By Joe Isenhower Jr.
At its May 16-18 meeting in St. Louis, the Synod’s Board of Directors adopted a $100 million operating budget for the national church body, approved master plans and projects for Concordia University System schools, made appointments to several Synod boards, and endorsed the proposed concept of a project that could re-establish a confessional Lutheran presence in Wittenberg, Germany — the birthplace of Lutheranism.
For the 2007-08 fiscal year that starts July 1, the balanced operating budget approved by the Board totals $100,091,068.
The Board of Directors also approved a 2007-08 capital budget of $948,070.
By comparison, the operating budget set by the Board a year ago for the 2006-07 fiscal year was $88 million and the capital budget was slightly over $1 million.
Synod Vice President-Finance/Treasurer Thomas Kuchta told Reporter that although a $12 million difference in the operating budget between the two years may look like a significant increase, “it really isn’t when you consider inflation, and how much more could have been budgeted if there were more unrestricted funds available for mission and ministry. Also, a significant portion of the difference is for the triennial Synod convention and Youth Gathering coming up in July, which are both included in the 2007-08 budget.”
He pointed out that 2007-08 unrestricted revenue for the national Synod is projected at $403,000 less than for 2006-07 and projected district support is down by $103,000. At the same time, he said that projected expenditures will be up by $13.67 million.
The 2007-08 budget includes the 4.5 percent increase for Synod employees’ salaries which the Board approved at its February meeting, and reflects a surplus of $67,203.
“This truly is a break-even budget,” Kuchta said as he and Charles E. Rhodes, executive director of accounting for the Synod, presented the budget to the Board. “It includes no cuts to existing ministries, but there is absolutely no fat either.”
In fact, to head off deficit spending for the coming year, the Board approved paring an additional $1.74 million from a number of requests for unrestricted expenditures.
For example, new staff positions at the Synod’s International Center will be funded starting in August, a month after the beginning of the fiscal year.
Both Rhodes and Kuchta praised budget unit executives for the “high level of teamwork and cooperation they demonstrated … in making realistic estimates, participating in open and frank discussions, and meeting budget deadlines,” as Rhodes put it.
A slide prepared for their presentation indicated that a detailed review of all those units’ requested budgets resulted in about $250,000 in reductions “without program impact.”
“The budget units have done a wonderful job being very realistic,” Kuchta said.
When asked by a Board member how many hours he and Kuchta had devoted to the 2007-08 budget, Rhodes estimated “about 300 — and that certainly doesn’t include the work of the unit execs and everybody else who worked on the budget.”
The Board approved a site master plan for the new campus location of Concordia University, Austin, Texas. That plan, taking into account the university’s projected growth over the next 30 years, outlines renovation of existing structures and construction of new facilities.
Last August, the Board approved purchase of a 385-acre site in northwest Austin for the university to move from its current 22-plus-acre land-locked location. The campus move is planned for summer 2008, with classes on the new campus starting with the fall semester to follow.
Also at its May meeting, the board approved a revised facilities master plan for Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn.
With that, the Board approved the university’s proposal to replace three existing dormitories and two houses with a new four-story, 290-bed, apartment-style “residence life center.”
The action authorizes the school’s board of regents “to secure tax-exempt bond financing not to exceed $18 million through the Minnesota Higher Education Facilities Authority.”
Concordia University, Seward, Neb., received Board of Directors approval to sell six housing properties it owns, “with the stipulation that the net proceeds are to be used for campus capital projects,” according to the resolution.
In another action at the May meeting, the Board approved the concept of Concordia College, Bronxville’s “Concordia on the Move” emphasis, in which the college proposes to sell several off-campus houses.
Yet another “concept” receiving the Board’s endorsement — subject to resolution of legal and organizational issues — is the “Wittenberg Project,” a cooperative effort of LCMS World Mission, LCMS World Relief/Human Care, and Concordia Publishing House to convert a former boys school adjacent to “Luther’s church” (St. Mary’s) in Wittenberg, Germany, into a ministry center.
The building, which needs extensive renovation, would house a bookstore, guest quarters, a welcome center for visitors, a diakonal office, and a chapel.
Dr. Robert Roegner and Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive directors of LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief/Human Care, respectively, made a presentation about the project to the Board, explaining that the ministry center could spark a mission start for the SELK (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church) — the Synod’s partner church in Germany.
They explained that fewer than one-fifth of Wittenberg’s population claims to be Christian and that no Synod partner-church congregation exists there, although one did in the past.
Wittenberg, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door on Oct. 31, 1517, is located in what was formerly Communist East Germany.
The Board made appointments to four Synod boards:
- Board for Communication Services — Rev. David Kluth (incumbent), Round Rock, Texas; Rev. Kevin Vogts (incumbent), Dakota Dunes, S.D.; Ernest Garbe (incumbent), Dieterich, Ill.; Dennis A. Clauss, Appleton, Wis.; and Candace Mueller, Ewing, N.J.
- Board for Human Care Ministries — Rev. David Fischer (incumbent), Salt Lake City, Utah; Rev. Gregory Smith, St. Louis; Peggy Beyer (incumbent), Daykin, Neb.; John Edson (incumbent), Plymouth, Minn.; and Dr. Jean Garton, Benton, Ark.
- Lutheran Church Extension Fund members at-large (all incumbent) — Donald Sandman, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Robert Chappell, Southfield, Mich.; Luther Goehring, Phoenix; Michael Grosse, Gunnison, Colo.; Duane Helm, Bloomington, Minn.; Hans Tews, Orlando, Fla.; and Edwin Trapp, Dallas.
- Concordia Plan Services Board of Directors/Worker B