National Lutheran News

LCMS starts 84 new churches

But money woes cause global cutbacks, and a university head’s resignation

The nation’s second largest Lutheran body started 84 new congregations last year, significantly more than the usual 50 or so in an “average” year. That’s the word from Dr. Robert Scudieri, associate executive director for North America with the World Mission unit of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

Scudieri said the 84 new starts were “an answer to prayer” and “a [dramatic] turning point in the synod.” Still, he admitted LCMS would have to start 180 new congregations a year in order to grow.

For the first time in LCMS history, less than half the new starts (21) were “anglo” parishes. The majority are among minority ethnic populations.

While the “home mission” news is positive for LCMS, the global picture is less hopeful. The Synod has experienced a $6 million decrease in the mission board’s 2003-04 fiscal year budget. That’s led to the elimination of three staff positions in St. Louis and four overseas missionary positions.

The board eliminated 17 St. Louis staff positions and 28 missionary positions last December. According to Dr. Daniel Mattson, associate executive director of LCMS World Mission, work in countries where positions are ending will be continued through “other missionaries there, and national church workers who are capable of taking over additional re-sponsibilities.”

Financial difficulties have caused the resignation of the president of Concordia Uni-versity, River Forest, Illinois. Dr. George C. Heider re-signed August 3 because of the school’s financial situation. Concordia is $50 million in debt, with a $4 million shortfall in 2002-03.