Author Topic: Friday morning plenary: odds (really) and ends (finally)  (Read 9399 times)

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 43146
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Friday morning plenary: odds (really) and ends (finally)
« Reply #30 on: October 12, 2011, 11:47:05 AM »
While you are correct in regards to general giving to the synod (50% or some percentage goes to churchwide,) I don't believe that it is true for designated giving, e.g., if the congregation designated $4000 for seminary support and gave it through the synod. All $4000 goes to the seminary and it is not figured into the percentage that goes to churchwide.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Bergs

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 1328
  • Battle for truth, justice & the American way
    • View Profile
Re: Friday morning plenary: odds (really) and ends (finally)
« Reply #31 on: October 12, 2011, 12:47:10 PM »
In the original draft of the motion, there was no adjustment for median family income. You are quite right in identifying that there is no guarantee that the US Census median family income reflects the Lutheran median family income. The adjustment was added because some critics of the draft argued that it wasn't fair to expect synods in poorer regions of the ELCA to support at the same rate as those in wealthier regions. Ironically, my synod is in one of the poorer regions, and my hunch is that the membership, while perhaps above the median family income in this region, is most likely not in the third standard deviation. I would doubt its even half-way across the second standard deviation. So, I would have been fine without the adjustment.

Your statement gives support to my original criticism that this is an ELCA income distribution plan even though that was not the original intent of your motion. 

Yes, I think that we have done something well in this synod. More than ten years ago, Synod Council made a point of visiting congregations and talking about what happens with mission support (i.e., where does the money go). We also set a goal of 15% proportional share from the congregations. Prior to that point, median mission support of congregations was around 8% with a huge standard deviation. A lot of hard work went into making these changes, and the fruit evidenced itself. At the high water mark, support went over 13% and the standard deviation narrowed.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Mission Support (I don't think that was the exact name, but close enough for ecclesiastical work), however, failed to inspire change across the ELCA. Differences in ecclesiastical ethos militate against sweeping change. For 20 years, the ELCA has talked about stewardship, but I haven't seen the evidence that that talk has accomplished anything. Instead, we have sections of the ELCA in which congregations bring in much greater giving from parishioners than is the case in my synod, yet a much smaller percentage makes its way to the synod (and thence to the Churchwide). Alienation and ecclesiastical ethos are part of that equation. I no longer expect those militating factors to be overcome. Rather asking yet again for everyone to raise their standards--something which has not worked--I am ready to adopt a uniformly lower standard (as my synod would deem it) and go for per capita.


Your successes are impressive and it sounds like your synod ideas should be replicated.   Perhaps they will be now that the ELCA is moving full speed ahead without some of the distractions of previous decades.

Fundamentally, I would consider per capita more equitable. Repeatedly, in regional and synodical consultations with the churchwide, we have been not to be critical of those synods in the lower ranks of per capita mission support because it is common among them that congregations directly support ministries rather than supporting through the synod budget. While that sounds good at first hearing, deeper analysis reveals that the proportional share system relatively penalizes grant recipient ministries in synods where mission support is the primary conduit. Furthermore, synods in which mission support is the primary conduit end up supporting ministries across the whole church while synods in which direct support is more common end up supporting only regional ministries.

So, my proposal was not intended to work some redistribution of wealth. Rather, it was self-abandonment to localism. Localism is a feature of a good chunk of the church. I don't see that changing. In my synod, because of the dominant ecclesiastical ethos of the region, we need permission to function in the same fashion. Lacking that permission, we will continue to support a broken model for mission support and, as a consequence, cripple our synodical ministries as a matter of loyal support and obedience to the churchwide model of mission support which some synods follow and others don't.

Best of luck and I hope this works out for the ELCA. 

Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN

But let me tell Thee that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing.
The Grand Inquisitor

Riegel

  • Guest
Re: Friday morning plenary: odds (really) and ends (finally)
« Reply #32 on: October 13, 2011, 04:55:34 PM »
While you are correct in regards to general giving to the synod (50% or some percentage goes to churchwide,) I don't believe that it is true for designated giving, e.g., if the congregation designated $4000 for seminary support and gave it through the synod. All $4000 goes to the seminary and it is not figured into the percentage that goes to churchwide.

Yes, Brian, you are quite correct that designated giving, even when channeled through the synod, does not count in the mission support calculation (because MS calculus is based upon unrestricted giving). The ecclesiastical ethos in our synod, however, tends to use the mission support conduit for nearly all things related to the programmatic, operational, and granting activities of the synod--a typical pattern for interior mid-Atlantic Lutheranism.

The issue emerged for us in 2009 specifically in the area of seminary funding. Not many know the details for seminary finding, but I am happy to share.  ;)

The seminaries receive grants from the ELCA Churchwide according to a formula employing the number of ELCA M.Div. graduates and M.A.R./M.A.M.S. grads (weighted less than M.Div. grads) over a multiple year rolling average.

Synodical support uses a different calculus. Each synod is supposed to support its constituent seminary based upon aggregate congregational expense in that synod vs. aggregate congregational expense for the whole church. That calculation is done at the Churchwide office which then sends a notice to each synod for what is called "basic synodical seminary support." This amount is supposed to be remitted directly to the seminary by the synod. For my synod and most (if not all the regional synods), this amount has been a budget line funded by mission support dollars from the congregations.

In 2009, my synod was informed that our new basic synodical seminary support for the next fiscal year would be an increase of roughly $2000. Following our standard pattern--and, here, we may have been less than savvy--we were challenged to either increase our request of the congregations or cut some other budget line or some combination of the two.

Understand, if we increased our request or the congregations (without any cuts), the increase would have had to be roughly $4000 because of the proportional share requirement, meaning the Churchwide expression would receive $2000 more from my synod than would have been the case in a flat budget. Well and good if that $2000 was going become increased aggregate funding for seminaries. Ironically, the proposed budget for CA2009 included a cut in seminary funding. A little strange, don't you think, that Churchwide asked us to increase our synodical support for the seminary, stood to benefit from an additional $2000 raised in the name of theological education, which in turn would not go to theological education (compounded by the churchwide cuts at the same time).

Proportional share is just plane funky. Weird things happen in the calculus. Synods like mine are trapped in this weirdness, and, being loyal (perhaps excessively so) to the patterns and models proffered by the CNLC and enshrined in the CBCR of the ELCA, cannot get out them without violating their ecclesiastical ethos. I know that not all synods do it like my synod does (and her regional neighbors do). This is where the inequities arise. This is also why I don't think that our experience can be easily replicated. At the root of it is an ecclesiastical ethos which is not necessarily transferable. So, I maintain, the reasonable way forward is not to attempt replication but rather to admit that the ELCA is an ecclesiastical mongrel with such divergent ethoi that a per capita model offers the best approach for equity and synodical mission-mindedness. Leave off the adjustment for median family income; it unnecessarily complicates things--that way we also avoid all claims of income redistribution. Just have each synod remit an amount based upon some head count--I don't care if it is average weekly worship attendance, confirmed membership, baptized membership, voting membership, etc.. as long as it is the same standard.

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 43146
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Friday morning plenary: odds (really) and ends (finally)
« Reply #33 on: October 13, 2011, 05:15:35 PM »
Yes, Brian, you are quite correct that designated giving, even when channeled through the synod, does not count in the mission support calculation (because MS calculus is based upon unrestricted giving). The ecclesiastical ethos in our synod, however, tends to use the mission support conduit for nearly all things related to the programmatic, operational, and granting activities of the synod--a typical pattern for interior mid-Atlantic Lutheranism.

It was wise of you (and others) to note that raising $2000 for seminaries in the synod's budget does require $4000 of increased revenue to cover it and the churchwide mission support.

My impression is that agencies are seeking to raise money in every way possible and the ELCA inherited two different traditions. I believe that in the LCA, all fund raising was to take place through the synod; and congregational appeals were discouraged. Financial appeals to congregations (and to individuals) was common in the ALC. Now seminaries, for example, want to be on the synod budget, and make direct appeals to congregations and individuals. When a daughter of a congregation I served was in seminary, the congregation was strongly encouraged to pay all or at least some of her tuition. This was in addition to general appeals of support to the seminary.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Riegel

  • Guest
Re: Friday morning plenary: odds (really) and ends (finally)
« Reply #34 on: October 13, 2011, 09:09:40 PM »
Again, Brian, I think you have it correct. The seminaries were asked at the formation of the ELCA to adopt more of the LCA approach. Congregations and synods were too. Fund raising, outside of alumni and established "friends circles" was generally discouraged in the early days of the ELCA. Capital appeals have always been different because of the size of the need, but quotidian operations were expected to be covered by mission support. In fact, a continuing resolution of the original (or very early) ELCA declared that 50% of seminary financial needs would be met by the combined support of the Churchwide and constituent synods. That continuing resolution was repealed some time ago. The last time I looked, the level of support was under 25% and falling.

So, the LCA approach has not worked in the ELCA on a Churchwide (or trans-synodical) basis. It was worked fairly well in my synod and in some of our neighboring synods heretofore, but we are seeing it fray badly at the edges in no small part because of the proportional share obligation. If a significant number of the synods in the ELCA do not have a stewardship ethos compatible with the LCA/ELCA model, then the model should be dumped at the Churchwide-synodical interface. A straight per capita from synod to Churchwide would still allow each synod to do its own thing in relationship with its congregations. This allows for diversity of synodical ethoi while settling upon a common workable pattern for the churchwide expression.

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 43146
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Friday morning plenary: odds (really) and ends (finally)
« Reply #35 on: October 14, 2011, 01:40:37 AM »
So, the LCA approach has not worked in the ELCA on a Churchwide (or trans-synodical) basis. It was worked fairly well in my synod and in some of our neighboring synods heretofore, but we are seeing it fray badly at the edges in no small part because of the proportional share obligation. If a significant number of the synods in the ELCA do not have a stewardship ethos compatible with the LCA/ELCA model, then the model should be dumped at the Churchwide-synodical interface. A straight per capita from synod to Churchwide would still allow each synod to do its own thing in relationship with its congregations. This allows for diversity of synodical ethoi while settling upon a common workable pattern for the churchwide expression.

I don't know if it was true in all LCA synods, but some that I know of (and also true of ALC districts) is that there was an assessed amount given to each congregation based on the number of confirmed members. When a synod (or district) set its budget, they divided it by the number of confirmed members in the synod, and sent a bill to each congregation based on their reported members. This also encouraged congregations to keep their membership figures current and remove the inactive members.

ALC Districts were supported by assessed dues. The national body was supported by free-will offerings.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]