It goes without saying that the CEF fiasco will be one of if not the definitive turning point in LCC’s history – where members of a Synodical District abused the trust and faith of their Christian siblings in order to advance a speculative real-estate project they had no business putting money into in the first place.
Be that as it may, once CEF became public a Synod composed of Christians should be concerned about the people that were impacted by this breach of trust and want to do something out of concern for their well-being. One would hope a community of believers would be interested in finding some path to restitution and reconciliation. And maybe, just maybe – a Synod in Convention of these believers would welcome a chance to discuss what had happened, what could be done, and maybe even take some kind of definitive action to help the people that’ve been hurt.
This Christian concern was reflected in part by Overture 3.07 – to give Synod in Convention a chance to hear about the CEF situation and maybe even spend some time discussing it.
Synod’s Committee #3 had a different opinion about Overture 3.07 and submitted Resolution 17.03.06 to decline it.
You can find the Overture and Resolution in the Convention Workbook. I’ll post Overture 3.07 followed by Resolution 17.03.06. I’ll then follow these citations with my comments.
OVERTURE 3.07 TO COMMUNICATE A REPORT ON CEF DETAILS AND PROVIDE VERBAL DISCUSSION TIME
REFERENCE Large Catechism 7th Commandment; ABC District Review Task Force Report; LCC Handbook Synodical Bylaws II E 1 Lutheran Church Canada Financial Ministries pg 27-8 & Appendix B pg 85 “Scriptural Theses on Conflict Resolution”
WHEREAS the ABC District of LCC has a “cash flow shortage, meaning we are unable to continue honouring withdrawals” as communicated January 5, 2015, and
WHEREAS members in the East & Central Districts may be largely unaware of the details of the “cash flow shortage”,
Therefore be it
RESOLVED that the Convention communicate to the Synod a summary report of the details to date, such as: (please correct these figures to the nearest Million where necessary) Church Extension Fund (CEF): $98 Million in deposits; $17 Million repaid = 17 cents on the dollar District Investments Limited (DIL) RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs: $40 Million in investments; $24 Million repaid = 61 cents on the dollar. In total, the “cash flow shortage” is approximately $100,000,000.00 (ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS), mostly from the retirement & life-savings of senior citizens of ABC District congregations, and be it finally
RESOLVED that the Convention allow apply Agenda time for a Q & A session on this “cash flow shortage.”
Susan Ottoman Secretary
Identical Resolutions submitted by
First St. Matthews
Marie Bolton Secretary
Committee #3 – Resolution 17.03.06 to decline Overture 3.07
WHEREAS all the relevant information on the proceedings for the ABC District CEF crisis are available on the website of the court-appointed monitor (http://www.insolvencies.deloitte.ca/en-ca/Pages/lutheran_church_canada_the_alberta_british_columbia_district_et_al.asp
39 x); and
WHEREAS the ABC District is separately incorporated and Synod therefore does not have information beyond what is publicly available through the ABC District and the court-appointed monitor; and
WHEREAS the Court Appointed Monitor and the Chief Restructuring Officer would be the most appropriate entities to address a Question and Answer session; therefore be it
RESOLVED that Overture 3.07 is respectfully declined.
By focusing on the dollar loss and repeating District’s original claim that what happened was a “cash-flow shortage” Overture 3.07 focused on the business aspect of CEF’s collapse. Phrasing the Overture this way is understandable because that’s what the ABC District said had happened and the author, by doing this, expressed an implied trust that ABC District’s statement on the matter was both truthful and complete. However, wording the Overture this way missed an opportunity to candidly communicate a point of concern that is significant for all of Synod – namely of the absolute need for Synod to police its membership when one or more of its members goes seriously astray.
Committee #3’s resolution responded in kind and addressed CEF as if it was just a business matter with a 3rd party vendor that’d gone bankrupt – nothing to see here, we’re not involved, everything’s on the Monitor’s website.
Is that really the case and – as the song goes – all that there is?
Let’s take a closer look and find out.
WHEREAS all the relevant information on the proceedings for the ABC District CEF crisis are available on the website of the court-appointed monitor
First, by stating all the relevant information was on the Monitor’s website, this WHEREAS omits that the ABC District BOD Task Force issued a report on the matter which is chock-full of relevant information.
This report is not on the Monitor’s website.
Second, all the Districts and their Presidents are under the Synodical President who is considered Synod’s “chief pastor” and their ecclesiastical supervisor. To discharge this duty the Synodical President has the responsibility continually stay informed about what is going on within his purview and ensure that the people under him are conducting themselves within the bounds of Christian norms. In doing this he should become intimately familiar with all aspects of Synod’s operation. Given that the current Synodical President was elected in 2009 that gave him eight (8) years to develop an informed opinion about the eccelesiastical implications of what was going on within Synod in general and ABC District in particular.
This information would be relevant but not on the Monitor’s website.
Finally, the Monitor has neither the obligation nor the duty to address the community trust and faith implications of such a massive breach of trust – that is solely in the realm of LCC and its members to address.
This, also, would be relevant and not found on the Monitor’s website.
WHEREAS the ABC District is separately incorporated and Synod therefore does not have information beyond what is publicly available through the ABC District and the court-appointed monitor
This WHEREAS again treats ABC District and CEF as if it were a 3rd party vendor and in doing so makes the implied statement that something is seriously amiss within Synod’s governance and reporting structure. Districts are supposed to be “Synod in a place” and while knowledge of the state of their “left-hand kingdom” business may’ve been confined to ABC District’s staff, the conduct of their “right-hand kingdom” ecclesiastical affairs is the specific responsibility of the Synodical President and those under him. The Synodical President is also responsible for encouraging and admonishing all LCC personnel – including the District Presidents. And in cases where admonishment doesn’t work the Synodical President is required to report unresolved issue(s) to Synod in Convention.
The 2014 Handbook assigns the following duties to the Synodical President:
Article XI President
1. The president shall have ecclesiastical supervision regarding doctrine expressed by:
a. all officers of Lutheran Church-Canada;
b. all such as are employed by Lutheran Church-Canada;
c. the individual districts; and
d. all district presidents.
2. It is the president’s ecclesiastical responsibility to see to it that all the aforementioned act in accordance with the confession set out in this Constitution, to admonish all who in any way depart from it, and, if such admonition is not heeded, to report such cases to the Convention.
3. The president has and always shall have the responsibility to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts.
4. The president shall see to it that the resolutions of a Convention are carried out.
This begs the question – if the Synodical President has all the responsibility to know what’s going on and yet Synod “does not have information beyond what is publicly available through the ABC District and the court-appointed monitor” – what has the Synodical President been doing all these years? In addition, if the Synodical President is responsible for ensuring the resolutions of Convention are carried out and reporting to Synod in Convention if they are not – what explanation does the current Synodical President have for his silence?
Questions like this need answers. Were this in the realm of civil government reporters would be clamoring and investigating to find out who knew what and when they knew it. If the government so chose it could appoint a review inquiry to go over all the documentation, call and interview witnesses, report on what happened, make recommendations for improvement, and potentially refer some or all of their findings to the judiciary for follow-up action.
Oh wait – there was a Task Force – and it even produced a report – and then got disbanded before it could finish its work.
People wearing the name of Christ are supposed conduct themselves in a truthful and forthright manner with everyone – both when it comes to siblings in the faith and with people outside the church. And when you make a mistake, the first, best course of action is to own up to it and do what you can to make amends.
But that’s not what happened and by passing Resolution 17.03.06 declining to talk about CEF and its implications years after CEF declared bankruptcy, Synod’s understanding of what constitutes proper Christian love and concern now appears to lie elsewhere.
As every good Lutheran would ask – “What does this mean?” “We should fear and love God…” OhWaitThatsConfirmation …
What this means to me is that there’s been a change in Synod’s position wherein members are no longer required to be forthright, truthful, and trustworthy when interacting with siblings in the faith and the world at large. And now that the Commission on Adjudication has shown itself unwilling to even decide a simple case about matters of procedure and has just gotten a shiny new “Get Out Of Jail Free” card that allows it to pick and chose what – if any – cases it takes – Synod’s unofficial policy appears to be one of sticking its head in the sand and hoping it all goes away.
I do hope I’m wrong about this and it is my fervent prayer that the incoming leadership will show the strength of faith and character Synod so desperately needs during these troubling times. They will need our prayers, support, and good will and I hope you my readers will render that service to them.
As for the 2017 Synod convention and Resolution 17.03.06 – what’s done is done. It’ll remain as a stain on Synod’s history and stand in stark contrast to what Scripture says:
…learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah 1:17
I can’t even begin to imagine how this action will be seen by the world much less the souls that entrusted the church and CEF with both their money and their trust in the church itself.
I think the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” will have a thing or two to say about this. Perhaps Synod and its membership needs a reminder that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
EndNote: In addition to the sources cited in this post, extensive discussions about CEF and its related issues can be found on the informal CEF Investor’s Forum.