The 2015 synod convention launched the “One in Christ” special offering to eliminate the synod’s $4.7 million debt by June 2016—two years ahead of schedule. Many congregations will be conducting their “One in Christ” offering this month. Pastor Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Christian Giving, tells more about the background and goals of the campaign.
Q: How did we accumulate this debt?
A: The debt reached $22.4 million in the early 2000s as a result of capital projects and amalgamations at our ministerial education schools as well as internal borrowing.
Q: What caused the internal borrowing?
A: Some might recall that, unfortunately, in the 2001–03 biennium there was miscommunication between the synod’s financial planners and areas of ministry about the role that special funds would have in funding the proposed plan. This resulted in the ministry special funds being spent twice. Internal borrowing was needed to cover the double spending that resulted from the miscommunication so that we could maintain, instead of reduce, our planned ministry.
Q: What was the effect of the 2008–09 Year of Jubilee offering on the debt?
A: The amount of debt totaled $22.4 million before the Year of Jubilee. We praise God that the Year of Jubilee campaign saw $4.1 million in special offerings through 2008–09. Since 2009, donors have contributed almost another $1 million which, along with regular synod payments on the debt, have reduced the remaining debt to $4.7 million.
Q: What if we don’t meet the goal?
A: We will continue to make payments on the remaining debt until it is eliminated. Of course, having to make these payments would prevent these funds from being used for other ministry.
Q: What if offerings exceed the $4.7 million goal?
A: The 2015 synod convention resolved that the first $100,000 received beyond the goal would be used to provide funds for the Publications Coordination Commission. This commission prioritizes various publishing projects needed by the synod. Beyond that, the Synodical Council would be responsible for recommending the designation of extra funds in the best interest of synodical stewardship.
Q: Will our synod ever go back into debt? How will we handle future debt?
A: While it’s our synod’s goal to avoid going back into debt, there could come a time when it may be beneficial to assume some debt with future planned projects.
That being said, a string of recent synodical capital projects (the purchase of a new synod administration building, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s chapel renovation and road repairs, Martin Luther College’s Chapel of the Christ—initial construction and basement renovation—and Early Childhood Learning Center, and Luther Preparatory School’s chapel renovation) have been or are being accomplished with existing funds and gifts, without any loans. In addition, the recently formed Capital Projects Committee is working to ensure future capital projects are identified well in advance of their need.
Q: How does eliminating this debt affect our synod’s future?
A: The unknown factor is the strength of regular congregational offerings, the main source of funding for WELS ministry. In recent years those offerings have been steady, although they have not kept pace with the costs of maintaining ministry. Eliminating the debt will help us to continue the ministry that God has so richly blessed for us:
• The training of our pastors, teachers, and staff ministers for proclaiming the unchanging gospel to an ever-changing world.
• Proclaiming the gospel in 23 countries in addition to our own, and making the most of every opportunity God puts before us.
• Providing resources and assistance to our churches and schools as they aim to glorify God in all they do.
If regular and special offerings come in stronger than expected, we can do even more! I encourage all of us to prayerfully and generously participate in this special offering, trusting in God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Find resources for conducting a “One in Christ” offering at your congregation or make a donation at wels.net/oneinchrist.
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Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015
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