Reliable sources in the U.S. and Hong Kong tell Congregations Matter that President Harrison and his United Lister Board for International Mission (BIM) are selling a reported $35 million of LCMS Hong Kong properties to bail out Synod finances in St. Louis.
Quietly, and without contacting our partner church in Hong Kong, the BIM is moving their Asia headquarters to Taiwan to ready the Hong Kong property for sale. According to sources in Hong Kong who saw a note on the door of the headquarters building, the move out of Hong Kong and into Taiwan will be completed by March 1st.
It seems that Synod’s chose Hong Kong properties for sale because of their high value — and because it is one of the few locations where expatriation of money to the states is allowed after the sale of properties.
Have such plans been approved by the LCMS Board of Directors and BIM? Have these plans been reported to congregations in open minutes? Our partner church in Hong Kong has been kept in the dark.
Harrison and his United Lister controlled International Center are drowning in red ink with a $13 million cash deficit at last report. Click here to read more about the deficit in the CM article “Millions of Disaster Relief Dollars Still in St. Louis?”
Is Matt selling properties vital to our mainland China mission efforts to bail out his mismanagement in St. Louis?
Our Local Mission Partner in the Dark
From a phone interview with Dr. Allen Yung, the President of Lutheran Church—Hong Kong Synod (LCHKS), Congregations Matter discovered LCMS has been formulating these plans behind the back of our partner church.
After rumors of the move and sale began surfacing in Hong Kong before Thanksgiving, President Yung wrote two letters to President Harrison. Yung asked for the LCMS to consider the needs of the local partner church and the desires of the LCMS donors who built them for ministry in Hong Kong and China. Matt has not responded in two months to our partner church president. Neither has anyone from the Board for International Missions.
So much for international partnership.
Hong Kong and Mainland China Opportunities Squandered
This secret move squanders the decades of work of those who served in Hong Kong — and from Hong Kong worked in mainland China and elsewhere in Asia. It will cripple our future Gospel ministry throughout mainland China.
One has to ask: has the effect on our local partner church and their work been considered? They have certainly not been consulted, nor have they been respected. Will this make it easier to work with our other partner churches in Asia and around the world — or is this way of acting the new norm for the BIM?
Choosing Cash Flow Over Mission
Now that money from the sale of Synod’s KFUO radio station is exhausted, is Synod so strapped for cash that we have to sell international assets out from under our partner churches? What other assets of our Synod are on the chopping block?
Are we going back on our word, breaking a relationship with a partner church and limiting our future ministry to Mainland China because the International Center can’t solve its money problems at home?
Our Mission to China Through Hong Kong Curbed
With this move out of Hong Kong to Taiwan, the LCMS and the LCHKS will lose valuable properties and Gospel influence in Hong Kong that we will not be able to replace in the next 50 years.
Have President Harrison, the United Listers majority of the BIM, and the Synod Board of Directors considered the short and long-term negative impact on our mission work in mainland China? Does this advance our mission for Christ to the lost in China, or is this all for the sake of solving financial problems at Synod headquarters in St. Louis?
And more. It will be difficult to gain entry for our ministries into China, the world’s most populous country, from the island of Taiwan. To abandon Hong Kong’s role in guiding and managing ministry in China would do great damage.
The United Lister majority of the Board of Directors has the right to do this, but that doesn’t make Hong Kong property sales and relocation the right things to do.
There is Much More to the Hong Kong Story
In a coming newsletter, Congregations Matter will review the 100-year-old history of LCMS mission work in mainland China. We have a rich history and growing success in China because of our partnership with the LCHKS. We should celebrate and grow this partnership in China, not abandon properties we will never be able to afford to replace for the sake of operating deficits in the States.
Synod ought to openly report such plans for sales to congregations before they act to sell them. We need new leadership to reconnect Synod and our congregations. We need new leadership on the BIM if the United List majority acts in this way.
Congregations — ALL around the world — Matter.