By Joe Isenhower Jr. and Elizabeth M. Truong
ST. LOUIS — At their May 10-11 meetings in St. Louis, the Synod’s two mission boards established by the 2010 LCMS convention continued their primary work of developing policy. One of them — the Board for International Mission (BIM) — issued 11 calls and five solemn appointments for LCMS career missionaries and international educators to serve in 12 countries.
In addition, the Board for National Mission (BNM) and BIM met together to hear reports from LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Chief Mission Officer Rev. Gregory K. Williamson and participated in a Bible study led by the Rev. Dr. James W. Voelz, a professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
In his Bible study, Voelz concentrated on mercy in the Gospel of Mark – continuing the mission boards’ biblical studies related to the Synod’s Witness, Mercy, Life Together emphasis.
Also, each board received reports from other staff members.
Before voting to extend the 16 calls and appointments, the BIM heard from the Rev. Dr. David Birner, interim co-executive director of the Office of International Mission, about the need for missionaries on the field and the qualifications and background information of those being considered for the positions.
After their vote, BIM members spontaneously sang “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow.”
New missionary orientation for those who accept these calls and appointments is set for June 25-July 6 at the LCMS International Center here, and will conclude with a “sending” worship service.
“To be extending calls and appointments for 16 missionaries on behalf of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod — that’s something that is really cause for celebration,” Birner said. “If it’s not the most we’ve ever had [in one year], it’s close.”
The BIM reviewed its policy subcommittee’s work on finishing drafts of two remaining “ends” (desired end results) and “principles” (policies to guide the work of staff to achieve the ends), and later approved them. The drafts next go to staff, under the direction of CMO Williamson, for drafting “means” and “goals” to accomplish the policies. “Means” are defined as “the method of activity to achieve desired results” and “goals” as “quantifiable and achievable results.”
The two drafts were the only ones that remained unfinished after the board’s February meeting, when it approved 15 sections of ends and principles.
In its meeting last month, the BNM approved some 22 policies concerning support to and coordination of domestic ministries with districts, congregations, schools, church workers and other entities to which the Office of National Ministry relates. That board has several more draft policies remaining for consideration at its next meeting Sept. 7-8.
Both boards also approved joint policy related to “Disaster Response,” since that falls under the responsibility of both the BNM and the BIM.
The policies of the two boards must be reviewed by the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters and approved by the Synod Board of Directors before they are implemented.
In their separate meetings, the two boards also discussed the decision to move responsibility for oversight of chaplains who work in the Veterans Administration and federal prison system to the oversight of ONM Executive Director Rev. Bart Day, instead of the OIM. Responsibility for oversight of military chaplains will remain with the OIM, under the LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces staff.
The Rev. John Fale, interim co-executive director of the OIM, shared with both boards a draft of policies that would guide the work of staff who are categorized as “Mercy Operations” and whose areas of specialty result in their working both in the United States and elsewhere.
Eventually, an associate executive director reporting to the chief mission officer will oversee the Mercy Operations group. That associate director will coordinate domestic and international mercy strategy, planning and program work with the OIM and ONM executive directors and will oversee granting processes to ensure support for the strategies of both offices.
Day explained that his office is working with Williamson to engage its ministries in each of three settings — rural/small town, urban/inner city and suburban.
“We consider these to be demographic, cultural and missiological distinctions,” Day told Reporter. “We will align with districts when they’re working in those settings to bring the assets, capabilities and resources of the Synod to support and partner with them in their work.”
Day said that consideration of ministry resources in those settings “is how we have applied what we heard at the LCMS National Mission Conference last fall as a logical paradigm for addressing the needs of districts and congregations.”
He added that the ONM and Williamson are conducting a formal survey among district staffs to determine current work in those settings “and where their mission emphasis is going to be in the next three to five years.”
Harrison provided both boards with a brief overview of several topics of interest in the Synod — including the six LCMS district conventions that had been held so far, finances leading up to last month’s budget-setting for the Synod’s 2012-13 fiscal year, fellowship discussions and declarations, and his recent testimony before a congressional committee in support of efforts to preserve rights to exercise religious beliefs.
Williamson also spoke to the two boards, reminding members of the five “values” and six “mission priorities” developed by the LCMS Office of the President that he reviewed with the OIM and ONM at their February meeting.
He also brought up “three issues [for his] immediate attention”:
- “The health and well-being of our clergy,” which he observed is “essential to the health of our church.”
- Enhancing the Synod’s communication capabilities.
- “A grand strategy for the Synod … in-depth [and] across generations.”
Williamson recommends the following means to enhance communications and information exchange: “Exploit cyber venues to reach more laity with Synod and external audiences. Assess and more precisely manage Synod’s cyber portals. Enhance The Lutheran Witness and Reporter circulation via content and district participation in The Lutheran Witness.”
“We must commit to seeking a strategy that incorporates the best way to leverage our capabilities and assets and identify our strategic goals and objectives,” Williamson said.
He described strategically thinking about the world’s population, countries emerging as world economic leaders, groups of people with global influence and the Synod’s own history — to define direction and future areas of work for the church. Williamson explained that as a globally engaged church, it is unwise for the LCMS to fail to think in terms of a global strategy.
“Doing so is to jeopardize the church of the next two generations and miss fulfilling our mission,” Williamson advised. “Ministry platforms will thrive in culturally tuned paradigms. We must learn to navigate the turbulence of cultural waters rather than build levees.”
Elizabeth M. Truong is a staff writer with LCMS Communications.
Posted May 25, 2012