By David Strand
The Synod’s total spending plan of $81.3 million for FY20 — adopted by the LCMS Board of Directors at its May 17 meeting in St. Louis — is a cool $12 million higher than the ending-year’s budget, but there’s a reason for that: It accounts for the costs of two major triennial events in FY20 (in July) — the LCMS Youth Gathering in Minneapolis and the Synod convention in Tampa — the expenses for which are essentially recovered through fees.
Subtracting those big-ticket items from the equation — $9.7 million for the Gathering, $2.2 million for the convention — leaves the Synod “with a flat budget,” said Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf. “In fact, the FY20 budget, apart from those two events, will be slightly smaller than FY19’s, even while including a doubling of our contingency fund to $1 million. And if we end up not spending that budgeted contingency, it will simply return to the bottom line as a surplus.”
Describing the new budget as “conservative” and “aligned with the mission goals and priorities of the church,” Wulf said it also will provide for a 3 percent salary-pool increase and result in a $213,000 surplus of revenues over expenses. The budget reflects a 6.5 percent increase in health benefits for employees; there is no increase for retirement or disability.
Pay raises, even modest ones, have not been a given at LCMS, Inc. in recent years, especially for the officers, who once again fairly insisted on no increases for themselves in the coming year but were overridden by the Board.
Meanwhile, there are 24 fewer budgeted positions than in the last fiscal year — most of these changes resulting from evaluations of the service areas and an intentional administrative decision to realign duties. Many of the workers affected either retired (their positions unfilled), voluntarily left for other jobs, transferred to another Synodwide corporate entity, or were hired by contractors of the Synod.
Debt retirement and strategic planning
In other financial business, the Board acted to retire the long-time “historic debt” of the Concordia University System. It also adopted a resolution, put forth by Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael L. Kumm, requiring each office and unit in the Synod’s budget to “submit a detailed strategic plan to support its budget request for the upcoming year.”
Acknowledging that some units already prepare such plans, Kumm stated: “The intent of this is not to micromanage. But the Board wants to be more knowledgeable about what’s going on with the funds it allocates to the units. What are the strategies and tactics that will be implemented and supported by the budget requests? Having such information would greatly improve the budget process for the Board.”
Reports and appointments
President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s report to the Board touched on several topics, ranging from …
- licensed lay deacons (“If we put a man in a pastoral position, he needs to become ordained, and we have colloquized 120 such men toward ordination, with the Council of Presidents [COP] approving exceptional circumstances where needed”), to
- the Lutheran Church — Hong Kong Synod (concerning which “the COP affirms that the Board of Directors and I have acted honorably and with integrity” in recent differences of opinion with the leadership of that partner church), to
- a multicity trip to East Asia (where, among other meetings with church leaders and mission staff, “the Chief Mission Officer [CMO] and I told the heads of our international schools of our expectations of their maintaining a strong Lutheran presence at their schools”), to
- the just-completed budget-setting process (“I commend our staff … we are remarkably blessed … and we are striving to live within our means”).
The aforementioned CMO, the Rev. Kevin D. Robson, said “the International Center is humming these days, busy with preparations” for Floor Committee Weekend (May 31–June 3), the LWML convention (June 2–23), the youth gathering (July 11–15) and the national convention (July 20–25).
He spoke of the Office of National Mission’s commitment “to help our 6,100-plus congregations through the 35 districts” under a broad new initiative called Making Disciples for Life, which will center on evangelizing the lost, retaining the faithful, strengthening and revitalizing LCMS parishes, planting new churches and schools, engaging in overseas mission in partnership with the Office of International Mission, and mercy — not least in terms of worker wellness. More news about this “customer-oriented approach to meet the express desires of our congregations and districts” will be available in coming weeks.
Another multiyear effort, this one based in Pastoral Education, will “take a strategic approach to increase our church-worker enrollments,” Robson said. “We need to know what is hindering students from enrolling in an educational trajectory leading to professional church work.” We will “aim to assist our households — reaching out to parents and their kids — and lift up these vocations.”
Robson echoed what Harrison said about encouraging the international schools — Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hanoi — “to bolster their Lutheran identity,” one way being to “increase training of these schools’ faculties in the Lutheran Christian faith.” He also reported that a letter of intent has been signed with a major Asian developer for the LCMS to provide operating services for a new pre-K–12 international school within the region — “with no restrictions on religious freedom and a wonderful opportunity for church planting.” The development of definitive agreements is underway.
The Board heard reports from its Governance, Audit and Personnel committees. During the latter’s time, the Board made various appointments — ordained, lay or alternate — to the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; the Board of Trustees of Concordia Plans and the Board of Directors of Concordia Plan Services; and the Board of Members of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.
For more information on these and other reports as well as further business conducted by the Board, readers can see the Synod Secretary’s minutes, once posted, on the BOD’s webpage.
The Board will hold a get-together during the July 20–25 Synod convention to bid goodbye to outgoing members Gloria Edwards, Kathy Schulz and Kurt Senske. Its next regular meeting will be noon-to-noon, Sept. 12–13, in St. Louis.
Posted June 20, 2019