Introduction

Three small private colleges, all with the same parent organization, have closed since 2018. Who made the decisions to close?

The boards of regents at Concordia College Alabama, Concordia University Portland, and Concordia College New York voted in 2018, 2020, and 2021, respectively, to cease operations. While enrollment issues and debt plagued all three institutions, administrators within the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) and its in-house lender, the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, have orchestrated the closures. The pages on this website show how.

The LCMS faces declining membership and a perilous financial outlook, and some of its leaders believe the church is at a critical juncture where it can either retrench or succumb to a prevailing secular culture. LCMS universities, which together make up the Concordia University System (CUS), carry substantial assets and are perceived within the church to be a vital place for nurturing young Lutherans. They therefore figure prominently in LCMS leadership’s vision for restoring the church to financial, demographic, and spiritual health.

This website draws heavily from reporting by journalists in Portland, Selma, the Twin Cities, and nationally, and stitches their work together with original video and documentary analysis to uncover the drive by LCMS leadership to consolidate and control the institutions of the Concordia University System. It names and describes the network of nonprofit administrators, financial professionals, attorneys, and clergymen who have taken advantage of nonprofit exemptions and religious liberty protections to shut down the schools and liquidate their assets to fund other church entities.

It also hopes to respond to ongoing events within the Concordia University System. Concordia University Portland is a defendant alongside the CUS, the Synod, and the Extension Fund in a lawsuit going to trial in 2023. The former campuses of Concordia University Portland and Concordia College New York are on the market but remain tied up in litigation. Most recently, the Synod announced plans to dissolve the CUS entirely and replace it with a new Commission on University Education. This website will adapt to events accordingly.