The Synodical Council (SC) held its fall meeting on Nov. 4-5, 2022. Four new members were welcomed: Mr. Brent Nemmers (South Central District lay representative), Mr. Chris Kestner (Michigan District lay representative), Rev. Phil Hirsch (Conference of Presidents representative), and Rev. Jonathan Schroeder (chairman of the Board for World Missions).
The SC reviewed the 2021-2022 financial results of the synod and its subsidiaries. Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) totaled $23.1 million, the first time that CMO has exceeded the $23 million level. That compares to $22.6 million in the previous year and is an increase of 2.2%. These higher-than-planned CMO receipts, coupled with underspending by areas of ministry, enabled the synod to end the fiscal year in solid financial shape. Synodical subsidiaries (WELS Church Extension Fund, WELS Investment Funds, WELS Foundation, Northwestern Publishing House) all reported strong financial results for the year.
For the first quarter of the current fiscal year, CMO support remains strong (4.3% higher than the previous year). Expenses are in line with the adopted plan.
The SC approved the first draft of the ministry financial plan (budget) for the 2023–2025 biennium. The proposed plan outlines planned synod support of $32,841,000 in the first year of the biennium and $33,742,000 in the second year. These are increases of 4.3% and 2.67%, respectively. Compensation for called and hired workers will increase by 2.5% in each year of the biennium. CMO expectations for the next biennium are expected to exceed $23 million in each year, continuing to remain above historic levels. The SC will revisit the ministry financial plan (including proposed compensation levels) in February 2023 and will make adjustments if the financial situation changes. Once the plan is adopted in February, it will be forwarded to the synod convention in July 2023 for consideration.
The SC set the new relocation reimbursement rate. Since moving expenses are taxable for all workers, lay workers will be reimbursed at a rate of 19.65% of the moving cost and called workers will be reimbursed at a rate of 27.3% of the moving cost. These rates assure that workers are reimbursed for additional taxes they may incur. All calling bodies are encouraged to follow this policy.
The SC approved a change to the compensation guidelines, encouraging calling bodies to review annually cash housing allowances for called workers who rent. This change was made because of the rapidly rising cost of renting.
The SC received progress reports from the ministerial schools regarding potential construction needs on the campuses. Master campus planning and feasibility studies are taking place at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.; and Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.
The SC discussed a proposal that was submitted to the Conference of Presidents for consideration. The proposal is to change the synod convention from a biennial to a triennial convention. As was the case with the Conference of Presidents, the SC discussed both the pros and the cons of such a change. Such a change requires an amendment to the synod constitution (not just the bylaws). This means that if the COP decides to forward this proposal to the synod convention in 2023, it would need to be approved by the 2023 convention and discussed at 2024 district conventions, with final consideration happening at the 2025 convention. The COP will determine what to do with this proposal when it meets in January 2023.
The SC received an update on the work being done to develop the next long-range strategic plan for the synod. It’s expected that the final plan will be considered by the 2023 synod convention.