Board Minutes - April 3, 2020


The April 3, 2020 meeting of the LCMS Ohio District Board of Directors was called to order at 10:03 A.M. by Chairman Gary Dowdell, Sr. as a conference call because of the coronavirus crisis. First Vice President Michael Phillips led the devotion. He noted that at this time of the coronavirus crisis, we are all concerned and we suffer. However, St. Paul tells us that "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Rom. 5:5) We can't "work on the problem," but our endurance lies in the suffering of Jesus and His patient endurance and character. After all, we can't deal with ultimate problem of sin and death, but Christ gives us true hope and promise through His death and resurrection.

The Board then considered several issues affecting the District, especially in view of the coronavirus crisis:

A. Congregations and Schools
1. The 2019 Synodical Convention passed Resolution 4.03 which promotes "Making Disciples for Life" as its mission and ministry emphasis for the 2019–2022 triennium and directs that the Synod establish resources for congregations, schools, circuits and districts to evangelize the lost, retain the faithful, and strengthen congregations. This meeting was originally schedule for April, 2020 but it will be scheduled later. Rev. Robert Zagore, LCMS Executive Director for North American Mission, approached the Ohio District with a request to partner on a pilot project for "Making Disciples for Life." which be scheduled in the future.
2. Mrs. Debbie Klusak, the administrative assistant for Mission and Ministry, is taking the lead on Prayers for the Parish. Prayer requests are gathered from four or five congregations a week, and then listed on the District website along with other special prayer requests.
3. EdChoice is a state program that provides funding for primary and secondary students. It was created for students whose schools receive a "failing grade" by the state. If schools have a failing grade, students can attend another school and take their "funding" with them. EdChoice has proven very important to Lutheran schools. This school year, EdChoice got caught in some legislative and legal webs, but will be resolved in the next school year .

B. District Finances
1. As of March 31, 2020, mission support continues to be fairly strong. From March 16 to March 31, 2020, the District received $44,913.18. For the same period in 2019, the mission support receipts were $41,737.25.
2. Since the coronavirus restrictions will affect congregations' worship attendance, the District will probably not realize the full effect of this crisis on mission support until mid- April. The District's cash position is strong for the short-term. The District President will probably need to make revisions of the District's grant programs because they are dependent on the budgeted level of mission support. The District is staying in contact with congregations regarding their financial status; in fact, Mrs. Rachul has offered to assist congregations in revising their budgets and assessing their cash flow.
3. The District's investments are being reviewed and have shown some decline. However, it is too early to make any decisions regarding changes to the portfolio. Investment specialists are looking at a market improvement later this year, so the best advice is "hold the course," especially since the portfolio contains many conservative investments.
4. Because of the coronavirus crisis, the District considered using the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the Small Business Administration as a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll because of coronavirus restrictions. Mrs. Lisa Rachul, District Treasurer, stated that she would not recommend that the District use this program because it wouldn't provide a large enough loan and she doesn't want the District to block other congregations from seeking the loan.
5. If the coronavirus crisis continues, the District will have to consider some cutbacks. The District staff should start thinking about potential budget adjustments especially if the mission support falls by 5%. President Wilson also considered how a 10 percent decrease in funding would affect the budget. He listed the top priorities for the District with the top priority in the budget adjustment is staffing and the second priority is keeping commitments to churches and missions for this year, as they are already under stress in the current climate. At this time it is likely that the District can adjust to a 5 percent decrease in funding without addressing staffing or grants to churches and missions. However, a 10 percent reduction will force tough choices on funding grants to churches and missions. If the District faces a financial crunch, the Board can give a verbal agreement about unrestricted funds.

C. Dealing with the Coronavirus crisis.
1. At this time the District staff is working remotely by using electronic means. They are very pro-active and are having weekly devotions online. They have shifted to weekly teleconferences instead of a monthly staff meeting. The staff members are taking necessary precautions if they have to go to the office.
2. The Synod is promoting a new program called "Soldiers of the Cross." The Synod is working closely with Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) to assist workers who find themselves with immediate unmet financial needs stemming from the spread of the pandemic. Funds will be made available to ordained or commissioned ministers and to laity serving congregations, and schools. The LCEF will provide initial grants to the District to help workers in immediate financial peril. They may be assisted even before their grant application is submitted to the Synod. The District will contribute funds to aid in the process.
3. The District staff gathered information about congregations dealing with the the corona- virus crisis for congregational and school use on the district website. Regional teleconferences were organized for Circuit Visitors, the Vice Presidents and the District President.
4. Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Kevin Creutz, started weekly meetings with school and early learning center administrators.
5. The District noted that more churches are shifting to recorded or live streamed worship services but will await the state of Ohio's directives for opening church services.

E. Dealing with the CLAIM issue.
The Board has discussed about financial concerns the Columbus Lutheran African Immigrant Ministry. (CLAIM) Rev. Berhanu Arsse, pastor of Ebenezer Ethiopian Liutheran Church, needs more help on setting up a reimbursement policy so the District and CLAIM will provide more guidance to fulfill IRS requirements. Mr. Peter Hessler, District Legal Counsel, will also provide much direction in this matter to make sure that this ministry will fulfill financial requirements in the future. Also, there needs to be a full review of the records in order to determine whether the expenses are tied to CLAIM and its ministries and are properly deductible and/or appropriate for reimbursement under the IRS and District guidelines.

F. Synodical Matters
1. President Wilson has been asked to serve on the Concordia University, Wisconsin Board of Regents. Given this board's outcomes, and that this change would not require additional time away from the District, he agreed to serve.
2. The District needs to make changes to its Code of Regulations because of recent resolutions made at the 2019 Synodical Convention. Most of the changes involve the titles of church workers and how a parish of two congregations or more can participate in conventions, so the Board has approved the changes and sent the Code to Synod's Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM). Then the amended Code must be approved at the 2021 District convention.

G. Board Matters
1. The Board members agreed that Mr. Ted Kober make a presentation to the Board about the governance process. Mr. Kober spoke at the 2019 Fall Pastors' Conference and was very helpful . He plans to present a "hybrid model" of governance since the District's model of governance does not completely compare with those of other non-profits, but will go in a different direction
2. The Board approved some changes made to its Policy manual especially that a Resolutions Tracking List be established at the first meeting following the Synodical and District conventions to make sure that the Board follows up on these resolutions. The Board also made some important changes to its annual schedule, especially since the January meeting is held as a tele-conference.

The next meeting will be held on June 19, 2020, hopefully at the District office.