Author Topic: LCMS Inc 2020 Report  (Read 47655 times)

Dave Likeness

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #165 on: December 29, 2020, 11:54:28 AM »
Jerry Lee Lewis celebrated his 85th birthday this year.  Many consider him The
King of RocknRoll. As a youngster his mother enrolled him in the Southwest
Bible Institute in Texas.  He was expelled for his renditions of traditional gospel
songs.  Raised in an Assembly of God church he was always conflicted between
the Devil's music and God's music.

Mark Brown

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #166 on: December 29, 2020, 11:56:03 AM »
My skin is thick enough - and my ego sinfully strong enough - to get over the hurt that drove the earlier sarcastic rant.

After all, Jesus looked at the miles-long list of things I've done (or should have done but didn't) capable of driving my self-esteem into the ground, especially those that were glaringly public. And He dropped the charges. Like my dad told me one time, "Jesus already died on the cross. Get off of it; someone else needs the wood."

Sinful human beings make bad choices based on incomplete information and the blindness of a broken world. It's not my place to write the history of the CBC purchase and sale, or to correct every misunderstanding or misperception. I forget that sometimes, and apologize.

But it sure seems that in some corners of the LCMS, forgiveness - let alone the desire to understand more deeply - is a lie.

You know, I have no beef with you.  Most of the time you have posted here, I've tended to agree with you.  You usually have clearer eyes than most. But on this, I'm sorry.  Playing the victim, oh look at me, some pastor of a tiny church in an inconsequential part of the country is casting aspersions, how will I ever soldier on, it is a good thing I have a thick skin.

I have no problem with forgiveness.  But forgiveness starts with confession.  In this case, exactly what I've been saying, admitting that it was foolish, that we had no actual plan that made sense, that it was all Field of Dreams.  Confession is not rehashing the CYA of past years, or going for the mutual assured destruction of passing along blame to the largest entity ("the synod didn't get the message", "its a broken world").  All of those things may be mostly true.  But none of them are the decisions made by the decision makers here.

And once people admit the foolishness of the endeavor, and the people who bore the real cost (surprise, it wasn't those who made the decisions), then you can actually learn from it.  As long as people are still negotiating the political score, no learning can actually take place.

But this is just what we do.  Overlook and paper over the poor decisions of the elders while we eat the young and castigate them being the ones present when the music stopped.

peter_speckhard

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #167 on: December 29, 2020, 12:02:04 PM »
My skin is thick enough - and my ego sinfully strong enough - to get over the hurt that drove the earlier sarcastic rant.

After all, Jesus looked at the miles-long list of things I've done (or should have done but didn't) capable of driving my self-esteem into the ground, especially those that were glaringly public. And He dropped the charges. Like my dad told me one time, "Jesus already died on the cross. Get off of it; someone else needs the wood."

Sinful human beings make bad choices based on incomplete information and the blindness of a broken world. It's not my place to write the history of the CBC purchase and sale, or to correct every misunderstanding or misperception. I forget that sometimes, and apologize.

But it sure seems that in some corners of the LCMS, forgiveness - let alone the desire to understand more deeply - is a lie.

You know, I have no beef with you.  Most of the time you have posted here, I've tended to agree with you.  You usually have clearer eyes than most. But on this, I'm sorry.  Playing the victim, oh look at me, some pastor of a tiny church in an inconsequential part of the country is casting aspersions, how will I ever soldier on, it is a good thing I have a thick skin.

I have no problem with forgiveness.  But forgiveness starts with confession.  In this case, exactly what I've been saying, admitting that it was foolish, that we had no actual plan that made sense, that it was all Field of Dreams.  Confession is not rehashing the CYA of past years, or going for the mutual assured destruction of passing along blame to the largest entity ("the synod didn't get the message", "its a broken world").  All of those things may be mostly true.  But none of them are the decisions made by the decision makers here.

And once people admit the foolishness of the endeavor, and the people who bore the real cost (surprise, it wasn't those who made the decisions), then you can actually learn from it.  As long as people are still negotiating the political score, no learning can actually take place.

But this is just what we do.  Overlook and paper over the poor decisions of the elders while we eat the young and castigate them being the ones present when the music stopped.
Confession and forgiveness is a matter of sin, not bad decision decision-making. Are you saying the leadership sinned by purchasing CBC? That they need to confess and receive absolution? That doesn't seem right to me. We can learn from past missteps without thinking of them in terms of spiritual weakness or the works of the sinful nature. They tried something that some people thought was smart, but that many seminarians thought was dumb. And it didn't work. Okay. Is that something in need of a Confessor?

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #168 on: December 29, 2020, 12:13:18 PM »
Mark, of course, a salutary reminder. We are seldom privy to half the story. I remember thinking at the time how great it would be to actually have a seminary PRESENCE on one of the main thoroughfares as opposed to being buried deep off DeMun. My friend, Dr. Lee Maxwell, was actually hopeful that maybe the seminary’s archeology program could be housed in the new facilities and expanded; that turned out to be a pipe dream, however.

Yes, there was no shortage of dreams that were placed on the purchase of this building.  A new synod out of the purple palace, a place on the main drag, an archeology program, the moving of a Concordia College to the Seminary, the expansion of the seminary beyond a parochial pastor school, and plenty of other dreams.  And dreams are fine, maybe even necessary.  The problem with all of those is that none of them paid the $10M note.  The people that paid the note were seminarians who are still paying for it years later.

Even Jesus in the scripture says check if you have the funds to build before you start.  That was not done.  And for that reason alone, that was visible to everyone, including the average seminarian, it shouldn't have been done.  And we should be able to admit that.  And know the next time we are pitched dreams ask for a solid business plan first.


And yet, seldom do congregations ask for solid business plans when creating and approving a budget. The most common process I've seen has been: "This is what we budgeted last year. We need to raise it a little for inflation." When I came to my last parish, they had a budget that was $70,000 over their income. They knew that there were budget items that wouldn't get paid. Within a couple of years we had pretty much a balanced budget. We started with our anticipated income (based on the income of the previous 12 months and whether or not it had been rising or declining from previous years). Then we tried to match anticipated expenses with the income.


I have run into opposition to this process of seeking a balanced budget. "What about faith?" is asked. "We trust that God will provide." One of my responses: "God hasn't provided enough income to cover the budget for the past five years, what makes you think this year will be different?"


I've seen that "faith" issue come up not only in congregations but in camp boards, at the Bible School I attended. Sometimes it seems that faith-based businesses means we don't have to trust good business-sense because we trust God.


Perhaps like the earlier posts about Jerry Lee Lewis and thinking only dichotomy: there's God's way of doing business (by faith) and the Devil's way (by secular wisdom). Mark Hanson would call the ELCA "the church of the AND" (or something like that): sinner AND saint, Jesus is human AND divine, it is bread AND Christ's body, etc. We can also say that churches need business wisdom AND faith. 
« Last Edit: December 29, 2020, 12:22:20 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"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]

Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #169 on: December 29, 2020, 12:23:09 PM »
My skin is thick enough - and my ego sinfully strong enough - to get over the hurt that drove the earlier sarcastic rant.

After all, Jesus looked at the miles-long list of things I've done (or should have done but didn't) capable of driving my self-esteem into the ground, especially those that were glaringly public. And He dropped the charges. Like my dad told me one time, "Jesus already died on the cross. Get off of it; someone else needs the wood."

Sinful human beings make bad choices based on incomplete information and the blindness of a broken world. It's not my place to write the history of the CBC purchase and sale, or to correct every misunderstanding or misperception. I forget that sometimes, and apologize.

But it sure seems that in some corners of the LCMS, forgiveness - let alone the desire to understand more deeply - is a lie.

You know, I have no beef with you.  Most of the time you have posted here, I've tended to agree with you.  You usually have clearer eyes than most. But on this, I'm sorry.  Playing the victim, oh look at me, some pastor of a tiny church in an inconsequential part of the country is casting aspersions, how will I ever soldier on, it is a good thing I have a thick skin.

I have no problem with forgiveness.  But forgiveness starts with confession.  In this case, exactly what I've been saying, admitting that it was foolish, that we had no actual plan that made sense, that it was all Field of Dreams.  Confession is not rehashing the CYA of past years, or going for the mutual assured destruction of passing along blame to the largest entity ("the synod didn't get the message", "its a broken world").  All of those things may be mostly true.  But none of them are the decisions made by the decision makers here.

And once people admit the foolishness of the endeavor, and the people who bore the real cost (surprise, it wasn't those who made the decisions), then you can actually learn from it.  As long as people are still negotiating the political score, no learning can actually take place.

But this is just what we do.  Overlook and paper over the poor decisions of the elders while we eat the young and castigate them being the ones present when the music stopped.

You've got to get past that thing about elder blame and elder removal, Mark.  Or not; up to you , but it makes your 20/20 hindsight screen grumpy, almost bitter, as you obviate against the old decisions, and for the oldster retired pastors to step off from taking vacancies or small parishes so that some tbd team of younger wiser folks can redistribute congregations and their assets. 

It gets in the way of the actual dialog about decision process.  For instance in the case of the CBC property, it was illuminating to me to refresh that time-frame and see that this was also when the "free tuition" game was played.  So that magical thinking concerning financing combined with unrealistic plans regarding a growth pattern for training.  That it wasn't sustainable fits in a more complete picture.  The underlying reality, of older and older lay membership with less and less kids/grandkids coming into the picture, which was the case 20 years ago, and is now playing out, has always been the prime factor even as it's less able to be included as a factor at upper levels in Protestant denominational futures.  The virus, in my opinion, has actually assisted in putting that major deficit on the full screen not only in our denomination, but around the horn in Protestantism and in many ways in Christianity in this country and Europe.  The process has been failing because the underlying reality has primarily been faced at the local level. 

My recent favorite is calling some friends and finding they were on their way to the Christmas Eve Midnight Candlelight Service.  I asked how slowly they were driving, given the time.  They responded that the midnight service was now being held at 2 PM so the members could go home to dinner.  Which is at 4.  No need for candles.  Plenty of sunlight at 2PM.  Entirely senior citizen congregation.  Anyway.

The senior-aged pastors caring for senior-aged smaller congregations also has a shelf life.  The process of determination is not going to be best approached by head-butting, in my opinion.  Some of the oldsters might also possess a little wisdom, might actually help move things along, might actually be (uh-oh) in wider church leadership.  Even from your point of view, you should at least be able to say "with God all things are possible."

Dave Benke

Mark Brown

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #170 on: December 29, 2020, 12:27:39 PM »
My skin is thick enough - and my ego sinfully strong enough - to get over the hurt that drove the earlier sarcastic rant.

After all, Jesus looked at the miles-long list of things I've done (or should have done but didn't) capable of driving my self-esteem into the ground, especially those that were glaringly public. And He dropped the charges. Like my dad told me one time, "Jesus already died on the cross. Get off of it; someone else needs the wood."

Sinful human beings make bad choices based on incomplete information and the blindness of a broken world. It's not my place to write the history of the CBC purchase and sale, or to correct every misunderstanding or misperception. I forget that sometimes, and apologize.

But it sure seems that in some corners of the LCMS, forgiveness - let alone the desire to understand more deeply - is a lie.

You know, I have no beef with you.  Most of the time you have posted here, I've tended to agree with you.  You usually have clearer eyes than most. But on this, I'm sorry.  Playing the victim, oh look at me, some pastor of a tiny church in an inconsequential part of the country is casting aspersions, how will I ever soldier on, it is a good thing I have a thick skin.

I have no problem with forgiveness.  But forgiveness starts with confession.  In this case, exactly what I've been saying, admitting that it was foolish, that we had no actual plan that made sense, that it was all Field of Dreams.  Confession is not rehashing the CYA of past years, or going for the mutual assured destruction of passing along blame to the largest entity ("the synod didn't get the message", "its a broken world").  All of those things may be mostly true.  But none of them are the decisions made by the decision makers here.

And once people admit the foolishness of the endeavor, and the people who bore the real cost (surprise, it wasn't those who made the decisions), then you can actually learn from it.  As long as people are still negotiating the political score, no learning can actually take place.

But this is just what we do.  Overlook and paper over the poor decisions of the elders while we eat the young and castigate them being the ones present when the music stopped.
Confession and forgiveness is a matter of sin, not bad decision decision-making. Are you saying the leadership sinned by purchasing CBC? That they need to confess and receive absolution? That doesn't seem right to me. We can learn from past missteps without thinking of them in terms of spiritual weakness or the works of the sinful nature. They tried something that some people thought was smart, but that many seminarians thought was dumb. And it didn't work. Okay. Is that something in need of a Confessor?

I was not the one that put it in the forgiveness category.  That comes from Mark Hofman. I just picked up his language.

But the pattern of confession and absolution is still a good one, even if this is not (and it isn't) a matter of sin.  If you can't admit really bad decisions, you will never learn what lead you to make them.  And we collectively never admit really bad decisions.  We bury them.  And then blame those who have to labor under them for not being able to turn the 5 crumbs left into a meal for 5000.  This is all part of the larger pattern of denial.  Actually addressing consolidation would mean coming to terms with how we got here.  Which the best analogy might be from the finance world.  Beta is just how the market at large moves.  Any individual entity is effected by the Beta water level.  Alpha is individual decisions made by individual entities. The return is the sum of alpha and beta.  Yes, there is a whole bunch of beta in where we are now.  But our alpha has not been great either.  We need to make better individual decisions that are cognizant of the world we live in.

Dan Fienen

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #171 on: December 29, 2020, 12:33:27 PM »
I am reminded of a TV game show "The Chase." At some point, contestants must chose how much money they will play for. They could stay wit the amount earned so far for a moderate challenge, or they could play for more money against a more difficult and thus risky challenge, or they could settle for playing for less money but against an easier challenge. In any case, if they do not meet the challenge successfully, they lose the money they earned so far and are out of the game. Most often they decide to "play it safe" and forego the higher but riskier challenge and play for the amount earned. At which point they are usually reminded that they are still not safe, there was an even less riskier challenge and contestants have lost even against the "safest" bet.


Decisions that we make, to build or not to build, to expand or sell off resources, make improvements of stay with current facilities are all bets against the future. Only after the future comes will we know if the bet payed off or a different decision would have been the correct one. The wisest and smartest at times chooses poorly. This time last year, who would have chosen in ways that took into account the disruptions that the covid pandemic and civil unrest that 2020 brought. Would you say that the people who who invested their life savings in opening a bar or a restaurant in a good location only to see it shuttered soon after opening by the Covid shut downs and then see it burnt to the ground in civil unrest had invested foolishly?


We make the best choices that we know to make at the time. When we choose we know tat we might guess wrong and endure the humiliation of the legions who will tell us how foolish and irresponsible we were. Yet to not choose would itself be a choice that could be wrong. How would you like to be one of those people who dithered about investing in the Washington startup Microsoft and missed the opportunity?


In hindsight we can usually see the warning signs that if headed could have pointed to better choices. But life is littered with people who headed the warning signs before them only to discover that they saw the wrong warning signs or interpreted them poorly.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Mark Brown

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #172 on: December 29, 2020, 12:55:39 PM »
You've got to get past that thing about elder blame and elder removal, Mark.  Or not; up to you , but it makes your 20/20 hindsight screen grumpy, almost bitter, as you obviate against the old decisions, and for the oldster retired pastors to step off from taking vacancies or small parishes so that some tbd team of younger wiser folks can redistribute congregations and their assets. 

It gets in the way of the actual dialog about decision process.  For instance in the case of the CBC property, it was illuminating to me to refresh that time-frame and see that this was also when the "free tuition" game was played.  So that magical thinking concerning financing combined with unrealistic plans regarding a growth pattern for training.  That it wasn't sustainable fits in a more complete picture.  The underlying reality, of older and older lay membership with less and less kids/grandkids coming into the picture, which was the case 20 years ago, and is now playing out, has always been the prime factor even as it's less able to be included as a factor at upper levels in Protestant denominational futures.  The virus, in my opinion, has actually assisted in putting that major deficit on the full screen not only in our denomination, but around the horn in Protestantism and in many ways in Christianity in this country and Europe.  The process has been failing because the underlying reality has primarily been faced at the local level. 

My recent favorite is calling some friends and finding they were on their way to the Christmas Eve Midnight Candlelight Service.  I asked how slowly they were driving, given the time.  They responded that the midnight service was now being held at 2 PM so the members could go home to dinner.  Which is at 4.  No need for candles.  Plenty of sunlight at 2PM.  Entirely senior citizen congregation.  Anyway.

The senior-aged pastors caring for senior-aged smaller congregations also has a shelf life.  The process of determination is not going to be best approached by head-butting, in my opinion.  Some of the oldsters might also possess a little wisdom, might actually help move things along, might actually be (uh-oh) in wider church leadership.  Even from your point of view, you should at least be able to say "with God all things are possible."

Dave Benke

Your second paragraph is what in various manifestations all my conversations and efforts for 15 years have been about.  Stop the magical thinking.  Look at things with clear eyes.  And make plans for where we actually are at, including everything that is already baked in but not fully exposed yet.  And make those decisions now, while you still have some of the strength of the elders.

And your first paragraph, really the first sentence, is true.  But in my 15 years of experience trying to address this, the denial is so deep, the only thing I've ever been halfway successful with is being a jerk, which lets someone like say Scott not be a jerk but be the reasonable person and move things in the right direction.

As far as "with God, all things are possible", true.  But that moves back to the mystical.  And on good days I can see it happening at a local level.  It has been a long time since anything institutional has felt hopeful.


PrTim15

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #173 on: December 29, 2020, 01:06:14 PM »
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

Some how we competed at seminary for grades, in athletics and for adulation. We also never really learned how to be anything other than sole proprietors. Seeing counsel isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. If a person is pretty much thinking they are the end all be all of any discussion be it theological, sociological, administrative etc, then they are doomed to fail and set up a dichotomy of win and loss. Our synod seems to have devolved into that nationally. Perhaps widening the conversation rather than constricting it would be helpful.


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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #174 on: December 29, 2020, 02:12:35 PM »
Rev. Brown,

I confess that, as an appointed leader at Concordia Seminary and now at corporate Synod headquarters, I have made many bad decisions. That list is long. I am sorry for those that ultimately ended up with seminary graduates bearing an unfair burden, most likely in the form of student loan debt. The information to which I had access at the seminary ultimately led me to believe that it was time to leave that place and seek a venue of service to the Church somewhere else. Now, instead of seminarians, I see missionaries and programmatic directors (Youth, Black Ministry, domestic/international grants,...) bearing the load unfairly.  My wife and son often bear the burden of my sin, like many others who vocationally serve in the church. That is not a "play victim" statement. It is a confession of truth, a statement I pray you will accept as a sincere one.

I am sorry that one of my posts came across as a "poor me".  I was (still am) angry when I read through a thread that - in places - does not bear out our Lord's command to "love one another" and forgive them as He has forgiven us. When my good friend and teammate Gary Thies signs off as "Old Missionary Gary" I return the favor by signing "Old Bureaucrat Mark".  I do not desire pity or sympathy for myself. I knew the score when I accepted an appointment to serve in a position that would put my name on public documents (like the 2020 State of the Synod report). I was prepped for that responsibility by instructors in a vigorous MBA program.

Pronouns and vague labels ("the administration") loop in a whole bunch of people who don't deserve the negative reputation labels can imply.

President John Johnson did not make the decision to purchase the CBC campus, nor did President Dale Meyer make the decision to sell that property. Neither did the CFO/COO/Comptroller or whatever label needs to be applied. If I were angry about it, I'd share my feelings directly with those who were elected by the Synod in Convention to serve on the Seminary Board of Regents at the time. Recommendations were (and are) placed in front of the Regents in matters of finance.  They set tuition rates. They set the budget for financial aid. They determine if facilities need renovation, demolition, or new/replacements are to be built. And when they make bad decisions, the Synod in Convention removes them and puts new people in place.

I happened to be with the Regents on the day when the recommendation came before them to dump the CBC campus as a bad decision. I was not with them when the recommendation came to purchase that property from a private foundation that had secured it while a decision was made - before someone else could grab it. 

Regents have, perhaps, a day or two to make those decisions. They do not live the process for weeks or months, nor are they always afforded time to push a decision off until the next quarterly meeting to dig deeper. Sitting in the room with them as they debate those issues, often without the benefit of a complete and thorough understanding of the variables, one almost feels empathy. 

Wise counsel from a broad audience is possible when there is sufficient time. It is the way to go. The best management counsel I ever received was from my first Synod "boss" who, as he left for another role, pulled me to the side and said, "You're in (temporary) charge now. Do the smart thing. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and get the hell out of their way."

As you know all too well, I'm sure, when time is of the essence the call has to be made without the luxury of seeking counsel. You've had to make those solo decisions knowing you'll deal with the fallout and get all that wonderful "counsel" downstream. I would hope that people afford you a little more grace and understanding when that happens. This year I had to make a solo call that saw 12 of my team members separated from the organization through no fault of their own. I could not seek counsel in that situation. The buck, and the blame, falls on my desk.

With CBC, under Missouri nonprofit law, the buck stops with the Board. Be angry with the individuals on the Board of Regents who, at the time, approved an action item to purchase the property, implement a full-tuition guarantee, and more. They could have said no, but didn't. If I could remember all of their names, I'd be inclined to list them; but too many years have passed. My part in all of that was failing to raise the money to fulfill all of the dreams and visions and expectations people had. Where that added to student indebtedness, I am at fault.

I regret that, and am sorry for it. I beg Christ's forgiveness, and I sincerely ask for yours.




« Last Edit: December 29, 2020, 02:21:41 PM by Mark_Hofman »

FrPeters

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #175 on: December 29, 2020, 02:59:18 PM »
Quote
The other thing proposed here appears to do away with district offices, creating about a hundred regional leaders (6,000 congregations divided into groups of 60). I'm not sure if that is a healthy consolidation and would like to see further comment. What happens to the liquidated assets?

Part-time doing just ecclesiastical supervision -- not even close to the bevy of people and their total compensation on the district's payrolls now.  If the part-time people need help, the old model was to supply a vicar but given the numbers of congregations not quite able to pay for a full-time pastor and benefits, it would not be hard to find good people and reimburse the congregations for part of their time.  I am NOT think of a CoP type group of 100 meeting four times a year but perhaps an annual meeting just to bring everyone up to speed.  Again, ONLY ecclesiastical supervision.  No handling district staff or budgets or scouting properties or being a one man fire department to go wherever flames burn etc... 

As far as their liquid assets, they belong to the Synod and could be sold off and the money put into the endowment to help support starting new congregations.

Fr Larry Peters
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Randy Bosch

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #176 on: December 29, 2020, 03:26:45 PM »
Quote
The other thing proposed here appears to do away with district offices, creating about a hundred regional leaders (6,000 congregations divided into groups of 60). I'm not sure if that is a healthy consolidation and would like to see further comment. What happens to the liquidated assets?

Part-time doing just ecclesiastical supervision -- not even close to the bevy of people and their total compensation on the district's payrolls now.  If the part-time people need help, the old model was to supply a vicar but given the numbers of congregations not quite able to pay for a full-time pastor and benefits, it would not be hard to find good people and reimburse the congregations for part of their time.  I am NOT think of a CoP type group of 100 meeting four times a year but perhaps an annual meeting just to bring everyone up to speed.  Again, ONLY ecclesiastical supervision.  No handling district staff or budgets or scouting properties or being a one man fire department to go wherever flames burn etc... 

As far as their liquid assets, they belong to the Synod and could be sold off and the money put into the endowment to help support starting new congregations.

I'm not in a position to discuss the basic "Devolution of Districts" proposal, simply advising that one might best count the beans/tithes/grants/et.al. that create District (of Synod) assets before doling them out in any form.

For example, last I heard, the Pacific Southwest District Offices are in a free-standing building owned by Synod that is on lands titled to Concordia University Irvine (or its previous names or perhaps a larger body), built there under the University's City approved Master Plan (as Amended) and limited to uses that are adjuncts of the University.  The rest of the "neigborhood" consists of single family residences and their very vocal owners.  No beans to count there.

How many Districts are actually housed in Synod/District owned properties and what are the limitations on use for those that are Synod/District owned?
« Last Edit: December 29, 2020, 03:29:59 PM by Randy Bosch »

Mark Brown

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #177 on: December 29, 2020, 04:07:14 PM »
Rev. Brown,

I confess that, as an appointed leader at Concordia Seminary and now at corporate Synod headquarters, I have made many bad decisions. That list is long. I am sorry for those that ultimately ended up with seminary graduates bearing an unfair burden, most likely in the form of student loan debt. The information to which I had access at the seminary ultimately led me to believe that it was time to leave that place and seek a venue of service to the Church somewhere else. Now, instead of seminarians, I see missionaries and programmatic directors (Youth, Black Ministry, domestic/international grants,...) bearing the load unfairly.  My wife and son often bear the burden of my sin, like many others who vocationally serve in the church. That is not a "play victim" statement. It is a confession of truth, a statement I pray you will accept as a sincere one.

I am sorry that one of my posts came across as a "poor me".  I was (still am) angry when I read through a thread that - in places - does not bear out our Lord's command to "love one another" and forgive them as He has forgiven us. When my good friend and teammate Gary Thies signs off as "Old Missionary Gary" I return the favor by signing "Old Bureaucrat Mark".  I do not desire pity or sympathy for myself. I knew the score when I accepted an appointment to serve in a position that would put my name on public documents (like the 2020 State of the Synod report). I was prepped for that responsibility by instructors in a vigorous MBA program.

Pronouns and vague labels ("the administration") loop in a whole bunch of people who don't deserve the negative reputation labels can imply.

President John Johnson did not make the decision to purchase the CBC campus, nor did President Dale Meyer make the decision to sell that property. Neither did the CFO/COO/Comptroller or whatever label needs to be applied. If I were angry about it, I'd share my feelings directly with those who were elected by the Synod in Convention to serve on the Seminary Board of Regents at the time. Recommendations were (and are) placed in front of the Regents in matters of finance.  They set tuition rates. They set the budget for financial aid. They determine if facilities need renovation, demolition, or new/replacements are to be built. And when they make bad decisions, the Synod in Convention removes them and puts new people in place.

I happened to be with the Regents on the day when the recommendation came before them to dump the CBC campus as a bad decision. I was not with them when the recommendation came to purchase that property from a private foundation that had secured it while a decision was made - before someone else could grab it. 

Regents have, perhaps, a day or two to make those decisions. They do not live the process for weeks or months, nor are they always afforded time to push a decision off until the next quarterly meeting to dig deeper. Sitting in the room with them as they debate those issues, often without the benefit of a complete and thorough understanding of the variables, one almost feels empathy. 

Wise counsel from a broad audience is possible when there is sufficient time. It is the way to go. The best management counsel I ever received was from my first Synod "boss" who, as he left for another role, pulled me to the side and said, "You're in (temporary) charge now. Do the smart thing. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and get the hell out of their way."

As you know all too well, I'm sure, when time is of the essence the call has to be made without the luxury of seeking counsel. You've had to make those solo decisions knowing you'll deal with the fallout and get all that wonderful "counsel" downstream. I would hope that people afford you a little more grace and understanding when that happens. This year I had to make a solo call that saw 12 of my team members separated from the organization through no fault of their own. I could not seek counsel in that situation. The buck, and the blame, falls on my desk.

With CBC, under Missouri nonprofit law, the buck stops with the Board. Be angry with the individuals on the Board of Regents who, at the time, approved an action item to purchase the property, implement a full-tuition guarantee, and more. They could have said no, but didn't. If I could remember all of their names, I'd be inclined to list them; but too many years have passed. My part in all of that was failing to raise the money to fulfill all of the dreams and visions and expectations people had. Where that added to student indebtedness, I am at fault.

I regret that, and am sorry for it. I beg Christ's forgiveness, and I sincerely ask for yours.

That right there is about as close as I have ever seen in my 36 confirmed years in the LCMS to an open admission.  Thank you.

And if we had such open conversation as that on a regular basis, we might actually be able to address decision process troubles.  The two biggest ones seeming to be:
a) we keep being put in positions where snap decision are being made (buy the CBC, fire 12 people) and
b) while a BOD/Regents might be the final approving body, those bodies' responsibility should never be to reverse a decision by the executive team (unless they are going to fire the executive), but their responsibility is to understand and evaluate the decision process that lead to the recommendation before them.  And maybe then to fire the executive team that lead a bad process.  It would seem like we need either better staffing of those boards, or we need some better training for those who do serve.  (A side part of this is of course the alignment of board and executive institutional vision. The board should get to pick its executive team. We've been waging guerrilla warfare through the elected positions which hampers all of that.)

And I would tend to say that both of those things are trouble up and down the LCMS.  As we've been discussing here, because we can't make any decisions until in absolute crisis mode, every decision comes across as a snap one.  That is how you end up with gofundme's asking for the pastor's salary. 
Part of the problem is the lack of any rigorous planning process that includes people at different levels of the institution at appropriate times.  Because we all exist on multiple levels, most of us know more.  We know things are coming down the pike.  But that information that we know seems to be unable to get folded into planning early enough.

Which really is the second problem.  An institution has to have a vision.  It can disagree internally on some practical things, but it can't on basic identity. Can we from Synod, Inc. to the lowliest circuit of the Eastern District, agree on what that identity is?  Because if we can't, guys like Mark Hofman could be admin and fundraising geniuses, and it will never work.


Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #178 on: December 29, 2020, 05:48:56 PM »
You've got to get past that thing about elder blame and elder removal, Mark.  Or not; up to you , but it makes your 20/20 hindsight screen grumpy, almost bitter, as you obviate against the old decisions, and for the oldster retired pastors to step off from taking vacancies or small parishes so that some tbd team of younger wiser folks can redistribute congregations and their assets. 

It gets in the way of the actual dialog about decision process.  For instance in the case of the CBC property, it was illuminating to me to refresh that time-frame and see that this was also when the "free tuition" game was played.  So that magical thinking concerning financing combined with unrealistic plans regarding a growth pattern for training.  That it wasn't sustainable fits in a more complete picture.  The underlying reality, of older and older lay membership with less and less kids/grandkids coming into the picture, which was the case 20 years ago, and is now playing out, has always been the prime factor even as it's less able to be included as a factor at upper levels in Protestant denominational futures.  The virus, in my opinion, has actually assisted in putting that major deficit on the full screen not only in our denomination, but around the horn in Protestantism and in many ways in Christianity in this country and Europe.  The process has been failing because the underlying reality has primarily been faced at the local level. 

My recent favorite is calling some friends and finding they were on their way to the Christmas Eve Midnight Candlelight Service.  I asked how slowly they were driving, given the time.  They responded that the midnight service was now being held at 2 PM so the members could go home to dinner.  Which is at 4.  No need for candles.  Plenty of sunlight at 2PM.  Entirely senior citizen congregation.  Anyway.

The senior-aged pastors caring for senior-aged smaller congregations also has a shelf life.  The process of determination is not going to be best approached by head-butting, in my opinion.  Some of the oldsters might also possess a little wisdom, might actually help move things along, might actually be (uh-oh) in wider church leadership.  Even from your point of view, you should at least be able to say "with God all things are possible."

Dave Benke

Your second paragraph is what in various manifestations all my conversations and efforts for 15 years have been about.  Stop the magical thinking.  Look at things with clear eyes.  And make plans for where we actually are at, including everything that is already baked in but not fully exposed yet.  And make those decisions now, while you still have some of the strength of the elders.

And your first paragraph, really the first sentence, is true.  But in my 15 years of experience trying to address this, the denial is so deep, the only thing I've ever been halfway successful with is being a jerk, which lets someone like say Scott not be a jerk but be the reasonable person and move things in the right direction.

As far as "with God, all things are possible", true.  But that moves back to the mystical.  And on good days I can see it happening at a local level.  It has been a long time since anything institutional has felt hopeful.

Thanks for these words - honest and helpful.  You and Scott - one bad, one good.  It is the way of the brotherhood.  Santa knows - be good for goodness sake!

An actual conversation from the early 2000s at a national LCMS Convention.  My brother Bob was at the time shepherding a congregation very near to the congregation of one Walter Otten.  Walter Otten sees the two of us hobnobbing in the hallway, strides up and says, "Two brothers - how can one be so good and one be so bad?"  In the way of actual brothers, Bob and I at the exact same moment responded with the same exact words - "You must get that a lot!"  Of course, Bob and I broke up laughing.  Walter, to his eternal credit, had no idea what we were talking about and went on his way.  Which only made our laughter last longer.  C'mon, man.

Dave Benke

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Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #179 on: December 29, 2020, 06:02:19 PM »
Confession and forgiveness is a matter of sin, not bad decision decision-making. Are you saying the leadership sinned by purchasing CBC? That they need to confess and receive absolution? That doesn't seem right to me. We can learn from past missteps without thinking of them in terms of spiritual weakness or the works of the sinful nature. They tried something that some people thought was smart, but that many seminarians thought was dumb. And it didn't work. Okay. Is that something in need of a Confessor?


Every time ἁμαρτάνω is used in Matthew and Luke, it's primarily about sins we commit against one another Mt 18:15, 21; 27:4; Lu 15:18, 21; 17:3, 4. (It doesn't occur in Mark. In John it's always related to suffering for committing sins: 5:14; 8:11; 9:2, 3.) I've suggested that "missing the mark" against one another in the congregation are seldom big moral failings or even disobeying a commandment; but "missing the mark," can simple be failing to meet expectations. Some examples: the committee chair who fails to call meetings or to adequately prepare for the meeting; the volunteer who fails to show up to usher or greet or sing in the choir, etc.; the members who don’t live up to their financial pledges; a treasurer who fails to balance the books or pay the bills on time or have a report ready for a council meeting; the members who, with nothing to stop them, haven’t worshiped with or contributed to the community for a year or more. All of these people have “missed the mark”? They have failed to live up to the expectations the church has placed on them or what they placed on themselves.


"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]