The LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) met Nov. 17–18, 2016, in Schaumburg, Ill., (in conjunction with the LCEF Fall Conference). A highlight of this meeting was a joint session with the Council of Presidents (COP), which fostered conversation on a variety of topics:
- COP Chairman Ken Hennings noted the council’s post-convention work of making appointments, some regularly made and some to a variety of task forces, and of consulting with the Secretary on the development of new bylaws for an aspect of ecclesiastical supervision under 2016 Res. 12-14. He also noted significant work on internal harmony, and the blessing of being able to speak the truth in love, one to another.
- BOD Chairman Michael Kumm offered a few words of appreciation for an efficiently operating board, and a few words of perspective on Synod’s financial condition. A board retreat will soon consider issues bearing on Synod’s future.
- Jerry Wulf, Chief Financial Officer, and Ross Stroh, Executive Director of Accounting and Financial Services, offered a historical overview (1976–present) of congregational giving and the portions passed along to district and Synod as unrestricted funds. Congregational giving has gradually increased through the period, but the portion passed on from congregation to district, and then district to the national office, continues to shrink, limiting what Synod can do and increasing dependence on fundraising. In 1976, 16.6 cents of each dollar contributed to congregations went to at-large work (primarily to districts); of that, 6.1 cents went on to the national office. By 2014, these proportions shrank to 8.8 cents and 1.1 cents per dollar, respectively. Accounting for inflation, the national office’s undesignated funds received are a fifth of what they were in 1981. While designated funds, given for specific purposes, provide more than 70% of Synod’s present national office revenue, reduced undesignated revenue hampers Synod’s flexibility and limits even Synod’s ability to maintain its core services.
- Chief Administrative Officer Ron Schultz shared an overview of many helpful resources available at lcms.org/resources/legal-issues. Topics of policies and recommendations include contemporary legal challenges (including sexual orientation and gender identity suits), church administration, facility usage, schools and education, sexual misconduct, and others.
- Secretary Sias updated the board and council on the relative makeup of Synod’s regions, which has not changed significantly from 2010, when they were laid out. The BOD and COP are required each triennium to designate regions, in preparation for the next convention cycle. As they did in 2013, their decision was to leave the regions as previously designated. Secretary Sias also provided an update on the Res. 12-14 process, which is working on new bylaws for an aspect of ecclesiastical supervision. This matter is presently under consultation with the Council of Presidents and will involve the Commissions on Constitutional Matters and Handbook and, finally, the Board of Directors, which is to adopt the new bylaws, in accordance with the assignment given by the convention. Finally, Sias noted the requirement of Res. 9-02A, that all Synod’s agencies evaluate their governing documents for compliance with Synod’s relationship and asset disposition language requirements, and submit them to the Commission on Constitutional Matters for review prior to the next convention.
In the regular portion of its meeting, as is the custom, the board expedited routine work with its consent agenda and moved on to a variety of items of open business:
- The board concluded that it had no need to appoint additional members to add “additional skill sets,” but agreed to work on streamlining the process to do so, should it prove necessary.
- Chief Administrative Officer Ron Schultz reviewed with the board the progress made on various post-convention items involving the Board of Directors, all of which are proceeding apace.
- As allowed the opportunity by the convention, the board appointed BOD Personnel Committee Chair Kathy Schultz, Assistant to the President Barb Below, and former Secretary Raymond Hartwig to the Res. 11-10 Task Force to Review Synod Nominations / Election Processes, and BOD Governance Committee Chair Christian Preus, Mr. Leo Mackay Jr., Mr. John Behrendt, and Mr. David Hawk to the Res. 13-03 Task Force to Address Future Church Leadership Needs in Light of Current and Future Challenges. (Subsequently, Mr. Behrendt was called unexpectedly to glory, necessitating a further appointment, to come.)
- President Harrison updated the board on “the State of the Synod.” He and First Vice President Mueller are beginning a new round of district visitation, along with the regional vice-presidents, hoping to spend time especially with circuit visitors. He reported positive meetings with the Concordia University System, where he stressed that Synod expects both faithfulness and success from its educational institutions. There is a positive mood across the system, looking to expand offerings and increase enrollment. The Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty continues to seek a director but is gaining in direction and focus through the process. Internationally, the scene for Synod’s work has gone, the President said, “from ‘wow’ to ‘amazing.’” Increasingly strong, confessional links are being forged in Africa, Scandinavia, and Eurasia, marked by a great desire for help with theological education. The International Lutheran Council is increasing capacity to serve tens of millions of Lutherans worldwide. The Old Latin School in Wittenberg is doing well and should soon be fully paid for. Finally, President Harrison noted that the budgetary situation continues to be watched very closely, with an emphasis across the board on underspending.
- The board heard a detailed report from John Fale, Executive Director of the Office of International Mission (OIM), and Dennis Fangmann, OIM’s Director of Business Management. They reported that International Mission as achieved the convention’s goal, set in 2013, to double the number of career missionaries abroad. Their work is being received with joy, where in many places — even where other churches and missionaries have gone before — the true Gospel of the forgiveness of sins by faith in Jesus Christ is being understood clearly for the first time. The network support model that funds our missionaries, however, seems to be reaching capacity. The rapid rate of mission growth is now being curtailed to assess, in a careful, regional planning process, how much can be funded, and when. OIM is working to involve all Synod’s districts, congregations, agencies, and associations more fully in a cohesive plan for Synod’s overseas work together.
- The board, having completed its review of the Chief Financial Officer’s performance, determined to appoint CFO Jerry Wulf to a new term, with many expressions of confidence and thanks, from various sources and throughout the meeting, for his continued service, which has been rendered “with great heart and sense of responsibility.”
- In other business, the board adjusted a previous appointment to the board of Concordia Plan Services to account for a term issue, adjusted its self-governance policies and policies for approving new corporations formed as agencies of the Synod, and approved an update to the Concordia University Nebraska Master Plan. The board also reviewed the results of an audit on the consolidated financial statements of the LCMS, Concordia Plans Services, the Lutheran Housing Support Corporation, and LCMS Holdings, and began planning for its retreat, which is to consider “The LCMS of the Future.”
- The board next meets Feb. 17–18, 2017.
—John W. Sias, Secretary