What should concern delegates?
Overtures in Omnibus A resolutions (See Special Standing Rule 8, TB1, Page 15) are those which will be referred to Boards and Commissions to take action. There are at least five overtures in Omnibus A which should be pulled from the motion and considered by Convention delegates. The first deals with our International schools. Three others are connected and focus on decisions about Synod’s work for the next three years — and bylaw requirements that Conventions, not Boards, make those decisions. The final overture simply asks for an audit and assurance that our retirement funds are sufficient to support our retired workers.
Overture 2-05 (Workbook, Pages 267-268) To Thank God for the Synod’s International Schools and Pray for God’s Guidance in Furthering Their Role in the Church’s Mission requests prayer for our LCMS International Schools in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Hanoi, and celebrates their success (see the Asia Region report on Page 22). After the LCMS secretly sold some of our Hong Kong property just before the last convention to pay off Synod debt, the Church of All Nations in Hong Kong sent a resolution to remind the LCMS of the great work being done through our international schools in China and Vietnam for more than 50 years.
Overtures 4-02, 4-03 and 4-04 (Workbook Pages 273-274) are all overtures about the “Triennial Synod Emphases.” They come from the Texas, Kansas, and Florida-Georgia Districts, fulfilling Bylaw 4.2.1.d “The district convention shall, through delegate vote, forward to the national convention a list of two or three triennial mission and ministry emphases for consideration by the national convention.” Instead of bringing these resolutions in some form to the convention — as required by our bylaws — Floor Committee 4 presents Resolution 4-03 (TB1, Pages 102-103), proposed by the Boards for National and International Mission.
That’s backwards and “top-down” rather than “bottom-up” decision-making. Districts are ignored and their emphases are “put in the hopper” for future consideration. Synod Boards rather than congregations through their districts are deciding the direction of our Synod rather than responding to our District delegates. And this decision violates our Synod bylaws.
Overture 8-04 (Workbook Pages 363 and 364) To Audit Concordia Plan Services Retirement Funding is an overture from the Atlantic District asking for an audit and funding report of the Concordia Plan Services Retirement Plans. People are looking for assurance. That’s understandable. This is especially important given the increased life expectancy of retired workers and the smaller “pool” of active workers in years to come. For instance, we’ve all heard the reports that half of all active pastors in 2023 are over the age of 55.
While our Synod members will be blessed to receive a report regarding the capacity and solvency of our retirement funds (an electronic version of a clear audit committee report can give future pastors confidence that they can comfortably retire from service in the LCMS), we can do better at this convention.
Better? Let’s encourage Floor Committee 8 to take 8-04 out of Omnibus A and use the sense of the resolution to write a “Let’s Thank God for Concordia Plan Services” resolution that tells the story of the good stewardship of the Concordia Plans. While no one can predict the future and guarantee any amount of money will be there in the future, we can report to the convention about what’s been done to secure the future, what safeguards are in place, and report that actuaries believe the funds available now are sufficient to carry retirement plans into the future. Floor Committee 8 can do this without bringing 8-04 out of Omnibus A, but delegates helping them reconsider it by sending 8-04 to them will help them get it done.
By the way, you can download the 2023 Stewardship Report for Concordia Plans services here.
What can be done about it?
When Omnibus A comes before the Convention on Sunday morning, move that each listed overture be removed from Omnibus A (“Previously Designated Overtures”), sent to the Floor Committees, and considered by Convention delegates.
When 2-05 is considered, ask for a report prior to the end of the convention regarding the assets we have in our international schools and any proposed sales of international properties owned by the LCMS. Move that the sale of international properties cannot be used to pay off Synod debt, but must be used for international mission work.
If Overtures 4-02, 4-03, and 4-04 are considered, ask the Floor Committee why they did not follow Synod Bylaw 4.2.1.d (“The district convention shall, through delegate vote, forward to the national convention a list of two or three triennial mission and ministry emphases for consideration by the national convention”) and instead allowed the Boards for National and International Mission to determine our triennial direction. Ask how these boards utilize the input of districts. Ask how the boards have fulfilled Bylaw 22.214.171.124 (“The boards shall also provide a joint report in advance of the Synod’s district conventions, offering ideas and guidance for proposing triennial mission and ministry emphases to the national convention.”). Ask for a report of the National and International Mission boards’ “assessment and evaluation of the effectiveness of the Synod’s triennial mission and ministry emphases” as required by Bylaw 126.96.36.199.
If 8-04 comes to the floor, we can give thanks to God for the good work of Concordia Plan Services. If we thank God for lots of other things He has done in and through the LCMS, why not add this to the list? Wouldn’t it be great to pass a resolution to give our retirees confidence, encourage more congregations to use Concordia Plan Services in their congregations, and remember all the good work that’s been done for years on our behalf by the Concordia Plans team?
It’s not always that way in the LCMS. Just look at the report of the Chief Financial Officer (Report 5.2, Workbook Pages 47-49) regarding Synod, Inc. CFO Haak states that the good financial outcomes of our Synod, Inc., balance sheet have only occurred because of “government stimulus programs, cash dividends from international schools, and other one-time proceeds.”
Haak further warns that “reliance on one-time windfalls, many from undesired outcomes, is a poor way to fund our Synod, but these have pulled the Synod out of a decades-long hole.”
In addition, he reports his inability to make “clear, timely, and understandable” reports due to declines in his department.
Clear, understandable, and timely financial reports are needed for congregations to understand and support our Synod work together. The same goes for reporting CPS results, giving thanks for their work, and encouraging our retirees and future retirees that everything possible is being done today to secure our church worker retirement program.
Need to be encouraged now? Download an electronic copy of the Concordia Plans Services Stewardship Report for 2023.