By Stacey Egger and Pamela Nielsen
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Board for International Mission (BIM) and Board for National Mission (BNM) met for full-day online meetings on May 29 and June 5, respectively. The meetings were the first held by both boards since the COVID-19 crisis and global shutdowns began.
BIM celebrates continued missionary work
At its May 29 meeting, the BIM heard from the Rev. Daniel McMiller, executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM). McMiller described the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on LCMS deployed missionary staff; the challenges of ensuring their safety; and the shifts in how these missionaries are reaching those they serve, communicating via technology and providing basic human care through food distribution and other aid. He also shared that:
- Out of over 100 international LCMS missionary households, more than 90 percent remained in the field in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- All but three missionaries are fully funded, with one of those getting very close. Two new missionaries are making great strides in securing a full network of support.
- The Lutheran Church of Latvia, an LCMS partner church, has requested help from the LCMS Eurasia region in developing a seminary curriculum that will provide an accredited and professional academic degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Divinity. Curriculum development is underway.
- The country of India will now be part of the Eurasia region, and missionary Rev. Dr. Edward Naumann will relocate from Sri Lanka to India to assist with theological and seminary education there.
- The Rev. Shauen Trump has been appointed regional director for Africa and will oversee work in both East and West Africa, allowing the Rev. Gary Schulte to focus on strengthening seminary education in Francophone West Africa.
- The three Concordia international schools completed their school years with months of distance learning. Concordia Shanghai returned its students to campus for the final two weeks of the school year. (Read more about Concordia Shanghai here.)
- Global safety and security and the spiritual, mental and physical support of deployed mission staff continue to be at the top of OIM priorities.
The board heard from the Rev. James Krikava, regional director for LCMS Eurasia, about the emerging work in the region, with a focus on catechesis and pastoral formation of local men, and about the ways in which the region’s theological conferences and training opportunities have been adapted or postponed due to COVID-19.
BNM welcomes new member and discusses continuing work amid COVID-19
At its June 5 meeting, the BNM welcomed a new member, Pat Kyler. Kyler, who has been a delegate to the Synod convention multiple times as well as to many district conventions, is the board’s new lay representative from the LCMS Central Region.
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson then gave a presentation to the board, noting:
- The Office of Pastoral Education’s Church Worker Recruitment initiative surveyed nearly 1,500 church workers and over 500 LCMS youth and young adults. The results of this study are being readied for publication. A major takeaway is that the most crucial time for influencing future church workers is the period leading up to and including confirmation.
- Due to fiscal uncertain-ties resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, the LCMS is operating under a provisional budget resolution adopted by the Synod’s Board of Directors covering the period through Sept. 30, at which point a new budget will be put in place for the remainder of FY21 (through June 30).
The Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM), also presented to the board. Zagore highlighted:
- The ONM’s plans to personally call as many of the Synod’s pastors as possible in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, to offer consolation and point them to relevant resources.
- Resources and assistance from the LCMS that have been made available in the midst of the pandemic and reopening, including Soldiers of the Cross—Amplified grants for church workers who have lost their jobs (with $428,000 already granted to LCMS districts in support of their workers), a Welcome Back media kit for reopening congregations, and forthcoming Making Disciples for Life (MDFL) Bible studies.
- The MDFL Internet Resource Center, an online tool that will organize and make accessible resources from the LCMS in over 30 categories, from youth ministry to outreach to worship resources, and will begin to be promoted in the coming weeks.
- Plans from LCMS School Ministry to move to online accreditation from National Lutheran School Accreditation. Accreditation is required to apply for voucher funding in many states.
The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes gave the board a theological presentation on the words from the LCMS Constitution VI.2, the “renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description.” Mayes presented the historical context for this rejection, as well as a definition of the terms “unionism” and “syncretism” in light of early Lutheran history.
The board was also introduced to Deaconess Tiffany Manor, the newly installed director of LCMS Life Ministry. Manor, who began her new role on April 14, spoke of the strange start to her job: “I’ve spent all of 10 minutes in the International Center so far,” she said.
Manor has begun her work by assessing available resources and meeting with and creating a network of life ministry leaders across the LCMS — a network of over 100 people. “They’re really eager to work together and to help us,” she said.
In his devotion at the BNM’s meeting, board member Rev. Peter Bender addressed the fear that has surrounded the church in recent months: “We are Christians. That means we trust Christ,” he said. “We rely upon Christ. Faith in Christ is fearless because the love of Christ casts out fear.”
Posted July 2, 2020