The Concordia College community has been waiting for a new president. With sporadic e-mails and a few meetings on campus, the information put out has only briefly mentioned the progress made thus far. Most of the proceedings will remain behind closed doors to protect the nominees who are still holding jobs at other institutions.
Randy Boushek, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said there are over 70 nominations for the position at Concordia. The nominees come from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but their religious affiliation is the same. Whoever wins the approval of the Board of Regents will be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
As an ELCA institution, Concordia has always required its president to be a member of the ELCA, but this requirement is not universal among ELCA colleges and university.
Mark Wilhelm, associate executive director for Educational Partnerships, said there is a movement among ELCA higher education to include members of other Christian denominations among the all ranks of their institutions. The colleges don’t receive guidance from the ELCA headquarters in regard to presidential qualifications.
“The greatest discussion is whether the president must be a part of a congregation among the ELCA,” Wilhelm said. “Every college’s governance board is going to create those qualifications.”
Texas Lutheran University, another ELCA college that is actively searching for a president, doesn’t mandate ELCA affiliation, but it requires the president to agree to the church’s values.
TLU’s presidential search overview states that a presidential candidate must demonstrate “a personal profile in which faith is a primary ingredient, and who, while not necessarily a Lutheran, will appreciate and vigorously nurture TLU’s ELCA relationships.”
Boushek said ELCA affiliation is a positive characteristic of the institution.
“Concordia is indeed a college of the Church,” he said. “I do think it’s important that the president be able to play an important lead in the faith dialogue of the college.”
Concordia’s requirements are found in the Concordia College Corporation’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. Article 2, Section 13 of the bylaws stipulates that “the President of the College shall be a member of the Church.” The term “Church” refers to the ELCA.
In order to remove this qualification, the bylaw would have to go through an amendment process that requires a 2/3 majority vote by the Concordia College Corporation.
The topic has been a part of discussion among the Board of Regents. In April 2009, the board rewrote large sections of the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. By doing so, they discussed whether the presidential qualifications should stay as written.
The location of the presidential qualifications changed, but the requirements did not.
When the Presidential Search Committee was formed to execute the presidential search, there was no debate about ELCA affiliation. The seven current or former regents, three faculty members, one student and the health service administrator agreed that the president must be a member of the ELCA.
“We don’t want to inhibit ourselves, but we are one of the few schools left that has a strong Lutheran identity,” Student Government Association President Erik George said.
ELCA association is only one of the many characteristics listed in the opportunity profile for the presidential search. The other attributes came from campus-wide input sessions that were held last fall. George, who is the sole student representative on the search committee, said the sessions helped the committee clearly define what the campus community seeks in a new president.
While the student input meeting in particular was poorly attended, George is still confident that the search committee has been able to articulate the needs of the college.
“A lot of people have a really jaded view about the Board of Regents,” he said. “They want what’s best for the community. I think what they said reflects the student opinion.”
George noted that most of the qualifications listed in the presidential profile are highly recommended rather than required. While he was not able to comment on the specific people who were nominated for the position, he said that they come from both academic and non-academic spheres.
Concordia faculty, staff and students will not hear anything from the committee until they have narrowed down the pool to just one or two applicants. At that time, the candidates will come to campus and meet with various faculty and student organizations.
If the prospective timeline holds, the Board of Regents should make its final decision during its retreat in May. While the search committee is attempting to reach this goal, they are allowed to take as much time as they need to find the best candidate for the college.
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