A Brief History of Lutheran Campus Ministry by sir17308


									This brief history of Lutheran Campus Ministry is made available for your use in local
interpretation and communication. At various points you may choose to add your own
local history, thereby lifting up your connection to the larger movement of the church‟s
mission in university settings across the century.

                                     Early Beginnings

       At the time of the Civil War, 175 of the 182 colleges and universities in the
country were church-related. The reason for the establishment of so many institutions of
higher education by the churches was that education, and not just religious education,
was seen as part of the ministry of the church bodies to the larger society. Lutherans,
Methodists, Calvinists, and Roman Catholics saw this quite clearly.

        In most cases the president of the college was an ordained member of the clergy,
including some tax-based institutions such as Georgia and Michigan. These presidents
served as administrators, educators, and ministers to students. Only later, as presidents
became increasingly uncomfortable in the latter role, did the position of chaplain appear.
Chaplains were drawn from an elite corps of highly trained and dedicated clergy. In most
situations they functioned much like a parish priest or pastor.

        The Morrill Land Grant Act in 1862 was a major turning point. It provided a
national system of universities that were not church-related. However, they posed a
challenge to the Protestant vision of America‟s essential being. They provided a toehold
for the spirit of Enlightenment, for scientific inquiry, for evolution, for new philosophies,
and even for atheism. Therefore, it is not surprising that from this time onward, many
churches resisted the development of these “godless” universities, often called “haunts of
encroaching secularism and infidelity.” The church-related college was seen as the best
alternative to the secular influence of public universities.

        Not every church leader and congregation shared this anxiety, however. Many
faculty members at public schools reached out to students, and many congregations
across the country opened their doors in welcome to persons at the university. A number
of “Luther clubs” emerged at these public schools, some of them an outgrowth of the
pioneer work of the YMCA. Faculty and staff served as advisors to these student
organizations, although worship was held in conjunction with a nearby congregation.

       A group of Lutheran students meeting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison,
made the case for calling the first fulltime campus pastor. They were part of a group of
students from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, whose pastor, W.K. Frick, urged the start of a new
Lutheran congregation near the university in Madison, where his student parishioners

were studying.1 In 1905 a group began to meet for worship. In 1906 a congregation,
now Luther Memorial, was organized. In 1907 they were ready to extend a pastoral call.
The Rev. Howard Gold responded to this new venture in ministry. His task was
twofold—to develop the fledgling congregation and to attend to the needs of students.
By the end of the decade the United Lutheran Church enthusiastically reported,
“Religious work in universities and colleges is no longer an experiment. . . . It has been
established as not only a legitimate, but also a necessary sphere of general church

        In 1909 a study determined that there were at least 2,500 Lutheran students at
three major educational settings: Madison (500), Minneapolis (1,000), and Fargo (1,000).
This awareness led to the action of the ELC that the church, “should take definite steps
toward a proper and adequate solution of the problem of Christian instruction at state and
non-Lutheran institutions of learning.”3 Within the next decade new ventures in student
ministry would commence at the University of Illinois and at a circuit of five schools in
the East served by Samuel G. Trexler: Cornell, Syracuse, Columbia, Yale, and Harvard.
One of the stated purposes was to “secure more men for the ministry.” Three years into
the circuit, Trexler recommended that resident pastors be called to give continuity to the

                        The Lutheran Student Association of America

        By 1921 enough Lutheran student groups and individuals were interested in
holding a national meeting. Thirty-nine students from sixteen institutions attended a
conference at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. The next year, 1922,
the Lutheran Brotherhood of America sponsored a gathering of students to an
organizational meeting in Toledo, Ohio. At that meeting the Lutheran Student
Association of America was formed. The first national conference of the LSAA was held
the following year, 1923, at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Seventy-four
delegates from forty-one campuses attended. A constitution was adopted and Fredrik
Schiotz, a student from St. Olaf College, was elected president.4 The second conference
met in Madison in 1926. It is often called the “first international conference,” because
many international students attended.

       While the Depression years often prohibited gatherings, in 1936 the conferences,
now called Ashrams5, were resumed. Ashrams bound the hugely successful LSAA
together on a national level. Concerns for global issues, balanced with attention to
worship, bible study, and fellowship, marked LSAA gatherings, both nationally and
regionally. In 1939 the LSAA made history when it voted to become a member of the

  Frick predicted that student work would be “one of the crown jewels of the United Lutheran Church.
  Quoted in Mary Markeley, The Lutheran Church and Its Students (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press,
1948), p. 23.
  Quoted in The Planting Years (Chicago: National Lutheran Campus Ministry, 1987), p. 4
  Schiotz would later be elected president of the American Lutheran Church.
  Ashram is word from the language of India for a “corporate spiritual quest.”

World Student Christian Federation, the first church-related student group in the United
States to do so. In 1968 the LSAA held its last Ashram

                               The Lutheran Student Movement—USA

       The annual gathering of Lutheran students continued, however. In 1969, at Ft.
Collins, Colorado, the Lutheran Student Movement—USA was born. It was a pan-
Lutheran organization, including students from Gamma Delta, the Lutheran Church-
Missouri Synod organization. The concept of “organization” was set aside in favor of a
“movement” model that was felt to be more reflective of representation, rather than that
of concentrated power. LSM-USA is open to student members only, with non-students
serving only in an advisory capacity. The previous pattern of national and regional
conferences continued, including the emphasis on global issues and education.

                                       A Renewed Commitment

       The end of World War II brought a significant influx of student to campus—those
who were veterans of the armed services. The church saw the need to provide ongoing
ministry to these women and men, in part as an extension of the chaplaincy services they
had provided during the war. Some funds that remained from this ministry were now
channeled into providing ministry on campus. Foundations were established to receive
these monies, hire staff, and secure facilities. Large houses on the edge of campus were
purchased, and in some cases religious student centers were built, to serve as a “home
away from home.”

        Morris Wee was elected executive secretary of the Student Service Commission
of the National Lutheran Council in that year and spent the first six months traveling
across the country, listening to the concerns of staff, discussion goals, and building
friendships. From those contacts came the idea for a national “Staff Conference,” the
first one taking place in 1946. It was the beginning of the development of a national
system for campus ministry. Study of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions were
mandated by the Commission. Overseas work camps were promoted to assist in
resettlement and rebuilding Germany and Eastern Europe. These conferences were, and
continue to be, a time for staff to worship, study, share ideas, and expand their sense of

       Wee‟s first report to the church bodies stated, “The Lutheran student will not be
conserved to the church without effort. . . . The church must go where the students go. Its
task must be to minister to its young people. . . . The church needs the student, and may
have (him/her) if it does not neglect them in this critical hour.”6

        Staffing trends moved away from utilizing the gifts of lay counselors or part time
pastors from nearby parishes, to the calling of fulltime, professional staff, who were
usually ordained. The increase in staff is significant. In 1938, there were nearly 200
fulltime professional campus ministry staff in the country from all denominations.
    Ruth Wick in The Planting Years, p. 9

Fifteen years later, there were nearly 1,000 staff. By 1963, the number had doubled to
approximately 2,000 professional staff, including Lutherans and members of other

         Admittedly, much of the reason for being on campus in the mid-century was self-
serving on the part of the church. It wanted to conserve and protect its own members.
One experienced campus pastor wrote, “Actually, denominational „university work‟ was
the extension of the denomination‟s youth program to their students away from home. In
the case of Lutherans, this meant the provision of Lutheran worship and pastoral care to
which a useful apologetic might be added to see them safely through the confusing period
of life. The term, „university work‟ was hardly descriptive, the basic concern was
conservation of young people for the church, together with recruiting them for fulltime
church service.”7 However, under the leadership of Donald Heiges, campus ministry
began to shift from service to students to ministry to the whole academic world. In 1955
the National Lutheran Council changed the name of the Division for Student Service to
the Division for College and University Work and amended the objectives of the division

       The first Student Center Fund (1947-1954) was begun with assets of $1 million to
support 28 projects. The second Fund (1955-1960) faced 42 projects with $1.75 million,
while the third Fund (1961-1965) was approved for $2 million. The annual operating
budget of the division grew from $180,000 in 1950 to $345,000 in 1958, with
considerable support coming from congregations, individuals, and missionary societies 8.

       Because of the expressed interest in studying religion at state universities, a
number of course syllabi were written by Lutheran scholars for use by campus pastors,
who frequently served as adjunct faculty to the university. By 1952, forty-two courses
were reported, with an enrollment of almost 1,000 students.

         For the most part campus ministry was still seen to be an extension of the ministry
of the local congregation. “Campus Ministry Extension Centers” (CMEC) were the
official names given to most ministries on campus. Sometimes they were referred to as
“preaching points,” but always understood to be a long arm of the worshipping
community at a nearby church. In 1952, the Rev. Henry Yoder received permission to
hold the first autonomous worship service apart from congregational sponsorship at the
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In the early 1970s four specifically student
congregations were formed at Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Champaign,
Illinois, and Evanston, Illinois.

       When Donald Hetzler was selected to lead campus ministry in 1958, he noted,
“Lutheran Campus Ministry in the „70s lived under the consequences and impact of the
12 revolutionary years from Hiroshima in 1945 to Sputnik in 1957. That brief span of
time saw the bursting of three new ages—the atomic age, the cybernetic age, and the

    Henry Horn, Lutherans in Campus Ministry (Chicago: National Lutheran Campus Ministry, 1969), p. 9
    Donald Heiges in The Planting Years, p. 11

space age.”9 The 1960s brought forward a time of activism on campus, to which campus
ministry responded faithfully and in a timely manner. All of the social and political
issues of the day were challenging the church to speak and act in relevant ways. Director
Henry Hetland recounts the insight of theologian Paul Tillich, who identified in students,
“a feeling of emptiness, insecurity, meaninglessness, hostility, disgust, widespread
cynicism, indifference, and a search for security at any price.”10 The life of commuter
students ushered in “the learning society.” Ecumenism was in full flower. Vatican II
brought a wave of reform to worship styles. The times—they were a-changin.‟ Toward
the end of his tenure Hetzler would write,
”I believe that the steady productivity of campus ministry is a credit to the Lutheran
churches whose mission it serves. The opportunity to have served during the distressed
„70s was a blessing and an honor.”11

        Toward the end of the 70‟s, the issues of corporate America landed at the
doorstep of campus ministry: analysis, evaluation, accountability, and strategic planning.
As Director, Jerry Miller‟s business acumen helped address these issues, with an
emphasis on “servant leadership.” In 1979, a revised statement of purpose was
completed titled, “A Description of the Mission and Purpose of National Lutheran
Campus Ministry.” Interpretation, dialogue, and mutual support between NLCM and
parent church bodies would insure the continuation of campus ministry during times of
high inflation and strained financial contributions. Increased attention was given to lay
leadership, metropolitan ministry, international and minority contacts, and women in
ministry. The highly-regarded four-year staff evaluations were set in place and continue
today as four-year evaluations of the whole ministry.

        By the 80‟s the culture had shifted again. While social concerns continued to dot
the landscape, students were increasingly interested in grades, employment, and “me.”
Jim Carr, who served a span of 18 years as Director (1981 to 1999), noted three issues
that affected campus ministry in those decades: (1) the economic forces which influence
our finances; (2) the changing climate in Lutheran cooperation; and (3) the commitment
of the supporting church bodies to form a new Lutheran church.12

         When the Lutheran Council in the USA (LCUSA) ceased to exist in 1987 at the
onset of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, cooperative Lutheran campus
work with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod also ceased in a formal way, although
separate programs had been discontinued years before. When the ELCA was born in
1988, campus ministry was placed under the umbrella of the Division for Education
(later, the Division of Higher Education and Schools). For the first time in its history,
Lutheran campus ministry would be the mission outreach of one, single Lutheran church
body. Inter-Lutheran agencies and cooperative understandings between Lutheran bodies
were to become a thing of the past.

  Quoted in The Planting Years, p. 17
   Quoted by Henry Hetland in The Planting Years, p. 14
   Quoted in The Planting Years, p. 19
   The Planting Years, p. 22

        In 1985, campus ministry leadership inaugurated a new endowment plan called,
We Care for the Future. Working in cooperation with the ELCA Foundation, the long
term impact of this plan would provide financial stability to local ministries, as dollars
began to shrink from benevolence sources. Campus pastors and boards took on new
responsibilities to generate resources from alums, parents, and friends. With the rising
costs of salaries, building maintenance, and expanding programs, these extra dollars were
intended to sustain Lutheran ministries, while those of other denominations were quickly
disappearing. New cooperative agreements with other church bodies, principally
Episcopalians, enabled the continuation of ministry on some campuses.

         At the turn of the century, ELCA Campus Ministry continues to focus on student
ministry from the base of Word and Sacrament. Its stated mission is to “invite people in
academic settings more deeply into Jesus Christ and the community that bears his name,
so that they can discover and fulfill their vocation as disciples.” Following the brief
tenure of Patricia Lull (2000-2002), Sue Rothmeyer was elected Director in 2002, the
first lay person to serve in this role. A new set of Policies and Procedures were adopted
in 2003, more carefully delineating the existing accountability relationships among
churchwide, synods, and area and local agencies. Challenges to financially support staff
salaries, aging buildings, and important programs continue. However, there is dedicated
resolve and renewed creativity to address these issues. The entrepreneurial, holy spirit
that set in motion the mission of campus ministry 100 years ago is still guiding the work
of the church on campus today.

        ELCA presiding bishop Mark S. Hanson affirms, “My personal gratitude for
campus ministry has deepened throughout my ministry. As the pastor of a large
congregation at the edge of a Big Ten university campus, as bishop of a synod committed
to deepening its relationship to campus ministry, and now from the perspective of the
presiding bishop of the ELCA, I have rejoiced in campus ministry‟s mission to expand
minds, deepen faith, and inspire service.”13


     Introduction to a Centennial Book of Essays honoring Campus Ministry‟s 100 th year, written June 2006.

Galen Hora, Editor
June, 2006


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