The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Boards for National Mission (BNM) and International Mission (BIM), Board of Directors (BOD) and Council of Presidents (COP) met in November. Read summaries of each meeting below.
COP, Nov. 13–15, Concordia University Irvine (CUI), Irvine, Calif.
Gathering on Nov. 13, the COP was welcomed by CUI President Michael Thomas, who gave a presentation on CUI’s strategic plan. COP members toured both CUI campuses, met with CUI theology faculty and students, and met with the presidents of the Concordia University System.
LCMS Nebraska District President Rev. Richard Snow led a study of 1 Timothy 3. LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison presented the first part of his president’s report, highlighting the Office of the President’s ongoing visits to the 35 LCMS districts, updates on international church relations and several large gifts recently received by LCMS Mission Advancement on behalf of the Synod.
On Nov. 14, the COP heard from Jim Sanft, president and CEO of Concordia Plan Services (CPS), and the Rev. Bart Day, president and CEO of Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF). Among other updates, Sanft reported that 100 LCMS counselors have been added to the national CPS network. Day spoke on “Real Estate and Mission,” highlighting real estate partnerships between LCEF and the LCMS Pacific Southwest and California-Nevada-Hawaii Districts.
CUI Associate Professor of Theology and Bioethics Rev. Dr. Scott Stiegemeyer spoke on transgenderism, emphasizing the need for pastors to preach about the goodness of the body as given by the Creator. Stiegemeyer noted that transgenderism has medical, psychological, emotional and social aspects as well as spiritual and moral ones, and that some human problems — the results of fallenness — call for acknowledging the need for a number of kinds of interventions. Pastors, without changing the way they preach repentance and the reconciling death of Jesus, should celebrate the numerous ways that the Bible talks about salvation, including healing, rebirth and transformation. In addition to hearing that their sins are forgiven, people need to hear that Christ is their victor who has crushed the serpent’s head, redeeming His people from their brokenness.
Stiegemeyer also discussed the need for pastors to teach congregations how to have “fruitful, faithful, Christian conversations with people we don’t agree with.” As an illustration, he shared with the COP a personal encounter that he said helped him understand that people can and sometimes do change their minds and that God will use His disciples in that respect if they cultivate the ability to speak with those who have radically different values.
As part of the COP’s ongoing study of the Lutheran Confessions, LCMS Iowa District East President Rev. Dr. Brian Saunders led COP members in discussing Article V of the Augsburg Confession on the pastoral ministry. The Rev. Benjamin Ball, LCMS second vice-president, led a discussion of Hellmut Lieberg’s book Ordination and Office in Luther and Melanchthon, specifically the fourth chapter on “The Divine Character of the Concrete Office.”
The COP ended the day by discussing and prioritizing resolutions assigned to it by the 2023 Synod convention, including work to be done on worker wellness, ecclesiastical supervision, the Lord’s Supper, online streaming of worship, colloquy and more.
On Nov. 15, Harrison gave the second part of his president’s report and the COP received the November vacancy report:
35 districts reporting
- Calling for sole pastor: 438
- Calling for senior pastor: 61
- Calling for associate or assistant pastor: 69
- Total calling congregations: 568
- Congregations being served part-time: 579
- New starts: 8
- Congregations closed since last meeting: 9
The COP next meets in St. Louis in February.
BOD, Nov. 17–18, St. Louis
The BOD began its meeting with a report from Harrison, who noted a number of reasons for the LCMS to be thankful. He reported that the recent gathering of LCMS international partner churches in Wittenberg, Germany, was the “best international meeting” the LCMS has had in some time, fostering the building of relationships among the LCMS and its partner churches. He also noted the productive meeting of the COP (see above), which reflected broad consensus on issues that would have, at one time, been divisive.
LCMS Chief Financial Officer Nathan Haak reported that the overall financial situation of the Synod is healthy, allowing for the Synod to take advantage of additional opportunities to advance the mission of Christ’s church. Overall net assets are up $21 million relative to Sept. 30, 2022. While the draw on unrestricted funds so far this year is in a deficit of $1.02 million, year-to-date support is up 42%, while unrestricted gifts are up 80% and unrestricted bequests up 280%.
The Synod’s audit also came back with a positive report. The report found no material weaknesses in internal controls, and the Synod’s financial records are in good order. Leo Mackay, chairman of the BOD’s Finance and Audit Committee, said that, pending verification of a few details, the committee will recommend adoption of the report.
The BOD also heard about the great opportunities and challenges faced by LCMS schools. Dr. Alan Freeman, director of LCMS School Ministry, noted: “We need to be able to have a distinct identity and distinct difference in our Lutheran schools.” For Freeman, it is all about Christ: “Knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is what [Lutheran schools are] all about.”
While Lutheran schools saw a small uptick in enrollment, possibly due to COVID restrictions, that trend appears to have plateaued in 2023. Furthermore, teachers remain in short supply, especially rostered teachers. To meet these challenges, LCMS School Ministry recently launched the LCMS Job Board (lcmsjobboard.com) as a place for LCMS schools to post open teaching positions around the world.
Other BOD business included updates from LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Peter Lange on the Colloquy Committee for Commissioned Ministry, reports from the Synod’s chief mission officer, discussion of training for university boards of regents per Bylaw 184.108.40.206.2, and key findings and recommendations from an external assessment of LCMS Mission Advancement.
The BOD next meets in St. Louis Feb. 8–9, 2024.
BNM, Nov. 7–8, and BIM, Nov. 30–Dec. 1, St. Louis
During their meetings, both the BNM and BIM discussed the resolutions assigned to them by the Synod in convention this past summer. Both boards also heard a report from LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson on the new proposed strategic plans for their respective offices (the LCMS Office of National Mission and the LCMS Office of International Mission). The boards had been presented with an earlier draft of each plan at their September meetings, and some revisions were made according to feedback they provided subsequent to that meeting. Both boards voted to endorse both strategic plans. These plans, once in their final form, will be shared with the Synod at large.
The BIM and BNM also discussed plans to continue their practice of online meetings with the leadership of each district over the coming triennium, a practice begun during the last triennium in order to carry out the boards’ Bylaw responsibilities to “gather pertinent and sufficient information from the Synod’s members that will facilitate the boards’ assessments and evaluation of the effectiveness of the Synod’s triennial mission and ministry emphasis,” and to provide a report on this information to the districts prior to their conventions (220.127.116.11. and 18.104.22.168.). The Synod in convention called for the continuance of such ongoing communication between the boards and the districts (2023 Res. 4-02).
In addition, the BIM issued several missionary calls and solemn appointments:
- The Rev. Jonah Domenichelli, career missionary to Germany;
- Renee Domenichelli, solemn appointment to serve alongside Rev. Domenichelli in Germany;
- The Rev. Ross Shaver, career missionary to the Dominican Republic;
- Kristin Shaver, solemn appointment to serve alongside Rev. Shaver in the Dominican Republic; and
- Robyn Steele, solemn appointment to serve as part-time career missionary to Kenya.
Also announced were a call and solemn appointment issued at the September meeting and subsequently accepted and made public:
- The Rev. Roberto Weber, career missionary to Latin America; and
- Katie Weber, solemn appointment to serve alongside Rev. Weber in Latin America.
The BIM next meets via Zoom on Jan. 31, 2024, and in person May 2–3, 2024.
The BNM next meets via Zoom on Feb. 1, 2024, and in person April 18–19, 2024.
Posted Dec. 18, 2023