Part 1 of this series discussed the Synod BOD’s “request for comments”.
Part 2 is one member’s response to that request.
To: Mr. Arnold Drung
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lutheran Church Canada
From: Rev. Robert Clifford
Pastor of the Hanover, Kincardine, Southampton, Ontario tri-parish
It was good to see you the other weekend at the Holy Cross Men’s Retreat in Guelph.
The LCC BOD is to be commended for meeting in Leduc, AB, where, I understand, there is approximately $4 million in individual & congregational building fund deposits in the ABC CEF. Additionaly, I understand that several of the Sage BOD are members of the Leduc congregation.
At your Town Hall Meeting it will be interesting to hear firsthand the spiritual, emotional, financial & health impacts. But, like the “grandparent telephone scam,” many of the senior depositors are reticent to talk about their losses; they are private people who have never wanted others to know their personal financial matters & many are embarrassed that their friends & family members would think them stupid for trusting the church with so much money. Sadly, a number of depositors have died since 2015 & now their adult children are left to deal with this. Of course, many of the adult children were not aware of the church’s financial misdealings with their parents. That money was going to pay for their parents’ retirement care & the residual would have been their inheritance; one can only imagine what they think of the church doing this to their parents. Additionally, what impression of LCC are the accountants & lawyers getting who are involved with this file?
Members of the church across the country are going to be ashamed, embarrassed, & angry (Psalm 4:4) when they come to know what the church has done. Most of the depositors were senior citizens, life-long members, every Sunday attenders, & many generous givers. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it. For many, their financial independence has been lost & they are now dependent on their adult children. Obviously, their ability to financially support the church has been impacted. The BOD should consider that the continuing promotion of the “Estate Planning & Wills Awareness Seminars” offered by Lutheran Foundation Canada is offensive & hurtful to some, who previously would have loved to attend & considered a legacy gift to the continuing work of the church but now are embarrassed & devastated that their financial resources, accumulated over a lifetime of hard work & humble living, has now been lost by the church. Will the BOD empathize that this is painful to some because their estate has been lost?
$80 million remains unrepaid, with no near-term prospects for any further repayment. No doubt some of these life-savings may have been designated in estate wills as gifts to the church. In making budget considerations, will the BOD acknowledge that the church has pulled $80 million dollars out of the pockets of individual members, congregation building funds, congregation memorial funds, LWML society savings accounts & some $800,000 in Edmonton seminary deposits with CEF? From my reading of the past Synod Convention Workbook, the Edmonton seminary is to be commended as the only entity to acknowledge the financial impact of the CEF collapse. Having said that, the establishment of the “$25 / month donation club” to help CLS recover lost funds was a little hurtful in that the church across the country was encouraged to do that to help CLS, but no such action to help the church’s own senior members would even be considered or entertained.
The most recent issue of the “Canadian Lutheran” magazine (volume 34 number 1) carried a theme, “Did you hear Rev. ___ left the ministry?” Is the BOD aware of the number of lay people who have left their home congregations because of the actions & inactions of the church resulting from this CEF fiasco? Many are life-long members, multi-generational LCC/LCMS families who no longer feel welcome in their home church. Will the BOD acknowledge how hard it is for a Pastor to pass the collection plate around on Sunday morning when elderly members in the pews have been devastated financially by the church? Worker Benefit Services hosts Canada-wide meetings to discuss & firm-up the Pastors’ Pension Plan. What about the people in the pews whose retirement life-savings have been devastated by the church (Ezekiel 34)?
How much has LCC budgeted for lawyers & legal expenses for the upcoming Representative Action (where 1/3 of the ABC District congregations are suing LCC)? The synod office could have created so much goodwill across the country if at the very beginning when the information became public to all the President had said, “This is a huge loss. It is not synod’s fault, & I don’t know how it can ever be repaid; but we’re going to do everything we can to make it right.” Instead, silence. Church leaders muzzled by lawyers. Luther’s father wanted him to be a lawyer; now a church body that bears Luther’s name appears to be run by them.
The secular press & media to date has been very gracious & factual in their reporting. Perhaps the BOD could prepare some talking points for us to respond to the public when some of our clergy face potential penalties & jail sentences following the ASC investigation & hearing, when it is reported that over $80 million has been lost.
To fathom the magnitude of the financial mismanagement & resulting loss, consider that every church property in the entire ABC District could be sold & it probably wouldn’t total up to $80 million.
Will the BOD take prayerful devotion time to read the few short pages that is Martin Luther’s explanation of the 7th Commandment in the Large Catechism that speaks directly to this current situation?
In keeping with the Synod Convention Resolution that directed us to secular sources for information: Shepherd Village Ministries in Valleyview, Alberta, received a $17 million loan from CEF. They built & sold life-lease units. None of the loan was repaid. $12 million of the loan was forgiven by ABC District. Operating with only a $5 million indebtedness, SVM still went insolvent. Where did the money go? The records are in such a state of disarray that the court-appointed receiver can’t figure things out. And to add insult to injury, SVML was a guarantor of the CEF loans to EnCharis.
As a final thought, LWML rallies often begin with a skit. I prepared a skit as follows:
The scene: 2 older ladies having tea at a kitchen table – the hostess is a widow who is an LWML member; the other, her unchurched neighbour. The LWML lady is explaining to her friend about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation & is using the 4 solas as a useful & helpful explanation. The unchurched friend is expressing understanding & interest. The hostess continues, “And in honour of the 500th anniversary from 15seventeen to 20seventeen, my church has repaid me seventeen cents on the dollar of my & my husband’s retirement life savings. Would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?”
Will the BOD acknowledge, Why would anyone want to join a church that treats their senior members that way? And further, Why should Almighty God grant His blessing to a church body that treats His members that way? “Always adduce many examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished & blessed” (Small Catechism, Luther’s Preface paragraph 18).
I have prayed many times, privately & publicly, that God would take this lemon of a situation, that we created, & make sweet lemonade out of it, as only He can. May the Lord have mercy upon us.
Rev Clifford cited Psalm 4:4, but I think the entire chapter is instructive so I’ll quote it here:
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.