During the four days of the LCMS Council of Presidents (COP) retreat Feb. 18-21 in Phoenix, the council spent the bulk of its time applying the concept and principles of the “Koinonia Project” to difficult issues in the church.
The Koinonia Project is an initiative by the Office of the President of the Synod designed to foster theological discussion under the Word of God to bring greater unity to the Synod’s “Life Together” on contentious topics. It grew out of the Synod’s 2007 convention-mandated Task Force on Synodical Harmony appointed by the COP and the LCMS Board of Directors. The Koinonia Project enfolded the suggestions recommended by that task force into this present effort.
With all members of the COP participating in one of three randomly selected groups, each group spent significant time identifying and beginning to work through an issue faced by the Synod (varying points of view being present within the membership of the groups). Discussions by these groups will continue each time the council meets until its April 2015 meeting.
The participation of the Council of Presidents in the Koinonia Project is in keeping with Resolution 3-01A, which was adopted at the 2013 Synod convention.
Synod First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr. led the retreat, explaining how it was designed to work. He recalled how the “Koinonia” concept has taken root within the Synod, underscoring that it is the living Lord Jesus who brings about true fellowship among Christians.
The council conducted its business meeting on Friday morning of the retreat, receiving a report from its Clergy Call and Roster Committee that included:
- revisions of two COP documents — “Guidelines for Dealing with Bankruptcy Involving the Ordained Ministers of the LCMS” and “Guidelines for Dealing with Bankruptcy Involving the Commissioned Ministers of the LCMS.” The revised documents are titled “Guidelines for Dealing with Credit & Financial Difficulties Involving Ministers of Religion — Ordained of the LCMS 2014” and “Guidelines for Dealing with Credit & Financial Difficulties Involving Ministers of Religion — Commissioned of the LCMS 2014,” respectively. The revised documents will be presented again for proposed approval at the COP’s April meeting. After they are approved, district presidents will see that the documents are distributed to rostered workers, along with a cover letter.
- information that the Concordia Plan Services section of the Supplement to the Diplomas of Vocation of the call documents for rostered workers will be modified, effective July 1, to reflect the removal of the 3 percent offset payment requirement to rostered church workers who are currently participating on the Regular Basis of the Concordia Retirement Plan. A letter explaining the change is being mailed in late March to all employers with Rostered Workers on the Regular Basis. A separate letter is being sent in early April to the individual rostered workers.
- complimenting the January Reporter “Pressure Points” column about the misuse of the Internet for pornography while requesting its author to expand on the topic to include information about the role of district presidents in assisting LCMS church workers and congregations in addressing the issue. The April “Pressure Points” that provides such information is here.
- progress being made on guidelines to assist congregations with policies for prevention of sexual abuse.
- progress being made on a comprehensive review of the Council of Presidents Policy Manual, with the Clergy Call and Roster Committee to serve as the final reviewer of the revised manual on behalf of the council.
- a brief update on the ongoing appeals status of a ruling by a Wisconsin judge that challenges the IRS provision of a clergy housing allowance.
The COP also approved first-call placements of 15 ordained and 32 commissioned ministers, reinstated the Synod roster memberships of one ordained and eight commissioned ministers, provided 11 assignments to seminary vicars and approved 12 requests for extensions of non-candidate status. One retired pastor, upon approval of the Colloquy Committee for Pastoral Ministry, was accepted into the Synod as an emeritus member.
The council received a report from Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison regarding his recent visits to Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar and Germany. He also spoke of the Synod’s financial report, seminary matters and progress being made to open an office in Washington, D.C.
In keeping with the Bylaw requirement that the Council of Presidents and Board of Directors determine the boundaries of the five regions of the Synod 24 months prior to the next convention, LCMS Secretary Rev. Dr. Raymond Hartwig presented a proposal to the council to retain the same delineation of regions as was used in preparation for the 2013 convention. This proposal was adopted — as also adopted by the LCMS Board of Directors during its Feb. 14 meeting.
With 33 districts reporting, 311 congregations are currently calling sole pastors, 34 are calling senior pastors and 73 are calling associate or assistant pastors — totaling 418. Six new congregations have been started since the last report and eight congregations were closed.