Back on December 9, 2019 LCC Board Chair Arnold Drung posted an article to the Candian Lutheran site titled “If the Lord Wills: A Report on Synodical Planning.” The choice for this passage is based on the following paragraph:
We remember the words of James 4:13-15: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”
We always remember that our plans are in God’s hands and that He will ultimately decide how those plans go forward. It is with this in mind that Lutheran Church–Canada’s (LCC) Board of Directors has updated Synod’s plans for the balance of the current term.
Mr Drung then describes the Board’s function, and how the last planning session took place back in 2008, and how the Board’s been occupied with all the various disasters and “black swan” events that’ve taken place since then.
What I found glaring by its absence was any mention of how ABC District’s misconduct hsa impacted the membership, nor discussion about what to do about the clergy members that’ve confessed to being “less than forthright” with the CEF depositors about the safety of their investments, nor how to minister to the people that’ve been affected by this tragedy.
This leads us into Mr Drung’s next paragraph:
“It is time for a reset of the planning process. This was started in April of this year when the Board met to review the current state of Synod and to discuss requirements going forward. The Board reiterated key values from 2008—namely, unity, integrity, and discipleship. “
I’d suggest a reordering of the priorities, because without “integrity” the terms “unity” and “discipleship” are meaningless. Furthermore, if the Board is serious about integrity being a “key value” then there’s only one choice available to Synod when dealing with members that deceive the sheep or allow the sheep they are care for to be deceived.
Mr Drung continues with following paragraph:
“Second is the demonstration of financial integrity and solid management by Synod. With the pain of recent events still fresh, it is critical to provide full transparency of Synod financials and confirm that all appropriate processes and governance procedures are in place.”
“Processes” in a business context refers to the way things are done to complete a particular task. For example when you donate to a church, the church needs to have processes in place to receive the contribution, make sure it’s counted properly, deposit it in a bank, and make sure the deposit matches what was supposed to be put in, and if applicable issue a tax receipt to the person making the donation. On the spending side similar processes need to be in place to ensure that church funds are properly accounted for and spent appropriately.
“Governance procedures” is a fancy way of saying “this is how the Board will conduct its business.”(1)
With respect to corporate governance the 2014 Synod handbook detailed a workable way for Synod to conduct its business including what to do when people started coloring outside the lines. Where things fell down is that these policies and procedures were not followed.
Here’s the applicable section from the 2014 Synod Handbook:
8.05 LCC and Its Members as “Church,” “Synod,” and “An Incorporated Religious Body”
As members of LCC, the pastors, deacons, and congregations are, along with the members of its member congregations, “church,” where the Gospel is preached and received in faith and the sacraments are administered in accord with Christ’s institution. As pilgrims on this earth, all of these Christian people are “simultaneously saints and sinners,” ever entangled in sin even while, under grace, being proclaimed forgiven. Though struggling with pride, anger, and self-serving factionalism, they hear the call and encouragement-and they aspire-to live in a God-pleasing fellowship characterized by forbearance, justice and peace.
Considered as a “Synod,” LCC is “a voluntary ecclesiastical bond shared by congregations, pastors, and deacons walking together to carry out the ministry and mission given by Christ to his Church” (Statutory Bylaws 6.01). As such, it has the right to suspend and/or expel from its membership any member who persists in teaching contrary to the principles, doctrine and religious standards adopted by LCC, or who practices a manner of behaviour which is not in accord with the calling of the Gospel.
Article XI of both the 2014 and 2017 governing documents lays responsibility for ecclesiastical supervision squarely on the office of the Synodical President.
The governing documents adopted by Synod at the Oct 2017 convention has similar language.
When ABC District began venturing outside of its mandate of making low-risk loans to schools and churches in order to build a seniors housing community and then a seniors care facility, the people that knew about such things – the ones that should’ve raised a red flag – didn’t.
When it was clear ABC District was in financial trouble a few years after Prince of Peace was opened, the choice was made to try and salvage the situation instead of coming clean. Over the following years ABC District considered and rejected bankrupty at least two more times before it failed to provide a clean audit – all the while telling people their money was safe. An audit failure should’ve set off alarms at both the District and Synod level and eventually led to action by Synod – even if all Synod could do was report to Synod in Convention.
But that didn’t happen. Synod either ignored or wilfully avoided all these issues and thus failed to discharge its reponsibility to the membership as ABC District continued to breach trust with its members and in slow-motion slide into bankruptcy.
And Synod’s wilful avoidance persists even today. Pastors Schiemann and Ruf have both confessed to committing misconduct over the course of years and in so doing have clearly breached the requirement that a steward of the mysteries of Christ must be trustworthy. There are also a number of past clergy and lay ABC District Board members that are similarly implicated which Synod has failed to fully investigate who could fall under a similar condemnation.
Which leads to the question – what good are processes and procedures if you don’t follow them? What good does it do to claim “integrity” is a key value when you don’t do the hard work that goes with it? And what does it say of Synod and its members when these disgraced shepherds are still being welcomed at the altars and pulpits of Synod’s churches?
Long story short – it doesn’t matter what processes and procedures are in place when the people in charge turn a blind eye to member misconduct and fails to enforce the rules.
Mr Drung has stated that “‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
My response is – here’s the Lord’s will as clearly laid out in Scripture and addressed to the community of believers:
You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:14
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:47-49
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
To me the Will of the Lord is clear.
I look forward to the Synod BOD fulfilling its desire to walk in “integrity” and doing what needs to be done to protect the membership and call these fallen siblings in the faith to account.
- Harvard’s Corporate Law School has a good discussion of corporate governance and what it involves here.