Directors proceed on KFUO, endorse malaria project

By Roland Lovstad

A special committee and the chief financial officer have been authorized by the LCMS Board of Directors to continue with multiple negotiations toward the possible sale of KFUO-FM.

Meeting Aug. 20-21 in St. Louis the Board also endorsed the Synod’s participation in the Lutheran Malaria Initiative and heard reports that the 2008-09 fiscal year ended June 30 with a positive balance.

In acting on the KFUO-FM matter, the Board adopted the following:

  • “Resolved, that special counsel in conjunction with the chief financial officer proceed with the multiple negotiations reported to the Board in executive sessions, and be it further
  • “Resolved, that the KFUO Committee of the Board be hereby instructed to continue to investigate the uninterrupted broadcast of the 99.1 classical format in the St. Louis market; and be it finally
  • “Resolved, that the KFUO Committee of the Board be hereby authorized by the Board and empowered to determine in its absolute and sole discretion if and when the corporation shall enter into an asset purchase agreement for the sale of KFUO-FM and upon what terms and conditions approximating those reported to the Board and to cause same to be done without further action by the Board.”

The KFUO Committee special counsel, Kermit Brashear, a member of the Board, was authorized to serve as the Board’s spokesman regarding the process. KFUO-FM, which primarily broadcasts classical music, has been owned and operated by the Synod since 1948.

The action follows the recommendation of a task force appointed by the Board in early 2008 to study the role of KFUO-FM and KFUO-AM and the best use of those assets in the Synod’s mission. In November the task force recommended the sale of KFUO-FM, with a majority of the proceeds to be placed in a fund designated for “proactive ministry utilizing advanced media” such as video and audio streaming via the Internet or satellite radio to reach audiences beyond the St. Louis market. The task force did not recommend the sale of KFUO-AM.

After reports and discussion of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, the Board resolved that it “heartily endorses the Lutheran Malaria Initiative as a priority of the Synod.” The resolution encouraged support by LCMS leadership and LCMS program boards under the direction of President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick.

The resolution came after discussion with Dr. John Nunes, president of Lutheran World Relief (LWR), and representatives of LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief and Human Care. The discussion included preliminary plans for fundraising and methods of delivering education and services through Lutheran churches worldwide.

“It’s a project which has great promise for helping people who are suffering in the world,” Kieschnick said as he introduced the group. He said the purpose of the conversation with the Board was to explore ways to work with the initiative while the Synod completes its Fan into Flame campaign. The initiative will be taken to the Synod convention next year. In the meantime, it will be piloted in districts and congregations that have already conducted Fan into Flame campaigns to support the Ablaze! movement.

The Lutheran Malaria Initiative is a partnership of LWR, the LCMS, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is made possible through support from the United Nations Foundation. Nunes said malaria kills a million people a year, mostly on the African continent, and noted that faith-based organizations are the most trusted among Africans.

For the project to go forward, LWR needed indication of support from “a high level” and an assignment of staff to represent and speak on behalf of the LCMS, according to Nunes.

Synod Vice President-Finance/Treasurer Dr. Thomas Kuchta reported that unaudited figures show the Synod ended the fiscal year on June 30 with a positive variance of $3.2 million. The positive balance resulted from $9.2 million in income from the sale of property in Hong Kong.

Kuchta said the proceeds from the property sale have been designated by the Board for the Board for Mission Services. That allowed the department to cover a negative variance in operations. The board-designated fund will be reimbursed as Fan into Flame funds are received.

Due to unrealized investment losses in the Risk Endowment Funds, the Synod transferred approximately $800,000 to maintain balances that serve as collateral for college and seminary bonds.

As for the current fiscal year that began July 1, Kuchta said, “Some positive things are happening.” While the July report showed a negative variance of $492,000, compared with $1.5 million last year, he said, “Trends are favorable. They should be — we’ve cut the budget by approximately $4.5 million.”

Kuchta also announced that he would not stand for re-election at the 2010 LCMS Convention. He is serving his third term as vice president-finance/treasurer.

In other action, the Board:

  • heard an update on the Wittenberg Project, a joint effort with the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany to operate a welcome center for visitors to Luther sites and re-establish a SELK congregation in the city. Rev. David L. Mahsman begins serving Sept. 1 as managing director of the Wittenberg Project.
  • received a $600,000 gift from St. John’s Lutheran Church, Tampa, Fla., and authorized Treasurer Kuchta to complete the transactions. The congregation is disbanding and designated the funds for U.S. and overseas mission projects.
  • adopted a resolution thanking God for the 67 years of faithful service that the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League has provided to the Synod and for its 2009-2011 mission goal of $1.825 million for 19 projects — the largest in the auxiliary’s history.
  • approved a request from Concordia University Chicago to refinance existing bond debt, finance major facility improvements, and refinance a loan with the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.
  • approved the request from Concordia University Portland to issue bonds to refinance the recent construction of a library and dormitory and to finance a proposed athletic facility.
  • approved the conversion of the former early childhood center at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, to a multimedia center.
  • heard, but took no action, on a proposal requested from the LCMS Foundation to raise gifts for the LCMS unrestricted budget.
  • encouraged the Board for Pastoral Education to reconsider the composition of a Seminary Comprehensive Study Committee, which it appointed at the request of the Board of Directors. The directors expressed concern “relative to the experience, background and disinterest” of the members of the committee, which is to study the facilities, personnel, and efficiencies of the present seminary education system.

After meeting Valentina Rhoden-Kimbrough, the Synod’s new executive director of Human Resources, the Board expressed appreciation to Ron Schultz, chief administrative officer of the Synod; David Fiedler, executive director of General Services; and the Human Resources staff for carrying extra responsibilities while the position was vacant.

Roland Lovstad is a freelance writer and a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Perryville, Mo.

Posted Aug. 28, 2009

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