In 2000, the LCMS had $28.4 million in unrestricted funds to allocate to mission and ministry (most funds are restricted by their donors for particular purposes). President Kieschnick was elected as Synodical President in 2001. Since his election, that number has been reduced every year, including a $1.5 million decrease last year alone. In fact, the amount of funds to allocate to mission and ministry had dropped to $20.1 million this year.
While the struggling economy can explain a portion of last year’s drop, the trend in giving is unmistakable. Each year of President Kieschnick’s administration has seen a precipitous drop in unrestricted funds.
I’m sure we’re all part of congregations that are worried about how Synod is allocating resources. I know many congregations target their gifts (restricted funds) to avoid funding programs they object to or find less worthy than, say, human care ministries or seminaries.
LCMS Treasurer Tom Kuchta has been sounding the alarm for years. He gave the board a memo where he said:
I believe it is evident that two conventions, two blue ribbon task forces, and a fiscal conference have not positively impacted the Synod’s unrestricted income. I also believe that the Board of Directors needs to understand the seriousness of our fiscal position.
He noted that the options available to the board are to a) borrow funds, b) redeploy existing assets and c) launch a fundraising program for unrestricted funds.
The Board Briefs (July 2009) says:
“In reality, these options range from obtaining a mortgage on the International Center to selling existing properties (such as radio stations or school campuses) to initiating a fund-raising program for the solicitation of unrestricted gifts.”