the LCMS have opted to conduct communion services over internet connections, as if such a thing were possible. Thankfully seminary faculties have issued statements against this virtual ridiculousness, and now the LCMS CTCR has also submitted their opinion on the matter. They are opposed to the practice for many reasons, but of course every Christian should know that such practice is in violation of the clear words of Jesus. Pastors have justified this heterodox practice with emotional appeals that ignore Jesus’ clear words of institution. No further statement or action by Synod has been made in the past months as the pandemic has started to wind down.

LCMS District Conventions 2021

Despite the delay of the National Convention, some LCMS District Conventions will still be held in 2021. Other conventions are coming in 2022. These conventions will consider various resolutions that may affect the whole of the LCMS. They will also elect men to the office of District President to serve for a three (or four) year term. Circuits will have forums prior to deadlines (including amended deadlines) to put matters of business forward. It will be a crucial time to be aware of bad cultural influence upon the Synod and ponder how to stop its further intrusion. Inquire of your pastor and congregational leadership to learn more and be a part of this process.

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Joshua Scheer

Rev. Joshua Scheer is Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, WY and Editor-in-Chief of Steadfast Lutherans.

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