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.


Comments

Pro-lifers worried about Restructuring, Resolution 8-08 — 14 Comments

  1. To avoid confusion, what WAS Recommendation #18 (aka “Prop 18”) we should now refer to as Resolution 8-08.

    The BRTFSSG designations are obsolete. Floor Committee 8’s designations are what count.

  2. @mbw #2
    mbw,

    I understand it, LCMS Inc, has borrowed from Human Care to meet some of its financial shortfall. An amount that is millions–just how many I am not sure. But you can certainly write Pastor Harrison in St. Louis, and I believe you will get the exact amount. Or you can email the Financial Officer Kutcha and he will give you the answer.

  3. Sounds like President Kieschnick’s Task Force (and Floor Committee 8) didn’t think this one through.

    Oops! Pro-Life efforts… a victim of “LCMS efficiency.”

    What else didn’t they think through?

    TW

  4. Can someone speak to the idea that certain “messages must come from Synodical leadership itself…”? While it wouldn’t take too much to convince me on the pro-life message, what about Resolution 2-01 (supporting children, families, singles, youth, etc.), 6-05 (Jail Ministries), 6-06 (domestic and child abuse), etc. Much of this seems like the Federal Department of Education. Feel-good beauracracy that actual hurts the situations by allowing us to feel like someone else is taking care of the problem. Is there a guiding principle I’m missing?

    Just a delegate looking for some guidance.

  5. “The main reason given by the task force to necessitate this restructuring is financial….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.”

    Not to be cynical, but I think this shows the real reason Pr. Kieschnick would l like to absorb these departments. No, it will not save money as they are self sustaining. But, since they are running in the black, restructuring Synod will allow money that is sent for human care and world relief to be deposited in unrestricted synodical funds instead of being used for the purpose for which it was sent.

    Not long ago I was talking to a pastor who was thinking of entering the mission field. Through the process he learned that he would have to raise his own money and that nearly all of our missionaries are “volunteers” who have to do fund raising for their own salaries. Yet we see press releases from the Synod about all the missionaries we send into the field every year. I rather suspect that a great deal of money that is designated for “missions” is re-routed to the general budget under the excuse that everything the Church does is a mission.

    Restructuring will allow all money for these two causes to be dumped into general funds since they will no longer exist separately while keeping the advertising appeal that people are giving to human care and world relief.

    Um, isn’t that kind of the same thing Jim Baker got in trouble for? Or am I being too suspicious?

  6. They say it is, but it is NOT about saving money. The just-approved Synodical budget is $84,000,000. According to the BRTF Final Report, the restructuring will save $1,166,115. Hmmm, if the Synod can’t meet an $84 million budget, $1 million in savings will solve all the problems? Hmmmm.

    And that presumes that giving to WRHC will stay stable, something I doubt. And it doesn’t consider the added expense to Districts for services they will have to pick up.

    AND according the the Synod’s own FAQ on this, 40 – 45 people in corporate HQ will lose their jobs. Hmmm, 45 divided by $1 million would mean that the cost per employee would be $22,000. THAT does not make any sense.

    I’d guess that 40 – 45 people under the old structure will lose their jobs BUT a good number of jobs will be created, thus the NET projected savings is $1,000,000. I asked about this at the regional gathering I attended and got a non-answer.

  7. Tom Kuchta has publicly said the new structure will not save money. In fact, I would argue, as this will give more power to the bureaucracy the cost will increase. Further, it will undermine the trust of the people even more so less money will come in.

  8. Todd-

    It seems like quite a bit. There are contradictions, sometimes within the same bylaw or constitutional changes proposed, inconsistencies amongst the proposals and resulting proposed constitution and/or bylaw changes, and the like. It appears they have put together the framework/bones of structure, but left it hanging without flesh. The question becomes when will the structure be fleshed out, by whom and how? With so many unknowns, it seems more like what is being requested ia vote of confidence in Synod/The president to fill out all the details.

    It the business world, where my primary vocation is, a business plan would not pass approval or muster with a President or Board in just an outline format. A budget is proposed, and marketing assessments and resulting strategies, including what makes your product unique or fill a niche are documented. Furthermore if there are issues with finances, an audit is general done or in other fields if an error is discovered, a root cause analysis is performed. Both are designed to get at what is causing a financial downfall with a proposed solution on how to rebound or address the problem. None of that is evident in the resolutions. Proposals were made without finding the true cause or problem; thus the proposals may or may not be successful at addressing the true problem leading to “cost ineffeciveness” in Synod.

    Brian- Synod has indicated Boards overseeing many of the ministries you describe are a cost, lack accountability, etc. By placing everything under the proposed International and National Missions Boards, it will make them accountable to the Chief Mission Officer and the President. Staff will be needed to take on key roles and provide support. Roles such as planning the National Youth Gathering since that can’t be done at the district level with volunteers. There are certain services that will be coordinatd at the national level. However, quite a few staff will be needed to tackle the work currently done by the volunteers of these committees (and I suspect at a higher cost-thus contradicting the cost effectiveness point). Furthermore, another delegate pointed out under the proposed 3 or 4 year cycle, staff may change when the president changes. Thus, instead of having overlapping terms as many of the boards have allowing for continuity of work, there may be a complete overhaul in these offies and a period of less effecieint work while folks onboard and transition into their new roles. Just some food for thought.

  9. Amen to what you are saying “Luvable Lutheran.” I’ve read every proposal and then went to the corresponding by-law change. It drove me crazy, although I urge every delegate to do it. I know what they want to get rid of, but there is a real lack of clarity as to what the replacement would be.

    I agree there is no way this would pass muster in corporate america. Changes this massive and far-reaching need careful thought, study and analysis.

  10. Have all of you forgot the NATIONAL COLLECTION WILL TAKE OF THOSE DEBTS…YEP EVEN THO’
    YOU MAKE REQUEST IT TO GO TO TO A CERTAIN FUND. Count us OUT.

  11. Conv. Delegate :
    I’ve read every proposal and then went to the corresponding by-law change. It drove me crazy, although I urge every delegate to do it.

    I second that emotion! I have been one of the “pointmen” in our district on BRTF proposals/resolutions, so I have attempted to read through every single detail. “It drove me crazy,” likewise (and that is a much shorter trip that I would like to admit), but necessary if we are to fulfill the sacred trust with which we have been endowed by our circuits.

  12. @Luvable Lutheran #9
    Roles such as planning the National Youth Gathering since that can’t be done at the district level with volunteers.

    No? I have been told of better programs ‘done at the District level with volunteers’ than the NYG described to me by my grandson. (He was at the one where Mrs Kiescnick took the pulpit.)
    To dispense with NYG might be a help to Lutherans…. as presently organized it’s a trojan horse evacuating generic protestant doctrines.

  13. @Helen #13

    I agree that some districts and RSOs provide top notch services for our youth. Afterall, they are the future of our Synod and keeping them Lutheran will help lessen the bleed of those leaving the LCMS (and taking their potential future offerings) when they are on their own.

    Although flipping it on it’s head, if a trojan horse as you describe, isn’t it no wonder why after all these years, that this is the accepted normative for youth ministry across most of the Synod? If I grew up in a congregation with a little bit of everything (wait I did), then when I too attended a youth gathering it was what I found. Also if I didn’t visit any different LCMS congregations, that would further solidify my LCMS world view of youth ministry and perpetuate that perspective.

    I was just repeating the message given to delegates at the regional gatherings. That is with the proposed restructuring into 2 mission boards, certain services, such as the NYG, will still need national leadership to coordinate their work. It was documented in the Blue Ribbon Proposals too.

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