From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LCMS - Mission board cuts 28 overseas positions

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 26 Dec 2002 15:00:25 -0800

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Board for Communication Services

LCMSNews -- No. 80
December 26, 2002

Mission board cuts 28 overseas positions

By Paula Schlueter Ross

Two weeks after laying off nearly a third of its St. Louis office staff and
announcing that it also would bring home some of its missionaries, LCMS
World Mission eliminated 28 overseas missionary positions -- one-fourth of
its career-missionary force.

Eliminated were missionary posts in 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe,
and Central and South America.

The positions "run the gamut," according to LCMS World Mission Executive
Director Robert Roegner, and include area directors, theological educators,
church planters, business managers, volunteer coordinators and medical
personnel.  Most of the layoffs will take effect Jan. 31.

A sharp decline in donations to missions caused LCMS World Mission to take
immediate steps to "live within its means." The mission board cut
approximately $3 million from its current $29 million budget, and an
additional $6 million from the spending plan initially proposed for the
2003-04 fiscal year.

Nearly 78 percent of the mission board's budget comes from individuals,
congregations and others who make special gifts to LCMS World Mission,
according to Roegner.  The remaining 22 percent is derived largely from
Sunday-morning offerings and has remained relatively steady.

"In a time of economic downturn, it is not surprising that these special
gifts decline," he said.  "I doubt that people are any less committed to the
evangelization of the world or to the work of LCMS World Mission, but these
are just not good economic times for many, many Lutheran people."

Mark Stuenkel, president of the LCMS Foundation, which raises money for LCMS
World Mission and other Synod departments, agrees.

The drop in income, he says, "is related to the economy and to the serious
two-and-a-half-year downturn in the stock market." He added that it "is
affecting all charities," including LCMS districts and congregations.

"We just need to continue to be good stewards and to do as much as we can as
individuals and people within the church body to move forward, despite the
fact that these are tougher economic times," Stuenkel said.

Roegner called the missionaries individually to inform them of the
elimination of their positions, and he noted the caring way in which many of
them responded.

"I could never have been prouder of the kinds of people God has called to
serve His church through LCMS World Mission than I was when I talked to
these people," he said in a Dec. 13 letter to missionaries.  "While I tried
to minister to them over the phone, they ministered to me."

Several missionary posts were eliminated in Cote d' Ivoire (Ivory Coast),
West Africa, and one in Eritrea, East Africa, leaving no resident LCMS
missionaries in those countries.  Mission work in those countries is
expected to continue under the auspices of local Lutherans, as well as a
nonresidential missionary model in Cote d' Ivoire.

Three other career-missionary positions in Brazil, India and South Africa
also are being eliminated, but volunteers will continue work in those

Other countries that have lost missionaries are Germany, Kazakhstan,
Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Japan, South Korea, Macau, Taiwan,
Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam.  But other LCMS career and volunteer
missionaries will continue to serve in those countries.

The eliminations include 24 missionary families or individuals who are being
recalled from the field, and four who are accepting early-retirement offers.
  An additional three unfilled missionary positions will not be filled.

Among those who are taking early retirements are two area directors -- Rev.
Robert Hartfield, who serves Central Europe and the Baltics, and Rev. John
Duitsman, East Africa.	A third, currently vacant, area-director position --
for Central America and Mexico -- will not be filled.

Roegner said an LCMS World Mission committee is studying the situation to
determine how many area directors are needed and how their positions should
be structured in relation to staff in St. Louis.

In addition, five of those whose positions were eliminated are considering
calls from LCMS World Mission to vacant posts in Fort Wayne, Nigeria, Togo
and Panama.

Another, Dr. Rudolph Blank, will continue to serve in Venezuela as a
volunteer, along with his wife, Ramona.  The Blanks are currently in the
United States.	They, and other LCMS missionaries serving Venezuela, will
return to the South American country when the political situation

In his calls to missionaries, which took place Dec. 10 and 11, Roegner said
he tried to "emphasize that although these people may be leaving foreign
missionary service for a time, they are not leaving missionary service."

A growing number of Synod congregations are getting involved in evangelistic
outreach, right in their own backyards, he said.

"Our returning missionaries should be able to assist the church in this
necessary work," Roegner said.

Positions that were cut were "no less important than others," he said, but
were seen as perhaps "more expendable in the total strategic plan of LCMS
World Mission."

Roegner said the back-to-back staff layoffs have brought him to tears more
often than in the previous 10 years of his ministry.

"My tears have been for not only those whose lives have been adversely
affected, but also for the hundreds and even thousands who will not hear the
saving message that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world," he said.

Still, he says he is committed to the mission board's goal of sharing the
Good News of Jesus with 100 million unreached and uncommitted people during
the next 15 years.

"I firmly believe that this challenge which we have placed before the church
and ourselves -- to reach 100 million people by the 500th anniversary of the
Reformation -- is a task God wants done," he said in his letter to
missionaries.  "Even as we have made our reductions, we have kept this goal
ahead of us.  Our strategies will change, but we will go forward.  God can
and will support us."


LCMSNews is published by the News and Information Division, Board for
Communication Services, of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.  Please note
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