Reporter Online is launching this column to briefly highlight the latest news from Synod leaders — such as the three LCMS boards and the Council of Presidents (COP). As with this first installment spotlighting the COP and the LCMS Board of Directors, the column will usually appear on the heels of the most recent meetings of those groups. Stories about the most recent meetings of the Boards for National and International Mission appeared online earlier. (See “National mission board begins refining policies” and “BIM appoints missionaries for service.”) — Editor
LCMS Council of Presidents
Meeting Feb. 5-10 in New Orleans, the LCMS Council of Presidents spent significant time continuing the discussion from previous meetings regarding matters of ecclesiastical supervision — specifically, admission to the pastoral ministry.
First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., chairman of the Synod’s Colloquy Committee for the Pastoral Ministry, presented drafts of two policy manuals for pastoral colloquy made necessary by adoption of 2016 LCMS convention Resolution 13-02A regarding colloquy for licensed lay deacons.
The first manual, “Admission to the Pastoral Ministry of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod by Colloquy,” gives direction to the Synodwide colloquy committee — both for colloquy to the “general” pastor roster and for the oversight of the regional colloquy process established by the resolution. The second, “Admission to the Pastoral Ministry of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod by Colloquy to the Specific Ministry Pastor Roster (for Licensed Lay Deacons),” provides the specific policies and procedures necessary for that regional process. This is the second draft presented to the COP. The final draft will be presented in April for implementation by June 1.
The final versions of the manuals will be published on the Synod’s website and available through the districts. Look for more complete information in future issues of Reporter.
“Our task in the coming weeks will be to finish revisions to the draft manual, prepare appropriate application forms, and put in place the regional colloquy committees necessary to bring 200-plus licensed lay deacons into the pastoral ministry by colloquy to the SMP roster,” explained Mueller. “The resolution calls for us to do this in ways that enhance ministry and that’s what we intend to do, making sure that the ministry of no congregation is harmed.”
Under the question “How do we reconcile the high expectations of the office with the sinful frailties of those who are called to fill the office?” the council reflected on a series of theses presented by South Wisconsin District President Rev. Dr. John C. Wille, regarding the integrity of the pastoral office.
Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison provided a two-part report on the state of Synod.
A joint presentation by Jim Sanft, CEO of Concordia Plan Services, and Rich Robertson, CEO of Lutheran Church Extension Fund, provided information about financial and demographic trends. They emphasized the need for Synod entities to combine the business aspects of the church for greatest leverage, expertise and impact against coming financial challenges.
Other business addressed by the council included matters of casuistry, placements and reinstatements. New district presidents participated in a day-long orientation.
COP Secretary and Eastern District President Rev. Dr. Chris C. Wicher reported the following totals for LCMS congregations, from figures by all 35 district presidents since the COP meeting last November:
- sole pastor vacancies — 350,
- senior pastor vacancies — 33,
- associate/assistant pastor vacancies — 101,
- total vacancies — 484,
- pastors part-time — 347,
- new ministry starts — 10 and
- congregations closed — 3.
LCMS Board of Directors
The Board wrestled with a number of challenging topics during its Feb. 17-18 meeting in St. Louis.
Those challenges include a projected $2.5 million shortfall in funding support for the current budget year (ending June 30, 2017) and a projected decline in unrestricted resources from congregations to and through LCMS districts for the 2017-18 Synod fiscal-year budget that the directors will adopt at their May meeting.
In his report to the Board, Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison noted that although “things are calm” in the Synod, he is indeed concerned about finances and the continuing 40-plus-year decline in LCMS congregations’ membership statistics. He said his office and others are “carefully studying long-term trends of giving” and that he is re-emphasizing the Synod’s seven mission priorities — officially adopted during the 2016 LCMS convention and beginning with evangelism and outreach — to counter the membership decline.
Harrison also observed that the LCMS Board of Directors “has had to make some very challenging decisions, and done so with consummate care and wisdom. It’s the strongest board I’ve ever worked with.”
Board of Directors Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael L. Kumm pointed out that the Board, working with Synod leaders, “is looking at more efficient and streamlined measures to work within the resources made available to Synod to operate.
“We are in discussion with our Synodwide corporate entities,” Kumm said, “with regard to increased cooperation and collaboration on projects and systems improvements that will be cost-effective for all. I am confident that we will continue to effectively and efficiently manage the Synod’s resources.”
The Board of Directors is allowing the appointment of Chief Administrative Officer Ron Schultz to expire at its conclusion on April 16, 2017, thanks him for his dedicated service and is initiating a search for candidates for the position.
Kumm noted the following afterward — in a letter addressed to Synod officers and executives:
“For 20 years (12 as CAO), Ron has been a faithful servant at the International Center. … As the Board begins the process of implementing an interim plan and Ron considers his next vocational opportunity, please join us in expressing sincere appreciation for all that he has accomplished to further the mission of the Church.”
Making presentations to the Board were:
- David L. Strand, executive director of LCMS Communications.
- Concordia Plan Services CEO James F. Sanft and board Chairman Frederick “Fred” G. Kraegel.
Among action items, the Board:
- reappointed Alan F. Doud of Bakersfield, Calif., to the Lutheran Housing Support board of directors.
- appointed David Millar of St. Louis to fill a vacancy on the Concordia Historical Institute board of governors.
- reappointed Thompson Coburn, LLP as general counsel for the Synod through June 2020.
- approved changes to the bylaws of the LCMS Foundation.
Posted March 29, 2017