ST. LOUIS — At its Sept. 9-10 meeting here, the LCMS Board for International Mission (BIM) continued developing policies to guide the work of the Synod’s Office of International Mission (OIM).
This was the board’s fifth meeting since it was established by the 2010 Synod convention. For the four previous meetings, the BIM met concurrently with the LCMS Board for National Mission (BNM) — also established in 2010. Both boards finished work on joint self-governing policies in June. The BNM’s fifth meeting took place Sept. 22-23 here.
The BIM reviewed several sections of a draft of policies for the OIM being prepared by a subcommittee consisting of board Chairman the Rev. Bernard Seter, Kermit “Butch” Almstedt, John Edson and the Rev. Michael Lange.
Almstedt said the subcommittee wants to ensure that the policies “lay out the Gospel as the reason for everything we do.”
The board’s discussion of those policies repeatedly emphasized that it is responsible for determining the “ends” that the OIM staff should look toward in its work, but that the detailed “means” of how to achieve those ends is the responsibility of the staff.
“It’s not for us to determine the specific ministry plan in a country,” said Almstedt. “That’s [for] the Office of International Mission. We give them guidelines and tell them to run with it.”
Also during the September meeting, the BIM continued discussion of Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison’s draft of the theological preface to both mission boards’ policies.
Harrison thanked the board members for their suggestions, which he has incorporated into the theological preface. He reminded them that the document is “a work in progress,” and said he welcomes their continued feedback on it.
Harrison also updated the board on a number of developments in the Synod and its 33 partner/sister churches around the world.
In addition, the board heard from Martha Mitkos, director of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) for the Synod, and the Rev. John Fale, interim co-executive director of the OIM.
Mitkos spoke about the goals of LMI and about progress with involving districts, congregations and schools in the campaign. She also announced that Dionne Lovstad-Jones would begin Sept. 12 as LMI outreach manager of the LCMS and challenged BIM members to consider making personal commitments to the initiative.
Fale spoke about the transition of LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief and Human Care into forming the Office of International Mission. He emphasized the need for ongoing collaboration and partnership of staff members as they work together with him and fellow Interim Co-Executive Director Rev. Dr. David Birner. He said that much progress already has been made, thanks to such collaborative partnerships in the staff since the OIM began its work July 1.
Fale clarified for the board that certain ministry areas are considered part of the new OIM — including Deaconess Ministry, Disaster Relief, Life and Health Ministries, and Specialized Pastoral Ministry — although they support work both in the United States and in other countries. “For the sake of stewardship and management of resources, it only makes sense to locate these areas of service under one office rather than to duplicate them under two,” Fale noted.
BIM members also discussed the need to clearly define the term “missionary” for use synodwide in various communications and discussed call procedures for Synod missionaries.
Throughout the two-day meeting, members of the board and others echoed Fale’s emphasis on the importance of collaboration in international mission.
“This was a great continuation of [our] previous gatherings,” Seter said at the close of the September meeting. “The interaction with LCMS staff was constructive and helpful. The discussion on the theological preface was serious and enlightening. I appreciate the work of the subcommittee on policy — they made a lot of progress. Our discussions in general were very enjoyable.”
Elizabeth M. Truong is a staff writer with LCMS Communications.
Posted Sept. 28, 2011