Restructuring Update

Earlier this year the details of our restructuring were announced. New Mission Boards were created; the CMO role was added and the two major program areas were more tightly linked. Changes were made in how Communications and Fund Development are organized. Positions were added, moved to a new department or eliminated. We are now calling this part of the restructuring Phase 1.

July 1st we started work on what we are now calling Phase 2. In this phase we will work on finalizing roles and responsibilities and their related position descriptions. We’ll create new processes where they need to be created and we’ll make new connections between departments if the old connections have been broken. Some policies will likely have to be rewritten and procedures will have to be revised. All of this work is included in Phase 2.

We have established a Phase 2 Restructuring Work Group which is made up of 13 Synod, Inc. staff members. The members of this group are:

1. Myroen Koehn (IT)

2. Dave Fielder (General Services)

3. Kama Bernabo (Office of International Mission)

4. Dave Birner (Office of International Mission)

5. Dennis Fangmann (Office of International Mission)

6. Bart Day (Office of National Mission)

7. David Strand (Communications)

8. Vicki Biggs (Communicationas)

9. John Fale (Office of International Mission)

10. Val Rhoden-Kimbrough (HR)

11. Charlie Rhodes (Accounting)

12. Barb Below (Office of the President)

13. Rachel Asburry (Office of the President)

14. Jeff Craig-Meyer (Fund Development)

15. Bob Gleason (Consultant)

This group will be asked to:

  • Assess impacts of restructuring
  • Optimize the organization, process improvement or creation
  • Improve integration across functional areas
  • Establish baseline measure for “effectiveness” and “efficiency”
  • Articulate how employees can be successful in new structure

This organizational change process will include communication updates, engagement of stakeholders, and celebrating accomplishment along the way. Hopefully, this work will respect the past and history of how our Synod has done its work but also look toward the future and how we will transform the national office. These are exciting times and lots of positive energy exists in the building about the movement, activity and progress being made in restructuring.

More updates to follow as we move forward.

"Don't Sweat the Weeds!"

The following homily was preached today in chapel at the International Center. A similar homily was also preached last week at the National LCMS Worship Conference held at Concordia University—Nebraska.

Matthew 13:24–30
I.N.I. Amen.

Weeds. If you grew up as a farm boy like I did, weeds were definitely not your friends. There’s absolutely nothing attractive about them, and when you’re out there working in the hot sun, weeds are a constant reminder of the curse of sin on our first father in paradise, and on every human being since: “. . . cursed is the ground because of you; 
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you . . .” (Gen. 3:17–18).

But then they invented Roundup. I remember when Roundup first came out in the mid-70s. I was a teenage farmhand back then, and Roundup was so cool! Crab grass, Johnson grass, and all the other rugged, broadleaf weeds that could only be hacked at with the end of a hoe, miraculously withered and died within two weeks of application—dried up at the root. Excellent, Smithers!

And then they invented Roundup-resistant corn and soybeans, so that you can plant your field, and when your planted seeds comes up along with the weeds, you spray the field, and the corn and soybeans live, and the little weeds die! Judgment Day, Roundup style!

Farmers do get obsessed with weeds, I must admit. I was recently talking to a grad student from Iowa State whose studies involve soil quality and agribusiness, and he was telling me that basically farmers tend to “over Roundup” their fields—that studies have shown that they could get by with fewer applications of Roundup. Their yield would be less, but their profits would be higher when you factor in the cost of the extra applications.

So I asked him why farmers tend to over apply Roundup, and he said that he thought it was because of image. A good farmer wants a field with no weeds in it, and he’s afraid that if other farmers see his field with weeds in it, they’ll think less of him as a farmer.

In our text for this morning, Jesus tells of a different kind of farmer—a farmer who doesn’t sweat the weeds, but actually allows the weeds and the wheat to grow up together until harvest time. Then, and only then, will the weeds and their weed seeds be separated out and cast into the fire, and the wheat will be gathered into the barn. So, what’s the point of the parable for us today, who live in between planting and harvest? “Don’t Sweat the Weeds!”

I.

But we do, don’t we? We see the problems in the world around us—the weed seeds of the evil one “overseeded” liberally throughout the field of God’s creation. From that twisted terrorist in Norway, to the suicide bombers of the Middle East; from the genocide of Darfur, to the scourge of abortion-on-demand in our own country; from the increasing advocacy of a pro-gay agenda by our state and society, to a growing societal hostility toward the church and her mission of witness and mercy—the world we live in is decidedly overrun with noxious weeds of every variety, and more still to come.

And we can begin to get obsessed about the weeds growing in the church, too, can’t we? I mean, when you think about it, the church has so many problems. Somebody recently told me that the problem with working here at the IC is that all the problems going on in Synod—wherever they may be, whatever they may be, however bad they may be—eventually come to roost here, in one way or another. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when you work here, isn’t it? But when you start to focus on the weeds, you lose the point of the parable: “Don’t Sweat the Weeds.” Because if you try pulling up those weeds, their roots are so entangled with the wheat, that you will do damage to God’s good seed. No, the weeds and the wheat must grow alongside of each other until the end of time. It’s messy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s imperfect. But it is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

II.

You see, our Lord Jesus Himself came to live among the weeds. He didn’t apply some kind of cosmic Roundup to the world, sanitizing it before he became flesh among us. No, “the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners . . .” (1 Tim. 1:15). As the Pharisees declared: “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Mt. 11:19). Friend of sinners, indeed! That’s our Jesus. For “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Jesus laid down His life for you, dear friend. At His Incarnation, Jesus immersed Himself into the grit and grime of this weed-infested world. By the sweat of His brow, he lived a perfect life, flawlessly spending it here, in and among the weeds, in your place. And at Calvary, He took all of your sins upon Himself. All of your unrighteousness, and the unrighteousness of the whole world, was laid on Jesus. As St. Paul declared: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). At your baptism, he poured out that perfect righteousness into your life. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5–7).

So, don’t sweat the weeds! Yes, life among the weeds is often confusing, confused, and flawed. But hope remains. For the farmer of this field knows exactly what he’s doing. At the time of harvest, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear” (Mt. 13:39–43).

I.N.I. Amen.

Rev. Jon D. Vieker

Installation of Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of Life Together

Today, 1 August 2011, Rev. John Barton Day was installed as the Executive Director of Life Together (Office of National Mission). Rev. Bart Day fills a new position created by the restructuring that the Synod enacted in convention in July 2011.  The convention divided all of the Synod’s program areas into two Offices: the Office of International Mission (Witness and Mercy) and the Office of National Mission (Life Together). In his position of the Executive Director of Life Together (Office of National Mission), he is responsible for Schools, Youth, Stewardship, RSOs, District and Congregational Outreach, and Worship. President Harrison preached at Rev. Day’s installation, while District President Ray Mirly conducted the Rite of Installation for Executives of the Synod.

District President Mirly, Rev. Bart Day, and President Matthew Harrison

President Harrison preached on Sunday’s gospel reading, Matthew 14:13 – 21, the feeding of the five thousand men. He noted how the Bible has much to say about koinonia (Life Together). We note that frequently in the Scriptures  koinonia (Life Together) occurs around the breaking of the bread. When he addressed Rev. Day regarding his new position, President Harrison quoted the following passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together:

So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to ‘offer’ something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. (Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. “Life Together.” In Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 5:1-139, 1987, 98).

President Harrison then said to Rev. Day, “You have a lot of listening to do — to your staff, to the church, and to the Lord… Once you feel that it is your job to tell the church how things ought to be, then it is time to leave.”

President Mirly Installs Rev. Bart Day as Executive Director of Life Together

After the installation service, Rev. Day and his family were received at a reception in the cafeteria, the de facto “fellowship hall” (koinonia / Life Together hall) of the LCMS International Center for cake, punch, and coffee.

Witness, Mercy, Life Together Cake

Rev. John Barton Day

Executive Director of the Office of National Mission

(Life Together)

Rev. John Barton "Bart" Day, Executive Director of Life Together

Rev. John Barton “Bart” Day joined the Synod staff July 1 as executive director of the church body’s new Life Together department that will include national mission functions of the synod.

Since 1997, Day has been associate pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church in Houston, and has served since 2005 as headmaster of Memorial Lutheran School.

Day’s new position at the LCMS International Center was formed in response to adoption of resolutions calling for restructuring the national Synod by reducing its seven program boards and some staffed commissions to two elected policy boards: one for national mission work and one for international mission work.

Ministry areas in the new Life Together department will include Lutheran schools (through the high-school level), youth, stewardship, worship, Recognized Service Organizations, “The 72 — Partners on the Road,” Black ministry, Hispanic ministry and other ethnic ministries, and other ministries for equipping congregational outreach and renewal.

Day’s service to the church also includes leading or participating in numerous mission trips to countries such as the United Kingdom, Mexico, Nicaragua and Kenya. He is a member of the board of directors of The Friends of Westfield House, which supports the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England’s seminary that is located in Cambridge, England. Also, Day — an accomplished vocalist — is a frequent presenter and instructor at worship conferences.

Day holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia College (now Concordia University Nebraska), Seward, Neb., (1992), and a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (1997). He is pursuing additional advanced degrees from Notre Dame University, South Bend, Ind., and Concordia University Nebraska.

A native of Carlyle, Ill., Bart and his wife, Julie, are blessed with five children.

Papua New Guinea Mission Society Meeting

Worship Folder for PNG Mission Society

Yesterday and today, the Papua New Guinea Mission Society met at Timothy Lutheran Church in Saint Louis, MO. Gathered together were about 75 to 100 people, most of whom were LCMS missionaries who served in the Enga Province in Papua New Guinea between 1948 and the early 1990s. The special guests at the PNG Mission Society Meeting arrived from PNG last evening, including Peter Ipatas, the Governor of the Enga Province for the past 14 years.

Governor Ipatas Address The Group

In his address, Governor Ipatas rehearsed the LCMS’ role in Papua New Guinea, particularly in the Enga Provence, over the past 63 years (since 1948 when the first LCMS missionaries arrived). He noted in particular the contributions that the LCMS made to Papua New Guinea particularly in the areas of theological education, general education, and health care, as the LCMS placed literally hundreds of missionaries between 1950 and 1970 in the Enga Provence. He also with some sadness noted the vacuum left in PNG when the LCMS pulled out the majority of her missionaries in the early 1970s. This corresponds to the massive decline of LCMS career missionaries described by Rev. Dave Birner in the May 2011 issue of The Lutheran Witness, when the LCMS had about 350 missionaries around the world, a good portion of them being located in Papua new Guinea. As Rev. Birner noted in the Lutheran Witness, a variety of reasons led to the decline of LCMS missionaries worldwide, including a change in LCMS mission philosophy and policy. These changes left LCMS partners such as Papua New Guinea wondering why the LCMS left. Currently, the LCMS has three career missionaries in Papua New Guinea according to the LCMS website. Governor Ipatas challenged the LCMS to return to Papua New Guinea with 20 missionaries next year, a fraction of the hundreds of missionaries the LCMS formerly sent. He noted that theological educators who could train pastors and general educators as well as medical teams were in particular need. He pledged to assist in any way he could. Among the former LCMS missionaries to Papua New Guinea, his speech was met with a standing ovation.

LCMS Career Missionaries from 1970 to 2010
Image taken from May 2011 Lutheran Witness
The first LCMS missionaries, Rev. Otto Hintze and Rev. Bill Burce, arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1948 at the invitation of a Wauni tribal leader in Yaramanda, Enga Province. Rev. Hintze and his wife were able to attend the Mission Society Meeting at Timothy Lutheran Church. While Rev. Dr. Willard (Bill) Burce was not able to attend.

Rev. Jerry Burce Preaching on
compassion [σπλάγχνα (splanchna)]

His son, Rev. Jerry Burce was there and led the morning service, preaching on Matthew 9:27 – 10:1; 20:29 – 31. He preached on how Jesus had compassion [σπλάγχνα (splanchna)] on the blind men in the Gospel reading, on all of us, and on the people in Papua New Guinea.

First Page of Saturday Morning Worship
Second and Third Pages of Saturday Morning Worship

The Enga Provence is unique in Papua New Guinea for being in the highlands (Enga people are referred to as mountain men) and for being predominately the same ethnic / tribal group. The predominate religion in Enga is Lutheran (due to LCMS missionaries, about 1/2 of the population of the provence) and Roman Catholic. In 1960, the LCMS via the work of Dr. Willard Burce founded Timothy Seminary in the Enga provence. This seminary is the primary education for pastors of Gutnius Lutheran Church. Martin Luther Seminary (MLS) is another seminary located in Lae.

Flag of Enga Provence
Enga Provence Shaded in Red

Governor Ipatas brought greetings to the LCMS, particularly to President Harrison and LCMS Mission personnel. His administrator Ezekiel Peter gifted LCMS personnel with a hat and a bilum. A bilum is a string bag handmade in PNG.

A Papua New Guinea Hat and Bilum
Although I was not able to attend the entire event at Timothy Lutheran Church, the time I spent with former LCMS missionary and the delegation from Papua New Guinea was very enlightening and provided me with much foder for thought, particularly how the LCMS might be able to answer the challenge Governor Ipatas presented to send more missionaries to PNG.
– Rev. Dr. Albert Collver