Board issues two new 'Briefs'

In two new installments of “Board Briefs,” the Synod’s Board of Directors continues to address questions related to the outside legal opinions regarding the Board’s authority that it obtained last year.  It also discusses “executive sessions” of the Board and funding received from the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation.

“Board Briefs” is an online “question-and-answer” feature that the Board says is intended to “clear up  confusion and provide assurance to the members of our Synod.”  The first installment, in December, also addressed the legal opinions.

“The Board is interested in returning the Synod’s focus and financial resources to missions and to the training of professional church workers,” says “Board Briefs II” in response to a question about the Board’s intentions in light of the legal opinions.

“The Board recognizes that the Synod has the means to increase dramatically its funding of mission work and higher education,” it continues.  “It therefore intends to continue to look carefully at funding methods that will once again place these primary objectives of the Synod in the forefront. The Board also intends to propose convention actions that will endorse its efforts to re-focus the Synod’s funding and operations once again on missions and the training of professional church workers.”

“Board Briefs II” also addresses the Board’s November actions declaring certain opinions of the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) to be “of no effect” (see related story).

“Board Briefs III” turns to questions about the Board’s executive sessions and about restricted funds from the Schwan Foundation.

“From time to time, very sensitive issues regarding property, business, or legal matters come before the Board. Publicizing these issues could result in harm to the Synod or to the involved entities,” the Board says. “It is of course necessary for the members of the Board to be fully informed in order to handle such matters on behalf of the Synod.  Accordingly, the Board moves into executive session in order to become informed while also protecting the interests of the Synod and its entities.

“In recent months, for example, the Board has had to face significant issues pertaining to several of the Synod’s schools,” it continues.  “To protect the interests and the future of these schools, the Board has been careful to receive and discuss reports in executive session.  Also in recent months, the Board has obtained special legal opinions to better understand its options as it endeavors to re-focus the funding of the Synod in support of world missions and the training of professional church workers.  Recognizing that these special legal opinions contain narrative that could place certain entities of the Synod in jeopardy, the Board received and discussed these opinions in executive session.”

“Board Briefs” emphasizes that no actions are taken in executive session.  “All actions of the Board are recorded in its open session minutes,” it says.  “The Synod has no reason to be concerned that the Board is operating in undue secrecy.”

Regarding funds received from the Schwan Foundation, the Board says, “The unrestricted gifts from the Schwan Foundation approximated 2.2 percent of all unrestricted gifts to the Synod during the past six years. A reduction in unrestricted gifts from the foundation therefore cannot be blamed for the unrestricted funding crisis that the Synod is currently experiencing. When total unrestricted and restricted receipts from the foundation are measured against total Synod receipts for the same period, the percentage increases to approximately 7 percent.”

The late Marvin M. Schwan, founder of the country’s largest branded frozen-food company, established the foundation to provide funds to a number of Lutheran church bodies and organizations.

“Foundations typically make contributions from trust income and not trust principal,” says “Board Briefs III.”  “With the deterioration of stock markets in recent years, it is reasonable to conclude that the Schwan Foundation’s distributable income has also been reduced significantly.”

But, it says, “The financial straits that the Synod is experiencing at the present time have much more to do with how unrestricted funds flow within the Synod.”  Most unrestricted funds come from Sunday-morning offerings and are passed on by congregations to their respective districts, which in turn forward a portion to the national budget.

LCMS Vice President-Finance/Treasurer Thomas Kuchta, who also is interim chief administrative officer, says the Board hopes to post a new “Board Briefs” every two weeks.  To read the complete “Board Briefs,” go to www.lcms.org/?3990 on the Web.

Posted Jan. 30, 2004

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