On the Atlantic District’s website (ad-lcms.org/concordia) there is a video entitled “A Prayer Service for Concordia.” It consists of several speakers talking and praying in response to the closing of Concordia College, NY. Atlantic District President Rev. Derek G. Lecakes opens and closes the spliced together video behind an altar in a liturgical cape. Right off the bat, he offers free counseling to the heartbroken—even before the Word of God is spoken.
Dr. David H. Benke, bishop Emeritus of the Atlantic District of the LCMS, has the next prayer segment. He is well-known for his participation in prayer services of all sorts, especially the synergistic and unionistic 9/11 one. He reads, from a home it appears, from Heb. 12, and then prayers—staring straight and open-eyed into the camera. Rev. Benke calls Concordia a “precious gift” and “magnificent institution.” I would say the latter is not the case anymore, since it will soon cease to exist.
Dr. Sherry Fraser, former Provost of Concordia, NY follows Rev. Benke. She calls it a “very dark and sad time.” That is not the case for everyone though. After blaming COVID, she states: “we question ourselves and inwardly God and others … it is vital that we ask these questions … we must quiet our souls, look inward, and remember our faith.” Questioning God (“Of course, we ask why: why God? Why us? Why this? And why now?”) is not wholesome, nor commanded. She states that God is good, thankfully—because it seems like her trust was partially in Concordia, the institution. This would be a false faith, if so—no institution can die for sin and be resurrected for life. A school that ostensibly represents Christ’s Word and may be used as a tool for the Gospel is completely differentiated from the living Lord. We are to trust in His Word, not the things we create on earth to hopefully promulgate God’s Word. The various statements from synodical leaders are too cowardly to state that Concordia, NY was not only doing a poor job, but was opposing God’s Word in letting sexual immorality flourish among them unopposed.
We are not promised that what man started, even if with the best of intentions will continue, indeed, all the edifices sinners erect will tumble. But faith is in Christ’s power over death and His eternal good for us. God’s external, written Word alone offers real answers from an unchanging God. True faith in Christ, not trust in colleges, will give way to eternal life.
The following platitudes, which are not God’s promises, are then stated by Dr. Fraser: “the darkest hour of the night comes just before dawn,” “the endless possibilities that tomorrow brings,” (or judgment too, according to Scripture); and “when one door closes, another opens.” This women praying on video alongside pastors is a bit strange. But it could be argued it is not a real service, just a virtual one. That does not make what she said any better, though.
Dr. Ralph C. Schultz, President Emeritus of Concordia, NY, then appears on the video. He actually talks about the original purpose of these Concordias—not to compete with state schools and just prepare for successful careers—but to train and “prepare Christians for a variety of occupations.” Concordia colleges were started to train church workers, to feed young, able men into seminary, and raise up faithful teachers. But many have forgotten their original calling, or don’t know how to make Lutherans, and do not truly instruct or exhort into the true Christian faith. Their relationship to the church that birthed them is tangential at best now.
Dr. Nunes opens up his segment with this invocation, while making the sign of the cross: “O God of Creation, O God of Change, O Courage-giving God, especially today do we need that courage. We are shaken, help us Holy Spirit to know that we are not shattered.” It is shocking to hear that the eternal God is called the “God of change.” What can this mean? That God changes? Or that change is because of Him? Or that He approves of change, or even the closing of this Concordia? But sin is what causes death, bringing decay, mortality, and loss to everything on earth. While it sounds nice to say there is “a new beginning woven into the fabric of every ending,” that is not true for sinners who continue in unrepentance and refuse to turn from their rebellious sin. Judgment Day is not a new beginning for the goats in Matthew 25. Hell is not a beginning of new possibilities, but eternal death.
Scripture is replete with passages that tell us man and his sinful situation changes, but the eternal God does not:
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind” Num. 23:19.
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” Ps. 110:4.
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” Mal. 3:6.
“they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end” Heb. 1:11-12.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” Jam. 1:17.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” Heb. 13:8.
It is man who must humble himself, change his sinful ways, and turn to the immutable Lord. That is the change God desires—in our wretched hearts and ways. His goodness promised in Christ is steadfast. We should take to heart that worse can happen than a school closing.
This video compilation is presented as a funeral of sorts, but any school is just a tool. It is not a death, but a change. And God is not a “changing god,” but eternal and unchanging. His Word does not change and He has not promised that earthly institutions will endure, though His church—believers around the Word—does.
Rev. Lecakes quotes Joshua 1 (see below) at the beginning of these virtual prayers – which is quite apropos, considering Concordia, NY and Dr. Nunes’ acceptance of homosexuality and failure to obey to God above the worldly allure of “diversity.” This school was not distinctively Lutheran.
God does not reward disobedience. Sin is not blessed, and God is not mocked. God is not with us when we reject Him in our lives and hearts—we will come under His wrath. Like Concordia, Portland which also met the same just fate, Concordia, NY (formerly Bronxville) did not serve for the furtherance of the LCMS’ faithfulness, scriptural doctrine, or training up youth who would not depart from God’s holy law. It became a secular school, so that “faith” was an add-on, a mere button on the lapel of a worldly institution. It had no reason to exist and be supported by the church—and now it will not. But Christ did not die for schools. Colleges that do not serve the purpose of Christ and make no real confession, have no reason to be attached to a church body. It is not enough to live off past glories and deeds. A tool must be used well to justify its continued maintenance.
It is not enough to feel sad, we must also take this closing as a warning: trust not in man, his achievements or institutions. All these will change and will cease. The true God, who does not change, will not abide with those who change His Word or lack the courage to defend it. —ed.
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:7-9