By David Strand
SAN DIEGO — Saving money and ensuring sound theology were among the topics addressed by the Synod’s Board of Directors (BOD) and Council of Presidents (COP) as they met together here Nov. 15.
The 75-minute joint session hosted by the respective chairmen of those bodies, which were having their own separate meetings, took place during the same week as the Lutheran Church Extension Fund Fall Leadership Conference (see story at lcms.org/lcef-fall-2018-conference).
Revisiting a topic he raised in 2017, BOD Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael L. Kumm gave an update on efforts to increase the efficiencies of corporate Synod so the church can use the savings on its “core competencies.”
He reported on actions resulting from third-party “assessments” over the past year in LCMS Information Technology (IT) and Facilities Management that will result in more than $800,000 in annual savings.
A similar study of LCMS Accounting led to recommendations on departmental restructuring, technology updates, and, among other improvements, integrating (or “harmonizing”) the business-office accounting of the Synod’s four global-mission regions with the accounting office in St. Louis.
A further benefit of these changes, said Kumm, is “our enhanced collaboration with other Synodwide corporate entities,” such as Concordia Plan Services, which now shares IT functions with LCMS, Inc.
“We are striving toward greater cost-effectiveness,” he said, to “increase the dollars available to advance the Gospel.”
‘Tremendous group of men’
The Rev. David P.E. Maier, LCMS Michigan District president and chairman of the COP, called the council, which welcomed 11 new members in September, “a tremendous group of men [devoted] to advancing the cause of Christ and supporting their workers.”
Among the highlights of the COP meeting just concluded, he cited “deep theological discussions” on the new Commission on Theology and Church Relations report, The Royal Priesthood: Identity and Mission, and on the Office of the Holy Ministry.
Both Kumm and Maier saw usefulness in improving communication between the BOD and COP, sharing more information when appropriate, allowing for the fact that some topics addressed in both forums are rightly held in closed, or “executive,” session.
One matter raised by a district president was the closing of Concordia College Alabama in Selma. Some members of the COP expressed a desire that more detailed information had been shared prior to the school’s closing. Kumm responded that the Board, while respecting its other obligations, did try to keep the COP informed to the extent possible.
RSO analysis almost done
A third speaker at the joint session, LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin D. Robson, previewed the report the Task Force on Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) plans to submit to the 2019 national convention.
The task force, brought into being by 2016 convention Res. 4-03B and chaired by Robson, has nearly completed its “from the ground up analysis” of the Synod’s RSO program.
“We greatly value our RSOs,” Robson said, calling them “the hands, feet, eyes and ears of Christ” in their locales, “carrying forward the mission and ministry of the church beyond our capacity and resources.”
Until now, he said, the LCMS has had a “one-size-fits-all approach,” but going forward the task force is “recommending drawing distinctions” among RSOs by segmenting them into three groups: witness service organizations (whose chief task is the direct, overt proclamation of the Gospel), educational service organizations (schools, camps, etc.), and mercy service organizations (e.g., adoption, immigration, family-related or caregiving agencies such as nursing homes and other social-ministry enterprises).
In his quarterly report to the BOD, Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison offered a “retrospective” encompassing the past several years. Before starting, he noted that the COP meeting he had just left was “one of the best COP meetings I’ve ever been a part of.”
He then moved to the international front and named a number of foreign church bodies “who want a connection with us,” adding that the International Lutheran Council, of which the Synod is a member, recently welcomed 17 new churches into its fold, bringing its membership to 54. “I have great excitement for this worldwide organization growing apace,” Harrison said.
Meanwhile, as the Synod continues to increase its number of missionaries, more than 1,900 LCMS congregations — a record — are directly supporting missionary families.
Harrison, recently back from South Korea, where he helped celebrate the 60th anniversary of work there, said what the LCMS’ partners and potential partners want most is “theological education — good, solid, orthodox Lutheranism.” To that end, in recent years, the Synod’s Global Seminary Initiative has raised some $3.8 million.
Turning to home, he spoke frankly about the “fact-based demographics” facing the Synod in America. “We know the facts,” he said. “We have to deal with them.”
In myriad ways, Harrison said, “we’re pushing hard on lifetime discipleship — from cradle to grave. If dads aren’t in church, then only 3 percent of their kids will stick with it.”
He spoke of a “renewed emphasis” on outreach and evangelism. “We’re using all the resources of our Office of National Mission” — Every One His Witness®, the Lutheran Young Adult Corps, Rural & Small Town Mission, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Schools, the study on retaining Lutheran millennials — “to help our people live the Christian life all the way through their lives.”
In the course of its other business, the BOD, having welcomed new Board member Rev. Josemon T. Hoem, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Murphysboro, Ill., into its midst:
- Received the financial report from LCMS Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf, who spoke of implementing the recommendations of the Accounting department assessment and noted an increase in the Synod’s cash balance.
- Welcomed guest presenter Rev. Daniel F. McMiller, executive director of the Office of International Mission (OIM), who described the OIM’s aims to “spread the Gospel, plant Lutheran congregations (in concert with pastoral formation) and show mercy.” McMiller covered an array of topics in short order, including the “utmost importance of missionary retention,” the need to take the best possible care of missionary families, and the blessing of having the other program ministries and many offices and entities within the Synod collaborate with the OIM. In all it does, he said, the OIM “promotes cooperative work and the unity of the true faith to evangelize the world.”
- Voted to fill a vacancy on the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Board of Regents, electing Rev. Bruce E. Keseman, pastor of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Freeburg, Ill., to that position.
- Considered “Board expectations” — weighing ideas to fine-tune the format of future BOD meetings to make the most of those sessions.
The Board next meets Feb. 15 in St. Louis.
Posted Jan. 7, 2019