The Synodical Council (SC) held its fall meeting on Friday and Saturday of last week. Here are some of the highlights:
- Larry Schlomer, administrator of the Board for World Missions, provided an overview of the work currently being done in our mission fields around the world, with an emphasis on new opportunities that are presenting themselves. A new opportunity to provide theological training to pastors of the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam will be given high priority.
- A special committee reviewing the WELS Pension Plan presented its recommendations to the SC. The SC asked the committee to study additional options and hopes a pension plan design will be prepared for consideration by the 2020 district conventions and ready for action at the 2021 synod convention.
- Scott Neitzel was appointed to the WELS Foundation Board of Directors.
- The Church Extension Fund (CEF) reported healthy net asset, liquidity, and cash flow numbers. Overall loan volume has been lighter than normal this year, but it is picking up in recent months. Total investments in the CEF have increased. Because of healthy net asset levels, the CEF was able to provide a special grant of $1 million to Home Missions. The WELS Foundation also reported strong financial results, enabling a transfer of its unrestricted net assets to support WELS ministries.
- Communications Services and Northwestern Publishing House are studying how to boost readership of Forward in Christ magazine as well as increase the number of subscriptions.
- The Ministry of Christian Giving, with the approval of the Conference of Presidents and in coordination with WELS World Missions, is conducting a special offering from December through June to build and operate a theological training center for Hmong outreach in Vietnam. Rev. Kurt Lueneburg also outlined the joint plans of Martin Luther College, the Conference of Presidents, and Ministry of Christian Giving to increase recruitment of future called workers, to provide additional financial assistance to those training for ministry at MLC, and to build a new dormitory at the college. This “Equipping Christian Witnesses” effort will be launched at the 2019 synod convention.
- Operating fund expenses for the fiscal year that ended June 30 were $700,000 less than planned due to unfilled positions and lower than planned expenses in the president’s areas, technology, facilities, and finance, as well as lower health care costs.
- Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) totaled $21.2 million for the last fiscal year, which was $102,000 less than planned. Increased CMO for the coming year will be vital to ensure that ministries can be maintained at their current levels.
- The Financial Stabilization Fund (FSF) ended the year with a balance of $14.6 million. In view of that balance, the SC had previously approved the expenditure of $400,000 toward items on the unfunded priority list adopted by the 2017 convention. Spending projections for the current year and the next biennium drop the balance more than $2 million below the $10 million minimum target for the FSF. In February, the SC will consider changes to spending levels to ensure that the balance in the FSF is maintained at a healthy level.
- A preliminary Ministry Financial Plan (budget) was reviewed by the SC; a final plan will be adopted in February or April and brought as a recommendation to the 2019 synod convention.
- All four synodical schools experienced increases in their net assets due to increased enrollments, increased gifts, correction of accounting errors, and lower than expected expenses. A budgetary shortfall at Michigan Lutheran Seminary (due primarily to lower than planned enrollment and lower than planned gifts from the Tomorrow’s Ministry Begins Here campaign) was addressed by reallocating funds within the special funds and the operating budget of the Board of Ministerial Education. The SC also approved the replacement of bleachers at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, to be funded by the MLS Foundation; authorized Luther Preparatory School to do preliminary planning for a possible music auditorium; and a multi-year project for the replacement of HVAC controllers at MLC.
- WELS’ independent auditors issued an unmodified or clean opinion, the best possible, on WELS Consolidated Financial Statements for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder
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WELS churches and schools featured in their local media.