By Roland Lovstad
With a Witness, Mercy, Life Together emphasis, the coordinative services that the Synod will provide to districts and congregations and its mission work around the world will be carried out by two offices — National Mission and International Mission — effective July 1.
The realignment accomplishes the intention of a 2010 LCMS convention action to consolidate the staff and services of seven program boards and two of six commissions into the two new offices. Staff, supervised by boards and commissions under the former structure, will now report to a chief mission officer (CMO) who is responsible to the LCMS president.
Acting on responsibilities assigned by the convention in Resolution 8-08A, LCMS President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and his transition team introduced the new structure in meetings with LCMS boards and staff during May and June.
Res. 8-08A called for aligning the functions of the program boards and commissions into the two-office structure or assigning them to the president, the LCMS Board of Directors, districts or other LCMS agencies. The resolution cited the need for improved staff coordination in the operational structure of the national office.
A restructuring work group, composed of 12 staff members from various International Center departments, worked with the president and his transition team to recommend the new structure.
Since the convention, staffing at the International Center has been reduced by 57 employees as a result of attrition, voluntary retirements and elimination of positions due to restructuring or reduced funding.
“We have had to make decisions that have been unpopular or painful to individuals interested in a particular area of ministry which has had to suffer reductions,” Harrison wrote June 5 in his Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog. “The areas reduced most drastically are those which have been funded by dollars undesignated — a source of funding that has been shrinking steadily for decades. In the end there simply were no good choices,” he wrote.
During presentations to International Center staff, Barbara Below, assistant to the president, said, “No one in the history of the Synod has been given the direction to take it apart and put it back together. Rarely do you have the professional opportunity to do something like that.”
Two mission boards
Below noted that the convention established a significant difference in the roles of the Board for International Mission and Board for National Mission. Noting that they are to write and oversee the implementation of policies, she said the boards set “boundaries, principles and parameters” for the offices but do not supervise the staff or day-to-day activities. She said the policies will guide the offices in carrying out their work, selecting future programs and identifying their mission responsibilities.
Both boards have five lay members and five ministers of religion (ordained or commissioned), plus the president or his representative. In the future, one lay member and one minister will be elected from each region of the Synod.
Below said the chief mission officer, at the direction of the president, supervises the work of the new offices. Under leadership of the president, the boards assist in identifying the specific goals to be accomplished by the two offices, she added. Under the previous structure, staffs were accountable to their boards and commissions, which set goals, developed policies and approved staff hiring.
A National Mission Conference is scheduled for Sept. 20-22 to provide input to the president’s office for developing and coordinating support to districts and congregations. The purpose will be to identify priorities and develop plans for the national office to best assist districts and congregations in ethnic and specialized ministries, church planting, revitalization and evangelism. Participating will be leaders from districts, seminaries, Recognized Service Organizations, mission societies and other entities.
“We hope we will hear from the COP and various partners about what needs to be done in the national office and how to support the work that is done around the country by districts, congregations and partners,” Below stated. “We also hope that the new structure and focus of the national office will engage congregations in supporting the ministries of the Synod, engage more laity in volunteer opportunities and unify the communication products that end up in their mail boxes. We also want to help districts and congregations understand how Witness, Mercy, Life Together can have meaning at the district, congregational and individual level.”
‘The next step’
Below said the next step comes as staff form new working groups when departments are merged. The processes and mechanics of the organization will need to be examined with emphasis on efficiency, unified focus and cooperation in the ministries, she commented. She said the structure gives biblical focus to the work and emphasizes the value of every vocation.
The new structure has five units in all, supervised by the CMO at the direction of the president. The units are Office of International Mission, Office of National Mission, Communications, Fund Development and Pastoral Education. Rev. Gregory K. Williamson, who is completing active duty as a U.S. Army chaplain, will serve as chief mission officer beginning in January.
Effective July 1 Rev. John Barton (“Bart”) Day will head the Office of National Mission. The office will have responsibility for domestic ministries that especially serve congregations and schools through the districts of the Synod. The ministries include Lutheran schools (early childhood through high school), youth, the National Youth Gathering, stewardship, Recognized Service Organizations, worship, and district and congregational outreach.
The Office of International Mission will consolidate a majority of functions formerly provided by the Board for Mission Services and Board for Human Care Ministries. The functions include global mission, ministry to the armed forces, theological education (for international students and partner churches), disaster response, chaplaincy, prison ministry, deaconess ministry, life ministries, health ministries and ministry mobilization. Until a head is appointed, Dr. David Birner from the former mission staff and Dr. John Fale of the former human care staff will serve as co-leaders.
Of the three other units, a Communications unit will consolidate all communication staff into one area and will respond to the communication needs of the two new mission offices. The unit includes news, information and publications; digital and electronic media; web design; KFUO Radio; and integrated communications. David Strand, formerly executive director of the Board for Communication Services, will lead the unit.
A Fund Development unit will have four departments: major gifts and grants; campaigns and special programs; missionary development; and direct response. The unit is a consolidation of all fund development efforts to coordinate support for all Witness, Mercy, Life Together ministries. For the present, Hans Springer, formerly with the human care staff and Jeff Craig-Meyer, formerly with the mission staff, will serve as co-leaders.
A fifth unit reporting to the CMO is Pastoral Education. It will provide pastoral education advocacy; promote seminary support; coordinate the “What a Way” effort to recruit and retain church workers; and administer the Post-seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) effort. Dr. Glen Thomas, formerly executive director of the Board for Pastoral Education, will lead this unit.
“It will take us some time to live into this new streamlined, reduced structure,” Harrison wrote in his blog. “The new structure does offer significant opportunities for us to be nimble and efficient.”
Adding that the restructure design will enable the president’s office to “manage the national mission of the church cohesively and cooperatively,” Harrison said there are “very significant ways” for the Council of Presidents (LCMS district presidents and vice-presidents) and the Synod in convention to provide input to the Synod’s mission emphases. A request for a specific ministry area can be submitted to the Office of National Mission by a two-thirds vote of the Council of Presidents. The convention also put into place a grass-roots process that will result in the adoption of triennial mission and ministry emphases by national conventions.
Four commissions remain in the Synod structure and are responsible to the Synod in convention: the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM), Commission on Doctrinal Review and Commission on Handbook (formerly called Commission on Structure). Some CTCR members are elected by the convention and the president appoints other members. Members of the CCM and Commission on Handbook are appointed by the president from a list presented by the Council of Presidents, which also ratifies the eventual appointments. The president appoints the members of the Commission on Doctrinal Review.
Roland Lovstad is a freelance writer and member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Perryville, Mo.
Posted June 28, 2011