By Joe Isenhower Jr.
ST. LOUIS — Perhaps it was good timing that the Synod Board of Directors’ (BOD) Feb. 21-22 meeting had just gotten under way at a hotel near the airport here when the harshest winter storm to-date hit the area, and that roads and runways were relatively clear when the meeting ended.
But that wasn’t the only instance of God’s good timing for this meeting, as evidenced by several of its reports and actions.
These included word of Concordia College Alabama, Selma, being named as the recipient of a $5 million grant from the Marion I. Breen Charitable Foundation and the Board’s approval of several future modifications in retirement benefits offered by Concordia Plan Services (CPS).
During the February meeting, the Board also approved:
- 21 projects to be funded by a $1.125 million Thrivent Financial for Lutherans church-wide grant to the LCMS for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The grants will be included in the year’s national-Synod budget, which the Board is expected to approve at its next meeting, in May.
The action also asks BOD Chairman Rev. Dr. Robert T. Kuhn and Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison to convey thanks to the fraternal organization for its “support of our ministry activity.”
- a request from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, to build a 274-bed dormitory on its campus.
The Board also gave its OK to a revised master plan for the campus and to the university’s request allowing it “to incur no more than $13 million in debt if the institution decides to do so. The potential debt would consist of approximately $3 million to refinance existing bonds and approximately $10 million for new construction,” according to the BOD’s resolution.
- a revised operating agreement with the Hong Kong International School Association Ltd.
Kermit W. “Butch” Almstedt, a member of the LCMS Board for International Mission (BIM), reviewed for the Board details of the revised agreement, after which members of the BOD thanked him for his instrumental role in its development.
- authorization of Concordia International School Hanoi to use the final $1 million of a total $9 million loan as part of a loan agreement the BOD approved in August for developing the first phase of the new school’s campus on a park-like site in Hanoi.
The Hanoi school, now in its second year of operation, is among several highly regarded Synod-owned schools in Asia that primarily serve expatriate communities with quality, values-based education.
- the organization of Limited Liability Companies by the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation.
- a recommendation of the BOD Policy Committee to form a new Governance Committee of the Board “having the general responsibilities to oversee and assist with the corporate governance of the Board of Directors,” according to the resolution.
That recommendation grew out of two BOD self-evaluation surveys. With its adoption, the Policy Committee will be eliminated, as its duties will be included in the work of the new Governance Committee. There continue to be three committees of the Board — for Audit, Governance and Personnel.
The Board also endorsed several overtures it has since submitted to the Office of the Synod President for consideration by floor committees that will propose resolutions for the 2013 LCMS convention.
In addition, the Board approved its “Funding the Mission” report for the 2013 Convention Workbook. The report — drafted by LCMS Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf — is basically in response to a directive of the 2010 Synod convention asking the BOD to give its perspective on recommendations of the Synod’s Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission. That task force finished its work in 2006. Wulf led the BOD in discussing those recommendations throughout Board meetings since 2010.
Wulf also called the Board’s attention to several relatively positive aspects of the Synod’s financial position.
He pointed out that the Synod has nearly $18 million in cash on hand. He said that revenue for the year is some $347,000 behind budget, and expenses are approximately $3.4 million less than the budget. He attributed the “difference” to large bequests to the Synod.
Also during his report to the Board, Wulf noted that the national Synod expects to receive about $15 million from LCMS districts for the 2013-14 budget, for which board members expressed their thanks to the districts.
Chief Mission Officer Rev. Gregory K. Williamson told the Board that he is “proud of unit executives” at the LCMS International Center for their “collegial work” to-date on the 2013-14 budget.
Williamson also spoke of the “urgent need” to recruit more potential professional church workers in the Synod as he called on members of the Board of Directors to join in that effort. He has recently made that same appeal to the LCMS Boards for National and International Mission.
“Not only should you as Synod leaders be diligent about recruiting more professional church workers,” Williamson told the Board, “The same should hold true for everyone in the LCMS, at every level — including districts, circuits and congregations.”
Harrison spoke with the Board about a number of developments, including the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus’ Feb. 5 announcement that it had broken fellowship with “those churches who have openly accepted same-sex marriage.” (Click here to read “Ethiopian Lutheran church breaks fellowship with ELCA.”)
He noted that other Lutheran church bodies in Africa also may be considering similar moves.
“What we’re seeing before us right now is undoubtedly the largest tectonic shift in [Lutheran] church fellowship in our lifetime — perhaps two lifetimes,” Harrison told the Board. “This is the moment for us to be the Missouri Synod.”
Posted March 5, 2013