By David Strand
At its Sept. 12–13 meeting in St. Louis, the Synod’s Board of Directors (BOD) saw a changeover of almost a third of its makeup, welcoming four new members: retired physicist Dr. Jesse L. Yow of Livermore, Calif.; retired educator Dr. Jan W. Lohmeyer of Waveland, Miss.; attorney Andrew N. Grams of Nashville; and LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Peter K. Lange, formerly president of the LCMS Kansas District. The first vice-president is a non-voting member of the Board.
This leaves the BOD one shy of its full complement of 12 voting members, owing to the Aug. 31 resignation of retired lawyer James W. Carter Jr., who is recovering from medical issues. “Jim sends his love to all of you,” said BOD Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael L. Kumm. “We thank the Lord for Jim’s years of excellent service to the church, and we will fill his seat in due course.”
Later in the meeting, Kumm would be re-elected by acclamation to his third term as BOD chairman. Ed Everts was re-elected as vice-chairman.
Partly for the benefit of the new members, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison prefaced his report with a brief review of the Board’s responsibilities. He pointed to Article II of the Synod’s Constitution, saying “this tells us what we believe and confess, and it’s our mandate to hold forth this confession in all we do.
“The Board of Directors takes care of the Synod’s business, legal and property matters,” he continued. “We will deal with all kinds of nitty-gritty — all kinds of challenges. We need to do these things in the most excellent, legal and [financially responsible] way … insisting on integrity … for the sake of the confession of Christ, for the sake of the Gospel.”
Harrison said he attended the 150th-anniversary celebration of Concordia Publishing House (CPH), noting how CPH has stood firm in its faithfulness to the Scriptures while other denominational publishers have lost their fidelity and, as a result, much of their business.
Later in September, Harrison said, he would embark on a weeks-long trip to Europe to “visit various partner churches and emerging partners and get to know their leaders.” The state churches in Europe, he added, “have gotten so abominable that confessional Lutherans can’t stand it.” Happily, though, “there are many new churches chartering themselves, and mission societies are morphing into their own churches. There are two or three in Norway alone in fellowship with us.”
Back home, he observed, while the number of LCMS congregations likely will not decrease in coming years, “the number of professional church workers will not be sufficient” unless something is done about it — and something is being done: the church-worker recruitment effort soon to be launched by the Rev. Dr. James A. Baneck, executive director of LCMS Pastoral Education, and the team he has assembled. Meanwhile, Harrison said, the Office of National Mission is gearing up for its next mission and ministry emphasis, Making Disciples for Life, which was established by the 2019 Synod convention and will focus on, among other things, “retention of members from Baptism to grave.”
‘A more collaborative relationship’
In his report, Chief Financial Officer Jerald C. Wulf, who has announced his retirement effective Jan. 31, said “all financial ratios are improving.” The Synod’s spending on programs now equals 70 cents of every dollar, “and this will be closer to 80 percent once new FASB [Financial Accounting Standards Board] definitions take effect.”
Further, he said, thanks to the Synod’s newly achieved debt-free status, “We are in a position not to have to borrow against restricted funds.”
As of July 31, Wulf reported, the Synod’s cash on hand stood at $19.6 million, down from $30.3 million a month earlier — “but this reflects $11.9 million in increased investments with the LCMS Foundation, where our interest rate is much better than with a passbook.”
A prominent topic at the meeting was 2019 Convention Res. 7-03 — “To Direct a Collaborative Process to Propose a New Governance Plan” for the Concordia University System (CUS) — and the Board’s role in fulfilling it. “The language of the resolution makes the BOD the driver of this process,” said Kumm, “with the ‘active involvement’ of several other parties.”
CUS Chairman Dr. Gerhard Mundinger and CUS President Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, as part of their update on the CUS, said they looked forward to supporting the Board in its efforts. Kumm emphasized the importance of the group assembled under 7-03 to “work together in a systematic manner.” Christian Preus, chairman of the BOD’s Governance Committee, will lead the Board’s 7-03 task force in this endeavor.
Added Mundinger: “We’ve been working hard with the CUS presidents in recent years to develop a more collaborative relationship and strengthen the Lutheran ethos at the schools.” Enacting this resolution, coming up with a new and improved governance model for the CUS, “will encourage this collaboration.”
Chief Administrative Officer Frank Simek briefed the Board on the recently completed third-party assessment of the Synod’s Human Resources (H.R.) department. “We’ve been looking at organizational efficiencies in a number of our units,” he said, including Information Technology, Building Operations, Accounting, Internal Audit, and the Mail Room and Copy Center. “As a result of these assessments,” he said, “we have saved $1 million, though the main reason for conducting the studies has been to improve efficiencies.”
The H.R. review, Simek said, showed “outstanding professionals and strong leadership providing excellent H.R. services — and this despite the challenges of the scope of the work.” Keep in mind, he noted, that H.R. “has just six people serving the needs of nearly 680 people across nine different entities.”
Among the recommendations of the assessment, Simek said, are to hire an assistant to relieve the others of administrative duties and another staffer to help bring about more “organizational development.”
In other business, the Board:
- Received reports from its Governance, Audit and Personnel committees;
- Assigned members to those committees;
- Returned Christian Preus as the at-large member of its Executive Committee;
- Made appointments to the CUS Board of Directors and the CUS Council of Members;
- Approved changes to the LCMS Foundation’s Articles of Incorporation;
- Heard a summary from Synod Secretary Rev. Dr. John W. Sias of nine convention resolutions (as well as several Omnibus A overtures) calling for the BOD’s special attention; and
- Authorized Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) “to gift $550,000 of its net assets for the purpose of establishing the Rosa J. Young Endowment Fund” — to be owned and managed by the LCMS Foundation — to provide scholarships for LCMS African-American students preparing for full-time church-work careers at a Concordia university.
The Board next meets Nov. 21 in Houston — just prior to the LCEF Fall Leadership Conference.
Posted Nov. 18, 2019