ELCK Visit to LCMS and Audit Report

Archbishop Obare, Charlie Rhodes, Rev. John Halahke

Today, Archbishop Obare and Rev. John Halahke, General Secretary, representative the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) at the LCMS International Center. Archbishop Obare and Rev. Halahke paid a visit to the United States in connection with the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI) and to meet with representatives from the LCMS regarding various projects supported by the LCMS in Kenya. Since the turn of the 21st century, the LCMS has partnered with the ELCK on projects such as Cows for Kenya, 1001 Orphans, Project 24, and the Kenya Hymnal Project (See the August 2011, Lutheran Witness). These projects have been well received and supported by LCMS members as they provided care for the body and soul of people in Kenya.

In order to assure accountability and donor integrity regarding LCMS supported projects in Kenya, Archbishop Obare requested in January 2011 for a financial expert from the LCMS to travel to Kenya to review the financial records and the projects supported by the LCMS. This past month a team lead by Mr. Charlie Rhodes, Executive Director of Accounting for the LCMS, visited Nairobi and other sites in Kenya to review financial and project accountability. In addition to LCMS projects, Charlie Rhodes also reviewed the past two or three years of the ELCK’s audited financial records. This afternoon, Charlie Rhodes, Archbishop Obare, Rev. John Halahke, and Dr. Albert Collver met with President Harrison to discuss the findings of the LCMS team. Charlie Rhodes was pleased to report that for the audit period, all LCMS funds sent to the ELCK were accounted for and that they were used for the projects in Kenya as intended by LCMS donors. Charlie Rhodes reported, “We have concluded all funds have been utilized for their intended purposes and no one in ELCK or DCM personally benefited.” Charlie also reported that he was pleased both with the co-operation and hospitality shown to him by the members of the ELCK during his visit. President Harrison indicated both to Charlie Rhodes and to Archbishop Obare that he was pleased with the results reported. Charlie Rhodes is preparing a report of his findings for the Board for International Mission, which will provide them with an example of how project accountability is maintained.

Archbishop Obare, President Harrison, Rev. John Halahke

After Mr. Charlie Rhodes concluded his report, Rev. John Halahke, who graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary this past spring presented President Harrison with a gift in honor of the doctorate he received from Concordia Theological Seminary.

After the presentation of gifts, President Harrison took the group for  lunch at the Elephant Bar in honor of Kenya.

Rev. John Halahke and an Elephant

Instead of finding simba (a lion), Rev. John Halahke found an elephant in America. After conversation over lunch, the group from Kenya returned to their hotel for rest in preparation of their journey to South Dakota for a LMI event to be held this weekend.

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.