CEF’s “Field of Dreams”

This article is in response to “Marcy B”‘s comment on Resolution 17.03.06 to Decline to Talk About CEF as I’d like to discuss some of the points she made.

Marcy wrote:

He fell into the mega church pipe dream. ‘We should have a cradle to grave mission here.’

From a governance perspective the first question in response should’ve been “How does this proposal fit in with the CEF mandate?” CEF existed as a low-risk way for church members to help their fellow believers fund church and school building projects while earning a bit of interest in return. That was CEF’s “mission” – period, end of story, and from a governance point of view the discussion should’ve ended there.

From a churchly perspective the question to ask is if running a ‘cradle-to-grave’ business fits in with the work of the church? The apostles wrestled with a similar issue, and here’s how they handled it:

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 

And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 

And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. Acts 6:1-6

The apostles were fine with the social work that was taking place in their midst as one way to fulfill the second of the two great commandments:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

I take the apostle’s action to be an implied approval for a church to do good works in the form of social ministry as long as the ministry of Word and Sacrament takes precedence.

Having established that social ministry can be a legitimate pursuit of the church, how does what happened with Prince of Peace fit in? The wheels fell off the CEF / POP bus when, in the process of going from “idea” to “implementation” the CEF BOD approved taking money given for a particular use (the construction of churches and schools) and using it for something else entirely (building and running a senior’s care facility). This is called “a misappropriation of funds”, it’s illegal, and it’s a breach of the depositor’s trust. The on-line legal dictionary defines misappropriation as:

n. the intentional, illegal use of the property or funds of another person for one’s own use or other unauthorized purpose, particularly by a public official, a trustee of a trust, an executor or administrator of a dead person’s estate, or by any person with a responsibility to care for and protect another’s assets (a fiduciary duty). It is a felony (a crime punishable by a prison sentence) (See: fiduciaryembezzlementtheftlarceny)

As members of the left-hand kingdom we are subject to the laws of the land and are to obey them where they do not conflict with Scripture. As members of the right-hand kingdom and the body of Christ we are to be good stewards of everything we’ve been given – and that includes other people’s trust.

Using CEF funds to build POP was a breach of duty within both those kingdoms.

Marcy continues:

If we build it, they will come. It will be our ‘field of dreams.’

If you hear people using terms like “we” and “our” when discussing the use of other people’s money – ask them what they’re personally willing to put on the line. It’s all too easy to speak of embarking on a daring, ambitious, and risky venture – when someone else will pay the price if it fails. If someone really believes in the project then they’ll personally invest in it. If they won’t then their advocacy is coming from some other place.

Marcy again:

Why did it fail? Because I, as a Lutheran, did not send my children to Prince of Peace school. I, as a Lutheran, did not downsize to Prince of Peace Village. I, as a Lutheran, did not place my aging parent in the Manor. I did not set the example for the ‘world’ to see.

On this I would disagree as it is not the duty of church membership to support business ventures started by the church. Prince of Peace was a business created to provide a service, attract customers, and in so doing make sufficient profit to pay back the loan used to build it. In those regards it was an epic failure. That the cost was paid for in part by the trust of people who thought their money was completely safe makes the failure even worse.

Wherever the responsibility for its failure lies, it is not with the general membership that exercised their right to procure these services from other providers as they deemed fit.

As for your witness being linked to your use of a church run business – I’m not seeing it, and nothing in Scripture requires the use of any church-provided service beyond that of a rightly-Called Pastor in the public proclamation of the Word and administration of the Sacraments. Any witness you have to ‘the world’ will be the Holy Spirit working through you in your day to day life as opposed to who you buy certain services from.

The last time for Marcy:

Knowing a name, or why, or being able to point a finger and ‘Ah! There that’s the reason.’ requires us to go and look in a mirror.

On this we are completely agreed. The church took a first step in the process of introspection and taking responsibility with the Task Force. Now that CCAA protection has been lifted and the Representative Actions are getting into gear I expect it’ll fall to God’s agents in the form of the civil courts together with the AB and BC Securities Commissions to finish the job.

Marcy – thank you for writing in and I wish you all the Lord’s best.


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