Mark G. Schroeder
Twenty-five years ago, in the spring of 1994, our synod was facing a time of uncertainty and divided opinions. Eight months earlier at the 1993 synod convention, the synod approved, by a narrow margin, a major change in its educational system for training pastors and teachers. By the next spring, plans were well underway to amalgamate Northwestern College and Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, and to combine Northwestern Preparatory School and Martin Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wisconsin. In the fall of 1995, the newly combined college for training future pastors, teachers, and staff minister would begin operations in New Ulm as Martin Luther College; the combined prep school opened that fall as Luther Preparatory School, joining Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich., as the synod’s two preparatory schools.
Opinions about the amalgamation proposal had been strongly held on both sides of the issue. Those in favor of the amalgamation believed that operating four ministerial campuses was too expensive at a time when resources for missions and the rest of the synod’s work were scarce. They were convinced that a ministerial college serving both men and women on the same campus would provide a better atmosphere for training future called workers. Many of them had the opinion that three prep schools were more than was necessary to serve as feeder schools for the pastor and teacher tracks.
Those who were opposed to the change (and I was one of them) also presented strong arguments. They were concerned that there would be pressures to change the curriculum of the pastor track and that the smaller pastor track could lose its identity in a larger school. They were convinced that the cost savings would be far less than anticipated. They believed that separating Northwestern College from Northwestern Prep (its largest provider of candidates for the pastoral ministry) would result in fewer pastoral candidates.
The decision was made with much prayer and with vigorous and sincere debate. But in the months after the decision was made, the entire synod grew to be united in the desire to make the new schools as good as they could possibly be—not for the sake of creating great educational institutions, but for the sake of creating new schools that would carry on the work done so well by the previous ones.
Now the perspective of a quarter century enables us to recognize how richly God has blessed those efforts. Despite the concerns and even fears, today Martin Luther College continues to provide well-trained teachers and staff ministers. It continues to provide a solid preseminary education to young men preparing to continue their training as pastors at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Studying side by side, future pastors and teachers develop respect for each other’s ministry and build personal relationships that continue after they begin serving in their callings. Perhaps more than ever, the college enjoys the love and support of the entire membership of the synod as its single college of ministry.
Luther Preparatory School, as a single purpose school, continues to provide more candidates for the pastoral and teaching ministry than any other school. Its entire focus, seen in its curriculum and in its cocurricular areas, is to encourage young people to consider prayerfully whether they might serve someday as pastors, teachers, or staff ministers. And God is blessing those efforts.
When large decisions loom and the future seems unclear, Martin Luther College and Luther Preparatory School are reminders that our times are always in God’s hands. We thank him for blessing that difficult decision, confident that his blessings will continue and that a future in his hands may be unknown but is never uncertain.
Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019
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