Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, January/February 2006
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Forty odd years ago, Lutherans in Canada placed the first chaplains on secular university campuses. Pastor Don Voigts had a dream and I was one who received grace upon grace from that legacy.
Don Voigts later became the church-wide mission developer for campus ministry, but in my day, he was my campus pastor at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). He allowed his home to be our chapel and led us in vespers every evening. We discussed life, friendship, faith, doubt, church affairs, vocation, knowledge, fear, bravado and many other things with our chaplain. Lent was an extra special time, with artists as guest presenters. Later, Walter Goos was the U of S chaplain. Bob Pearson and Herb Keil also made their mark on me. I consider it one of the greatest privileges of my life to have been called to serve as a campus pastor myself from 1981 to 1990 at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
Campus ministry has always had a push/pull relationship with the rest of the church. There is more freedom of inquiry possible and more flirtation with doubt than some church members consider safe. However, facing the questions, exploring the edges and having faith grow out of that experience is elating and powerful. As a consequence, campus ministry has been the place of formation for a good deal of our church's leadership. Researchers, novelists, philosophers and physicists, physicians, politicians, dietitians, nurses, pharmacists and economists have been shaped in their disciplines and in the gospel by the ministries of the church at universities. That's only the students-faculty make up another story.
But support is in decline. Few campus pastors receive full-time salaries and no additional sites have been opened in a decade, even though new universities keep springing up. Unless there is strong local support, campus ministry goes begging for mission dollars shrunk by inflation. Campus Ministry, along with Canadian Missions, was removed from the national agenda and made a ministry of the synods. That means that chaplains no longer have a national get-together nor support from a national staff person.
Pastor Bill Wiegert and the ministry at UBC hosted a remarkable worldwide interfaith campus ministry gathering that would likely be impossible at present levels of support.
I regret these developments and hope that this church will recover its sense of mission in the secular world and reinvest in this vital ministry. Campus ministry means that, for some students, university becomes more than an academic trade school. It can be the place to explore a life calling and find the pathways of discipleship.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, April/May 2006