By Joe Isenhower Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ATLANTA — “Your vocation as a member of this Board is not an easy task, but it is greatly appreciated,” Synod Board of Directors Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael Kumm told its members as their fast-paced Nov. 19-20 meeting drew to a close.
“This has probably been one of the most conciliatory boards,” Kumm added. “Even though we may get frustrated, we still walk together. For that I am grateful.”
Packed into the day-and-a-half meeting — just before the Nov. 20-22 Lutheran Church Extension Fund Fall Leadership Conference at the hotel-conference complex that also houses the world headquarters of CNN — were a joint session with the Synod Council of Presidents (COP), action on some half-dozen resolutions, reports from LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and other Synod leaders, and a number of executive sessions.
The Board of Directors adopted a proposed overture to the 2016 Synod convention that calls for rescinding 2004 Resolution 4-11 and adoption of a new bylaw (22.214.171.124) to ensure uniformity in asset-disposition language in the articles of incorporation of Synod agencies.
That proposal — based on the recommendation of the Synod’s 4-11 Committee — was a main topic of discussion during a joint 90-minute Nov. 19 session of the Board and the LCMS Council of Presidents. See the Reporter Online story about the COP meeting for more information about that session.
Another proposed overture adopted by the Board asks the 2016 convention to “clarify and confirm the distinction between Synod and Corporate Synod [in order] to provide consistency for the meaning of ‘property of the Synod.’ ”
The Board also adopted a resolution that authorizes and approves creation of a legal entity in the Dominican Republic, primarily “to better support and facilitate the work of the LCMS in the Dominican Republic and Latin America,” according to the resolution.
In addition to approving changes to its policy manual, the Board took other actions to grant “exceptions” that allow the executive directors of the Offices of International and National Mission to serve as advisory representatives of the Boards for International and National Mission to the 2016 Synod convention.
The Board appointed two men to fill vacancies:
- Jerry M. Frese of Lansing, Kan., as a lay member of the LCMS Board for International Mission; and
- the Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn, Rocklin, Calif., as an ordained member of the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Board of Regents.
“From what I can see, it’s been remarkably calm” for a year leading up to a Synod convention, President Harrison said as he began his report to the Board.
“The challenges we face are daunting demographically,” he said in reference to the continuing trend of declining LCMS membership statistics reported for 2014. But he also noted that year’s membership figures are “more accurate,” thanks to Synod Secretary Rev. Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig and district presidents’ efforts to assure more widespread reporting to determine more precise makeup of circuits of congregations.
“Membership in the Synod continues to decline apace,” Harrison said, “owing to tremendous backdoor losses, a declining birthrate,
ineffective evangelism efforts including challenges in growing the non-Anglo part of the church, and acculturating to the whole American experience.
“We’re doing things to combat this,” he said, mentioning the “need to work harder to find ways to help the local congregation.” Among current and upcoming Synod effects he pointed to are his office’s “Preach the Word” initiative and the Office of National Mission’s “Every One A Witness” program to help members share the Gospel more effectively.
Echoing much of what he had reported to the COP earlier that week, Harrison also spoke to the Board about the following:
- the Sept. 24-27 International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) World Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina — “a very positive meeting overall,” he said.
- planning for the 2016 convention, which he noted “is coming along great.”
- expected “fallout” as a result of the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage in all states.
“We won’t be silent [on this],” he told the Board. “We have the view of Holy Scripture and all history on marriage on our side [and] we will be vigilant to honor our defense of traditional marriage.”
He also spoke of the work of various Synod task forces.
LCMS Chief Administrative Officer Ron Schultz — as he also had done for the COP meeting — provided an overview of plans for the 2016 Synod convention.
The Rev. John Fale, executive director of the Synod’s Office of International Mission, gave a presentation on that office’s work as the Board continued its commitment to hearing from an International Center unit executive at each of its meetings.
“There are really a lot of good things happening in the LCMS in terms of the Office of International Mission,” Fale told the Board.
“We are well on our way” to doubling the number of LCMS career missionaries from the 70-some that were serving at the time of the 2013 Synod convention that called for expanding that number. He said the number of full-time, career missionaries currently stands at 110, not counting those most recently called by the Board for International Mission.
Fale also spoke of “exciting partnerships as our regional directors find ways to work with districts” and overseas partner churches.
He said there are a number of church bodies not in fellowship with the Synod who, “when they hear of what we confess, they want to know more. So we make it clear to them that the LCMS is not the beacon of light, but we certainly possess the beacon of light. And as we are clear with our witness, confession and the priorities, we have full confidence of our Lord’s promise in His Word that the Holy Spirit blesses the Word and converts people where and when He will.”
Fale laid out five “executive priorities” for the OIM, developed in consultation with LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson. They are:
- relationship renewal with staff, the Concordia University System, Lutheran World Relief and districts;
- renewing and updating the OIM strategic plan, including a monitoring tool for its goals and Board for International Mission “ends” policies;
- developing best practices for regional business and operations;
- collaborating with LCMS Mission Advancement “to expand the financial support coming from God’s people in the LCMS for the Synod’s missionaries and their ministry projects”; and
- “seek[ing] LCMS-wide ownership of a realistic plan or model that supplies sustainable ministry funding.”
Fale also responded to two questions from BOD members submitted before the meeting.
The first was, “How will mercy work and sharing the Gospel relate?”
“I would reposition that,” he responded, “and say that this is how they relate: Our witness accompanies mercy and our mercy accompanies witness. That’s how we work in the field.”
The second question was the following: “How can we do church planting without mercy work?”
“It can happen and obviously does happen,” Fale said. “It will happen wherever the Gospel is proclaimed. The Holy Spirit works faith and people are converted. And as congregations are planted, people come around Word and Sacrament to receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. However, we don’t typically do one to the exclusion of the other. Often, the Church’s mercy is an entrée into the invitation for there to be proclamation.”
The next meeting of the LCMS Board of Directors is set for Feb. 19-20 in St. Louis.
Posted Dec. 18, 2015