28 June, 2010

Is It Time to Move Forward?

I just got back from the 10th annual meeting of the CCLE at St. Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, Missouri (or rather, I got back last Wednesday, but had to turn my attention to the far more pressing matter of house painting before I could turn my attention to this post).

In any event, back in Concordia I had a chance to make two presentations, one rather brief, advertising the upcoming conference, Lutheranism and the Classics at Concordia Theol. Sem., Ft. Wayne, the other more extended, discussing the North American [Lutheran] higher education scene with these Lutheran folks interested in classical Lutheran education. By the end of the session, the group in attendance expressed overwhelming support for moving ahead with the formation of an institution of higher education here in North America on the Wittenberg model. The group included laity and clergy, academics and non-academics alike. Many expressed to me that there's a real a thirst and desire "out there" among Christians of the Augsburg Confession for such an education at the higher level, and another put the urgency of the case like this: "Strike while the iron's hot."

Are we, then, to move ahead? Initially this will require assembling an exploratory/investigative board. But before even doing that, I'd like to know what you think. What do readers of Ren. Mus. think about inchoative planning toward a Gnesio-Lutheran institution of higher education? Please register your thoughts!


Dennis said...

Has the time come to further divide the denomination under the guise of becoming humanly perfect? Or has the time come to be more humble and recognize that the work of the Holy Spirit will not be done in us until we are called by Christ, "the one that we can not be removed from His hands" if we have been given to Him by the Father in the first place.

Matthias Flacius said...

Here are my questions:

Without a group of wealthy benefactors this venture will not go far.

I assume that the Midwest would be the best location, that is, from Denver to Ft Wayne?

Would faculty members who are full time now be willing to take this risk? I'm not sure that I would.

Dr. Steven said...

We explored this about 12 years ago, but were not able to really get it off the ground. Let's indeed try again. I would love to be of help, Jon. BTW, what a great CCLE Conference we had! Thanks much for your excellent contributions. S. A. Hein

Anonymous said...

I agree with Matt that wealthy benefactors are a must - the first issue would have to be exploring possible funding (as dreary as that is). Nevertheless, I would be very interested to see some exploration of the possibilities.

Bethany Kilcrease

Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes said...

It needs to be done. The talent is out there. But where is the money? I suggest locating in Winfield, KS, and restarting "St. John's."

Jon Bruss said...

Dear reponders thus far, thanks for your words. To respond to Dennis: I don't think anyone has in mind fracturing the denomination any further. In fact, although Dennis was not privy to the conversation, one of the big topics was not making this a denominational school at all, but rather something that all Lutherans of goodwill (shall we just say "confessional Lutherans") could get on board with, be they from LCMS, WELS, ELS, Protestant Conference, or what have you. But Dennis does pose a real issue, which is precisely the fracturing of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of love. So the question is: can a realistic plan for engendering higher education the Wittenberg way be articulated in the face of the weight of institutional cultures, etc.?

As for M.F. (whose e-name I love, by the way): yes, the Midwest seems most suitable, don't you think? One of the ingenious moves the Mo-Synod ancestors made was to locate the Concordias by and large in really good locations. Right now, it seems like great locations would include smaller towns (between, say, 5,000 and 15,000) within 30-40 mins. of large metro areas--far enough not to be overpriced, and near enough to take advantage of larger libraries, cultural offerings, etc. As for the second question, that about money, three things might be said. (1) One of the tasks of an exploratory committee will have to be assessing the potential donor base. (2) One of those involved in the conversation at St. Paul Luth. High in Conc., MO has development experience and said that there'd be real interest in something like this, based upon conversation's he has had. (3) Sugar daddies come in all sizes. It may be that numbers of donors and not the great size of a few will carry the day.Finally, MF, as for the risk: you are quite right. Again, this is a matter for the exploratory committee. But a proper implementation of the project should, I'd think, include proper funding so that the risk is somewhat eliminated. See some of the earlier posts labeled "models," "governance," and "tuition" for incipient thoughts on this.

Finally, to "Dr. Steven" [Hein], organisator maximus of the CCLE. Yes, it was a really good, meaty conference. Korcuk's stuff was quite good and thought-provoking, and the project he's onto is long overdue. And yes, you're right, we started to think about this 12 years ago and let things peter out. This time I think we need to move forward. More on which anon!



Jon Bruss said...

Dear Bethany and Ben, first to Bethany's topic, which is also part of Ben's. Some real expertise in fund-locating and -raising will be necessary (hence someone[s] with such experience will be needed on the exploratory board). This is all a matter for the exploratory board to decide, but something that will help is the securement of an exploratory grant: a grant to help find grants that would underwrite the expenses of those taking the story out to the people.

As for Ben's other topics. (1) Yes, the talent is clearly there, in scads. I have more candidates for faculty than I have fingers and toes. (2) I'm not sure precisely what fate St. John's in Winfield has suffered. I did, however, drive through the campus a few months ago on my way to give a presentation and preach at Faith Lutheran in Derby, KS, and it appears the campus has been bought and actually subdivided. But that campus is, in many ways, the kind of thing we'd have in mind.



Philip Hoppe said...

What is best document to quickly explain what you mean by Gnesio-Lutheran or Wittenberg Education? What are its key characteristics? I am new to this discussion, but want to learn.
Philip Hoppe

Jon Bruss said...

Dear Phil, I'd think a pretty good primer would be available right here on Ren. Mus. I'd suggest, I think, going down the right column there under Philipp's picture to "Labels" and clicking on: "Church's interest in higher education" and "Christian Humanism" for starters. What we've been trying to do here is to distill a lot of reading in the sources, both primary and secondary, and place it into the American context. If you find a certain blog article uninteresting among those so labeled, I'd just leave it behind and move on to the next. For some of them, the follow-up discussion is every bit as interesting, and often more informative, than the article itself.

Otherwise: the label "books on liberal higher education" will give you the names of some good volumes (along with links, often, to the relevant Amazon page). The volume edited/translated by Salazar and Kusukawa is of fundamental importance. There's also the issue of Logia edited by C.P.E. Springer from a while back titled "Athens & Wittenberg" (search the Ren. Mus. blog site using the term "Logia" and you'll find it).

I hope this helps. If not, or if you have any sort of criticism or query or anything else that comes to mind, please write back either here or to the relevant entry, and we'll be sure to get back to you.

Thanks for your interest!


FrZeile said...

My thought is that it might be possible to establish a House of Studies on an existing campus(one with low tuition!) as residence for communal life, including the daily offices, theology, and discussion/interpretation of what has been learned in secular courses. This allows students to be part of (and accountable to) the faith community, and to pursue courses of study (nursing, engineering, etc.) without having the infrastructure of an entire college to support. Courses could be offered at the house of studies in many fields, particularly where the faith perspective is most relevant.

Dr. Jack Kilcrease said...

I like the idea.

I would suggest locating it in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

J. Hayes said...

Now is the time to do it while it can be done. I doubt whether it will be possible to start something like this in 50 years.

Anonymous said...

As a former development officer at a seminary I can tell you that there are benefactors who are very interested in giving to a distinctly Lutheran institution -- one with a clear identity. There is a weariness of giving to Lutheran educational institutions that have become increasingly unfocused.

One might consider going outside the LCMS (such as CLTS in St. Catharines) for an institution that might lend it name to build credibility.



Jon Bruss said...

Dear Pr. Zeile, Jack, Joshua, and Tom (T.K.), thanks to all of you for your responses. Grand Rapids sounds splendid, but I've never been there. What commends it is (a) its size; (b) the presence of several institutions of higher ed that makes access to libraries easier, at least physically or geographically; (c) it's in the "cool north," with a change of seasons and around lots of Lutherans, including those in Ontario (T.K.). The same things could be said for St. Catharines, flip-flopping U.S. Lutherans for Canadian Lutherans. Again, these are matters for an exploratory board, but good suggestions that will need to be brought up. The

Tom's note on donors is encouraging. One of the problems we face continuously in the States is something that is largely demographic and historical, I think. Many if not all of the Lutherans who've made it big in the world came up in the generation or two just before ours. Largely from the farm, frequently self-made, as it were, their own success in the world has taught them ways of doing things that are counter-intuitive for the kind of Wittenberg higher ed project we're talking about. As categories, vocation and vocationalism are confused (see my post entitled "Vocation, Vocationalism, and Liberal Education Lutheranly Conceived"). I've also tried to delineate, as best I can, the kind of "geistliche Differenz" that exists between Lutheran higher ed of the old order and the people I'm talking about now in "Gymnasium for Everyone..." HOWEVER, I am also convinced that Lutherans actually want to be Lutherans and actually want to embrace their heritage. Frequently, though not always, certainly not always, it's the case that the tradition has become so attenuated and that we/they in our/their good intentions try to do SOMETHING, at least, with the result that we end up fumbling in a thoughtless and, finally, unintentional way. So part of what has to be done to raise FUNDS is to raise SUPPORTERS of the endeavor, and this can be done only by EDUCATING, through persuasion. Not everyone can and will be won, but that's fine. Let them continue to support what they want to support. But, to use the inimitable words of Waylon Jennings, "it's a measure of people" who will be open and will accept and adopt and support such an endeavor. And those are the ones we need to talk to.

On a last note, our fellow blogger (comblogistes) and friend Carl P.E. Springer will be addressing the matter of patronage when he speaks at CTSFW on 1 and 2 October this year, and articulating a vision and rationale for the support of the kind of education we're talking about.

Jon Bruss said...

Pr. Zeile, I forgot to address your issue. That is, indeed, something we have thought about at Ren. Mus. (search under "models" in the right bar). That has a great deal of promise in some ways, especially as something to do when all else fails, but I think there are some notable drawbacks. (1) The lack of a "real" presence (that is, an "accredited" presence) will diminish its value and visibility. (2) This will make it difficult to fund, perhaps more difficult to find the $100,000 or per annum to run than to find the many millions to staff and run a college. Again, it's a matter of visibility and perceived value.

With those caveats, however, I can point to the St. Lawrence Catholic Center at KU as a pretty amazing instantiation of what you're talking about, Romanly writ, of course. I encourage readers to visit their website: http://www.st-lawrence.org/


Anonymous said...

I also think Grand Rapids is the best possible location. Let's put it there.
Bethany Kilcrease

Steve Gehrke said...


One of my PhD students (bioengineering) is very active at the St. Lawrence Center at KU and in fact asked my permission to leave the lab to take their Medical Ethics course this past spring (of course I said yes). If you wanted to know the student perspective of how this works out in practice, I'm sure she'd be happy to provide it. I think her experience at KU is the RC equivalent to what Pr. Zeile has suggested for Lutheran students.


Steve Gehrke said...

...and another of my PhD students has his BS from Calvin College in Grand Rapids so he can compare Michigan and Kansas...

More significantly, he has the experience of getting an general engineering degree from a small engineering program at a Christian liberal arts college in contrast more conventional engineering degree at a large state university. Interestingly, his courses included Written Rhetoric, Developing the Christian Mind, Christian Theology, and Oral Rhetoric for Engineers. Otherwise the rest of the curriculum is not too different from that at KU or any other state university in engineering.

revpaulcain said...

I vote yes on proceeding in some form. I was there at CCLE and have hoped for a Concordia Classical College in Casper, Wyoming

Jon Bruss said...

Thanks, Paul, for the harumph. I was tacitly already registering yours, of course, since you were at the CCLE meeting and in on the discussion. But coming out of the closet...with your views, that is, helps. Thanks.

I think Wyoming would be a blast--and good for lots of reasons (relatively inexpensive, lots of space, a Lutheran presence that makes up for its numerical sparseness in its confessional seriousness, etc.). The one drawback is, alas, transportation of students from the "Lutheran heart" of the country (the Midwest) to a place that far west. But it's certainly something to think about, and by these comments I mean no dismissal.

Steve, I would love to talk to your grad student about her experience at St. Lawrence Cath. Center. In fact, it would probably make a lot of sense just to go over there some day and ask for some time from the head honcho.

Rev. John Hellwege said...

I would like to add my voice to those calling for an exploratory board to be formed.

I agree with the above that the Midwest would probably be best.

Another serious matter that the exploratory board would have to investigate which would be one of the earlier steps would be to determine what shape or model of school that would be best. This might even be a graduated model of starting out with a lock-step and moving to other majors as the school is established.

Here in St. Louis, I know of a couple of people, one who is non-denominational Evangelical, and one who is Presbyterian (PCA) who might be interested in the "Oxford Model" as discussed previously on this blog.

In Christ,

Jon Bruss said...

Dear John, perhaps one of the things the exploratory board would have to do--and might well be wise in doing--is investigating the extent of interest in such a venture as the "Univ. of Christendom" with other groups. In fact, the LUTHERAN exploratory group could well provide a good model for the others to follow--not just encouragement, but "short cuts," in a way.

The notion, too, of starting out with a lock-step curriculum with the possibility of developing further majors, etc., might be a very smart approach, as well. The PHILOSOPHICAL question for the board to wrestle with will, of course, be whether a set of majors or a lock-step curriculum will be the final product; and, if a set of majors, which are in and which are out. For example, it's my observation that the business major, which has become a staple at many "liberal arts colleges," is actually a major distraction from the central purpose of the liberal arts--this by bringing a Newmanian critique to it. Perhaps the question to be mulled over at this point is this: does a set of majors, must a set of majors, always lead to such a proliferation of majors that the central thrust of the college is lost? If the answer is yes, how does one keep it from happening; if the answer is no, where does one draw the line?

Glad to hear from you again!


Rev. Sean L. rippy said...

I vote yes. There def. seems to be something akin to a consensus brewing- at least on the general topic.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy
Literature instructor

Rev. Sean L. Rippy said...

One other comment. I'm in charge of the online development of the literature section of our college- well actually a blended style of 2 days in class 1 day online. To be honest, while I understand the rational, and while there are apparently studies that indicate the blended model is the "best of both worlds" I'm not entirely sold on the idea. But an online model might increase enrollment for those who have a difficult time reaching the midwest promised land, even if it's a few classes at first. As a "western confessional Lutheran" who has bemoaned the midwest stranglehold on all things confessional, it would be nice to have something for us.

If you follow the New St. Andrews model and don't have housing on campus, I understand the need to be near a midwest nexus point. (I think a report on where the majority of "confessional lutherans" live might be helpful) Otherwise distinctiveness might win the day. I mean after Concordia Portland or Irvine, we westerners had St. Louis or Fort Wayne from which to choose and we made the drive.

On a similar note, my university in England offered short classes to the public (and students for credit) at somewhat reduced costs- about 100 pounds. The classes were already being offered to students and depending on the kind of class you were teaching, the public was able to provide more money. Prob. works better in a larger community though.

Sean L. Rippy
Literature/Rhetoric instructor