Great Stuff — Everybody Makes Mistakes, Part 2: Mistakes Can be Costly

Friends of ULC set up a blog in May giving some additional details about the situation the congregation finds itself in. It contains several articles that should be read, including a series on “Are these Articles of Incorporation Valid”. Today I noticed this post that I thought would be interesting to readers of BJS. It is part 2 of another series; part 1 is found here.


Everybody Makes Mistakes, Part 2: Mistakes Can be Costly

Mistakes can be costly.  Sometimes the cost of correcting mistakes overwhelms those who make the mistakes.  This can cause them to make other mistakes, to avoid correcting the previous mistakes, and this vicious cycle can continue for a very long time.

The sad part is that this is all avoidable.  Admitting the mistake and correcting the mistake is the God pleasing and best way to break the vicious cycle.  Christians can recognize an analogy to the condition of the sinner in this self perpetuating closed loop of mistakes to hide previous mistakes.  Martin Luther, quoting Saint Augustine, called the human condition of sin “incurvatus in se”.  That is, our nature is “turned in upon itself” by the first sin, so that it seeks all things – even God Himself – for its own sake.  This is one of the reasons why Lutherans believe that God must break through this closed loop of human efforts seeking to justifying ourselves by something within ourselves.  There is no “Christ Plus”, that is, “Christ Plus” our works, our will, our intellect, our discipline, our obedience, our piety, our cleverness.  There is just Chist Alone, given to us in faith by the Holy Spirit using the Word and the Sacraments. God saves us without regard to anything that is in us, to paraphrase Saint Augustine.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this closed loop of mistakes and sin is the efforts of those “inside the loop” to attract and pull in those “outside the loop”.  The insiders will rush decisions and actions so that the outsiders (those members to whom they answer or who disagree with them) will have great difficulty correcting their mistakes.  This will often involve signing contracts and agreements that make correcting their errors extremely expensive.  The outsiders are then faced with an unpalatable choice: doing the right thing and correcting the mistakes of the insiders, sometimes at a high cost, or doing the wrong thing, and being drawn into the closed loop in order to avoid the cost of correcting the errors.

This post continues our examination of the decision of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to sell the campus ministries at Mankato and Minneapolis.  While the wording here may be a bit clumsy, the “insiders” are the directors, officers and staff of the District, and the outsiders are the members of the corporation, the pastors and churches that make up the voting membership.  The closed loop in this case began years ago with the failure of previous officers to follow the corporations own article.  It was compounded in 2007 and 2009 by filing void and invalid articles with the Minnesota Department of State.  And it reached its current state with the decision to sell those two properties, and signing a contract for sale for the campus ministry in Minneapolis.

And the cost of their mistakes are indeed high.  This is from their own exhibit AA given to the Minnesota Fourth District Court:

This is from the company which signed the purchase agreement in a letter dated May 3, 2012. The purchase agreement here is the one signed by the Treasurer of the Corporation 10 (ten) days after the directors moved to sell the campus ministry at Minneapolis for “no less than” 3.2 million, and delegated the sale to the Treasurer of the corporation.

In fairness to the Treasurer, it must be said that she was placed in a very difficult position.  The directors had been asked, repeatedly, for years to bring the decision of a sale to their voting members in convention.  The next convention is the second week of June.  The directors knew that the proposed sale was extremely unpopular, and would be opposed vigorously by their members.  They should have approved the purchase agreement (and taken the well deserved criticism for it) themselves.  That would have been the right thing to do, instead of hiding behind a delegated action and giving the appearance of “clean hands”.  This also gives the appearance that they are hiding from their members by completing the sale before the voting members meeting in convention in June.

But the Treasurer, for some odd reason or number of reasons, failed to help herself by not bringing the purchase agreement back to the directors before signing, and by signing the purchase agreement in just 10 (ten) days after the directors delegated the sale.  This raises a number of questions, including:

  1. Given that the purchase agreement would expose your corporation to significant claims, did you seek advice from a real estate attorney or other competent professional in that 10 day period before you signed the purchase agreement?
  2. If you did seek advice before you signed the purchase agreement, when did it take place, and what did they say to you about the liability the corporation might face under sections 17, 8(g) and 8(l) of the purchase agreement?
  3. If you did not seek advice, what kind, and what were the results, of the research and diligence you performed in the ten (10) day period between the director’s motion and your signature of the purchase agreement?
  4. What kind and sort of negotiation did you do with other prospective purchasers during this ten (10) day period?  Did any kind of discussions or negotiations take place before the ten (10) day period?   Did you attempt, or were you advised to attempt, to have the purchaser delete or modify sections 17, 8(g) and 8(l) of the purchase agreement which are now the basis used to seek a minimum of $428,354 from your corporation?

The voting members of the corporation will have a choice at their convention in June.  Do they do nothing, and become part of this cycle of error?  Or do they do the right thing, and correct these mistakes?

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — Everybody Makes Mistakes, Part 2: Mistakes Can be Costly — 8 Comments

  1. DP Newton of CNH district tried to rob a congregation of its church property [“an ignorant bunch of old ladies”, as he probably thought]. Ultimately, he lost his suit and it cost CNH $3 million in mission contributions (according to Reclaim News). [What it cost Synod to have its designated lawyer, Sherri Strand, yo-yo-ing back and forth to Oakland (all the while our former SP was claiming that “Synod was not involved.” we’ll never know.]

    Newton was rewarded for this misuse of district mission funds with re-election, BTW!
    Apparently we will never learn!? 🙁

    I sincerely hope Minnesota South convention will “man up”, pay the bill for this foolishness, and give ULC its location outright, so that this can’t happen again.

    Whether they will, remains to be seen!

    Thanks for the summary, Norm!

    [Is Matt Harrison attending MN So convention?]

  2. [Is Matt Harrison attending MN So convention?]

    No, Pastor Mueller will be there.

  3. Helen, @ #1,

    “Apparently we will never learn!?”

    No, we won’t, or rather, an ever increasing number won’t, as history continues to repeat itself, until the end of this age comes. (Maranatha!) I get a little annoyed,–not by you Helen–but by those who lump all members of an LCMS District together, as if there was absolutely no informed “minority” who voted “NO!” at their Convention to such bad moves, decisions, etc. which were passed by the ignorant sheeple majority.

    The truth that is hard to face is not merely that we have a quiet crises of catechetical decline amongst the laity which has been going on for 50+ years (and amongst pastors—SMP drones anyone?), but also that there are less and less laypeople in any congregation who really care to be catechized about the Lutheran faith anymore than they care to be informed regarding what’s going on in their synod, even if they have a pastor making many earnest attempts to inform and pleadings that they hear you out (often with the typical reply, “Oh Pastor, that’s just politics.”) Whatever the past causes (and they go back at least as far as the 1930’s) for the current state in the LCMS have been–although I blame pastors and synodical officialdom the most (ala John 10, who flee the sheep to save their own hide when the wolves come)–what we are faced with as a result is an ever increasing APATHY amongst the laity (and many pastors) regarding what is going on within their districts. The majority of the people have become so lazy and apathetic about the faith that any well-minded pastor trying to indoctrinate them is regarded as an annoyance, a nuisance. (e.g., Isaiah’s cry, “Who has heard our report?”)

    This apathy is the seedbed from which tyranny springs, as history has shown time and time again, whether this tyranny is centralized in the laity below or in the bureaucracy above. Whatever the truth is on the LCMS Church and Ministry doctrine, one thing that has to be said is that on a practical level confessional Lutheranism cannot prevail for long once you have a majority of laity who have reached the state of apathy, which implies not only ignorance but arrogance–a resistance to be taught/informed about anything = idiocracy, as the tyranny over/against confessional Lutheranism grows from above by the bureaucracy who were empowered by the apathetic laity and emboldened all the more by that very apathy they see in them. (i.e., “Oh, no big deal. Let’s liquidate ULC. It won’t take long before most of the congregations don’t even remember it, if even most of them ever really cared anyways.”) Indeed, the principalities and powers controlling the tyrants are not stupid whatsoever. The Strong Man is true to his name.

    There is an old quote way back from 1922, written by Joseph Fort Newman, Atlantic Monthly, speaking about what he called the Great American Sin of Apathy, and it would well apply to the state of our LCMS as well as the state if the nation as much today as it did back then:

    ”What is the great American sin? Extravagance? Vice? Graft? No; it is a kind of half-humorous, good-natured indifference, a lack of “concentrated indignation” as my English friend calls it, which allows extravagance and vice to flourish. Trace most of our ills to their source, and it is found that they exist by virtue of an easy-going, fatalistic indifference which dislikes to have its comfort disturbed….The most shameless greed, the most sickening industrial atrocities, the most appalling public scandals are exposed, but a half-cynical and wholly indifferent public passes them by with hardly a shrug of the shoulders; and they are lost in the medley of events. This is the great American sin.”

    If you will, this is the great LCMS sin, or at least one of them, which is prevalent today. Hence, as the saying goes, “We get the leaders we deserve.” (Or rather, the apathetic majority does, while the concerned minority suffers from the resultant tyranny which comes about as a result.)

    Worse of it is, I’m not sure there is a solution to this apathy for the synod otherwise known as the “LCMess”, that is, other than suffering and death, or, pray God, our Lord’s Final Advent. Somewhat akin to historian Toynbee’s analysis of the stages of rise and fall of civilizations, once the majority have reached a state of apathy, it may be too late, outside of a cataclysmic event, say a Black Plague or WWIII. This is not to say that the informed minority should give up and quit “contending for the faith once delivered to the saints” (and hence fall into the state of apathy themselves). Quite the contrary: This apathy is the very temptation the informed minority must struggle against falling into. Just so long as we beware of a subtle theology of glory which leads us to think that only if we contend hard enough we are bound to succeed. No, such valid contention almost always leads to suffering if not death. But from an eschatological perspective, our Lord has already won the victory–He has already written all the pages of the book we are still in the process of simply playing out page by page by the guidance of His revealed Word, and promises that despite how bad it gets, no matter how bad the defeats are from such contentions, the final sentence on the last page is worked unto eternal good for those who love Him. Besides, while the LCMS may not survive (and or the sake of confessional Lutheranism maybe it should NOT and maybe will not survive!), confessional Lutheranism cannot but survive according to God’s Word of Promise to always preserve a remnant. This and this alone we can be sure of and take comfort in.

  4. @JunkerGeorg #5

    JunkerGeorg, I am well aware of the minority who continue to be faithful Lutherans.
    In Texas, some Pastors tell me, we are 1/3 Lutheran, 1/3 “willowcreek” and 1/3 ignorant.
    (Ignorant tends to vote with “willowcreek” on most issues, apparently.) 🙁

    I am well aware of the minority who show up for Bible class and Book of Concord class, even in a church with liturgical Lutheran services. The number of Lutherans who think they are educated enough because they were acquainted with the Small Catechism when they were 14 is disheartening.

  5. Helen @ #6,

    Yes Helen, as a big fan of yours, I did/do know you’re aware when I wrote the reply to you in post #5 (which is why I had written: “not by you Helen”). Apologies if I had given you that impression. My comments were directed to some posts written by others in such a way that basically could give the impression to the reader that however a District Convention goes, that must have been the will of the whole district, when in reality it was simply the will of the majority. I’m not saying that was intentional either on their part, but I think it is important to cite the minority in every congregation/district of the LCMess. Unlike some of our liberal-minded people, I do not believe that God’s Will is determined by majority vote, or that however a District Convention votes on various issues, it was always the will of the Holy Spirit. (Yes, I’ve heard this very notion expressed before by certain Ablaze junkie pastors who might as well become Pentecostals….but of course evil’s whole point of existence is to corrupt what is good, hence, why would they leave?)

  6. @JunkerGeorg #7
    (Yes, I’ve heard this very notion expressed before by certain Ablaze junkie pastors who might as well become Pentecostals….but of course evil’s whole point of existence is to corrupt what is good, hence, why would they leave?)

    Oh, if Daddy had left them a stage as big as Joel Osteen inherited, I expect they would be gone.
    But most of our “methobaptocostals” aren’t really that good; they are better at tearing down Lutheranism than building a “willowcreek” or “saddleback” of their own. So they’re comfy where they are. 🙁

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