By Cheryl Magness
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Board of Directors (BOD) held its first meeting of the new triennium Sept. 14–15 in St. Louis, meeting on the first day at the LCMS International Center (IC) and on the second day at the Hilton St. Louis Airport.
‘Everything we need’
On Sept. 14, following an opening devotion by LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Peter Lange, the board allowed time for members to introduce themselves. With several members having completed their service this year and several new members elected at the 2023 Synod convention, the current members of the BOD are the Rev. Roger Gallup, Andrew Grams, Larry Harrington, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, the Rev. Josemon Hoem, First Vice-President Lange, Jan Lohmeyer, Leo Mackay, Christian Preus, LCMS Secretary Rev. Dr. John Sias, Rick Stathakis, K. Allan Voss and Jesse Yow.
After adopting a meeting agenda, the board’s first order of business was the election of officers. Christian Preus, unanimously elected as BOD chair, said, “Thank you for the confidence you’ve expressed in me. I’ll try to do my best.” Andrew Grams was elected on the second ballot as vice-chairman, and Leo Mackay was elected as member-at-large of the Executive Committee following several rounds of voting that ended in a tie with Hoem and had to be decided by a coin toss, as determined by the board, following the Acts 1 example of selection among qualified candidates by lot.
Harrison presented the president’s report, opening with a reading from Martin Luther’s commentary on the Book of Genesis. Referencing the story of Abraham and Isaac, Harrison noted that when God acts in ways we don’t understand, such as telling a father to sacrifice his son, the only course of action is to “hold fast to His promises.”
“We have dealt with, around this table, unimaginable difficulties,” Harrison said. “But the Lord has blessed us richly.” Regarding the BOD’s task of providing administrative oversight of the Synod, Harrison said, “We have our governance documents. We have the true confession. We have everything we need. Day by day, we only need to be diligent in following them and doing the right thing.”
Lange presented the vice-president’s report, focusing particularly on colloquy updates and directing board members to the Convention Workbook for a more detailed summary.
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson shared an up-to-the-minute report on the work of the Boards for National Mission (BNM) and International Mission (BIM). Both boards held meetings concurrent with the BOD in which they elected officers and began drafting plans for their work in the new triennium.
LCMS Chief Financial Officer Nathan Haak reported on preliminary year-to-date finances and giving trends as of June 30. Haak noted:
- Expenses finished $6.8M below budget, reflecting control of expenses to applicable revenues;
- Unrestricted net assets increased $6.3M to $41.8M, due to one-time items and investment income; and
- Total net assets increased $16.5M to $163.8M (increases, respectively, of $37.6M unrestricted, due principally to one-time items, and $87.3M total since 2018).
Haak added that FY24 is “off to a positive start,” with some early indications of a rebound in gift and grant activity despite conservative adjustments to a slower pace identified before FY24 budget adoption. Unanticipated draws on unrestricted funds and higher-than-budgeted legal expenses are potential risks. Corporate Synod’s financial position and liquidity remain strong, with a recent grant from the Bolick Foundation and bequest activity supporting the cash balance through a typical summer slowdown.
Following Haak’s report, board member Stathakis expressed the board’s appreciation for Haak’s work. “Thank you for your transparency,” Stathakis said.
The board broke for the IC’s daily chapel service, during which Felix Loc was installed as LCMS chief administrative officer. Loc began serving at the IC earlier this year in preparation for the retirement of Frank Simek, who has served as CAO since 2017. After the board resumed business, it was moved and adopted to formally recognize Loc as CAO, with Simek continuing in a transitional capacity.
Preus then shared a report from the Governance Committee, noting that former board members Keith Frndak and Ed Everts had “incredible financial knowledge” that it would be hard to replace. “We made up a lot of it with Leo [Mackay],” Preus said. The board discussed the possibility, per BOD bylaws, of appointing additional members to assist with its work and approved a motion directing the Governance Committee to further investigate the possibility and make a recommendation to the full BOD at its next meeting.
Meeting at the Hilton on Sept. 15, the BOD:
- Made committee assignments;
- Heard a presentation from Jim Langley of Langley Innovations on his assessment of LCMS Mission Advancement;
- Heard from Harrison on the purchase, by the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg, of four flats next door to the Old Latin School that will serve Ukrainian refugees in Wittenberg, Germany; and
- Heard a presentation from Haak on a sizable gift to the Synod from the Jerome Bolick Foundation, along with a plan that will deliver value on the gift and demonstrate specific incremental improvements in work within the Bolick Foundation’s focus on outreach.
Among other action items, the board also:
- Made appointments to several Synod boards;
- Authorized the administration of Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., to move forward with plans for a new music rehearsal space;
- Approved a revised master plan from Concordia University, St. Paul, St. Paul, Minn.;
- Approved four resolutions related to the execution of 2023 Convention Resolution 7-04B, “To Revise Bylaws to Revisit and Renew Relationship of Colleges and Universities with the Synod”; and
- Authorized the creation of a legal entity in Latvia to better support and facilitate the Synod’s work there and in the Eurasia region.
The board then took part, along with members of the Synod’s other boards and commissions, in an orientation for the new triennium, and later that evening, attended the Service of Installation for Officers and Board Members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Meeting minutes, when available, will be posted at lcms.org/bod.
The BOD next meets Nov. 17–18 in St. Louis.
Posted Nov. 1, 2023