On May 2nd, 2022, I had the honor of being a featured writer with an above-the-fold story on OnlySky Media. While I was proud to be featured, I could not have been less proud of the subject of my article: my alma mater, Grove City College. (The Roe v. Wade draft opinion leaked later that same day, so my fame was short-lived. But it did happen.)
The GCC CRT TL;DR
I decided I had to write about Grove City because a “special committee” of the Board of Trustees had come out with a report denouncing “mission drift” at the school. They, and hundreds of concerned parents, were worried that Grove City was being infiltrated with Critical Race Theory.
What had happened was not, in fact, CRT, but was instead a chapel sermon given by race and religion historian Dr. Jemar Tisby a year earlier, in which he called for civil rights action following the murder of George Floyd. Parents had also sounded the alarm after the only Black professor on campus had taught a class on cultural diversity and advocacy, and some RA training sessions included racial awareness.
Alumni and advocates had hoped that the larger Board would view this report as the fringe, badly written disaster that it was, but of course, they ended up accepting and adopting it, unchanged.
This has just been the TL;DR version of the Grove City story. I already spent days researching and writing the OnlySky article last month, so I encourage you to go read that for full details as well as links to other sites that are continuing to cover the ongoing mess.
Especially when the Grove City CRT fiasco was momentarily forgotten in the wake of the Roe v. Wade Alito draft leak, I hoped that the story would be over. But of course, as with everything in this forsaken country, it had to turn from a bad dream to a nightmare.
Since the college denounced him and called his visit a “mistake,” Jemar Tisby has dedicated himself to holding the school accountable, even giving them step-by-step instructions of their best path forward. He had long ago predicted that what makes Grove City’s anti-CRT crusade truly dangerous is that other colleges would follow suit, and he was right.
I just didn’t expect the first college to take inspiration directly from GCC to be the college belonging to the denomination I grew up in, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
At first I wanted to just close my eyes and turn off my phone. I knew that investigating this dystopian white supremacist alliance between the two organizations that traumatized me the most would be difficult. But I couldn’t help it, and now I have 43 tabs open in my browser.
LCMS President Harrison’s letter
I quit the LCMS years ago, but their asinine, sexist president, Matthew C. Harrison, will not quit with the bullshit. My readers learned of his ignorant anti-science views here and of his backwards, misogynistic ones here. Let’s add this latest instance to the list.
Harrison wrote this letter following his visit to Concordia University Wisconsin, one of the LCMS’s colleges and specifically the sister to Concordia University Ann Arbor in Michigan. (This is why the college is often referred to as CUWAA. It is technically a single college on two different campuses in two different states.) He and his visitation team were there to assess the state of the college as they are searching for a new university president.
None of these resources were easy for me to find, so if you do read his letter yourself, then you’ll want this handbook which contains the bylaws he refers to throughout.
Most of the letter is Harrison sharing his concerns that the Board of Regents—the “seasoned men” assigned to search for a new university president—are not following protocol in their search process. However, one of the bullet points I found most interesting, that other people covering this story seem to have overlooked, read:
In violation of Bylaw 220.127.116.11.2 (b)(2), the BOR delegated all responsibility for preparing the Presidential Prospectus to Gretchen Jameson. Input from the BOR was not sought.Matthew Harrison, Letter to the Board of Regents, May 9th, 2022
Gretchen Jameson’s audacity
This was one of many complaints that Harrison had regarding the Board allowing the wrong people to make decisions in their search for a president. But knowing how misogynistic (especially after reading this 1976 LCMS document I found refuting the Equal Rights Amendment… yikes) Harrison and the LCMS are, I was intrigued, but not surprised, that he would include a note specifically deriding the board for allowing a woman to make a decision.
I found Gretchen Jameson’s Twitter. I don’t believe that she is an employee of Concordia, but rather she works in higher education to help colleges accomplish things like presidential searches. Harrison must have been alarmed that she was part of his team, as she works specifically to bring justice and equity to Christian higher education.
Don’t worry, Matthew Harrison is making sure that the addressing of injustice will come nowhere his good Christian college. And he took inspiration specifically from Grove City, because of course he did.
Setting the white supremacist example
To my shock and disgust, Harrison wrote,
Consider the example of Grove City College in Grove City, Penn., formerly affiliated with the Presbyterian church, now a self-described conservative Christian college with a Christ-centered mission. When concerns about the infiltration of Critical Race Theory into the mission and instruction of the college became public last year, the college owned up to ways in which it had drifted from its mission, appointed a committee to investigate concerns, and developed a plan to move back to its institutional Christo-centricity. Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor has such an opportunity right now, in the midst of a presidential search, to acknowledge past mistakes and move intentionally back to its clear Lutheran mission.Matthew Harrison, Letter to the Board of Regents, May 9th, 2022
Jemar Tisby knew this would happen. I wish so badly that he had been wrong.
Unlike what happened at Grove City, the ways that “Critical Race Theory” (which has become a dog whistle for any mention of racial justice or even DEI) had infiltrated CUWAA weren’t clear to me.
Enter Gregory Schulz, violent racist
Answering my question is this violently racist article by ex-professor of Concordia University Wisconsin, Gregory Schulz, that explains what exactly Harrison meant when he said,
CUWAA is a tremendous institution. The positives are many. But throughout our visit, concerned faculty, staff, and students expressed concern over the introduction of secular diversity, equity, and inclusion language and initiatives into the mission of the university. This philosophy is laden with ideas antagonistic to the sacred Scriptures, including great lies about human sexuality and race. . . . This, along with the presidential search, pose a unique opportunity for the university to reassert its Lutheran identity and mission; . . .Matthew Harrison, Letter to the Board of Regents, May 9th, 2022
Before I go on, I have to mention that this story has blown up because Schulz was suspended (with full pay and benefits) by CUWAA’s interim president, Dr. William Cario, directly after he published his article. There has been massive backlash as people see this suspension as wrong, or unbiblical, or etc. Black CUW students who were hurt by Schulz’s article explicitly called for his removal, so I can’t say I fully disagree with Cario’s choice. You can decide if you think it was wrong or not, but I think the suspension has overshadowed the article itself which is what I’m focusing on.
Schulz’s temper tantrum of white fragility
The article, “Woke Dysphoria at Concordia,” is not unlike some predecessors from Grove City professors, such as “Do I teach at a Woke School?” by professor Carl Trueman last December. Schulz’s article contains such lines as:
My Concordia university is experiencing dysphoria because it is coming under the influence of Woke-ism (that is, a potent cocktail of Progressivism, Neo-Pragmatism, and Marxism).
Diversity refers to a racialized diversity with unsubstantiated assumptions of white privilege and systemic (national and institutional) racism that form the mythological basis of Harvard’s Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project. Inclusion is an aggressive, almost violent version of what used to be known as affirmative action, now construed as racial reparations – again, on the basis of the mythological thinking from Critical Race Theory. Equity is the enforcement of Diversity and Inclusion by any means necessary – excepting by means of thoughtful, reasonable, and honest writing and discussion.
When our BoR committees announce their intentions to install a president who exhibits a “demonstrated belief in and commitment to equity and inclusion” and promotes racialized “diversity in all its myriad forms,” they are announcing their plan to disrupt the authority of the biblical text and in this way to transform our university from an institution of Lutheran higher education to … who knows what. They are announcing their intention to transform this LCMS institution into a DIE-ing institution. See, for instance, the language and content of the Office of Multicultural Engagement on the university’s website at cuw.edu.
What, then, shall we say in response to the Woke Dysphoria at Concordia? There are matters of accountability and responsibility to be attended to. While there is no systemic racism at Concordia because we are committed to Christ incarnate and His universal justification of all human beings without exception, there certainly is systemic Woke-ism.Gregory Schulz, Woke Dysphoria at Concordia, Christian News Missouri, February 15th, 2022
The divine command to use male pronouns
And there’s more. I couldn’t leave out Schulz’s lengthy and detailed complaint regarding that “someone or some committee” phrased the sentence “He shall serve as the spiritual, academic, and administrative head of the institution” from the aforementioned bylaws to “The president serves both as academic head of the faculty and as spiritual leader of the institution” in the Presidential Prospectus document. Schulz is specifically angry that they avoided the pronoun “he” and that they put “spiritual” after “academic.”
This theme of specifying that the president will only ever be a “he” made it all the way into Harrison’s letter, where he writes, “July 2021 changes to the faculty handbook include referring to the president with the pronouns ‘he or she’ and ‘his or her,’ in violation of the teaching of Holy Scripture that spiritual and doctrinal oversight in the church and its universities is given to qualified men.”
Schulz’s fragility: honorable mentions
Schulz also gripes that the Higher Learning Commission’s criteria for accreditation includes the words “diverse,” “inclusive,” and “equitable,” and that it calls for institutions to foster “a climate of respect among all students, faculty, staff and administrators from a range of diverse backgrounds, ideas and perspectives.” Even worse, the American Chemical Society only approves chemistry programs with a faculty that is “diverse in gender, race, and ethnic background.”
The CUW Office of Multicultural Engagement, by the way, says nothing more radical than “diversity and equity,” “social identities, microaggressions, and implicit bias,” and “support marginalized communities and intergroup relationship building.”
From Schulz’s reaction to what I can honestly call the bare minimum in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI, not DIE), you would think that the Concordia administration was advocating for the teaching of Satanism.
What triggered this white supremacist rampage?
While it, again, was not easy to find, Schulz’s primary complaints were regarding the language used in the Presidential Prospectus document, which Harrison says Gretchen Jameson created. The document simply outlines what the college is looking for in a new president. After Schulz’s introduction, it was very underwhelming (though very well-designed, might I add).
The Prospectus emphasizes its search of “a deeply committed leader of uncommon capacity, Christian character, Lutheran fidelity, and innovative will,” who:
- “embraces the Lutheran liberal arts values rooted in our vibrant past,”
- “will lead with Christian character, warmth, and openness,”
- “will be faithful, devoted to Christ first, in all things,”
and more. The Prospectus includes the Lutheran attributes that the position obviously requires as well as the skills and experience that any job description would ask for. You would not assume that this is the document that Schulz is talking about when he says,
There is no room for privileged authorities – not a hint that all teaching authority at the university has been given to Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). There is no room for sacrosanct texts – not a mention of what Christ says in His verbatim Word about education, not a clue that they are seeking a president capable of articulating a philosophy of education that is based on Christ Himself (Colossians 2:8-9). Not a scintilla of a hint that they would seek a president capable of leading us in the work of “destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).Gregory Schulz, Woke Dysphoria at Concordia, Christian News Missouri, February 15th, 2022
Can you be antiracist and truly Lutheran?
Obviously, in both Schulz’s and Harrison’s views, practicing diversity, equity, and inclusion is antithetical to traditional Lutheran values. When suggesting what to do moving forward, Harrison writes in his letter:
Make use of the considerable abilities of the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations. Use this unique opportunity to craft diversity resources based upon the inerrant Scriptures, without the additional baggage of secular inclusivity initiatives.Matthew Harrison, Letter to the Board of Regents, May 9th, 2022
So of course I headed over to the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) page and found the section on social issues and citizenship, where it discusses race. I focus solely on race because racism is the only social evil that there is any chance at all that the LCMS would oppose. Whatever they say on racism doesn’t justify that they are still sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and vehemently anti-abortion.
Racism and the Church
The only report on racism that is mentioned on the page is called Racism and the Church: Overcoming the Idolatry from February 1994. It is quite long, so I’ve also uploaded the version that I read that includes my highlights.
I know the LCMS. I know their bigotry. I had been reminded of it when reading Harrison’s new letter, so I was shocked to see what was written in this document. I kept expecting the bigotry I know and hate to show up but it never did.
I’m surprised that Harrison would lead readers to this document in his letter decrying racial justice, since that’s exactly what the document advocates for. Harrison either did no research before reprimanding the Board of Regents or he just doesn’t know what racism or racial justice actually are. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the latter, given the levels of comprehension and intelligence he’s displayed in the past, in articles such as this one about creationism.
This document is far from perfect—for one thing, it says that the Bible is the cure to racism—but it was magnitudes better than what I expected. I don’t know if I would call it truly antiracist, but it was the closest thing I have ever seen to antiracism coming out of the LCMS. The writers go so far as to grapple directly with the history of LCMS pastors owning slaves. Any LCMS members, especially who are tempted to side with Schulz, would benefit from reading it.
Lutherans for Racial Justice
In his newsletter that initially detailed this miserable connection between GCC’s report and the LCMS’s letter, Jemar Tisby analyzes what exactly Harrison meant when he said the college ought to maintain a “Lutheran identity.” Tisby wonders if the LCMS’s 95% white makeup has anything to do with that “Lutheran identity,” given Harrison’s aversion to DEI language.
But on a more optimistic note, he also turns readers’ attention to Lutherans for Racial Justice, which has a mission of “fostering multiethnic church and school cultures within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).” This Call to Action explains more of what they are about.
Just as I was sitting down to write this post, Tisby actually went live with the founder of LRJ, Rev. Matthew Ryan Gonzàlez. Unsurprisingly, Tisby, Gonzàlez, and LRJ use very Christian language and justifications for fighting racism, but all I care about is that they are doing it. You can watch that Live here.
Harrison’s letter is abhorrent. Schulz’s article is violently racist while at the same time being plain stupid. When I first heard about the situation from Tisby’s Instagram post, I was fuming. I get bodily trauma responses every time I see things like this from the LCMS and GCC and I can’t think straight. I originally wanted to write that the LCMS and GCC are both objectively evil—and I mean literal evil—institutions.
And large parts of both are legitimately evil. Racism is evil. Defending racist ideologies is evil, and resisting any semblance of any fight for racial justice is evil. Matthew Harrison, Greg Schulz, and President Paul McNulty of Grove City are evil people.
But after my initial rage wore off, I realized I could not call both the LCMS and GCC plain evil. They’re not. If they were, then we wouldn’t have this petition urging the board to reject the report or this one urging the college to apologize to Dr. Tisby, which amassed a combined total of over 1,000 signatures from my fellow Grove City alumni and students. We wouldn’t have my amazing fellow alumni who stand up for the marginalized and for each other in this Facebook group, GCC Advocates for Inclusion & Acceptance.
And if the LCMS was evil, then we wouldn’t have Concordia’s Black Student Union fighting for their equality, Black Clergy Caucus proclaiming that Black Ministry Matters, or Lutherans for Racial Justice providing a wealth of resources on their website for Lutherans looking to educate themselves about racism.
- confess that they have “created, deepened, and sustained the lasting wounds of racial prejudice, inequality, and injustice,”
- declare an intent to “dismantle the systems of racism within our congregations, communities, and church body,” and
- pledge support to “ELEVATE & AMPLIFY current Black Lutheran voices.”
Even for a jaded and leery atheist like me, not all hope is lost. For there to be people fighting for good even in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and at Grove City College, that impresses me. There is a long way to go, but there could be a chance for these institutions to turn around and act for justice.