Highlights of the Synodical Council winter meeting

At its winter meeting on Feb. 23-24, the Synodical Council (SC) reviewed the encouraging financial results for calendar year 2017. Congregation Mission Offerings for 2017 were $21,358,000—an increase of $298,000 (1.4%) over 2016. Gifts from congregations were $138,000 more than subscriptions.

As a result, the SC voted to fund the top three items on the unfunded priority list as adopted by the 2017 synod convention. An additional $150,000 was allocated to Martin Luther College (MLC) for financial aid and for efforts to reduce student debt. Home and World Missions received an additional $200,000 for new mission starts and programs. The Publication Coordinating Commission of Northwestern Publishing House was given $50,000 to assist in the publication of theological works and resource material for congregations.

The SC adopted the proposed Support Forecast, which will guide areas of ministry in their planning for the next biennium. The planning assumptions include proposed salary increases of three percent in each year. These assumptions may change as additional financial information is gathered later in 2018.

One item was added to the unfunded priority list—a possible opportunity to establish a theological training facility in Northern Vietnam. The SC will be working with the Conference of Presidents to secure funding for this new opportunity.

The SC received an update from WELS Christian Aid and Relief on the hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. WELS Christian Aid and Relief has provided funding for a coordinator to help with major efforts in Puerto Rico now that communication has been restored and most infrastructure has been repaired.

The SC approved the plans of Martin Luther College to undertake a major capital campaign beginning in 2019. The campaign will seek funding for student housing improvements and for student financial assistance.

The SC received an update from the special committee considering options to improve the synod’s retirement program for called workers.

The recently passed federal tax reform law no longer allows workers to deduct moving expenses. To prevent workers from being adversely affected by this change, the SC passed a resolution that calls for 20 percent additional  reimbursement of moving costs for minister of the gospel and 13 percent for non-ministers of the gospel (both as those terms are defined by the IRS) to help offset the additional tax liability.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder