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Messages - Mark_Hofman

Your Turn / Re: What is sin?
December 14, 2023, 04:38:01 PM
When I'm asked this question (and I do get asked this question), one perspective I've grown to appreciate is this statement:

"Although it is impossible for human thought to pierce and solve the mystery of evil, there can be no doubt that evil exists. Just a glance at what is going on in the world confirms what most people suspect on the basis of their own lives but do not want to admit. At some point or another everyone awakes from pleasant dreams with a fearful realization that something is wrong. Things have gone awry, plans have gone astray. Things are not right; we are not right with the world. The harmony and order and peace we would like has vanished. We are discontent with the way in which we shaped our identities. We are uncertain about how secure our lives may be. We are worried about how much life is worth and what it all means. We recognize that life has somehow missed the mark we would have liked it to hit. Life is out of sync, out of kilter. One Hebrew word for that is best translated 'sin'."

Robert Kolb, The Christian Faith (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1993), 87.
Your Turn / Re: Earned or Honorary?
July 12, 2023, 06:56:47 PM
Quote from: Donald_Kirchner on July 11, 2023, 09:49:25 PM

And that includes myself. I have a JD,  a professional doctorate. Not only would no lawyer ever call himself or herself  Dr So-and-so unless they had a PhD, it is irritating when Synod sends all my mail to Rev Dr Donald Kirchner. It's just wrong. It's a conflict of titles!

It's been fixed, Rev. Kirchner. You should see a change in 8 to 10 weeks, which is how far out the planning for printing things goes. It will be important to monitor the Rosters and Statistics forms that come for review annually. It's that path that causes things to sneak in.  Thank you for sharing how you feel about this so we can correct it.
Your Turn / Re: Concordia University Texas
November 14, 2022, 05:36:39 PM
Quote from: Dave Benke on November 14, 2022, 02:31:12 PM

It can and is and probably should be mourned.  But those days are indeed done, as is "direct subsidy."

Dave Benke

Like I shared with a dear faithful and mission-minded friend in the nowhere fields of Iowa, "The real glory days are always ahead of us, not behind us."  We have no need to mourn if our hope is in the LORD.
Your Turn / Re: Concordia University Texas
November 14, 2022, 05:02:36 PM
Perhaps we ought to admit that we no longer believe or confess that God provides what His mission requires through each of his baptized children, and that it takes charismatic and effective human intervention - through a position like a school president who is good at fundraising - to fill the gap. And glossy brochures.  God just can't or won't provide, so it's up to us and our ability to be independent as we go about doing what is really needed to get what we believe we should have.

Your Turn / Re: Concordia University Texas
November 14, 2022, 12:09:58 PM
Quote from: Dave Likeness on November 13, 2022, 06:33:09 PM
Currently, the LCMS has University campuses in Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska
Michigan, Minnesota, California, Texas.  Five of those are in the Midwest which
is the heartland of the LCMS.

My question is this: How much financial support does the LCMS provide on an
annual basis to the budget of each Concordia University?

It's probably best to ask each college directly.

This is one of those questions that can lead one into a state of vast confusion. One might ask, "How much support does the Mormon Church (Baptist Church, Catholic Church, ELCA, Wisconsin Synod,....) provide to each Concordia University on an annual basis? How many students do those groups provide? Because whatever isn't funded by those groups is most likely coming from "The LCMS".

A person could be viewing the acronymn "LCMS" as being limited to the corporate Synod budget. On the other hand, a person could come at "LCMS" as being the owners of the corporation and the membership of those owners. Or just the individuals who worship and are active participants in an LCMS congregation alone, because all of the money for church-related operations has to come from individuals/couples/families in some form or fashion.

Which is it?

The corporate Synod (LCMS, Inc.) doesn't subsidize individual colleges using the worship offerings it is handed by congregations via district budgets. That stream of income has steadily shrunk over the years, compounded by the eroding effects of inflation on the purchasing power of each dollar it does receive. (Ref., specifically "What about my Sunday worship offering?")

But the owners of the Synod (congregations who voluntarily associate) continue to supply financial gifts and offerings, as do the individuals and families within those congregations. The dollars just go directly to the college(s) rather than through the corporate Synod budget. And of the worship offerings corporate Synod does receive, there is a 'draw' order - a priority of claims laid on those resources - defined by a number of things such as the structure of the national Synod and the commitments the Board of Directors make on behalf of the owners who elect them. For example, a loan creates a legally binding commitment by the owners that must be repaid using the funds the owners supply to the Synod. Board policy (ref. the example of BOD Policy also prohibits using anything but owner funds to pay for things like the annual independent external audit, legal representation, expenses of the boards and commissions, and the salaries of elected officers mandated by the Constitution and Bylaws.  So "stuff" like that has to be funded first, before the Board can begin to dole out worshipo offerings in a discretionary fashion. And by the time they get done allocating funds to pay for all of that, there really isn't all that much left.

Now, if by LCMS one means the people who actually have the funds to begin with - the source and font of material blessings - there would have to be transparency on the part of the universities to spell out how much is coming from LCMS congregations, men's and women's groups, LCMS family foundations, congregation members and the like compared to what's coming from the Methodists, Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, non-denominational Christians, and atheist/agnositcs.

To come at this from another perspective, LCMS households and congregations are now contributing more to support LCMS-called/appointed missionaries (around $13.5 million annually) than the amount that comes to corporate Synod from the Sunday-morning offering plate (just over $12 million). The total budget of the national operations is around $60 million, with most revenue restricted by the giver for a specific purpose. Worship offerings that ultimately make it to the two LCMS seminaries are a small amount compared to the $3 million that God's people gave to them last fiscal year via the LCMS Joint Seminary Fund and the nearly $700,000 they gave through corporate Synod as student aid.  And those two amounts pale in comparison to what God's people give directly to each seminary. 

We just don't fund the "fun stuff" out of regular worship offerings. Beyond what the congregation itself must spend locally, and the limited amount they forward to their district office (who has regional mission work to perform), worship offerings aren't funding missionaries, colleges, national mission programs (think Youth), disaster response work, international projects, and even seminaries. That's not how people, congregations and even districts are choosing to support the bigger ticket items. They want to do that directly, to feel closer to the action than they do when they lay an envelope in the offering plate on Sunday.

Finally, it sure seems as though we don't quite have common agreement on what gets attached to "the LCMS" or "the Synod" (let alone "synodical" which is a goofy useless word to begin with).  And the truth is that, without the people who associate with congregations who are owners of the LCMS, "the (corprorate) Synod" wouldn't have a DIME to give to anyone.

Your Turn / Re: Latinos converting to Protestantism
September 03, 2022, 03:53:57 PM
Quote from: Dave Benke on September 02, 2022, 02:02:50 PM
In more global terms, under the heading "the boys from Brazil," there were very strong migrant groups who entered Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries in South America - Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina among them, who kind of mirrored the US in remaining connected by language culture and worship to the Vaterland.  Hence the hymnal Culto Cristiano is in many ways more Teutonic than TLH or the Lutheran Service Book.  In that sense Lutheran cultural and European heritage outpaced the duration of time in the New World.  You can see that in various locales in South America - Porto Alegre et al.  The Bavarian House is not only in Michigan and Wisconsin but well to the south.

Dave Benke

Interesting you bring this up, Rev. Benke, since my own grandfather was one who spent over a decade in Brazil (the mountainous region of Espirito Santo) serving both indigenous and European immigrants in the '30s and 40's. During the Second World War he was interred under suspicion as were many Lutheran pastors, but part of the agreement reached with the government for release of the LCMS crew was that 1.) he not preach in German, but in Portuguese, and 2.) he support the government's drive to integrate immigrants into Brazilian culture and national identity by teaching them to speak and read Portuguese. My dad has been transcribing granddad's hand-written journals from that era into digital text for posterity, and I've also read some of the history of the IELB (Winterle) that describes this transition.  Still, there are photos accessible on the internet of the IELB congregation that was granddad's "home base" (six congregations and seven evangelistic preaching stations, if I recall, formed his 'parish'), of their 90th Anniversary. Hundreds of people celebrating, some of young men in lederhosen, but by all accounts speaking Portuguese. Cultural assimilation seem to flow both ways and cultural abandonment is hard.

And as far as skipping over Lutheranism to experience Pentecostalism goes, while that is definitely true there are other corners of the world (Africa, Pakistan) where the shine of Pentecostalism is wearing off and Pentecostal Christians - including Pentecostal pastors - are asking about Lutheran doctrine. When they see and hear it, the depth of curiosity increases. But, as the culturally Germanic people we are, we can't tolerate any sort of good thing happening and will probably find a way to kill that off.
Your Turn / Re: Concordia University Chicago
April 14, 2022, 09:07:46 PM
Quote from: Dave Benke on April 14, 2022, 05:11:34 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on April 14, 2022, 04:17:24 PM
Quote from: Mark_Hofman on April 14, 2022, 02:17:03 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on April 14, 2022, 12:43:24 PM
Quote from: Augsburg Catholic on April 14, 2022, 09:24:41 AM
The only problem with selling the IC is that the LCMS does not own the land, only the building. The land is leased and and the value in an age of working from home tenuous at best.

I'm thinking here about the costs of keeping properties open. Whatever it costs to maintain the IC and lease the land should be multiplied by 5 and by ten to see the long term costs of holding on. The same needs to be done for under used properties throughout the synod in case a consolidation plan would save money.

Although sale might seem small in the current environment, the results of the sale plus the savings from reduced costs might be substantial. I'm sure someone is crunching the numbers this way to get the big picture.

In the process of closing down the I.C. and selling the building, perhaps some thought and care might also be shown to what seems to be the invisible people serving the LCMS Foundation and Concordia Plan Services, who would be left vocationally homeless.  Together those two entities occupy as much if not more square footage in the International Center as the "corporate" side of the LCMS.  Oh, and Worldwide KFUO too since it was relocated off of the seminary campus due to irreparable facilities.

Mark, when I started working at CPH, the building was full. Then they started to downsize. By the time I left, there was nearly an entire floor empty and they were talking about downsizing again. They were trying to bring synod entities in to their open spaces to help consolidate expenses.

Experience tells me there is a lot of empty real estate maintained by the synod. Consolidating and downsizing seem like wise steps to take especially where one is paying leases, maintenance, and property taxes. I'm not talking about eliminating necessary functions or properties. I'm thinking of sustainability.

I think Mark is saying that the building is in full use.  Why move, then, especially since the ground underneath the property belongs to somebody else?

Stuff happens; things change.  My office for 24 years on the campus of Concordia Bronxville is now the property of Iona College.  It's a painful thought, but sic transit gloria mundi.
I've been to the New and Improved Atlantic District Offices which are right there on 38th and Broadway in New Yawk City.  Sweet suites and - who knew? - less costly than the Bronxville location, by a lot.  24 minutes by LIRR at peak hours from my stop.  I know this because my cardiologist has an office near the AD offices.

Having said "sic transit gloria mundi" I think selling colleges off is a really, really bad idea from the spiritual and belonging perspective of the LCMS folks in that part of the world.  At least that's our experience in the 3 districts around B'ville and all the way down the coast where Bronxville grads are often elected District President.  Other agendas may prevail.

Dave Benke

Dave Benke

Rev. Engelbrecht:

I have my own personal opinions about optimal space utilization of the facilities resources in St. Louis, some based on my own first-hand experiences with things like the Christian Brothers campus in Clayton. But it's not my place or vocation to opine about what the owners (the membership of the LCMS) should or shouldn't do. Depreciation of capital assets like buildings happens, and choices will have to be made about the usability of stuff that has or is already reaching the end of its serviceable life.

What I wanted to point out is that decisions about selling off or closing down buildings sometimes impacts more than one entity. A hundred years from now, our great-grandchildren may be excoriating all of us for being far too pessimistic, God-willing, and bemoaning that we didn't keep (steward well) what God had already handed to us at a much, much lower cost than what building new will cost the Church. God grant that's true. And assumptions (the things we sincerely hold to be true whether they really are or not) are a poor guide for decision-making.

If there is empty space, why not simply lease it to others - even others outside the church - until the demand for the space returns or there is an economically compelling reason to relocate to more usable (and expandable) space?

Rev. Benke,

Thank you for stepping forward in a sincere attempt to restate my original comment in a positive light.  The building, at least for corporate Synod (LCMS, Inc.) is currently not in full use. Foundation and Concordia Plans are, and CPS has even expanded from the full first floor up to using part of the second floor. But a massive reduction-in-force back in 2020 emptied out many workstations. Deaths, retirements and other attrition during the COVID lockdown compounded the emptiness. God, in his infinite wisdom, used all of that to perform what amounted to a financial reset with an outcome that (your?) Synod office is in the best financial shape it's probably ever been in, and the units are planning to restore ministry capacities where demand for them is documented. Corporate LCMS is not crippled and looking for a smaller footprint. It is, as a good friend and author wrote, "Bounce(ing) Back Higher" coming out of COVID, thanks be to God. And if that can happen at, of all places, "the (infamously named) Purple Palace", it can happen in other places too.

I'll bow out now.
Your Turn / Re: Concordia University Chicago
April 14, 2022, 02:17:03 PM
Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on April 14, 2022, 12:43:24 PM
Quote from: Augsburg Catholic on April 14, 2022, 09:24:41 AM
The only problem with selling the IC is that the LCMS does not own the land, only the building. The land is leased and and the value in an age of working from home tenuous at best.

I'm thinking here about the costs of keeping properties open. Whatever it costs to maintain the IC and lease the land should be multiplied by 5 and by ten to see the long term costs of holding on. The same needs to be done for under used properties throughout the synod in case a consolidation plan would save money.

Although sale might seem small in the current environment, the results of the sale plus the savings from reduced costs might be substantial. I'm sure someone is crunching the numbers this way to get the big picture.

In the process of closing down the I.C. and selling the building, perhaps some thought and care might also be shown to what seems to be the invisible people serving the LCMS Foundation and Concordia Plan Services, who would be left vocationally homeless.  Together those two entities occupy as much if not more square footage in the International Center as the "corporate" side of the LCMS.  Oh, and Worldwide KFUO too since it was relocated off of the seminary campus due to irreparable facilities.
Your Turn / Re: Diet of Worms Anniversary-1521
April 13, 2021, 02:08:54 PM
The April 18 anniversary is just an opportunity for a Lutheran to take a stand for the Gospel. Pick something. Take a stand. Stand as boldly as Luther did in front of Charles V and Eck (and the Roman Catholic church) even in the face of death. "Stick it to the (secular, unbelieving) man" and do something bold in Christ's name - even if it costs you.

The only downside of a celebration like this is that no one - especially the Synod headquarters - will be able to come back later and tally the level of joyful generosity or detail the beautiful stories that will transpire. We will see that through the slit of squinted eyes and lose the peripheral vision of what God's people are actually capable of doing when they take a stand. Give up any hope of true transparency to anyone except God Himself.
Your Turn / Re: Diet of Worms Anniversary-1521
April 12, 2021, 05:37:33 PM
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said...If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."


888-930-4438 ext. 1315

The "Here I Stand Sunday" resolution encourages congregations to receive a thank-offering on the 500th anniversary of Luther's defense at the Diet of Worms. It doesn't tell them what to do with it other than use it for "the continued proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world."

Don't like the LCMS International Center (headquarters), President Harrison, Synod's fundraising work/methods, LCMS International Mission, LCMS National Mission, Pastoral Ed..... find something that you believe is worthy of your hard-earned money - as the Lord provides it - and give it there. Keep it local if that's where you believe it will do the greatest good. The invitation to support LCMS mission efforts through a gift to the LCMS is nothing more than an invitation. Giving should always be a voluntary Spirit-driven act, not a humanly manipulated one.
Your Turn / Re: R.I.P. Gerald Speckhard
February 23, 2021, 02:59:07 PM
Deepest Christian sympathies, Rev. Speckhard, confident in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection on the Last Day because of our Lord Jesus.
Quote from: Dave Benke on February 22, 2021, 02:08:32 PM
In a sense - think it through - had the decision been to allow virtual conventions when the question was asked a year or so ago, we would all be getting ready for a normal convention cycle right now, and would not have had to delay.  Boom.

Dave Benke

Yes. The Black Swans in life can be a royal pain. (ref.

Quote from: Rev Geminn on February 16, 2021, 01:53:15 PM

Hey Mark,

Thanks for this.  Rather heartbreaking.  I got to know your Dad a little bit serving my first call on the Western Slope.  He was certainly kind and gentle to me.  Just curious, did you grow up in Delta/the Western Slope?


Quote from: Dave Likeness on February 16, 2021, 10:20:18 AM
Bishop Benke's point about the decline of spiritual formation of our youth in the home
and church is a key factor in the low enrollment at our seminaries.  My Quinta year at
Concordia High School in Milwaukee, i had 5 room mates in my dorm. Four of them
were the sons of pastors.  PK's (Pastor's Kids) were  numerous on the campus.  It was
almost like they were continuing to build the family   business. 

Today, how many pastors encourage their sons and daughters to prepare for church work
in one of our Concordia universities?    How many parents in our parishes encourage their
children to become church workers?  The Lutheran families in our local Lutheran parishes
are still the best pipeline to our Concordia universities.  The local Lutheran pastor is still
a key component in the recruitment of our youth for full-time church work.

This is just one anecdote among millions, but the observation reflected above hit me very personally, like a gut punch.  My father is a retired LCMS pastor who is the eldest son of a now-sainted LCMS pastor. I am a PK. I attest that I did get some pressure as the eldest son of a pastor who himself was the eldest son of a pastor to join the "family" business, but not from my parents.

And I remember the exact moment in time when I said "no" to myself going down that path. I can't share the specifics because they still hurt too much, but I can summarize that decision by saying that children are watching how pastors speak about and treat one another, especially those who are in disagreement with each other. As a family, we struggled financially, so economic security wasn't the driver. We knew that the life of a pastor and his family is a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. My younger brother got that lesson every time he put on a pair of hand-me-down blue jeans which, in those days, were Sears Roebuck Toughskins with the extra patches in the knees. We rode around in used cars that my dad could repair and keep running. He even knows woodworking meaning we had the economic benefit of some hand-made furnishings. We dug rocks out of soil and weeded a very large garden to have vegetables to eat. So the "no" wasn't about making more money than my dad. We could see how "God provides" everything we truly need.

My decision of "no" was observing how (some) pastors were taking sides and going to warfare with one another, sometimes in very un-Christ-like ways, and going through a meat grinder along the way. In that moment of "no" I still clearly hear my brain saying to me "If that's the way pastors in the LCMS, who are forgiven and loved by Jesus, treat one another, I want no part of it." At the ripe age of 12, the truth that "some" pastors treated each other badly was generalized into an assumption that ALL pastors treat each other poorly, and thus I would be treated poorly.

Forgive me for sharing again something I've shared before: I now have an 11-year old son. He has expressed, from very early on, an interest in the pastoral office. I even used a photo of him "playing pastor" in a marketing/fundraising appeal focused on the recruitment and formation of future pastors (because I didn't have to get a signed parental consent form back). Those like him are out there, and the world is trying its hardest to beat that out of them. His flame of interest at age 5 is now down to a smoldering wick. We shouldn't be doing things that help The Enemy succeed. For me at age 56 it's too late; for him, it's not. Love one another, despite disagreement. Please.

Your Turn / Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
December 29, 2020, 02:12:35 PM
Rev. Brown,

I confess that, as an appointed leader at Concordia Seminary and now at corporate Synod headquarters, I have made many bad decisions. That list is long. I am sorry for those that ultimately ended up with seminary graduates bearing an unfair burden, most likely in the form of student loan debt. The information to which I had access at the seminary ultimately led me to believe that it was time to leave that place and seek a venue of service to the Church somewhere else. Now, instead of seminarians, I see missionaries and programmatic directors (Youth, Black Ministry, domestic/international grants,...) bearing the load unfairly.  My wife and son often bear the burden of my sin, like many others who vocationally serve in the church. That is not a "play victim" statement. It is a confession of truth, a statement I pray you will accept as a sincere one.

I am sorry that one of my posts came across as a "poor me".  I was (still am) angry when I read through a thread that - in places - does not bear out our Lord's command to "love one another" and forgive them as He has forgiven us. When my good friend and teammate Gary Thies signs off as "Old Missionary Gary" I return the favor by signing "Old Bureaucrat Mark".  I do not desire pity or sympathy for myself. I knew the score when I accepted an appointment to serve in a position that would put my name on public documents (like the 2020 State of the Synod report). I was prepped for that responsibility by instructors in a vigorous MBA program.

Pronouns and vague labels ("the administration") loop in a whole bunch of people who don't deserve the negative reputation labels can imply.

President John Johnson did not make the decision to purchase the CBC campus, nor did President Dale Meyer make the decision to sell that property. Neither did the CFO/COO/Comptroller or whatever label needs to be applied. If I were angry about it, I'd share my feelings directly with those who were elected by the Synod in Convention to serve on the Seminary Board of Regents at the time. Recommendations were (and are) placed in front of the Regents in matters of finance.  They set tuition rates. They set the budget for financial aid. They determine if facilities need renovation, demolition, or new/replacements are to be built. And when they make bad decisions, the Synod in Convention removes them and puts new people in place.

I happened to be with the Regents on the day when the recommendation came before them to dump the CBC campus as a bad decision. I was not with them when the recommendation came to purchase that property from a private foundation that had secured it while a decision was made - before someone else could grab it. 

Regents have, perhaps, a day or two to make those decisions. They do not live the process for weeks or months, nor are they always afforded time to push a decision off until the next quarterly meeting to dig deeper. Sitting in the room with them as they debate those issues, often without the benefit of a complete and thorough understanding of the variables, one almost feels empathy. 

Wise counsel from a broad audience is possible when there is sufficient time. It is the way to go. The best management counsel I ever received was from my first Synod "boss" who, as he left for another role, pulled me to the side and said, "You're in (temporary) charge now. Do the smart thing. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and get the hell out of their way."

As you know all too well, I'm sure, when time is of the essence the call has to be made without the luxury of seeking counsel. You've had to make those solo decisions knowing you'll deal with the fallout and get all that wonderful "counsel" downstream. I would hope that people afford you a little more grace and understanding when that happens. This year I had to make a solo call that saw 12 of my team members separated from the organization through no fault of their own. I could not seek counsel in that situation. The buck, and the blame, falls on my desk.

With CBC, under Missouri nonprofit law, the buck stops with the Board. Be angry with the individuals on the Board of Regents who, at the time, approved an action item to purchase the property, implement a full-tuition guarantee, and more. They could have said no, but didn't. If I could remember all of their names, I'd be inclined to list them; but too many years have passed. My part in all of that was failing to raise the money to fulfill all of the dreams and visions and expectations people had. Where that added to student indebtedness, I am at fault.

I regret that, and am sorry for it. I beg Christ's forgiveness, and I sincerely ask for yours.

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