Transparency from the United-Lister Synod leadership in St. Louis is lacking. Without consultation with our largest partner church in Hong Kong, Office of International Mission leaders in St. Louis announced for the first time publicly on Monday, February 5, that LCMS Asia mission operations are moving from Hong Kong, China, to Chiayi, Taiwan, Republic of China.
What is causing President Harrison to sell our $35 million Hong Kong property and relocate our LCMS Asia headquarters to distant Taiwan? Did he forget the mission work of the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod (LCHKS) he praised just four years ago during the anniversary of 100 years of ministry to China?
Please watch and listen to the two minute video below. Hear Matt Harrison honor the work of our partner church, the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod.
How Will St. Louis Use the $35 Million?
Why up to now haven’t congregations in Synod been informed of this massive sale of property? No congregation in the LCMS would stand for that kind of action on the part of our local leaders. Congregations should not accept this lack of transparency from President Harrison. Are there other national or international properties up for sale that Synod is not aware of?
And more. The Hong Kong real estate being sold was purchased years ago with “mission” donations to the Synod from congregations and individuals. The sale of the property, not matter how much it has appreciated, is “mission” money, not operating cash for Synod. In most cases, when LCMS pulls out of a mission field, local property purchased by the LCMS is not sold out from under our partner churches. Instead, it is given to them to support their ongoing work.
Where will the $35 million proceeds be used? Will the LCHKS receive money to continue their mission in China. Or will much of that money be brought back to St. Louis to bail out the United List-controlled International Center from its large deficit? From Synod Board of Directors reports, our Synod headquarters is drowning in red ink!
Hong Kong and Mainland China Work Jeopardized
The LCMS has a long mission history in Hong Kong. What does the sale of LCMS properties in Hong Kong and the transfer of Office of International Mission personnel to a distant town in Taiwan mean as far as the LCMS commitment to Gospel outreach in China? Where does this leave our long-time partners in the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod (LCHKS)? President Yung has been writing to President Harrison since Thanksgiving with no response.
Everyone knows the political attitudes of the Peoples Republic of China toward the Republic of China government on the island of Taiwan. Will this move advance our mission work in mainland China?
How will this help us reach the 1.4 billion souls for Christ’s Kingdom who live there?…the more than 7 million souls in Hong Kong?
Hundreds of LCMS member congregations and thousands of its members have prayerfully and financially supported this long term effort to bring the saving news of salvation alone through Jesus Christ alone to the lost in mainland China and Hong Kong. This legacy, this work cannot be halted. In fact, it must continue and increase!
In addition, if we sell this property, will the LCMS ever be able to afford property in Hong Kong again? Wouldn’t it be better to rent out the property than sell?
First, A Little History
The LCMS has a long history of commitment to and Gospel ministry within mainland China. Our work started in 1913, a year after the 1912 Chinese Revolution. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society of China sent LCMS Pastor Edward Arndt with his wife and family to China. (Yes, mission societies called and sent workers to the foreign mission field — not just St. Louis.) Two years later seminarian Erhardt Riedel and his wife joined the team. Then, in 1917 the LCMS Synod in Convention officially recognized these two missionaries. Real financial support, however, was first to come through the then-formed Lutheran Laymen’s League. Thus began our Synod’s work in that country. Pastors and laypeople moved the mission forward together — congregations have always mattered.
Click on the video below to watch a four minute summary of LCMS work in China over the past century.
From 1913 to 1949
Within just five years the LCMS had 14 missionaries (ordained), 1 woman teacher, 9 native evangelists, 42 native teachers working at 11 chapels, 12 schools, one middle school and a seminary. These numbers grew over the years until the forced exodus of our LCMS personnel in 1949, when the Communist Chinese assumed power in China.
From 1913 to 1949 the LCMS called and placed some 64 missionaries (Pastors, deaconesses, teachers and nurses) along with spouses and their families for work in the Yangtze valley. The Gospel was spread throughout the Yangtze valley through the work of our LCMS missionaries and their indigenous fellow-workers. The latter were brought to faith, baptized and became critical workers in the China harvest field both then and after the communist takeover in 1949 with the forced exodus of the Christian community from China.
After the Communist Takeover
In 1949 when the remaining LCMS personnel (three deaconesses and a Pastor) fled mainland China to Hong Kong, Gospel outreach did not stop. It resumed in Hong Kong — and later would return to mainland China. Although these four LCMS missionaries were Mandarin speakers (and the language in Hong Kong was Cantonese), because of the open border between China and Hong Kong there was an inflow of some 100,000+ Mandarin-speaking refugees. This provided the opportunity for the LCMS missionaries to continue with their work of Gospel proclamation through the establishment of schools and worshipping communities.
Over the next seven decades our LCMS missionaries worked with our partner church, the Lutheran Church Hong Kong Synod. This church has grown to 36 congregations, 7 mission stations, 40 schools with over 1,000 staff and more than 22,000 students, 40 social service units and the service of 43 ordained pastors. They have also been able to return missionaries to mainland China to resume Gospel outreach.
The Last Decades in Hong Kong
During this time, until the present, the LCMS started the Hong Kong International School (which today serves over 2,500 students) which helped then establish Concordia International School Shanghai (which today serves over 1,500 students). These two schools became the foundation for the start of Concordia International School in Hanoi. From 1949 through the present, with the crossing of the border of these four LCMS missionaries, the LCMS through its Board for Foreign Missions and now the Office of International Missions has called and placed in Hong Kong and mainland China some 100+ LCMS rostered (Pastors, teachers and deaconesses)and non-rostered (lay men and women) individuals. Their work and sacrifice cannot be forgotten!
Our China mission was started by the heart of a pastor and the vision and help of laypeople, not St. Louis. Congregations — All Around the World — matter.
(NOTE: To learn more about LCMS work in China and Hong Kong, see David Kohl’s book, “Lutherans on the Yangtze: A Hundred Year History of the Missouri Synod in China.” Click here to go to the website and purchase Kohl’s book.