Following the story of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance (BRTFSG) for the last year and speaking with folks around the synod we have been able to compile the following Q & A that every delegate needs to ask himself when considering the financial rationale proposed in support of their passage.
Question #1: Does President Kieschnick’s BRTFSSG list Synod finances as a reason for restructuring?
Answer: Yes. The Final BRTFSSG Report notes that “stewardship” is a reason for restructuring. It says, “The second is stewardship. It is imperative that the Synod find ways to amend its currently complex and inefficient system of structure and governance in a manner that achieves more efficient operating costs. The current global economic crisis and financial strains at every level of the church have escalated the need to evaluate just how much and what kind of structure is really needed to carry out the mission of the LCMS.”
Question #2: Was the global economic crisis originally a reason to restructure?
Answer: No. President Kieschnick called for the formation of the BRTFSSG about four years ago, long before the global economic crisis. In light of the economic challenges the world is facing, people tend to be receptive to hearing that a major change is needed due to finances.
Question #3: Does the Synod face a financial crisis?
Answer: Yes. The Synod faced a financial crisis before the global economic crisis hit. The Synod faces many financial challenges due to a variety of reasons, none of which are really addressed by the BRTFSSG. One of the main reasons the International Center faces financial difficulties is the deficit spending patterns of the Board For Mission Services (BFMS). Over the past several years, the BFMS has run a cumulative deficit of over $18 million. If the BFMS had spent only what they actually raised in donations during these years, the financial situation of the Synod would be much better today. Furthermore, the monies spent on consultants and fund raising for Fan into Flame and Ablaze campaigns have also greatly contributed to the Synod’s financial challenges. In effect, the failed mission strategies of the current system are being rewarded under the BRTFSSG. In fact, since the leadership and ideas are largely the same under the current system and under the proposals of the BRTFSSG, it is likely that the financial situation will worsen rather than improve.
Question #4: Won’t the BRTFSSG improve the Synod’s financial situation?
Answer: No. Tom Kuchta, Synod Treasurer, said in the June 2009 Reporter: “The current recommendations by the BRTFSSG will have an immaterial effect on the financial operations of the Synod.”
Question #5: How does President Kieschnick respond to Synod Treasurer Tom Kuchta’s statement that the BRTFSSG will have an immaterial effect on the financial operations of the Synod?
Answer: President Kieschnick and his team say, “That is Tom Kuchta’s opinion.” Q: Who is right? A: In fairness to all parties, no one knows for sure. No studies or financial models have been done that compare the current structure with the proposed changes found in the BRTFSSG.
Question #6: To make an honest and informed decision, what information should the convention delegates have?
Answer: A financial study needs to be conducted exploring the financial merits of the President Kieschnick’s BRTFSSG. How will the changes in the BRTFSSG affect fund development, spending, etc.? A budget under the current structure should be compared to a budget under the proposed BRTFSSG. Services currently provided by the corporate Synod should be compared to services provided under the proposed BRTFSSG. Delegates should be able to see which services would be discontinued under the BRTFSSG. The bottom line is that President Kieschnick’s BRTFSSG has not been cost-modeled. Convention delegates are being asked to adopt massive changes with a hope and a prayer that it will improve the Synod’s finances. The reality is that no one knows for certain, and the expert opinion of the Synod Treasurer is that the proposed BRTFSSG will not improve the finances of Synod.
Question #7: If the BRTFSSG is NOT about finances, what is it about?
Answer: The BRTFSSG is about consolidating power and control under the Office of Synod President. Currently, the Synod President directly manages around $1 million. Under the BRTFSSG, the Synod President would be in control of about $50 to $60 million of program budget. This is a monumental and unprecedented change.
Question #8: How can we find out if the BRTFSSG will improve Synod finances?
Answer: Ask President Kieschnick to provide proof or data that indicate there is a reasonable likelihood that the BRTFSSG would improve the Synod’s finances. Ask for costing models and budgets demonstrating how the BRTFSSG will actually improve the Synod’s finances over 1, 5, and 10 years, and what assumptions are used to reach these conclusions, etc. This analysis should be prepared by a disinterested third party.