- Concordia University Texas
- Other Concordias and the Seminaries
- Endorsement Lists
On November 8, 2022, a majority of the Board of Regents (BOR) of Concordia University Texas (CTX) purportedly made that board self-governing and self-perpetuating in complete independence from the Concordia University System (CUS) and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS). CTX delivered unauthorized and newly adopted governance documents to the Texas Secretary of State. It has been compared by Pastor Todd Wilken on Issues Etc. to the 1970s Seminex “walk-out” except that this time, those departing are taking the property with them.
- The catechisms and confessions of the Lutheran Church, particularly the Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth Commandments, the Treatise Against the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and what the name “Lutheran” means.
- The bylaws of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod which provide an overabundance of evidence that the regents are stewards of the synod and owe the duties of stewardship to the synod.
Pastor Wilken interviewed me on Issues Etc. about both of those essays.
- 1731. An Attempt by Concordia University Texas to Reject the Governance and Oversight of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod – Tom Halvorson, 6/22/23
- 1952. An Update on Concordia University Texas’ Attempt to Reject the Governance and Oversight of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod – Tom Halvorson, 7/14/23
Even with all that has been written and spoken and with analysis from multiple aspects (catechism, confessions, Lutheran identity, synodical bylaws), there is still much more to be assessed about this deeply shameful event.
But, the synodical convention is looming. For voting delegates, soon it will be crunch-time. The hour of responsibility and action is nearly at hand. So, we must turn now to the question: Whom should we elect as regents?
Concordia University Texas
Let us begin with Concordia University Texas. Turn with me to page 75 of Biographical Synopses and Statements of Nominees, 2023, 68th Regular Convention, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
We will be electing:
- One minister of religion—ordained.
- One minister of religion—commissioned.
- Two laypersons.
Minister of Religion—Ordained
In the category, Minister of Religion—Ordained, there are three candidates in nomination so far (more could be nominated from the floor):
- Michael P. Dorn
- Nathaniel W. Hill
- Yohannes A. Mengsteab
Dorn and Mengsteab might be fine for all I know. But I already know that:
- Hill stood rightly on November 8, 2022, by voting “No” on separation from the synod.
- Hill’s statement on page 75 is direct on the issue.
If elected to serve again, I will do everything within my power to reestablish the relationship of CTX to the Synod. The relationship must be forthright, cooperative, and respectful of the will of the Synod’s congregations as expressed in the Synod Handbook. A strong relationship with the LCMS is necessary to keep the university distinctly Christian and avoid drift.
The reference to the Handbook is about the constitution and bylaws of the synod. That is where those are printed.
Hill’s words, backed by deeds, inform both prudence and conscience. I intend to vote for Rev. Hill.
Minister of Religion–Commissioned
In the category Minister of Religion–Commissioned, there are two candidates in nomination so far:
- Mary Beth Gaertner
- Miguel Andres Ruiz
I know Miguel, believe he has the necessary theological acumen and the indispensable moral fortitude to stand for right amidst conflict.
I also believe – but cannot assert beyond doubt – that Gaertner stood wrongly on November 8, 2022, by voting “Yes” on separation from the synod. She is an incumbent seeking reelection. She was a member of the board of regents when both the November 2022 action was taken and the April 2023 ratification of the action was taken. She owes it to the synod in convention to make her stance, actions, and votes known, and if she won’t, that secrecy in and of itself is disqualifying for my vote.
I intend to vote for Ruiz.
In the category Laypersons, there are four candidates in nomination so far:
- Michelle Hornebar Abrego
- William Brandt
- Kristy Michelle Carr
- Bob Ssekyanzi
Bob Ssekyanzi was a regent both when the November 2022 action was taken and when the April 2023 ratification of that action was taken. In both cases, Ssekyanzi stood rightly, by voting “No” on separation from the synod and against ratification of separation. In his nominee statement, page 77, Ssekyanzi says:
If reelected, my passion will be to unapologetically advocate for the Synod’s mission and making sure that the Concordia University Texas (CTX) is governed according to the LCMS CUS bylaws as set.
That is direct. That is righteous under the Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth Commandments. That is the statement of someone who understands that the regents are stewards of the synod’s university, owing the duties of stewardship to the synod, and properly respecting the congregations, students, parents, and leaders of the synod. I have received reports about this man, that he is distinguished by the content of his character.
Ssekyanzi’s words, backed by deeds and reports, inform both prudence and conscience. I intend to vote for Ssekyanzi.
The decision about the second layperson is not as easy. None of the remaining three nominees were regents in November 2022 or April 2023. Unlike with Ssekyanzi, we do not have the evidence of their deeds in those actions.
William Brandt’s experiences make him an attractive candidate. They suggest a man with the rare combination of ability to be stalwartly faithful and gentlemanly in conflict, a man who has experienced conflict and disagreements while being community minded. He is a retired USAF colonel and an Eagle Scout mentor to young men. He has known conflict and disagreement as a justice of the peace and school board member. He is an attorney who can understand the legal aspects of the current issues at CTX. Despite advantages of his positions, he exhibits servanthood in pro bono legal work (work done for free for the poor) and leading teams in self-help remodeling of bathrooms, flooring, and finish-out of classrooms and libraries. He has represented his congregation in its legal matters. He has led the first accreditation team for a school, and thus can readily understand the accreditation issues surrounding CTX. He is a Rotarian and a Lion. I have had the good fortune to know many people with biographies something like Brandt’s, and almost without exception, they are people who, by dint of industry and virtue, have made something of themselves (civically speaking) without becoming haughty or arrogant and instead holding a constant heart for the good of people around them.
In his statement, page 77, Brandt says:
I am interested in serving on the Board of Regents for Concordia University Texas because, in the midst of the challenges of modern culture, we must preserve our Lutheran identity as we train the church workers of the future. I have the requisite education, experience, and temperament to work within the strictures of the LCMS.
A man who views working within legitimate “strictures” positively is a man who understands that the regents are stewards of the synod, owing the duties of stewardship to the synod. Not many people speak that way about strictures, but a military man might. He reminds me of the centurion who said, “I too am a man under authority.”
I intend to vote for Brandt.
Other Concordias and the Seminaries
The other Concordias are no less important than CTX. The problems at CTX have erupted into synod-wide obviousness. That has tended to overshadow the other Concordias and the seminaries.
The problems at Concordia University Wisconsin also are quite serious. They prompted me to write an overture to the Montana district convention last summer, which was passed and memorialized to the synodical convention. The floor committee of the synodical convention incorporated it with other overtures into a resolution reported to the floor of the convention.
In the little time that remains before the convention, we need to take a close look at all the nominees for regents at the rest of the Concordias. I have not gotten there yet, but the time is now. There are a few that, by familiarity with their work, I believe would be good regents: Paul P. Edmon. David Paul Remirez, and David Lambert.
I wish there were a way to hear all the candidates for regents of all the Concordias talk about their views on being stewards of the synod.
The notoriety of the problems in Wisconsin and Texas has overshadowed consideration of regents for the seminaries. Those elections are also important.
Anyone who has been a delegate to an LCMS convention is aware of the role of endorsement lists. There are lists by The United List and Congregations Matter. These lists have their supporters and detractors. Some detractors critique not just one list or the other but are detractors of lists per se.
Despite the drawbacks that some note about them, these lists have been fairly reliable along theological grounds. In other words, The United List has tended in a recognizably consistent theological direction and the Congregations Matters list has tended in a recognizably consistent and different theological direction.
The United List clearly is either the more influential list or maybe just the more reflective list, the list that does not create but reflects the majority of the synod.
This year we have a new list, the Augsburg Alliance List. This list discloses that it is the product of Rev. Daniel Gard, Rev. Warren Graff, and Rev. John T. Pless. These are good guys and likeable guys. I have smoked the cigar and sipped the bourbon with Dr. Pless and hope to do so again. When I republished Bryan Spinks’ marvelous monograph about Luther’s liturgical criterion and his reform of the canon of the Mass, I asked Dr. Pless to write the foreword, and he did a bang-up job of it. I quote his first line in that foreword to people regularly. I have known Rev. Graff for several years. He brews good beer. He is a retired LCMS pastor and served with a great pastor’s heart for his people. Speaking with him in person multiple times, I know him to be an exemplar of gentlemanliness, even when discussing matters in controversy. He is a well-read scholar.
What I could not have seen coming is an endorsement list in which Rev. Graff endorses himself to be a regent at the seminary in St. Louis. This is not an action that I expected to see in a seminary regent nominee. In the list, he also endorses his wife for another office. It gives the lack of endorsement of her by The United List as a reason for launching the new Augsburg Alliance List. Not a good look.
 “The CUS board regrets to inform the delegates to the 2023 Synod convention of an unprecedented action that was taken by the board majority of Concordia University Texas (CTX) though a significant minority voted against such an action on or about Nov. 8, 2022. Without the approval of the CUS board, the board majority purportedly adopted a governance model in an attempt to transform its governance into a self-governing and self-perpetuating board completely independent of the CUS and the LCMS and delivered its newly adopted governance documents to the Texas Secretary of State.” Report 14, “Concordia University System,” Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2023, 68th Regular Convention, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, p. 67. At the end of the report, Concordia University System President, Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, concludes, “The preceding analyses should demonstrate that any suggestion of separation from the LCMS is without fiduciary clarity and theological merit.” Ibid., p. 69.
 For example, Cheryl Magness, “Walking away: Concordia University Texas holds to ‘ill-advised course,’” Reporter, June 8, 2023, https://reporter.lcms.org/2023/walking-away-concordia-university-texas-holds-to-ill-advised-course/
Rev. Michael W. Newman (President, Texas District, LCMS), letter to Texas District, November 23, 2022, https://congregationsmatter.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Newman-Letter-November-23-2022.pdf
Alan Taylor, “CTX Board of Regents – Minority Report,” April 19, 2023, https://stjohngalveston.360unite.com/posts/news/ctx-board-of-regents?month=4&year=2023
Report R64, “Ecclesiastical Visitation of Concordia University Texas,” Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2023, 68th Regular Convention, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, 173-179.
See under the heading “A Special and Urgent Matter: Concordia University Texas,” in Report R13, “Concordia University System,” Convention Workbook: Reports and Overtures 2023, 68th Regular Convention, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, p. 67-69.
“University Board of Regents Unilateral Separation (232-3006),” Today’s Business 2023, First Edition, pp 30-34.
President’s Report, Part 2, suggested resolutions, Committee 5, Theology and Church Relations, first suggestion, Today’s Business 2023, First Edition, p. 24, ll. 33-36.
T. R. Halvorson, “The Sovereignty of Nebulous Ethos at Concordia Texas,” Brothers of John the Steadfast, June 11, 2023, https://steadfastlutherans.org/2023/06/the-sovereignty-of-nebulous-ethos-at-concordia-texas/
 For example, Todd Wilken and Mark Stern, “An Attempt by a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod University to Reject the Governance and Oversight of the LCMS” Program 1032, Issues Etc., 4/13/23, https://issuesetc.org/2023/04/13/1032-an-attempt-by-a-lutheran-church-missouri-synod-university-to-reject-the-governance-and-oversight-of-the-lcms-mark-stern-4-13-23/
Todd Wilken and Tom Halvorson, “An Attempt by Concordia University Texas to Reject the Governance and Oversight of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod,” Program 1731, Issues Etc., 6/22/23, https://issuesetc.org/2023/06/22/1731-an-attempt-by-concordia-university-texas-to-reject-the-governance-and-oversight-of-the-lutheran-church-missouri-synod-tom-halverson-6-22-23/
Don Christian, Kristi Kirk, and Tim Ahlman “‘A Conversational Response from CTX’ with Pres. Don Christian and Provost Kristi Kirk,” Lead Time Podcast, Unite Leadership Collective. June 13, 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kq5yXzbYYNs (video) and https://leadtime.buzzsprout.com/200797/13028046-a-conversational-response-from-ctx-with-pres-don-christian-and-provost-kristi-kirk (audio).
 T. R. Halvorson, “The Sovereignty of Nebulous Ethos at Concordia Texas,” Brothers of John the Steadfast, June 11, 2023, https://steadfastlutherans.org/2023/06/the-sovereignty-of-nebulous-ethos-at-concordia-texas/
 T. R. Halvorson, “Two Simple Questions ,” Brothers of John the Steadfast, July 10, 2023, https://steadfastlutherans.org/2023/07/two-simple-questions-about-concordia-texas-throwing-off-the-bylaws-of-the-lcms/