The LCMS Board of Directors began the new 2016–2019 triennium with a meeting September 8–9, 2016, in St. Louis. The Board welcomed new members, the Rev. Eric Ekong of Jackson, MI, and Mr. Larry Harrington of Casper, WY, as well as the Rev. Dr. John Sias, newly installed Secretary of the Synod. Rev. Dr. Michael Kumm began the meeting with a devotion from C.F.W. Walther’s Duties of an Evangelical Synod, reminding the board of the centrality of our confession to everything the Synod says and does, for the sake of the advance of the Gospel in our midst and throughout the world.
Using a consent agenda, the board quickly dispensed with routine matters to move on to in-depth reports and actions. In open session, some highlights of board business were:
- Synod President Matthew Harrison on this past summer’s convention, “an extraordinary week.” Some rancor before the convention gave way to substantial unity, even on a difficult topic like regularizing the status of Licensed Lay Deacons involved in Word and Sacrament Ministry. Many task forces were created, and much work laid out—perhaps straining our undesignated resources to complete it all. President Harrison feels the convention shows a Synod poised to move on together. The financial data indicate that, to do so effectively, we will need to be careful to use every financial gift responsibly.
- Chief Financial Officer Jerald Wulf and Executive Director of Accounting and Financial Services Ross Stroh presented an overview of Synod’s finances and financial reporting. Mark Hofman, Executive Director of Mission Advancement, also reviewed his department’s performance in the past fiscal year. While Synod’s activities have largely been underspending their budgets, giving, particularly unrestricted giving, is behind even the significantly underspent amount. National financial and political uncertainty in the United States may be deterring potential donors. More significantly, the share of Sunday offerings passed on to the Synod continues to decline, though not as sharply as over the past two decades—a decline severely compounded by inflation. Today, about 1.1 cents arrives at Synod from each dollar put in the offering plate. Mission areas have work planned that they cannot do for lack of resources. The Board resolved to discuss Synod’s long-term financial picture in its November meeting.
- The Board elected its officers and organized itself into its executive, audit, personnel, and governance committees, based on the skill sets and interests of its members. These committees play a significant role in preparing detailed proposals for consideration by the whole board. Michael Kumm was again elected Chairman and Ed Everts returned as Vice-Chairman, with Christian Preus elected as the at-large member of the executive committee.
- The Board heard from Chief Administrative Officer Ron Schultz about two efforts to protect members in challenging legal times. First, a Synod partnership with the Alliance Defending Freedom has produced and distributed a book entitled “Protecting Your Ministry (from Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Lawsuits): A Legal Guide for LCMS Congregations, Schools, and Ministries.” Second, the Synod and Thompson Coburn, Synod’s counsel, hosted a webinar for over 500 attendees to prepare our ministries to comply with new US Department of Labor requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- The Board met in joint session with the Boards for National and International Mission to discuss board duties and etiquette, as well as Synod’s stringent conflict of interest policy. The boards continued in informal discussion over dinner, looking forward to working together over the next triennium as they coordinate to further Synod’s objectives in each board’s area of responsibility.
- The Board met jointly with the Board of Directors of the Concordia University System and with representatives of Concordia College Alabama to again address that institution’s long-running challenges. Later in the meeting, a report from Concordia University System President Dean Wenthe shared with the Board the System’s triennial goals, as advanced by strong results from the 2013 Res. 5-01A Task Force and the adoption by the Concordias and the Synod of the Lutheran Identity Statement. “The Concordias,” Wenthe noted, “are fountains of water in the parched desert of higher education” because our theology uniquely equips our schools “to address the questions of meaning and virtue and wisdom.”
- The Board heard from Bart Day, Executive Director of the Office of National Mission, a report on his office’s plans for the triennium, including the launch of network-supported domestic missionaries and the new Lutheran Young Adult Corps, the advance of revitalization, evangelism, and worker wellness efforts, and a new convention-assigned priority, focusing on strengthening the Lutheran family to live “under God’s design.”
- In a variety of other action items, the Board adopted its meeting dates for the upcoming triennium, approved an expansion to Concordia University Chicago’s dorm building project in response to an abundance of gifts received, corrected a long-past error by the St. Louis recorder of deeds to grant Holy Cross Lutheran Church the title to one of twenty lots the Synod sold to it in 1933, appointed members to the Concordia University System and LCMS Foundation Boards of Members, and applied a compensation system devised by the Departments of Accounting and Human Resources and recommended by the Board Personnel Committee to set salaries for the President and Secretary of the Synod.
—John W. Sias, Secretary