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Supporting the CTX Rebellion: Is Congregations Matter Sleep Walking?

Today “The Ephesians 4 List” of endorsements for LCMS convention elections by Congregations Matter arrived in my postal mail. To evaluate it, I turned to their endorsements for regents of Concordia University Texas. That is one of the hottest topics for the convention. It is one on which I had done enough research to use it as a good test case for the quality of this list.

They are endorsing for reelection a nominee who denies that the synod has authority to elect her or anyone to the board. They are endorsing replacement of two righteous incumbents who rightly voted in the minority against the rebellion at CTX.

Let us put this into context.

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.[1] 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 majority of the regents took that action by amending the articles of incorporation and the bylaws of the university without the required prior approval of the synod and without even asking the synod to review the changes as required by synod bylaws. They deleted what had been Article II and substituted a new Article II that says CTX is “not subject to the authority of or governance by, the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.”[2] They deleted Article V which had said:

Article V Management:

The business of this corporation shall be conducted and its affairs shall be controlled by a board of trustees to be elected in accordance with the Rules and Regulations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

They substituted:

Article V Board:

The management of the affairs of the corporation is vested in its Board of Regents in accordance with the Bylaws. … All determinations regarding the university’s alignment with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, including but not limited to, the university’s subscription and adherence to the Confession of the LCMS as currently outlined in Article II of the LCMS Constitution, and qualifications for board members and the presidency, will be subject to and determined by the sole and exclusive discretion of the Board of Regents.

The regents who voted for those changed completely deny that they are stewards of the synod or its congregations. They deny that the synod may elect or appoint any regents. They deny that congregations through their chosen delegates in convention have votes for regents. They assert instead that they themselves appoint all the regents and that they are a self-perpetuating board.

Why would you endorse for reelection an incumbent regent who voted for that action?

Why would you endorse someone new to replace a regent who rightly voted in the minority against the rebellion of the majority?

Why would someone calling themselves Congregations Matter take such anti-congregational stances?

Congregations Matter has done both of those things. It has made bad endorsements in all three categories up for election at the convention next week.

In the category for Minister of Religion – Commissioned, they endorse Dr. Mary Beth Gaertner for reelection. Gaertner stood wrongly on November 8, 2022, by voting “Yes” on separation from the synod. How are the interests of congregations advanced by re-electing a supporter of a rebellion who says congregations do not even have the right to vote or elect regents?

In the category of Minister of Religion – Ordained, they endorse new people to replace Rev. Nathaniel W. Hill. Hill stood rightly on November 8, 2022, by voting “No” on separation from the synod. Hill’s statement on page 75, Biographical Synopses and Statements of Nominees, 2023 is direct on the issue. He says,

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.

Though backed by the action of voting rightly, Hill’s words about respect for congregations somehow does not matter to Congregations Matter.

In the category of Laypersons, nominated for reelection is another minority regent, Bob Ssekyanzi. He 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.

Again, Congregations Matter fails to endorse Ssekyanzi though he has proven himself by speaking, acting, and voting righteously.

The endorsements by Congregations Matter for CTX regents form a consistent pattern of error across all three categories of nominees. That is too much to be an accident or an insignificant coincidence. There has been so much controversy, division, and grief – so much spoken and written – about the rebellion of the majority regents of CTX that anyone who is publishing an endorsements list ought to have known better than to get all three of these endorsements wrong. It is enough to raise the question, what is the objective of Congregations Matter for our Concordia Universities?

What does this pattern and consistency suggest about the value of the rest of their list?

[1] “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.

[2] Certificate of Amendment, Concordia University Texas, November 8, 2022.Texas Secretary of State File No. 10277001.