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Fate of AALC seminary up in the air

Delegates vote this month on moving Edina school to Fort Wayne, Indiana

When voting delegates gather at Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 22, for the 18th general convention of the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC), they’ll have a big decision facing them.
The 15,000 member denomination, with around 70 congregations nationwide, has tried since its inception over 15 years ago to maintain its own theological seminary. But for a small denomination like AALC, that’s a daunting project.
Recently, the denomination’s leadership has come to believe closing the Edina, Minnesota, campus of Amer-ican Lutheran Theological Seminary (ALTS) would be the better part of good stewardship. The school has never enrolled more than a few students, and keeping faculty and a viable curriculum together is difficult.
A proposal coming from the denomination’s executive committee to this month’s convention recommends the seminary be relocated onto the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The resolution, a complex document with ten “whereas” clauses, details the history of the tiny school, delineates the financial challenges, and makes the case for closing down operations in Minnesota.
According to the committee’s proposal, during its operation from January 1993 until January 2005, the amount expended by ALTS was nearly $2.5 million. During those years, 14 students were graduated, but only five continue to serve in AALC congregations.
In the May-June issue of the denomination’s periodical, The Evangel, the Rev. Harold Johnson, Secretary of The AALC, makes the case for choosing Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, as the right location. A graduate of the LCMS school, he writes, “I have prayerfully concluded that the time is right to relocate and move forward in mission and ministry [by making the move to Fort Wayne].”
In the same issue, the founding president of the denomination, the Rev. Duane Lindberg, of Waterloo, Iowa, takes exception to the recommendation and urges delegates to oppose it.
Lindberg writes, “Because our AALC students would receive the bulk of their instruction from LCMS professors, it is very important that the AALC knows where Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, stands in relation to specific doctrines and practices which affect the heart of the AALC.
While conceding that his denomination and the LCMS are in agreement “in most areas of doctrine,” Lindberg raises two red flags.
* He warns that Fort Wayne pastoral trainees are “imbued with an extreme ‘authoritarian’ view of the pastoral office.”
* He worries about the kind of “pietism” the Fort Wayne seminary fosters, which he argues leads to an unhealthy legalism.