Mark G. Schroeder
This fall marks the 20th anniversary of one of the more controversial events in our synod’s recent history. After several years of spirited—even heated—debate, the 1993 synod convention voted by a narrow margin to approve something called “the amalgamation.” In 1995 Northwestern College and Dr. Martin Luther College became Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota. And Martin Luther Preparatory School and Northwestern Preparatory School became Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wisconsin.
The decision to amalgamate was not an easy one. Passionate views were held on both sides of the issue. Those in favor of the amalgamation cited what they believed would be the benefits of combining the schools. There would be cost savings achieved by reducing the number of campuses in our synod’s ministerial education system. Others in favor of the amalgamation felt that having our future pastors on the same campus with future teachers would benefit the relationship between future pastors and teachers.
But many were opposed to the proposal to combine the schools. Opponents of amalgamation were convinced that the system in place at the time was not broken and, therefore, should not be fixed. Others feared that the pastor track would lose its identity and focus in the combined school and that the unique course of study that would had served so well could be lost. Still others also were concerned about the loss of one more prep school and with it a reliable source of pastor and teacher candidates for more than a century. Many also doubted that the cost savings would be significant enough to justify the risk of such a move.
We now have the perspective 20 years later to see the results of that difficult decision. While we can never know what would have happened if the system had remained as it was, we can certainly see what that system looks like today. What we see are clear and undeserved blessings from God.
We have a college of ministry in New Ulm that continues its purpose to prepare young men and women for service in the church. Martin Luther College has demonstrated that it is faithfully continuing the work of training teachers and staff ministers. In many ways, that preparation has improved, with new programs of study for specific needs in the church (such as early childhood ministry and urban ministry). The school continues to supply teachers in the numbers that we need to staff our various educational programs. Martin Luther College also trains young men to enter the seminary. The biblical languages are still taught, and a balanced view is instilled in future pastors by a liberal arts education that includes history, religion, math, and science just as before. Martin Luther College is doing exactly what we prayed it would do.
The same can be said of Luther Preparatory School. The oldest Lutheran high school in the country continues to provide more candidates for ministry than any other school, with a large percentage of its graduates enrolling at Martin Luther College. For those who choose not to prepare for the ministry, Luther Prep gives a strong biblical foundation for lay leaders of the future. Our two prep schools, along with the area Lutheran high schools, provide the number and quality of students to help meet the needs of our synod. November brings with it our celebration of Thanksgiving. Let’s be sure to thank our gracious God for his blessings on the schools that provide our congregations with faithful and well-trained workers.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015
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