“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (I Corinthians 1:10, ESV)
Tuesday, April 4, 2023, was an historic day for Concordia University Texas (CTX), the Concordia University System (CUS) and for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS). The Concordia University Texas Board of Regents (CTX BOR), by a vote of ten to five with one abstention, voted to affirm its decision originally made on November 8, 2022, to remain outside of LCMS governance and affiliation. This document is a summary of what transpired in 2021 and 2022 to bring the CTX BOR to its decision on April 4, 2023. This report is both the perspective of and the public record of the undersigned.
The 7-03 Committee was formed as the result of a resolution at the 2019 Convention of the LCMS. The 7-03 Committee was charged with developing a new governance model for the Universities of the Concordia University System (CUS), particularly as governance relates to the LCMS. The broad intent of the governance model proposed by the 7-03 Committee was to distinguish between matters related to the kingdom of the left, financial and other business matters and those related to the kingdom of the right, Ecclesiastical matters.
Early in the work of the 7-03 Committee, the Concordia University Texas Board of Regents (CTX BOR) reviewed drafts of the Committees work. This review was for the sake of Concordia University Texas (CTX) remaining abreast of the potential effects of the Committee’s actions and perhaps to assist the 7-03 Committee in developing its final report for the 2023 Convention of the LCMS. Dr. Donald Christian, President of CTX, expressed to the BOR several concerns he had with the early version of the 7-03 proposal, one such concern was that it was too cumbersome. The CTX President also complained that he was not included as a member of the 7-03 Committee. Specific areas of concern were raised by Dr. Donald Christian, CTX President and the BOR Chairman, Mr. Christopher Bannwolf, regarding the 7-03 Committee’s early draft proposal. Their concern, as communicated to the BOR, was that the 7-03 draft proposal gave too much control to the LCMS, particularly in Ecclesiastical matters. One particular concern was that it would allow the LCMS to disaffiliate with any University of the CUS after giving them a relatively short notice of their intent to do so. There were three other issues, however, that were of main concern to the President of CTX, as well as, to the Board Chairman and to most of the Board. First, they wanted the local board to be able to choose the President of the University without any input, or influence from the LCMS. Secondly, they wanted the local board to be able to be larger than what was currently allowed by the LCMS. And finally, they wanted members of the BOR to be appointed by the Board itself.
On February 8, 2021, the CTX BOR sent a resolution to the 7-03 Committee and the LCMS Board of Directors (LCMS BOD) indicating that the CTX BOR had “strong reservations” regarding the current form of the Committee’s proposal. The CTX BOR was informed that 7-03 Committee gave no response to the BOR communication. The CTX President and the Chairman of the BOR continued to push for action from the CTX BOR. They emphasized that the Board “could not” afford to wait for the Convention in 2023 and whatever form of the 7-03 Committee proposal that may have been adopted. Nor could the Board and the University afford to be “acted upon” by the Synod.
On October 26, 2022, the CTX Board Chair issued an email requesting that the Board meet on an emergency basis, claiming that CUS had informed the CTX President that it had adopted a resolution about CTX, was planning to present it to the LCMS BOD on November 18, 2022, but refused to further discuss the matter with the CTX President, including informing him about the nature of the resolution. CUS further informed the CTX President that it would speak to him, but only after the November 18, 2022, LCMS BOD meeting. The CTX Board Chairman stated that he was “left to conclude that, at that point, they will most likely tell us what they decided the future of CTX will be.” The emergency meeting was scheduled for November 8, 2022, during which the CTX Board Chairman and CTX President informed the BOR that based on CUS’ actions, it was likely that its resolution was to either consolidate CTX with another Concordia, relieve the CTX President of his duties, or both.
On November 8, 2022, the CTX BOR, concerned that the school would be consolidated with another Concordia, or that the Synod would relieve the CTX President of his duties, voted twelve to five to change its bylaws, primarily Article 2.5, which enabled the University to refile its Articles of Incorporation with the State of Texas, making the BOR the sole governing body of Concordia University Texas. Under the bylaws of the LCMS, specifically 126.96.36.199a, such a change in the governing documents of a University, including its Articles of Incorporation, is not permitted without prior approval of the Board of Directors of the Synod and the Committee on Constitutional Matters. Though the BOR of CTX was fully aware of the Synod bylaws, it never sought such approval directly from the LCMS. In fact, the BOR believed it could accomplish what it desired by making a change to its own bylaws, which would then allow it to refile its Articles of Incorporation with the State of Texas naming itself as the sole governing body of Concordia University Texas. Shortly after the meeting of the BOR on November 8, 2022, Rev. Nathaniel Hill, and Mr. Thomas Zachman, two members of the BOR who had cast dissenting votes, resigned from the Board stating that they could not serve on a Board that would knowingly and willfully violate its own bylaws.
An important factor that influenced the vote to sever governance from the LCMS, were repeated assertions by the Chairman of the BOR that CTX could be self-governing, and yet remain a part of the LCMS and the Concordia University System. Though the BOR Chairman’s assertion was challenged repeatedly by various individuals at Board meetings, it was continually emphasized. It appears that some board members cast their vote on November 8, 2022, believing that the University could be self-governed, and yet, remain a part of the LCMS and of the CUS. That, of course, turned out to not be true.
On January 12, 2023, a meeting was held on the CTX Campus between the BOR and representatives of the LCMS. The LCMS representatives stated that the CUS had not presented a resolution to it in November 2022, rather, the CUS had presented a recommendation that CTX’s request for realignment with the LCMS be denied. They also stressed that they were not considering consolidating CTX with another Concordia or acting against the CTX President.
Additionally, the LCMS representatives stressed two points to the CTX BOR. First, since the effect of the BOR decision on November 8, 2022, was to remove Concordia University Texas from the LCMS, they wanted CTX to return to the LCMS by reversing its decision and by refiling its Articles of Incorporation with the State of Texas. Second, until the BOR reversed its course, the LCMS, according to its own bylaws, could not negotiate with CTX and its BOR regarding governance. President Harrison also presented his visitation report to the CTX BOR. The report was composed of findings from a Campus visit conducted at CTX on April 21-22, 2022. At the conclusion of the meeting on January 12, 2023, the CTX Administration and the CTX BOR agreed to meet to reconsider the decision that was made on November 8, 2022.
On February 10, 2023, a meeting of the BOR was held at the CTX Campus for the BOR to reconsider the decision made by the board on November 8, 2022. After a great deal of discussion, the BOR was unable to reach a decision whether to reverse its course and return to the LCMS. Instead, the BOR notified the Synod that they needed some assurances regarding several issues before any decision could be made. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the BOR stated that it had a strong desire to be a part of the Synod and that it sought the LCMS’ BOD’s counsel to that end.
On February 14, 2023, the CTX President posted a memo on the University’s website, without informing the BOR or seeking its consent, to the effect that the BOR had chosen not to act at its February 10 meeting, but instead asked the LCMS BOD for further discussion. He further reiterated that the CTX BOR remained the sole governing body of the institution. The CTX President also acknowledged that the BOR’s decision might mean that the University would no longer have access to certain benefits, thereby casting doubt that the BOR’s resolution about its strong desire to be a part of the Synod was not genuine. The CTX President later modified this public posting at the request of the undersigned so that it aligned with the actual resolution passed at the February 10, 2023, meeting.
On February 17, 2023, the CTX President and Provost gave a speech at the Best Practices Ministry conference entitled, “Future Thinking About Lutheran Higher Education.” The session was designed to imagine the future as well as discuss CTX’s new governance structure. Again, the structure of the speech cast doubt about the genuineness of the CTX BOR’s resolution that it had a strong desire to be a part of the Synod.
A five-member delegation of the BOR traveled to St. Louis on March 10, 2023, to meet with the LCMS Board of Directors. At the meeting the three LCMS Board of Directors members present assured the CTX delegation that they had no intent to consolidate CTX with another University of the Concordia University System or attempt to remove the CTX President, and that CTX needed to make their decision as to whether to return to the LCMS as soon as possible.
As previously stated, on April 4, 2023, the CTX BOR met at the Concordia University Texas campus in Austin. At that meeting, after much discussion, the BOR voted to affirm its decision made initially on November 8, 2022, and thus to remain outside of the LCMS. The vote was ten in favor of remaining separate from the LCMS, five in favor of returning to the LCMS, and one abstention. After the meeting on April 4, 2023, two more board members resigned from the CTX BOR, Rev. Alan Taylor and Dr. Bob Sseskyanzi.
There are several issues of concern regarding this process and the outcome that was determined on April 4, 2023. One concern is that most of the CTX BOR did not see Concordia University Texas as belonging to the congregations of the LCMS. Rather, CTX was viewed as a non-profit entity over which the BOR had singular fiduciary responsibility. A second concern is the way in which the initial decision of the CTX BOR to sever governance from the Synod and the subsequent affirmation of that decision on April 4, 2023, was and continues to be portrayed in public statements. Of great of concern is the way in which CTX continues to characterize its relationship with the LCMS. As per the LCMS, in the BOR's failure to reverse its decision of November 8, 2022, CTX has no relationship with the LCMS, and that, by its own choosing. And yet, CTX continues to publish statements to the contrary, potentially misleading donors and other constituents of Concordia University Texas.
Examples of such misleading statements can be found on the CTX website.
“The Concordia University Texas Board of Regents affirms its alignment with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and commitment to the authority of Scripture and Lutheran Confessions. The Board is committed to continued service to the LCMS through church worker education and other partnerships and instituting a set of policies by which it will ensure an ongoing faithfulness to the LCMS and its teachings.” (CTX website 4/6/23, Lutheran Identity).
“On November 8, 2022, the Concordia University Texas Board of Regents voted to become the sole governing body of the institution by amending its bylaws. This change was communicated to the Concordia University System (CUS) and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), and meetings were held on January 12, 2023, to discuss the matter. However, after thoughtful deliberation and prayer, the Board reaffirmed its decision to remain the sole governing body of the University on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. The Board of Regents is committed to upholding the University's Lutheran identity and values and will work closely with the LCMS and other partners to ensure this commitment is reflected in all aspects of the University's operations.” (CTX website 4/6/23, Lutheran Identity, Governance Change).
“Concordia University Texas continues to dialogue about what a future relationship with the LCMS will entail. CTX is committed to continuing the preparation of students for church work in the LCMS and beyond. We understand that we may not be able to certify church workers in the future. We are exploring other pathways for our church work students to receive their certification before their first call. These certification opportunities include other training programs, colloquy, or partnerships with other schools or universities.” (CTX website 4/6/23, Lutheran Identity).
In summary, the decision of the CTX BOR on November 8,2022, was misguided and was based on a false assumption, namely that absent realignment / separate governance, CTX would be consolidated into another Concordia and / or disciplinary action would be taken against the CTX President. However, given the opportunity to reverse its action taken on November 8, 2022, the CTX BOR did vote on April 4, 2023, to remain apart from the LCMS. Thus, CTX no longer has a relationship with the LCMS, notwithstanding its claims that its BOR’s decision was simply about governance. There will not be a new relationship, there will be no relationship. The decision will also adversely affect CTX’s faculty, staff, and students. By removing itself from the LCMS, CTX will be subjecting itself to liabilities and exposures previously underwritten by the LCMS. Most importantly, it will be casting itself adrift from the confession of the LCMS. By making itself the sole governing body of the University, the CTX BOR will answer to no one other than itself.
Signed this 19th day of April 2023,
Rev. Alan Taylor
Former Member – Board of Regents (2016 to 2023)
Concordia University Texas