Dec. 1, 2003 — The Synod’s Board of Directors has adopted in principle a policy intended to increase the amount of contributions forwarded to the Synod’s national budget by its 35 districts.
The Board plans to ask next summer’s Synod convention to endorse the policy, which would set an amount or percentage of contributions to districts that would be forwarded to the Synod.
Currently, districts receive funds from congregations and decide themselves how much to forward to the national Synod. The new policy is needed “so that the Synod may accomplish its objectives in funding adequately higher education and missions,” says a resolution adopted at the Board’s Nov. 19-22 meeting.
Contributions from congregations to the districts have increased 149 percent over the last three decades, but the amount forwarded by the districts to the national budget has increased by only 1 percent, the Board says.
“As a result, when taking the 30 years inflation rate into consideration, the amount of congregational contributions that the districts have forwarded on to the Synod has resulted in a shortfall of nearly $57 million [annually],” the Board says.
“This shortfall has had a significant adverse effect on the Synod’s ability to fund national ministries, in particular worldwide missions and higher education for the preparation of professional church workers,” it continues. Even though some of the shortfall has been made up by direct giving, the Board says a significant shortfall remains.
Other funding models have been considered. A “Funding the Mission” proposal developed by a joint committee of the Board of Directors and the Council of Presidents (COP) would assess Synod agencies to provide for basic administrative functions. Another model would have all funds contributed by congregations sent to the national Synod, then allocated to the districts and other ministries.
But, says the Board, “At this time, the only funding method that is both realistic and capable of providing the necessary increase in funding for higher education and missions is a funding policy that will establish a set amount or percentage of contributions received by the districts to be forwarded to the Synod.”
Any adjustments to the amount of congregational contributions forwarded by the districts to the national Synod likely will have to be phased in over a number of years, the Board says.
The Board directed Synod Vice President-Finance/Treasurer Thomas Kuchta to further study the Synod’s financial needs and gather input from a variety of sources, including from members of the COP.
The plan adopted in principle by the Board is expected to be the major topic when the Board and the COP meet early next year to discuss matters of common interest. A specific date for the meeting has not been set but is expected to be in February.
In other business at its Nov. 19-22 meeting, the Board:
- approved a new nonprofit LCMS National Housing Support Corporation to “seek and secure funding from government, private and corporate sources to assist LCMS congregations, districts and social ministry organizations to develop housing ministries in their neighborhoods.” The proposal for the corporation was made by the Board for Human Care Ministries.
- asked the International Lutheran Laymen’s League to re-evaluate its policies concerning conflicts of interest for employees who also are Synod officials and may have to deal with controversial matters; its understanding of the call for pastors on its staff with responsibility to publicly proclaim God’s Word; and “its public statements regarding its termination of Dr. Wallace Schulz as speaker of the ILLL and publicly correct any misstatements or inaccuracies.” Schulz, the Synod’s second vice president, was relieved of his duties with the league last year after he suspended Atlantic District President David Benke over his role in “A Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium.
- approved a bond financing plan of up to $26 million for Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, to purchase an adjacent former high-school campus and do necessary renovation work. The property is owned by the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation, which bought it for the seminary’s acquisition.
- expressed consensus that the Synod’s national staff should remain at the International Center in Kirkwood, Mo. Vice President-Finance/Treasurer Thomas Kuchta told the Board that after investigating office-space costs in the St. Louis area, he concluded that “we ought to stay right where we are.” He said that with the International Center, the Synod pays $15 per square foot for Class A office space — about the same it would pay for only Class C office space elsewhere in the area. The Board urged continued efforts to get maximum use from the Synod’s office building.