It’s been more than a year since Dr. Greg Schulz was suspended from Concordia University Wisconsin for publicly objecting to its board of regents inserting racial prejudices into its criteria for a new president. Interim president Dr. William Cario suspended the tenured philosophy professor on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, immediately banning Schulz from campus and his university email, according to legal documentation.
“The issue is not my personality, it was not some clash with people and their feelings. This is a doctrinal issue,” Schulz said in a phone interview. Racial partiality is forbidden by the Bible and the theology of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), the denomination that appoints regents to Concordia’s 18-member board.
“I think a lot of the wokeness depends on us being cowardly and inclined to be quiet for the sake of temporary peace,” Schulz said.
The LCMS is one of the few large U.S. Protestant churches that still profess traditional Christianity. It claims approximately 1.8 million U.S. members as well as affiliations with biblically faithful Lutheran churches all over the world.
Campus free speech advocates called Schulz’s sudden suspension with no opportunity even to hear the complaint against him “an unacceptable departure from [the university’s] commitment to due process.” It was also a violation of his contract and of university policy, noted Aaron Terr, a lawyer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Instead of immediately reinstating Schulz upon discovering these violations, the board of regents kept him suspended. After LCMS President Matthew Harrison rebuked CUW last May for including “equity” and “diversity” in its criteria for a new president, last August the regents moved forward with a dispute resolution process that has never before been used in the LCMS, said a regent who spoke to The Federalist on condition of anonymity. That has dragged out Schulz’s restoration and the university’s execution of Harrison’s demand that the university publicly repent for publicly endorsing sexism and racism.
Schulz is in talks with newly installed CUW President Erik Ankerberg about the university’s recent offer to let him back into the classroom, Schulz told The Federalist Monday. He said he would dearly love to return to his students, but wants written commitments that the university would protect him and other professors from being treated as he was last year.
“A necessary ingredient would be a genuinely secure guarantee of academic freedom,” Schulz said.
Decades of Unrepented Support for Heresy
Another key commitment, Schulz said, would be a public repudiation of racism tolerated in the name of buzzwords such as “diversity,” “equity,” “inclusion,” and “anti-racism” that excuse giving preferences for a person’s skin color or ancestry. The denomination’s leader called for Concordia to do exactly that last May. It has yet to happen.
“If they don’t abide by woke-ism, why don’t they say so?” Schulz asked.
Concordia-Wisconsin maintains a Black Student Union and amid Schulz’s suspension added a Hispanic Student Union. Concordia’s accreditation agency requires that its “processes and activities demonstrate inclusive and equitable treatment of diverse populations.”
The university also maintains a “bias reporting system.” Those are widely known to enable attacks against students or colleagues. Campus trainings on the system led by CUW administrators under the previous president, Patrick Ferry, allege “unconscious bias” as a cause for filing such a report.
Last year from March 23-25, Harrison and 10 other pastors, scholars, and lawyers visited Concordia to investigate concerns about cultural Marxism affecting the university. They interviewed approximately 80 people — but not Schulz.
“Each district president is responsible for the ecclesiastical oversight of all called workers in his district, and [South Wisconsin District] Pres. John Wille is overseeing the process for dispute resolution between Dr. Schulz and the administration,” said Harrison’s assistant, Rev. Jeffrey Hemmer, in an email to The Federalist Wednesday. “Therefore, President Harrison has not engaged the matter of Schulz’s suspension.”
Harrison’s May 2022 public letter called on Concordia to repent for tolerating racism and for several regents who had willfully violated church bylaws and theology to resign.
“[T]hroughout our visit, concerned faculty, staff, and students expressed concern over the introduction of secular diversity, equity, and inclusion language and initiatives into the mission of the university. This philosophy is laden with ideas antagonistic to the sacred Scriptures, including great lies about human sexuality and race,” Harrison wrote.
Racially divisive actions, committees, and public statements from CUW that The Federalist highlighted last year are still present on university websites:
The Office of Multicultural Engagement … ‘strives to advance Concordia’s efforts to embed diversity as a transformational force,’ according to its web page. That page also states the office trains faculty, staff, and students in ‘social identities, microaggressions, and implicit bias’ and in being ‘culturally competent.’
The university’s Black Student Union recommends the fact-challenged and racially biased 1619 Project to students, as well as making purchases based on a vendor’s skin color. It also recommended author Ibram X. Kendi’s work.
Christian School Endorsing Anti-Christian Ideology
With 8,000 students and a beautiful campus in a suburb of Milwaukee, Concordia-Wisconsin is considered one of the denomination’s better universities. Another LCMS university recently attempted to leave the denomination to pursue identity politics more freely, a move the church rejected. The denomination has closed three of its nine universities since 2018, all of which endorsed identity politics.
CUWs criteria for a new president described as “essential” that Ferry’s successor have a “Demonstrated belief in and commitment to equity and inclusion.” The initial search process prompted survey respondents to select “diversity” as a top priority of the new president.
Objecting to this — first privately, in emails to regents, and then publicly, in an article in Christian News — is what prompted Schulz’s suspension. Schulz, an ordained minister, was on the denomination-approved list of 11 potential replacement presidents for CUW.
Through university spokeswomen, Ankerberg declined multiple requests for comment. He became Concordia’s president on Jan. 9, 2023, and had an installation ceremony on Feb. 6.
“The regents wisely returned to the table to follow the church’s process to elect a new president,” Harrison said in an email statement Hemmer sent. “I, the church, and the LCMS South Wisconsin District are delighted by their election of Dr. Erik Ankerberg.”
Shoot the Messenger
In addition to violating his contract, due process, and university policy, Schulz says, his suspension violates scripture. The Christian university is punishing him for obeying the Bible’s commandment to publicly rebuke church leaders for public sins. Multiple regents and denomination officials The Federalist spoke to on the condition of anonymity said the case against Schulz is based on him criticizing the university in public.
That’s another theological issue. The Bible commands that sin be rebuked privately first, unless the sin is public or the person who commits it is a church leader (Matthew 18, 1 Timothy 5). Schulz argues he met those biblical conditions and those who say he’s part of the problem are simply covering their refusal to address the public sins the university continues to promote.
While his Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty lawyer told The Federalist Schulz has an easily winnable breach of contract case, so far Schulz has not sued. Schulz did have to threaten to sue to get his pay reinstated, he said. In June, Schulz was allowed back on campus for a regional church meeting held there only after the intervention of several pastors, he said.
‘If What I Have Said Is True, Why Are You Striking Me?’
The South Wisconsin district’s June 12-14, 2022 convention was alive with the Schulz issue, considering multiple resolutions to provide greater accountability to LCMS universities. The convention passed a resolution calling for their religious leaders to “identify and eliminate the promotion of social justice, or woke, ideology from the Concordia University System.”
“The margin for their acceptance was something like 80-20,” Senior Pastor Peter Bender of Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, Wisconsin, told The Federalist of the 2022 anti-woke resolutions in South Wisconsin, his district. He also noted that former board of regents chairman Richard Laabs, one of the people Harrison called on to resign, wasn’t on the ballot for the two CUW regents positions the convention filled.
The theological issues Schulz raises appear to be amplifying heading into the LCMS’s next national convention on July 29-Aug. 3, 2023. This February, the LCMS’s publishing house released a new edition of one of its key theological documents, Martin Luther’s “Large Catechism.” A few of the many dozens of theological essays in the book were written by non-LCMS authors who commune at so-called churches that condone obscene acts such as abortion and ordaining transgender people, prompting numerous pastoral and laity complaints.
The 2023 LCMS convention will be held in CUW’s neck of the woods, in Milwaukee. At that triennial meeting, LCMS voters will elect two more regents to Concordia’s board. That is expected to make the board more theologically sound, Bender said.
“I want things to work out,” Schulz said. “My major concern has been to stop the wokeism at Concordia University. We know how this goes with professors at universities after they get back in the classroom. Soon they come up with some anonymous complaint and then you’re out.”
The author is a communing member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.