By Joe Isenhower Jr.
ST. LOUIS — Concordia International School Hanoi now has the LCMS Board of Directors’ approval to enter a loan agreement allowing the school to purchase land rights to a 6.5-acre park-like site in Hanoi and develop the first phase of its permanent campus there.
That OK for the school — now in its second year of operation — came during the Board’s Aug. 23-24 meeting here, when the Board also appointed three new members to the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation board, along with several other actions.
In addition, the Board heard reports on:
- positive developments for Concordia College Alabama, at Selma, from the Rev. Dr. Victor Belton, a Synod Board member who represents the Board in working with the college’s board of regents;
- the recommendations made by the former Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission — led by Synod Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf.
- Recognized Service Organizations, from LCMS Office of National Mission staff members; and
- LCMS statistical information, from representatives of the Research Services unit of LCMS Business Services.
Concordia International School Hanoi (CISH) is the newest among a number of highly regarded Synod-owned schools in Asia that primarily serve their expatriate communities with quality values-based education.
The Board’s action allows the school to enter the agreement for a loan of $9 million to lease the 6.5-acre site for 50 years and begin building a campus that a 10-year master plan projects will eventually accommodate 850 students in preschool through high-school levels.
The resolution states that the school draw $8 million of the loan amount, and calls for the Board of Directors’ further approval if any of the additional $1 million loan amount is needed.
Background material prepared for the Board meeting indicates that a property committee of the CISH board of trustees visited 57 potential land sites around Hanoi for consideration as the school’s permanent location.
Steven Winkelman, head of school for CISH, and LCMS Office of International Mission Interim Executive Director Rev. Dr. David Birner briefed the Board and fielded questions about the school and its plans. Accompanying them was Charles Rhodes, the Synod’s executive director of Accounting.
Noting that the loan agreement represents a “continuation of a process,” Winkelman told the Board that the school that first opened in rented space with 44 students in fall 2011 projects a 2012-13 end-of-school-year enrollment of 160. He also pointed out that CISH this summer was granted accreditation by National Lutheran School Accreditation — the first LCMS international school to attain that accreditation.
Birner reminded the Board that CISH exists as a result of Vietnam government officials’ requests of the Synod to open such a school in their country, “based on the stellar reputation of the Synod’s emphasis on quality education, including its other LCMS international schools – particularly Hong Kong International School and Concordia International School Shanghai.”
Winkelman also said that the Vietnam government has approved allowing its citizens to send their children to private schools.
“With such a high reputation as our international schools have, this means that the new international school there could very well educate future leaders of the country,” Birner added.
The Board of Directors appointed three men to fill vacancies on the board of directors of the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation (also known as “Lutheran Housing Support”).
- Attorney Alan F. Doud of Bakersfield, Calif., to fill a two-year term;
- the Rev. Joshua R. Gale of Philadelphia, to a three-year term; and
- the Rev. Steven D. Schave, Milford, Ohio, also to a three-year term.
Board hears reports
Belton told the Board that Concordia, Selma “is experiencing God’s goodness” with a positive “turnaround” in a number of areas, including its financial situation, campus improvements, academics, administration and enrollment projections.
At the end of his remarks, the Board voted to extend Belton’s liaison relationship with Concordia, Selma, and to request that the college board continue to support continuing that relationship.
Wulf’s report on the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission (which finished its work in 2006) was in response to a directive of Resolution 4-02 (“To Address Corporate Synod’s Financial Crisis”), adopted by delegates to the 2010 Synod convention.
Noting that “much of the report of the [task force] was not acted on” by the 2007 Synod convention, the 2010 action directed that each recommendation of the task force “for increasing unrestricted revenues be placed on the agenda of the Synod’s Board of Directors for disposition by the next LCMS convention.”
Over the past year, Wulf has led the Board’s review and discussion of those 11 recommendations with a presentation at each of its meetings.
After that review was completed at the August meeting, the Board adopted a motion asking the Operations Team on the Synod staff to draft the Board of Directors’ response to that assignment from the 2010 convention, for reporting to the 2013 convention. On the Operations Team are the Synod’s chief administrative officer, chief financial officer and chief mission officer.
The Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the Office of National Mission (ONM), and Deaconess Dorothy Krans, who is with that office as director of Recognized Service Organizations (RSO), led the report to the Board on RSOs.
That report covered a number of aspects of the RSO program, including a breakdown by category of the more than 300 LCMS RSOs, their participation in Concordia Plans and Lutheran Church Extension Fund, and funding the RSO program.
Of the 309 Synod RSOs, 146 are Lutheran schools and 114 are social ministries — in addition to RSOs that are related to missions, camps, communication and other ministries and activities.
Day told the Board that recent changes in the RSO program – particularly as a result of new and revamped policies approved by the Board – “are working well.” He and Krans indicated that is especially true of the five-year renewal process for RSO status.
Except for schools — whose RSO liaison is William Cochran, director of School Ministry for the ONM — Krans works with all of the RSOs, serving as their liaison with the Synod. For her, that includes site visits as part of the RSO application process.
Krans highlighted for the Board the 138 rostered church workers employed at RSOs, pointing out the value of their service. She said that she also seeks to encourage more professional church workers and lay members to consider serving the Synod’s RSOs as employees, board members or volunteers.
Day said that the site visits from Krans “foster relationships. … The ability of the Synod to foster ministry in its relationships with RSOs is tremendous. These organizations do great work.”
Gene Weeke, director of Business Services for the Synod, and Ryan Curnutt, research analyst with Business Services, led the review of statistics reported by LCMS congregations at the end of 2010.
Using numerous charts and graphs, they concentrated on two topics — LCMS congregations and membership, and LCMS congregations and finances.
Concerning membership, they noted the following, as printed in the material they presented:
- “The long-term (decadal) trend is that the total number of [LCMS] congregations is not decreasing.”
- “It appears that congregations [that are closing] do not significantly impact the overall number of members — in other words, significant declines in membership are not due to church closures.”
And, concerning finances:
- “While total membership has declined in recent years, the average giving of those who have stayed increased.”
- “Despite rising costs and the recent recession, the average congregation reports that its income exceeded its expenses.”
They also told the Board that 4,847 congregations reported being “engaged in 45,138 Specialized Ministries across the country,” as of the end of 2010.
As the Aug. 23-24 meeting concluded, Board of Directors Chairman Rev. Dr. Robert T. Kuhn noted that although there were relatively few items for action, compared with previous meetings, “the various reports and discussion were especially pertinent to the Board’s responsibilities. This was a good meeting.”
Posted Sept. 19, 2012