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.[i]
Rev. Michael Newman is:
- A member of the Board of Regents of CTX.
- District President of the Texas District of the LCMS.
As a member of the BOR, Newman has been a participant in the proceedings of the regents. Previously, he published a justification of the actions of the majority of the regents in a newsletter. (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)
Thus, Newman is a participant, ally of the majority regents, and their advocate in the matter.
On July 26, 2023, Newman published “Ecclesiastical Investigation of the rostered Leadership and regents of Concordia University Texas, Preliminary Observations and Recommendations.” In this “investigation,” Newman finds himself and his allies innocent, and he finds the synod guilty.
The supporters of the majority regents go onto social media, link to this investigation report, and offer it as proof that justifies the rebellion of the majority regents. Then, if you point out that the investigator investigated himself and declared himself and his allies innocent, they say, “What are you talking about?” I am talking about the fox guarding the henhouse. It seems many have missed a basic fact of this drama, that the investigator is an actor in what he is investigating.
If, to find out what happened, Newman now needs to “investigate,” was he sleeping through meetings of the regents? If he already knew so much to author the newsletter, why does he now need to “investigate?”
Well, he did not need to investigate to write what he calls an investigation report. The report does not demonstrate that there was any procedure that could be called investigative. It does not report facts discovered by investigating. It is a rehash of arguments he, CTX President Don Christian, and CTX Provost Kristi Kirk have given before.
Over and again, the report talks about the majority regents having a different understanding of this, that, and the other thing from the synod’s understanding. For example, he says the majority regents had a different understanding than the synod of the synodical bylaws that make the regents stewards, agents, and fiduciaries of the synod. These so-called understandings are then parlayed into guilt on the synod for eroding trust. The synod followed its understanding of the bylaws, and that eroded trust, though the regents following their understanding did not erode trust.
Characterizing the problem as differences of understanding misrepresents it as a matter of cognition. The problem is not cognition. The problem is volition. Anyone can see the mountain of bylaws that maintain an incessant drumbeat that the regents are stewards, agents, and fiduciaries of the synod. (See “Two Simple Questions about Concordia Texas Throwing Off the Bylaws of the LCMS,” https://steadfastlutherans.org/2023/07/two-simple-questions-about-concordia-texas-throwing-off-the-bylaws-of-the-lcms/) The problem is a conflict of wills. The majority regents just don’t want the bylaws to mean what they say, and say, and say, and say. But, presenting the conflict as it is, as a conflict of wills, as a matter of volition, won’t let their position fly in the face of such repetitive and clear bylaws. So they present it as a matter of cognition, of understanding, which positions them to play the victim.
Let us not forget that the CTX President’s right hand woman, Provost Kristi Kirk, laid out the blueprint or the roadmap for the separation actions of the majority regents 10 years ago in her doctoral dissertation. These recent “understandings” are not the cause but merely the opportunistic occasion for their rebellion.
It is time to say the quiet part out loud. If the action of the majority regents can be justified on the principle that District President Newman espouses, then why wouldn’t similar action to separate the Texas District from the synod be similarly justified? Is this the dress rehearsal for another act in the play?
Newman judges the synod for harbored intentions. Well, he raised the question of harbored intentions.
[i] “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.