The Synodical Council (SC) held its fall meeting Nov. 10-11 at the Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis. Highlights from that meeting include the following:
- Jon Hein, coordinator for Congregational Services, attended his first meeting as an advisory member of the SC. He presented a summary of the demographic challenges facing our synod and outlined plans being made to help congregations address those challenges. Congregations will be provided with resources as they address ministry to millennials, work to reduce the number of backdoor losses, and emphasize every-member evangelism in order to increase the number of adult confirmations. Hein also outlined plans to provide guidelines to congregations considering mergers as a means to improve their ministries.
- The SC reviewed the synod’s financial results from the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) were slightly better than planned. Several areas of ministry underspent their budgets due to vacancies and cost-cutting efforts. All four synodical schools ended the year in a stronger than expected position due to gifts and investment results greater than planned. The Financial Stabilization Fund ended the year at its highest level ever. If CMO performance by the end of year remains strong and if CMO subscriptions in January are as planned, there is the possibility that at its February meeting the SC may be able to approve some of the projects in the “Unfunded Priority List.” We thank God for all of these blessings.
- The SC thanked Martin Luther College for developing a policy outlining how its unrestricted net assets will be utilized.
- The SC approved the appointment of a special committee to review the options available to the synod in providing retirement benefits to its called workers.
- Director of Communications Mr. Lee Hitter reported that there were nearly 1,000 screenings of the film A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy hosted by WELS and ELS congregations. The film is available from NPH. The PBS version of the film (Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World) will be available on Netflix beginning in January.
- The SC made minor changes to the “Unfunded Priorities List.” One or more items on this list could be funded in February. The first five on the list are:
- Publication Coordinating Commission ($50,000 for publishing theological works)
- MLC tuition reduction or financial assistance ($150,000)
- Additional home mission start ($200,000)
- Ministry of Christian Giving counselor one year earlier than planned ($100,000)
- Training support for national mission workers in Ethiopia and Sudan ($50,000)
- World Missions reported that it will begin a new program called “Mission Journeys,” providing opportunities for lay volunteers to participate in short-term mission work.
These are only some of the matters discussed and decided by the SC. The blessings of God on our synod continue to be poured out in ways that are more than we could ask or imagine. As we join together as families and congregations for the upcoming holiday, we add our specific thanks to God that he continues to bless us with the truth of his gospel and with the opportunities to share that message around the world.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder