An open letter to members of LCC from the President of Concordia University of Edmonton
EDITOR’S NOTE: President Gerald S. Krispin of Concordia University of Edmonton has issued the following open letter to members of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC). It addresses the university’s recent decision to cease identifying as a Christian institution.
President Krispin has released his letter to the church in two forms. What follows is the shorter. The longer version of the letter can be downloaded here.
by Gerald S. Krispin
Dear Friends of Concordia,
I pray that everyone in our synod, and indeed all those who faithfully confess our Lord Jesus Christ, reflect upon our need of a Saviour from sin, death, and damnation as we journey through the season of Lent. Concordia as a whole is also preparing for Lent, which also includes me. And this year, I feel there is much to repentant of. I specifically need to ask the Church for forgiveness as one who belongs to its ministerium. That request needs be put into a context, however.
The article in The Canadian Lutheran has made its readers in our church aware of Concordia’s decision to no longer identify itself as a religious institution. More on that below. But in the first place, I need to present the following, even as it addresses what is in essence an accurate report of what transpired over the past few years in the Governance and direction Concordia has taken. These changes go as far back as 1978, when Concordia began operating as a primarily government funded institution. I understood little of our funding when I first became a faculty member at Concordia in 1987. However, after being appointed President some 20 years later, our Board Chair at that time and his successor alerted me to issues of accountability to the government that had been critically neglected. I don’t want to rehearse the whole process here, but ultimately, I sought to have Concordia achieve a state of operations that would pass scrutiny by Alberta’s Auditor General; this included good governance, fiscal controls, and transparency.
It is here that I fear that I lost sight of the following: I was both a Pastor in the Church and the President of a publicly funded College (University). While in many instances I would assume one role or the other, and sometimes both, I did not realize that holding both offices could lead to the kind of conflict of interest that has caused such consternation as the Canadian Lutheran article intimates. For example: in ideal circumstances, I had drafted the Mission/Vision/Values Framework that celebrated everything that I believe a confessional Lutheran university should be. I articulated that conviction publicly at the June 2014 LCC Convention in Vancouver. I did so in my role as Pastor, but also with the belief that I could do so as Concordia’s President. But recently, circumstances have become less than ideal.
From May to November of 2015 the Board wrestled with the following reality: of the 26 post-secondary institutions in Alberta, only Concordia lacks support from a third “leg” (in this case, any substantial support from the church). What if one of the two legs on which we balance were to be cut? Concordia would fall. I presented the Board Executive with options at the November 13 meeting and stated that our only hope of getting funding outside of government and tuition would be to present ourselves as non-religious institution. Businesses, corporations, and most provincial governments do not support religious entities. A motion was drafted to take this to the full Board.
Now, as a Pastor in the church, I would have fought this motion (that I myself made) tooth and nail! I should have pointed back to my commitments to the Church and the promises made in 2014. But I could not act as a Minister in our Church in this situation; I am the President of Concordia with a fiduciary duty to faculty, students and staff, and accordingly, I had to leave my pastoral side behind and do what’s best for Concordia. In a sense, to avoid a conflict of interest, I had to recuse the pastor in me and let only the President speak. As Pastor, I should have spoken to the church; but I didn’t, and I know this blind-sided the church. President Bugbee can legitimately say he did not see this coming and had no warning whatsoever. Rightly, all the odium of the decision as felt by the Church falls on the President and Board of Concordia. However, while the President of Concordia stands by his decision, it is Pastor Krispin who does need to repent of having reneged on promises and assurances given only months before. I am truly and sincerely sorry that this has grieved a number of members in our church to the degree that their anger has led them to unwarranted conclusions. I can say with all sincerity that there was no long-term, pre-conceived plan or plot to lead Concordia in a path that disconnected us from our “ecclesiastical bond.” But in November 2015 there was a decision, and it has offended brothers and sisters within the Body of Christ. I am responsible. I have sinned against those who put their trust in me as a Pastoral leader of Concordia. And for this I ask forgiveness.
As a final note, I also recognize that for some this will not be sufficient. The reason I know that this will not be sufficient by some is that they will not acknowledge that the President of Concordia can and needs to be separated from the Pastor; and I fear even my sincere asking for forgiveness will be dismissed as disingenuous as a result. Consequently, and as I have been made aware that I have lost “all credibility” within Lutheran Church-Canada, I have asked President Bugbee to remove my name from the Clergy Roster of Lutheran Church-Canada. As of February 11, 2016, only the President of Concordia remains.
A meeting with the ministerium in the Edmonton Area is scheduled for March 10, 2016 to discuss this matter further.
Dr. Gerald S. Krispin is President of Concordia University of Edmonton.