ELCA and An Imperfect Storm

Read with a bit of interest this little story about Luther Seminary.  I do not belong to the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) but I do interact with them on a consistent basis in my stomping grounds.  This is an outtake from the whole thing:

The president of Luther Seminary in St. Paul has resigned amid rising maintenance costs and declining enrollment.

Considered the country’s largest Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) seminary, the school wants to “take a fresh look going forward” after losing nearly $4 million last school year, Luther’s board chairman Jim Lindus said Tuesday.

The seminary announced Monday that Richard Bliese stepped down from the job he’s held since 2005. Officials plan to name an interim president by January and launch a national search for a successor.

Enrollment is down from 822 nearly five years ago to 764 students this year.

We kind of had a perfect storm here of financial challenges in the last year or two,” Lindus said. “Rising maintenance costs; our buildings are older and so we’ve had more deferred maintenance. (Emphasis mine)

Seems reasonable, tough financial times so things don’t work out so well.  Pressures build to come up with money that people simply don’t have and finally the fallout begins.  Nice if that were the reason.  I take a different position.

Tucked down a ways in this story we learn something else:

Lots of seminaries struggle

Other ELCA seminaries nationwide are also dealing with “very challenging times,” Lindus said. “They’re all facing the same problems. The scale is different because we’re much larger than the rest of them.”

So they are not alone.  ELCA is struggling as a whole.  Curses be upon this darned economy of ours.  If only. . . .  But then we keep reading:

The ELCA has seen at least 600 of its congregations leave since its controversial policy change in 2009 allowing for openly gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships to serve as pastors.

Oops!  There is that little event too.  But that isn’t the culprit.  It could not be a basic abandonment of the God’s Word that could be causing this.  Nope, it is the economy.  Even bumper stickers in the Bush era warned us of it all.  So what can they do?  When they sit down to strategize on how to weather this perfect storm of economic madness called “today” what is the outcome?  Oh, here it is:

Theological schools will need to be more “creative in responding to the market and to the interest of students and the realities of how those students can actually play out their calling to ministry,”

See, here is where my small minded ignorance shows through time and time again.  It isn’t repent and return to the God you claim to love.  It isn’t preach the gospel and its demands to all the world calling men and women of a perverse generation to turn from sin and to the living God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  It isn’t open the Word and preach it day in and day out, word by word, sentence by sentence until the people of God rise up and shake of the shackles they have allowed to encircle them.  It could never be to unleash the Spirit-inspired, Spirit-written, Spirit-protected, Spirit-empowered Word upon the nations.

Nope, we just need creativity.  Let’s check back in ten years to see how history records that little decision.

About Matt Henry

Middle-aged pastor trying to figure out how to be missional in his world. Loves his wife, his children, and his dog Bear. I have a love of woodworking even though woodworking doesn't always love me. The name is xagete but is pronounced exegete.

Posted on December 18, 2012, in Bible Observations, Church, gospel, Theology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. If it were baseball this blog would be a home run.

  2. Seminaries of all denominations are struggling. This is not confined to the ELCA.

    Actually, universities and colleges are struggling, too. So are businesses and volunteer organizations.

    I’ll also mention that my seminary, an ELCA seminary, is quite stable financially right now.

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