Thanksgiving for Our Concordias

As I mentioned last week, the Council of Presidents had its most recent meeting at Concordia University, Irvine. It was my first visit to that campus, and I was duly impressed, not only with its lovely appearance but with its facilities, programs, and leadership. I was especially struck by its robust theology department and the way that our Lutheran theology is integrated into all of its academic programs. There is a clear commitment to being a solid Lutheran university – and not only that, but a university of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I give sincere thanks for that!

Also meeting in Irvine were the Concordia University Presidents – along with Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe and Rev. Mark Braden of the Concordia University System – and these men joined the Council of Presidents for conversation and discussion on our final day in California. What we heard from the University Presidents was so positive and encouraging in every way; and I do not mean that superficially, as some kind of optimistic platitude, but substantively. To be sure, these men are all different in a variety of ways, each of them uniquely gifted with his own background, skills, strengths, and emphases; but they are united by a common determination to develop and lead their respective schools forward with a distinctively Lutheran identity and purpose, in real harmony and concert with the Synod. Each of the presidents is proactively addressing challenges and weaknesses, while building on present strengths and adding significantly to those strengths.

Over this past year I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to get to know Concordia Wisconsin and Ann Arbor increasingly well, since I serve as an advisory member of the CUWAA Board of Regents, and I have been pleased and impressed by the direction that President Erik Ankerberg has set and already begun to follow. I have witnessed his commitment and his efforts to establish the Lutheran character and substance of the University, his gentle rapport and good relationship with the entire Board of Regents, and his genuine interest in the input and contributions of the various district presidents who serve on that Board, indicative of his desire to work closely with the ecclesiastical fellowship and structures of the Synod. All of this bodes well for the future.

I don’t yet know the other University Presidents as well, but I’ve appreciated the chance to meet each of them, and I’ve been so pleased and grateful to see indications of the same commitments and efforts in each case. My wife and I enjoyed a good conversation with President Bernard Bull of Concordia, Seward (our alma mater), prior to the recent Lutheran Schools Partnership event in Fort Wayne. His presentation at that event was encouraging, but his conversation with us even more so, as he described his university’s emphasis on the preparation of church workers for the Synod, and especially as he mentioned the thirty organ students presently studying in Seward. I was also privileged to visit at greater length with President Russell Dawn of Concordia, Chicago, during our time together in Irvine this past week. I was delighted to learn that his university will be adding a Classical Education track to its academic catalog, and that the chapel services there in River Forest make consistent use of the liturgical orders and hymns of Lutheran Service Book. President Michael Thomas of Concordia, Irvine, and President Brian Friedrich of Concordia, St. Paul, also impressed me with the goals and strategies they articulated at our meeting last week.

I can hardly scratch the surface in identifying all of the positive things I have heard and seen with respect to our Concordias recently, but I am truly giving thanks for them this week – and praying that our Lord will continue to bless them and their efforts to confess Christ Jesus and to catechize their students in His Word and faith. They appear to be on good and solid footing, and I am more positive and confident about their future now than I have ever been before. Christ be praised!