By Joe Isenhower Jr.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — At its Nov. 17-19 meeting here, the Synod’s Board of Directors gave conditional approval for providing $193,000 through mid-2012 for the LCMS not only to continue but to improve the way it provides quality classical and sacred music to listeners via the Internet.
The Board also appointed Jerald C. Wulf of Pierre, S.D., to succeed the retiring Dr. Thomas W. Kuchta as the Synod’s chief financial officer. To read more about this, go to www.lcms.org/?18037.
In other business, the Board set the location for the 2013 Synod convention, authorized the LCMS International Center’s Human Resources Committee to use certain measures to bring about needed cost savings for the church body, and made changes to several Synod Bylaws. It also heard reports about the status of the Wittenberg Project and about the impact of national health care reform on the Synod’s Concordia Health Plan.
Although Synod radio broadcasts of classical and sacred music stopped when the transfer of KFUO-FM to its new owner became final last July, the station’s “Classic99” moniker and Synod offerings of such music continued — as they have for years — via the increasingly popular Classic99.com Internet stream.
Classic99.com draws on an extensive classical and sacred-music library at KFUO facilities on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, as well as a dedicated part-time commentator who has remained voluntarily since the FM station transfer.
The Board’s funding approval is contingent on its receiving a business plan by the end of 2010. The funds will come from the proceeds of the FM station sale, in line with the Board’s commitment that at least half of those proceeds will go toward 21st-century methods of communication for the Synod to advance its message.
David Strand, who heads the LCMS Communications staff, and Dennis Stortz, director of Broadcast Operations for KFUO, provided the Board with the rationale for continuing and improving Classic99.com.
Strand noted that Web streaming has quickly become a leading vehicle for listening to beautiful music, with mobile receiving devices in the United States now numbering in the tens of millions and worldwide in the hundreds of millions.
He also spoke of the unique position of Classic99.com in presenting classical and sacred music.
“We’re the ones with Bach [and] Mendelssohn and other great Christian and Lutheran composers,” he said. “We’re the ones who integrate classical and sacred music better than anyone else ever has. We’re the ones who play the good [music] at Christmas and Easter and Reformation time.
“What we are saying here today,” Strand continued, “is [that] we may have sold our station, but we don’t have to give up on the ministry, the great heritage of the … Synod, of showing people the beauty of the Creator as reflected in fine music, including a strong dose of ecclesiastical music. This heritage, rather than being lost forever, can be preserved. The potential, the upside, of our continuing this heritage is huge and the costs are comparatively low.”
“Our classical sacred music is a balm for a hurting world,” Strand said.
When a Board member asked how Synod President Rev. Matthew C. Harrison’s emphasis of WITNESS, MERCY, LIFE TOGETHER might be applied to Classic99.com, Stortz answered, “Clearly, witness and mercy fit into the format of this stream.” He added that the stream’s format might include Sunday-morning worship from LCMS congregations.
Storz said that in September and October, there were an average 32,000 hits each month into the Classic99.com website. The Board’s printed docket included typical positive listener comments from some of the more than 2,000 letters of support received worldwide for the stream.
Strand said the needed funds would cover dedicated studio space, software upgrades, broadband costs, a program administrator, a part-time programming assistant, other voice talent and renegotiated music licensing.
The Board adopted another resolution that sets St. Louis as the location for the 2013 Synod convention. The dates for the convention had already been determined — Saturday, July 20 through Thursday, July 25.
An action of the 2010 Synod convention placed the responsibility for selecting the location of the convention with the Board in consultation with the Synod convention manager, and placed the responsibility for selecting the dates of the convention with the Synod president in consultation with the convention manager.
The Board also authorized the Human Resources Committee at the International Center to recommend appropriate personnel cost-savings measures in preparation for the Board’s budget-setting process for fiscal year 2011-12. Such possible measures might include a hiring freeze, voluntary early retirement, reductions in force and voluntary furloughs.
The Board accepted the audited financial statements for the Synod.
Concerning the Synod’s Bylaws, the Board of Directors adopted resolutions to make final changes, as authorized by the 2010 Synod convention, as follows:
- Bylaw 22.214.171.124 (b) providing exceptions to the general rule governing representation at Synod conventions, was amended to include mention of the Commission on Handbook.
- Bylaws 3.1.9, 3.1.10 and 126.96.36.199 governing post-convention communications were amended to instruct that the Convention Proceedings “shall be posted on the Synod’s website,” and that Concordia Publishing House send printed copies of the Proceedings to registered convention delegates, Synod officers and members of boards, commissions and councils. The new language no longer specifies that “every congregation” is to receive the printed Convention Proceedings.
- new Bylaw 188.8.131.52 was added, which addresses congregations’ “Gospel outreach across district lines.” The new bylaw encourages those congregations “to discuss their intent with their own district officials” and officials of the district (and congregations) in the district “impacted by such work,” such expansion requiring the concurrence of presidents of the district of which the congregation is a member and the president of the district where it intends to expand. The new bylaw also states that “the affected district presidents” shall decide matters of ecclesiastical supervision of the ministry being established.
Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger and Rev. David L. Mahsman reported to the Board about the Wittenberg Project, which includes a proposed museum attraction in that city as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches in 2017. On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, where only 15 percent of the population today claim to be Christian.
Last February, the Board approved an outlay of $150,000 to the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW) for a feasibility study and “story line” for a “world-class” attraction where visitors would learn about Luther’s life and teaching. The ILSW was established by the LCMS, Concordia Publishing House, and Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Nafzger is the ILSW board chairman; Mahsman, a missionary with LCMS World Mission, serves as managing director of the ILSW.
The objective of the proposal is to share the Gospel through the museum — tentatively called the “Martin Luther Experience” — where visitors would “experience the exciting story of the Reformation by being involved in Luther’s life, spiritual insights and continued relevance,” according to its mission statement.
The theme for the experience would be “Just by Faith … Just in Christ.” Its format and approach would be similar to that of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., said to be America’s most successful presidential museum.
The project is being proposed on either of two alternate scales and sizes.
The smaller-scale approach would be housed in the old Latin school building that is already the property of the ILSW. The larger project likely would be in a new building on property that the local government in Wittenberg would make available.
Nafzger emphasized that the project would “give proper credit to confessional Lutheranism. It must be done right. … We are not going to do it in any way that compromises our theology.”
The Latin-school venue, Mahsman explained, would take about 45 minutes for each visitor to experience, and would draw about 80,000 visitors each year. The total cost for renovating the school building, preparing the museum, and raising necessary funds would be $17.2 million.
He said that the larger venue would hold visitors for about two hours and could draw 200,000 or more visitors each year. Its total cost would be about $36 million.
“Some 200,000 people every year could hear the Gospel in all the clarity that Luther taught it,” Mahsman said.
Costs would be offset by fundraising and German-government subsidy (most likely based on the number of jobs that would be created by the project). A professional feasibility study indicates that the project would be self-sustaining beyond start-up costs.
“This is a major project for which it is absolutely essential to have government backing,” said Kuchta, who is a member of the ILSW board. “It would be fantastic to have this LCMS presence in Wittenberg in time for the 500th anniversary.”
The Board — which will make the final determination of whether to authorize fundraising for the “Martin Luther Experience” — has asked for a detailed business plan on the proposal. The ILSW is working toward providing the plan in time for the Board’s February meeting.
Concordia Plan Services (CPS) Chief Executive Officer James Sanft reported to the Board on the national health care reform’s impact on the Concordia Health Plan (CHP). CPS Board Chairman Fred Kraegel accompanied Sanft for his report.
Sanft addressed the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” — the health care reform law Congress passed earlier this year — especially its health insurance and health care delivery reforms.
He said that CHP has chosen to have the status of a “grandfathered plan,” making it exempt from some reporting and regulatory requirements introduced by the reform, although CHP must abide by certain federal coverage requirements.
He indicated that the law will limit CHP’s ability to make changes in its plan design.
Sanft said that CPS will continue to closely monitor the status and changes in health care reform and inform LCMS stakeholders of that status and possible “interim strategies.”
Posted Dec. 15, 2010