Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Alvin Luedke

Second Advisor

Daniel Anderson


This exploratory mixed methods case study examined the relationship between espoused and perceived religious identity and mission at five colleges and universities of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America through the lenses of secularization theory, missional leadership, ecclesiology, Trinitarian theology, adaptive leadership, and challenges in the higher education market. Results indicated that humanism is the primary means of describing religious identity and mission at ELCA schools and there are widely varying assumptions about what it means to be a college or university of the church. Advocates and skeptics of the institution’s religious identity and mission interpret reality through the lens of secularization despite the fact that it has been called into question. This leads to an unproductive tug of war between groups who believe that either acquiescence or resistance to secularism is the proper response.