By Kevin Armbrust
At its May 20–21 meeting in St. Louis, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Board of Directors (BOD) approved a surplus budget of $601,000, including total revenue of just over $82 million and total spending of $81.4 million for FY 23 (July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023). This budget reflects an increase from the $62.7 million FY22 budget and includes:
- A strategic increase of personnel to support the ongoing mission and ministry of the Synod;
- The impact of FY 23-only (once per triennium) expenditures associated with the LCMS Youth Gathering (July 2022, $8.75 million);
- The release of $6.91 million in accumulated, restricted assets “in-hand,” to be expended for purposes indicated by donors; and
- The use of $1.92 million “in-hand” board-designated funds within their board designations. The Board also passed a capital budget of $744,241.
BOD Chairman Rev. Dr. Michael L. Kumm called the meeting to order, noting, “We have a full agenda ahead of us,” including reports, action items, and budget presentations and deliberations. As he began his report, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said, “We are remarkably blessed.” This encouraging observation was reiterated and reinforced throughout the Board’s two days of meetings. Harrison reported on the positive financial position of the Synod and addressed his recent visits to Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor (CUWAA) and Concordia University Texas, Austin, Texas. Over the course of those visits, reports on which are forthcoming, the team conducted over 100 interviews.
Harrison also reported that he and his staff continue to attend district conventions, the tenor of which he described as generally calm. Many districts are keenly interested in finding routes and avenues to form more church workers and pastors, with some desiring to explore “all” routes to ordination. Districts are also concerned for the future of the Concordia universities, especially in light of mounting societal pressure regarding social issues.
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin D. Robson updated the Board on the work of the Offices of International Mission (OIM) and National Mission (ONM), Pastoral Education, Communications and Mission Advancement. The OIM continues to train and send missionaries and work with partner churches to send alliance missionaries — those sent by a partner church with the support of the LCMS. Currently, 103 LCMS missionaries are planting Lutheran churches, spreading the Gospel and bearing mercy around the globe. During his budget presentation, OIM Interim Executive Director Christian Boehlke noted that opportunities and requests from partner churches abound, and the OIM has increased efforts to raise the number of LCMS missionaries by recruiting new missionaries and retaining existing ones.
The OIM continues to work with partner churches and other Lutherans to aid refugees and others affected by the war in Ukraine. Specifically, the LCMS is working with German church partner Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche (SELK) to use the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany, as a place to host refugees and plant a Ukrainian-speaking congregation. The Rev. Sorin-Horia Trifa, a Romanian national pastor working with the LCMS, and LCMS missionaries in Brashov, Romania, continue to assist with people fleeing Ukraine. The OIM is also working to increase the number of alliance missionaries.
Teaching the truth
The ONM is looking forward to the Youth Gathering July 9–13 in Houston. Registration is higher than expected, having surpassed 19,000. LCMS Life Ministry continues to work with congregations and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) to facilitate the 1 John 3 Million Dollar Life Match. Work has also begun toward church-planting grants. The ONM hosted Making Disciples for Life conferences throughout FY22 and has another scheduled for this fall, addressing issues that confront the church today, especially critical theory. The ONM is also addressing other societal issues, as directed by the 2019 Synod convention in Tampa. In all of this, the Office of National Mission focuses on teaching the truth of God’s Word and the mission of the church. “There is an evangelism aspect,” explained ONM Executive Director Rev. Robert Zagore during his budget presentation. “We want people to know their Savior. We want people to know that they were created by their loving Creator.”
The Office of Pastoral Education has successfully launched Set Apart to Serve (SAS), the Synod’s church work recruitment initiative. The Rev. Dr. James Baneck, executive director of Pastoral Education, continues to meet with districts, RSOs and other Synod entities to introduce SAS and to encourage the young people in the Synod to consider full-time church work vocations.
LCMS Accounting and Financial Services Executive Director Ross Stroh presented the financial report for the nine months of FY22 ended March 31, 2022. Stroh reported a net favorable budget variance (operating surplus) of $3.75 million and additional non-operating revenue of over $10 million. This report followed LCMS Chief Financial Officer Nathan Haak’s report projecting, on the basis of gift tracking through the end of March, that FY22 giving will finish below that for FY21 but remain ahead of both the budget and the three-year average. Haak concluded his report by noting that total revenue, both restricted and unrestricted, is projected to conclude FY22 at $75.96 million, down from FY21, but $13.48 million above the FY22 budget. Haak then introduced the proposed FY23 budget, the discussion of which would consume the majority of the rest of the Board’s time together.
To facilitate the budget deliberation and discussion, the leaders of the various offices and departments of the LCMS each met with the Board for 10–15 minutes. Robson introduced the budget presentations by noting the mission and ministry opportunities both domestically and internationally. “Our church partners around the world … are desperately in need of the power and healing light of the Gospel preached for the salvation of souls … only Jesus,” he said. “Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities God has given us for the proclamation of the Gospel.”
Being the church
For the first time, the chairmen of the Boards for National Mission (BNM) and International Mission (BIM) were invited to address the BOD. Both chairmen thanked the Board for the opportunity to appear. “I want to express our appreciation for all the support the Board of Directors gives to the BNM,” said BNM Chairman Rev. Steven Briel. “We can’t do our work without your support.” Briel observed that though much seems to be wrong in our world today, “the church can be the church. Jesus has risen. He has ascended into heaven and He reigns. Christ is risen!” John Edson, interim chairman of the BIM, also thanked the BOD and noted that the BIM is working with the OIM to increase care for LCMS missionaries and to monitor the work of the OIM in light of the three-fold core areas of spreading the Gospel, planting Lutheran churches and bearing Christ’s mercy.
Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement (MADV), outlined the work of MADV, including Mission Central in Mapleton, Iowa. MADV continues to connect with people who may be open to giving for the first time, establishing such relationships with approaches in harmony with God’s Word. Hofman said that planning for MADV personnel and strategies includes faithful and careful stewardship and emphasized that the LCMS finds hope in “only Jesus. It is why we preach Christ crucified.”
Following a long day Friday, the Board reconvened on Saturday, meeting in executive session for much of the morning. It then heard updates from several of its committees on their ongoing work, including the introduction and explanation of any action items as present in the Board’s agenda.
In addition to the budget, the Board considered and approved several other items, including appointing members to regular and vacancy positions on Synod boards and other necessary actions. For a full report, see the Synod Secretary’s minutes (pending) on the BOD webpage.
Posted June 21, 2022/Updated June 24, 2022