By Joe Isenhower Jr.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — At its May 18-19 meeting here on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary, the Synod’s Board of Directors adopted a national-Synod operating budget of $76,748,812 for the 2011-12 fiscal year that starts July 1. The Board also approved a contingency surplus of $712,000 for the year’s “spending plan” and a capital budget request totaling $3,644,005.
As cut-and-dried as those numbers may sound, the decisions did not come easily.
The tone of budget conversation was similar to that of recent years, as Board members painfully expressed throughout almost four hours of discussion how to turn around dwindling undesignated revenue for the Synod (down more than $3.59 million from 2010-11, including a decrease of more than $1.75 million from the 35 LCMS districts), and how to make even more budget cuts beyond the approximately $4 million already made to initial budget requests from department heads at the church body’s International Center in St. Louis.
As discussion of the operating budget ended, the Board asked Synod officers to make another $890,000 in reductions. Those reductions include $378,000 needed to balance the budget, as well as allowing for the $712,000 contingency surplus — offset by a $200,000 matching grant.
Charles Rhodes, executive director of accounting for the Synod, told Reporter that the budget process “took all of April and well into May,” and involved corporate Synod executives (department heads), representatives of the president’s office, Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf, and himself.
“The dialogue was collegial and collaborative, involving every budget unit, reviewing budgets at the line-item level,” Rhodes told the Board. “All the department heads are to be commended.”
The 2011-12 operating budget of $76,748,812 compares with one of $86,931,920 the Board of Directors set in September for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
For the coming year, unrestricted revenue (primarily projected from district pledges) comes to $17,667,000. Minus the $712,000 surplus, that leaves $16,955,000 of unrestricted revenue to be applied to the budget. Adding an estimated $59,794,244 in restricted revenue, $76,749,244 is the total estimated revenue for the 2011-12 national-Synod budget.
Although the $3.59 million drop in projected undesignated revenues for the coming year is a key factor, other factors also offset the more than $10.18 million budget difference, compared with last year. For instance, expenditures are projected to be down for the 2011-12 fiscal year, since there is no Synod convention or Youth Gathering over the next year, and there is a $5 million increase in budgeted grant revenue and budgeted expenses for Lutheran Housing Support.
The 2011-12 operating budget includes allocations from a $1.15 million Thrivent Financial for Lutherans block grant and $1.54 million in grants from the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation.
Also reflected in the coming year’s budget is a “net headcount decrease” of 57 national-Synod employees, primarily due to a hiring freeze, early-retirement offers and reductions in anticipated funding.
The approved $3,644,005 capital budget is to meet requests for capital items and improvements for the national Synod.
One resolution that the Board also adopted expresses its “concern … that many congregations and people of the Missouri Synod are not well informed of the mission and ministries of our Synod.”
It “encourage[s] prayerful consideration” of the May 2011 edition of The Lutheran Witness,” the Synod’s official magazine, and its special LCMS report titled “Blessings, Gifts, Challenges,” featuring “a broad overview of the Synod’s ministry opportunities and its financial challenges.”
Stating that the Board “believe[s] that the districts, congregations, people and ministries of our Synod will benefit from and respond to these opportunities and challenges,” the resolution “requests and encourages the districts, congregations, people and ministries of the … Synod to commit to review the Special Report and prayerfully consider an appropriate response” to it “as together we continue to endeavor ‘vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities and world,'” quoting the Synod’s mission statement.
Another resolution the Board adopted “encourages dialogue regarding efficiencies between the Lutheran Church Extension Fund [LCEF] and the LCMS Foundation.”
Noting “significant synergies between the two organizations” and that they “have worked together in various ways in the past and previous generations of leadership have discussed the possibility of consolidation,” the Board’s resolution “encourages the boards of the [LCEF] and LCMS Foundation to engage in substantive conversation regarding opportunity for consolidation or other efficiencies of operations.” It also asks for a joint progress report on those conversations.
The Board also allocated up to $500,000 from the Risk Endowment Fund to Concordia College, Selma, Ala., to help the school meet stipulations to maintain its accreditation.
In that action, the Board expresses gratitude to God “for His blessings and thanks for the leadership” of Dr. Tilahun Mendedo, president of the college for the past 15 months.
Thanks for service
On behalf of the Synod, the Board thanks God in another resolution for Rev. Thomas Ries’ seven years as president of the LCMS Foundation and “offers its prayerful and heartfelt support” as he assumes the presidency of Concordia University — St. Paul, Minn. It also calls for continued prayers for the Foundation and the university.
As installation and implementation of the LCMS “CrossConnect” project winds down, the Board adopted a resolution thanking “all persons involved in this effort and asks Almighty God to bless the future use of the system and these people as together we endeavor to spread the Good News of salvation.”
The CrossConnect project utilizes new software to build a donor database from online donations and planned gifts and to handle the Synod’s roster of church workers, congregation statistics, redesign and interaction of the LCMS website, volunteer management, missionary websites and events management.
The Board also appointed individuals to fill vacancies as members-at-large for Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) and jointly on the Board of Directors–Concordia Plan Services (CPS) and Board of Trustees–Concordia Plans.
- for LCEF — Dr. Arleigh Lutz of Wausau, Wis.; Rev. Ronald Miller, Edwards, Ill.; Guenther K. Herzog, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Howard Crumb, Ridgewood, N.J.; and James Retig, Fort Wayne.
- for CPS/Concordia Plans — Randall Boushek, Elk River, Minn.; Tom McCain, Cohasset, Mass.; Ron Wolf, St. Louis; and Kenneth Boerger, Parma, Ohio.
The next meeting of the LCMS Board of Directors is set for Aug. 25-26 in St. Louis.
Posted June 1, 2011