Board adopts balanced $96 million-plus Synod budget

Synod Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf explains to the LCMS Board of Directors the process for setting the Synod budget. (LCMS/Joe Isenhower Jr.)

By Joe Isenhower Jr.

ST. LOUIS — When the LCMS Board of Directors adopted a $96,065,354 mission-and-ministry operating budget for the national church body’s 2016-17 fiscal year at its meeting here May 26-27, Synod Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf noted that it was the fifth year in a row that he had presented a balanced budget for the Board’s consideration.

But he said it didn’t come easy to arrive at this year’s budget figure, which equals projected revenue for the July 1-June 30 fiscal year — especially for LCMS unit executives who had to trim $8 million from their initial expense requests after the budget-development process began earlier this year.

“There was a lot of fraternal discussion,” Wulf told the Board. “The unit executives had to make some hard decisions, and they worked diligently to get the budget down to being balanced. I commend them all for a hard job well done.”

Ross Stroh, executive director of Accounting for the Synod, assisted Wulf in the budget presentation to the Board.

Stroh noted that projected expenditures are up $12.9 million from last fiscal year, due to two triennial events this year — the 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering and Synod convention — and grants to Concordia College Alabama.

For the year’s total operating budget, the restricted portion is $74,444,321 and $21,621,033 is unrestricted.

The new fiscal year’s operating budget includes a $905,000 contingency amount.

The Board also adopted a capital budget of $835,990.

After the balanced operating budget was adopted, Board member Gloria Edwards expressed “a concern we all need to think about.

“Over recent years,” Edwards said, “we’ve only managed to meet the budget because we reduce expenses. … We can’t do all the ministry that we might because we don’t have enough income. It seems to me that this has been the case for as long as I can remember.”

Wulf said that had indeed been true “since 1989.”

He also pointed out that “the portion of their Sunday-morning offerings that congregations send to their districts for ‘work at-large’ has remained flat over the past 30 years. The portion forwarded by districts to the Synod has declined over that same period.”

Wulf said that in 1981, the Synod’s share was 4.86 percent of the total Sunday-morning offerings and in 2014, it was 1.12 percent of those offerings to congregations.

“I would suggest that God has really blessed our congregations and our people with resources,” Wulf told the Board. “We don’t have a giving problem. … What we have is a distribution problem.”

Wulf said that the national Synod’s fundraising ratio is “about 12 cents on the dollar.” He noted how that positively contrasts with the 35 cents that the Better Business Bureau-Wise Giving Alliance sets as the “prudent limit” for how much a not-for-profit organization spends for each gift-dollar received.

“So we’re well below that,” Wulf observed.

He also said that the Synod spends about 69-70 percent of its budget on program expenses — also a positive margin above the 60 percent that nonprofits in general should expend for programs.


Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison acknowledged in his report to the Board that this year’s “budgeting process was difficult” in reaching the balanced budget.

“Despite that, the mood at the International Center is good,” Harrison said, especially noting the expanding work of and number of missionaries with the Boards for and Offices of National and International Mission.

“The international scene continues to emerge,” Harrison said, pointing out that there are now 75 partner churches and others with which the Synod is in “new relationships around the world. It just gets more and more interesting as we go along, and the blessings accrue.”

Harrison also spoke about major issues and other items he expected to be considered by delegates to the 2016 Synod convention.

Other Synod officers who offered spoken reports to the Board included First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., Secretary Rev. Dr. Raymond C. Hartwig (at his last regular Board meeting before his previously-announced retirement), Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson and Chief Administrative Officer Ronald Schultz.

Also speaking to the Board were Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement, and the Rev. Dr. Paul Philp, director of Institutional Research and Integrity with the Concordia University System.

The Board discussed its availability in an advisory role to the 18 floor committees for the 2016 Synod convention, as those committees prepared to meet May 27-29 in St. Louis.


In addition to adopting the Synod’s operating and capital budgets for the coming year, the Board took action on a number of other measures.

It approved a new residence-hall project for Concordia University Chicago, as well as the funding proposal for a new dormitory and athletic-field renovations for Concordia University Nebraska.

The Board of Directors also authorized an increase in the “historic” Concordia University System debt, due to its authorizing in February up to a total of $4 million in grants to Concordia College Alabama over the 2015-16 fiscal year and beyond.

The Board adopted revisions for its policy on making appointments and filling mid-term vacancies.

It also approved several appointments, including:

  • Timothy Hecht of Vienna, Va., to fill a vacancy on the board of directors of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty.
  • six members of the Board of Directors — Concordia Plan Services and Board of Trustees — Concordia Plans. They are the Rev. William A. Northend of Sonoma, Calif.; Dennis C. Becker, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Brenda Blisk, Vienna, Va.; Carol A. Huebner, San Antonio; James R. Jaacks, St. Louis; and Judy K. Stromback, Minneapolis.
  • Lutheran Church Extension Fund Members-at-Large Dennis Becker, of Fort Wayne, Ind.; William H. Nau, Midlothian, Va.; James R. Saalfeld, Grand Rapids, Mich.; and George Vincent, Cincinnati. Also appointed were James Ingersoll, Orlando, Fla., first alternate; Charles Chandler, New Holland, Ill., second alternate; and Sally Bucrek, Pinckney, Mich., third alternate.

Words of thanks

As the meeting drew to a close, Board Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael Kumm thanked members Warren Puck and Rev. Dr. Victor Belton for their service. Puck decided not to stand for re-election to the Board this year and Belton has served the maximum number of terms allowed by Synod Bylaws.

“Both of these men have given us a great deal of their time, energy and expertise,” Kumm reminded the Board.

He also thanked the entire Board.

“I highly value each and every one of you as a personal friend and colleague on this Board,” he said. “I want to thank you for the work that we have done over the last triennium, which I think has gone exceptionally well.”

Posted June 29, 2016

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