The LCMS Ohio District Board of Directors met on Friday, January 27, for their first meeting in 2017. We greeted Mrs. Ingrid Lewis who was recently elected as our Commissioned Minister at Large, replacing Mrs.Kimber Walsh who took a call.

We began with a devotion by First Vice President Rev. Michael Saylor who shared a time in college when he became God's light when dealing with an unchristian professor.

The Board then heard and discussed these important issues.

Mrs. Eileen Fitzenreiter, the District Foundation Gift Counselor, spoke about her work. She once served as a banker, but now realizes how God called her to serve here. She noted that the LCMS Ohio District and its ministries have been blessed and will be blessed by the $31,755,184 from congregational support for the Foundation, not including special gifts given directly to other agencies and ministries.

Mr. Peter Hessler, District Legal Counsel, then spoke about the merger between the Ohio District Lutheran Church Extension Fund (ODLCEF) and the Lutheran Church Extension Fund. (LCEF) This discussion of merger especially occurred because fewer District congregations are seeking loans from the ODLCEF. Also, congregations are increasingly facing economic struggles which could bring up concerns over possible delinquencies. The ODLCEF faces an aging investor base with no repopulating set of investors to replace them and so more investors may request their money. All these factors led to the discussion of a possible merger.

Mr. Hessler also spoke about the benefits which this merger will bring: 1. The District will carry out its church extension fund activities by partnering with a larger, stronger, more diverse, national LCEF program. 2. The investors of the ODLCEF will receive more protection for their investments. 3. The LCEF will employ representatives in Ohio who will serve as the "face" of the LCEF to congregations. 4. LCEF offers a fuller set of investment opportunities to investors. 5. The fund will operate more efficiently with a national base. 6. Assets of between $1,250,000 and $1,500,000 will be provided to the Ohio District for furtherance of its mission and purpose.
The ODLCEF will have to work out with the LCEF some practical concerns, including size of the staff, budgeting, and representatives in Ohio. Mr. Hessler noted that the ODLCEF Board has already approved the proposed merger, so now the Board of Directors needs to approve the merger. It was moved and seconded that the Board of Directors approve the Resolution establishing the merger of the Ohio District Lutheran Church Extension Fund with the Lutheran Church Extension Fund. The motion carried.

President Cripe in his report noted several points: 1. Faith, Mansfield will be closing and several congregations in the Youngstown area will consider merging. 2. The Synod has a new program called "re:Vitality" which will be developed in several congregations having difficulties. 3. The District is presently producing a series of 3-5 videos about their grants for congregations. 4. Rev. Mark Hill has agreed to chair the District Ministerial Health Committee. 5. At this point there are only 90 pastoral candidates and two congregation are applying for candidates. 6. At this time more church bodies, especially from Africa, have approached the LCMS for doctrinal and teaching assistance. 7. Two District congregations will call a candidate, but only ninety are available, so it's possible that only one congregation will receive a candidate. 8. The Vice Presidents are planning four spring conferences for the pastors, but each will be held on a different day, so it's possible for pastors to attend all four conferences. 9. Congregations can examine a booklet from Synod that explains the dynamics of church planting under the themes of witness, mercy, and fellowship.

Mr. Travis Grulke, District Superintendent of Schools, also made a report, He noted several items: 1.He has led chapel at several schools, especially at Lutheran West High School for National Schools Week. 2. Plans for the two March workshops for Early Childhood educatots have been planned: one at Royal Redeemer and one at St. Paul Milford. Also, the directors' conference has been finalized at St. Paul Painesville in June. 3.Huge changes are proposed in the state scholarship system; ones that would be a major blessing to our Lutheran schools. 4. The District recently hosted a Curriculum Mapping training for educators from around the state at St. John, Marysville. 5. Continued work is being done in the joint effort with the Great Lakes districts for a leadership training taking place in June.

Mrs. Lisa Rachul, District Treasurer, gave the report. She noted several items: 1. The Mission Support given through January 15, 2017 is 2.6% less than Ohio District Mission Support donations given through January 15, 2016 and it is below the budget by 2% 2. The District had a conversation with the management of Sunset Memorial Park regarding the purchase of the District office building. While the local staff has an interest in the building, the executive staff are not willing to make the purchase at this time 3. The auditors will be here for two weeks to audit the finances of the Ohio District and also the ODLCEF. She doesn't anticipate any problems.

The Board also monitored President Cripe's report about Financial and Operating Plans. They also reviewed the Policy Manual which discusses the relationship between the Board of Directors and the District President and staff. They emphasized the process of monitoring District financial dealings.

Next Board Meeting: Friday, April 17, 2017 at the District Office, Olmsted Falls, OH