Pro-lifers worried about Restructuring, Resolution 8-08

While various proposals made by the Blue Ribbon Task Force are being debated, one is facing serious opposition from a wide variety of individuals, commissions and boards within the church. Proposal 18 — now referred to as Resolution 8-08) eliminates all of the ministry boards of Synod. Some pro-lifers are concerned about how this will affect the work the Synod is doing in defense of vulnerable children and women. I came across this editorial opinion that should be required reading for pro-life activists in the LCMS:

Restructuring and Life
An editorial opinion by Maggie Karner, Director of LCMS Life and Health Ministry

What impact will the Blue Ribbon Task Force Proposal for restructuring have upon the pro-life witness of the LCMS? Proposal #18 of the plan is the most far-reaching of the proposals as it eliminates all of the ministry boards of the Synod (including the LCMS Board for Human Care which supports and guides the work of LCMS World Relief and Human Care and its program area of LCMS Life Ministries), and more significantly, it replaces them with two boards that report to the Synod president (not to boards elected by the members of Synod).

Many have suggested that Proposal #18 might mean the end of much of the work the synod is currently doing under the existing structure. The alternative plan proposed by the Blue Ribbon Task Force is to transfer many of these programs to the district level, apparently by asking districts to increase their staff and/or volunteers.

The main reason given by the task force to necessitate this restructuring is financial. However, while alterations to the Synod structure are proposed that include sweeping changes or even possible elimination of much of the work of LCMS World Relief and Human Care (and Life Ministries), the proposal ignores the fact that LCMS World Relief and Human Care receives absolutely no funding from the Synod’s unrestricted budget. We rely completely on the generous gifts of individuals and congregations who support the work of LCMS WR-HC directly. In fact, while in the midst of a severe economic downturn, and operating in the middle of a Synod structure that is severely strapped for cash, LCMS World Relief and Human Care has been able to operate well in the black and our organization’s financial position is outstanding. This has been possible only because of our wonderful donors and to our fine Board for Human Care which does an excellent job of allowing our organization to build capacity, while remaining thoroughly accountable.

For far too long, the LCMS left their Christian responsibility to initiate this work of educating about the sanctity of human life to the work of the pan-Lutheran organization of Lutherans for Life (LFL). LFL carried that banner boldly for many years beginning in the 1970’s and continues to this day acting with vigor as a voice for life to all Lutherans from a variety of Synods. However, it wasn’t until the LCMS convention-mandated resolution of 2001 that the Synod took up the responsibility of proclaiming the sanctity of life directly from our offices in St. Louis (through the Board for Human Care) and thereby formed LCMS Life Ministries, that our Synod finally lived up to its calling in this area. While working closely alongside LFL, LCMS Life Ministries has established a number of project-based programs and has instituted and chairs the LCMS Sanctity of Human Life Committee which was formed by Synod convention and given to LCMS World Relief and Human Care to promote pro-life leadership and guidance in our Synod. Unfortunately, recommendation # 18 has no plan to deal with, or continue, the Life Committee. After years of solid growth and project development under LCMS World Relief and Human Care, including establishing 3 international pregnancy centers, LCMS Life Ministries has become a major voice in the domestic and international pro-life movement.

Proposal #18 of the Blue Ribbon Task Force could effectively end this outreach (or, at the very least, diminish its effectiveness) and hinder the vigorous front-line work being done both here and overseas by reducing or eliminating our Synod’s arm of mercy (LCMS World Relief and Human Care) which gives our pro-life witness its “muscle.”

Many of you may remember Dr. Jean Garton, founder and president emeritus of Lutherans For Life, who now serves as a member of our LCMS Board for Human Care and has tremendous impact upon the witness for life that LCMS Life Ministries is able to proclaim. It is fine leadership like hers that has led LCMS World Relief and Human Care to be at the forefront of discussions of, and advocacy for, life issues.

In addition, much of our work of mercy, such as Life Ministries, must operate on a global level in today’s world. We sponsor a number of both domestic and international pro-life projects that necessitate a transcontinental model that seamlessly flows between our U.S. and international partners. Does splitting the work of the LCMS World Relief and Human Care that remains after restructuring into “Domestic Mission” and “International Mission” advance the global work of mercy and the pro-life witness of the Church?

My greatest fear is that the proposal recommendation may have long term negative effects to the unified pro-life witness of the LCMS, a witness that is essential for the support, advocacy, and educational message for life. LCMS Life Ministries feels it is vital that this centralized pro-life message must come from Synodical leadership itself and not only from district representatives or registered service organizations such as LFL. We need to ask ourselves honestly, will the restructuring improve the Synod’s ability to lead, speak, and partner in such a way that God’s plan for humankind is advanced and He is honored?

Therefore, we ask delegates to consider prayerfully and with great caution the potential detrimental effects that proposal #18 would have upon the Synod’s pro-life ministry–nationally and at the regional/district level.

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