by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
When I stepped into this office in September 2010, LCMS Inc. had borrowed over $15 million from moneys designated for other purposes. This internal borrowing is legal (so long as the donor designations are ultimately honored, and they are) and had been standing operating procedure as far back as anyone remembers. But it’s not acceptable.
Borrowing internally instead of paying interest to the Lutheran Church Extension Fund for operating cash may make good business sense, but I do not believe such internal or external borrowing is good stewardship. I do not believe the Lord Himself will bless it. And donors don’t give so that their funds may be used for cash flow until required for the designated purpose!
Several years ago, the Bush administration assembled a team to make recommendations for standards for nonprofit organizations. That commission asserted that a responsible organization should have at least two to three months operating cash on hand. And that’s where we are headed, God help us! Through much pain, hard decisions, staff reductions and many blessings, the internal borrowing has been reduced to $11 million. We’ve made a great deal of progress, but we have a long way to go.
I want every member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to know exactly where we stand financially. If people don’t clearly know the challenge we face, we certainly cannot expect them to help solve the problem. It is absolutely essential for the long-term mission of the Gospel that we cease a longstanding habit of spending more than we take in. And we have. In September, you will begin to see a financial “dashboard” in the pages of The Lutheran Witness and Reporter, as well as online. A simple balance sheet may tell you the bottom line but can also easily mask millions in internal borrowing. No more.
Under this general priority of fiscal diligence, we have identified five values to guide all our program work and six priorities in the way we allocate dollars. I want you to know what they are:
Values: (1) Fidelity: We are going to be who we are as confessional Lutherans and in all we do for the sake of the Gospel. (2) Quality: We are committed to the highest level of service for the sake of the Gospel and the Church. (3) Credibility: No bologna. (4) Sustainability: No fly-by-night work. Too many programs have flashed hot today and are gone tomorrow. (5) Stability: We are building for the future.
Priorities: (1) Plant, sustain and revitalize distinctly Lutheran churches. (2) Support and expand theological education. (3) Perform human care in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry. (4) Collaborate with the Synod’s members and partners to enhance mission effectiveness. (5) Nurture pastors, missionaries and professional church workers to promote spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. (6) Enhance elementary and secondary education and youth ministry.
To read much more about these priorities, see www.lcms.org/reporterinserts. With transparency and clear mission priorities, I believe we can claim the rich promise of the blessed apostle St. Paul who wrote, “God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:7ff.).
Pastor Matthew Harrison
“Let’s go!” Mark 1:38