The Brothers of John the Steadfast supported the election of Matt Harrison to the presidency of the LCMS and with his early, difficult decisions on the budget, he is not disappointing. His special issue of the Lutheran Witness was direct and bold about the necessary cuts needed to address the income shortfall in the synod. (See our earlier post on the special Lutheran Witness issue by clicking here.)
Now we read that the Board of Directors (BOD), which if you follow various voting lists at the convention, has a majority of members elected by the same people who elected Harrison, is following suit and budgeting in line with the synod’s current shortfalls. The June issue of the LCMS Reporter states that the BOD cut the budget by $10 million from $86 million in 2010-2011 to $76 million for 2011-2012. (For the full story from the Reporter click here.)
The president and the BOD have been clear that the LCMS is hurting because of decreasing offerings coming into the districts and the synod. The cause of this decrease is due to many reasons chief of which are a difficult economy, a desire on the part of donors to give to specific causes instead of to institutions, and of course, the theological turmoil in our synod.
The Brothers of John the Steadfast are quite concerned about the theological disarray in the synod. It is clearly a more important issue than our fiscal problems. We are pleased that in the special Lutheran Witness edition President Harrison talks about his Koinonia project in the same breath as the fiscal problem. (The Koinonia Project is President Harrison’s long term effort to bring unity of doctrine and practice to the LCMS.) Even though the theological problem takes precedence, its solution requires a much slower, more deliberate process than an annual budgeting process.
We are thankful that President Harrison is making the hard decisions to cut spending. In the Lutheran Witness he mentions that he has eliminated nearly $2 million worth of staff, decreased the over spending of LCMS world missions and eliminated entire departments by consolidating various areas of service.
It is ironic that he was given this authority by the convention despite his opposition to granting such authority to the president of the synod. We are pleased that he is cutting excessive spending but we hope that in future conventions, we will return to the slower, less efficient but more godly system of checks and balances in the synod structure. We are confident that in President Harrison’s hands this authority will be used for the sake of the pure Gospel but in other hands it could be abused.
These budget and staff cuts should please a lot of people around the synod from various perspectives, even those who do not put theological issues front and center. It was an odd “combo platter” that brought us both a traditional president and progressive structural changes. The best explanation we know of for this combo is the desire of many delegates to cut bureaucracy and decrease spending even though it might reduce helpful checks and balances. Hopefully this sort of wide appeal around the synod will create good will that will allow President Harrison to take the faithful steps that are needed to bring unity in doctrine and practice to our synod. In the long run, that sort of unity will resolve our financial problems.