The Wartburg Letter

Twenty-five years ago the Rev. Paul DeBlock, and his banker brother Joel, wrote a paper questioning the financial and theological approach LCC was taking toward missions. Why do Synod and Districts spend so much money on a growing administration when membership is in steady and predictable decline? Why is spending up while membership dropped, putting increasing financial pressures on congregations.

The DeBlock brothers’ paper was censured and buried by Synod officials as damaging.

Of course, the District President and Synod president at the time were right: the contents of the paper painted a picture of a church that demanded ever more from a shrinking donation base. That didn’t even address the “why are we doing this because administration isn’t a mission.” I was a full-time journalist in those days. I read the paper did some research to confirm the findings. My follow-up research was revealing. I couldn’t have access to public documents like budgets, and no official at the time would speak on the record.

Let’s be generous and say it was clear enough in 1993 that ABC District was taking financial actions that were ill-advised. District’s behaviors were bad enough that I decided to write a little newsletter to let people know that ABC District and Synod were breaking down and heading in a direction that was a serious risk for financial and spiritual catastrophe. That was in 1993.

Fast-forward 25 years, and one of my co-writers sent me the front page of the two editions of “The Wartburg Letter.” I’m sure there is one person out there who has just said, “I knew it!” The Wartburg Letter was a tempest in a teapot. It was a minor controversy at the time.

Looking back, I’m genuinely shocked how right I got it 25 years ago. Then again, I was really echoing the essay, research, intellect, and insights of the formidable DeBlock brothers.

Glancing over the front page of the Wartburg Letter, I remember the excitement of researching and writing the articles, having editorial meetings to focus on the angle of stories, and verifying the information we were publishing was correct. I recall the disappointment of having questions rebuffed by District staff. Granted it was a long time ago, but the attitudes and behaviors that lead to the collapse of CEF/DIL were firmly in operation in 1993. You can’t get to 2015’s collapse without all the decisions and actions District took in the 1990’s. The church’s problems have been decades in the making.

The March 1 cover is a personal favourite. In 1991 Synod issued a questionnaire about how much people trusted Synod and District financial management. The results of the survey were never published. If the results were that people trusted Synod, that would be exposed as a mistake. If the results were that people didn’t trust Synod, then it makes sense they buried the report. Either way, the perspective of history really doesn’t improve the picture for ABC District or Lutheran Church Canada.

If nothing else, it’s an interesting insight into just how early problems in Synod and District were identified, published, and ignored a quarter century ago.

Frankly, I’m a little shocked how well they hold up. Neither cover seems out of date.


Andreas Schwabe is editor and publisher of SolaGratia.ca, and an Edmonton-based multimedia & communication strategist and producer. His focus for SolaGratia is on administration, governance, and issues of faith. For clients, he writes or produces just about anything.

The Great Cash Call of 2018

True Story: Mrs. SolaGratia reports “sewer drains sound beautiful.” If you’d been deaf and heard a sewer for the first time in 30 years, you’d think so too. Speaking of sewers…

At it’s peak, the ABC District Church Extension Fund weighed in at a hefty $113,000,000.00  By sustained acts of concerted arrogance and hubris, the fund was lost to bankruptcy. Normally you’d think, “yeah, lesson learned.” Aww, that’s sweet. Really it is, but this is LCC, where ignorance is the catalyst for planned inaction. It only ever seems to get worse. Next up: congregations get to pay for what looks like a mangled pension fund for pastors.

YOU: “Are you serious? LCC has another financial crisis brewing?”

ME: (looks down to avoid eye contact…sweeps the floor with his foot)

YOU: No seriously. There’s ANOTHER financial crisis in LCC?

ME: (looks at the ceiling and whistles a gentle “Chief of Sinners Though I Be”)

YOU: (binge eats five pints of Ben and Jerry’s “Chocolate Fudge Brownie” Ice Cream)

Andreas Schwabe is editor and publisher of SolaGratia.ca, and an Edmonton-based multimedia & communication strategist and producer. His focus for SolaGratia is on administration, governance, and issues of faith. For clients, he writes or produces just about anything.

Unwanted Attention

So, yes, it’s another church scandal. The roman Catholics kicked things off with the endless horrors and abuses at Mount Cashel Orphanage. The Anglicans dragged out their scandal over decades of Residential Schools. To round out the trifecta of scandal, LCC dropped tens of millions of church members money into a black hole.  Not a real black hole. Real black holes require physics. LCC can’t manage a balance sheet let alone physics.

One thing LCC can do: get media attention.

Andreas Schwabe is editor and publisher of SolaGratia.ca, and an Edmonton-based multimedia & communication strategist and producer. His focus for SolaGratia is on administration, governance, and issues of faith. For clients, he writes or produces just about anything.

Save the Date for the Alberta Securities Commission: August 13, 2018

It’s been a long time, but hey, we’ve been busy retooling our life from deaf, to #deafnotdeaf. Mrs. Solagratia’s Cochlear implant is a miracle and we’re just overjoyed and under-grateful. There just isn’t enough gratitude.

The funny thing about Cochlear Implants is that you mark your life by calendar dates. For example, candidacy day (the day you find out if you get a CI or not) was October 5. Implant surgery was December 12. Activation was January 29. Each date has its own moments, anxieties, and story.

The ABC District and by Extension LCC has a red-letter date its own: August 13, 2018. That’s the day the Alberta Securities Commission is going to hold a hearing because, the ASC says…

“1. Staff of the Commission allege that the Respondents breached Alberta securities laws in connection with a long-term, large-scale investment program. The program generally was designed to provide a means for church members to invest and earn interest on funds by pooling and loaning them to Lutheran churches and schools for capital improvement projects. However, while  representing the investments to be safe, diversified, and “guaranteed”, the Respondents placed the overwhelming majority of the invested funds into a high-risk, loan-defaulting, speculative land development project without appropriate disclosure to investors. The program and the corporate Respondents collapsed financially in early 2015, with court protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) being sought and granted.

2. Staff allege that the long pattern of positive representations, without including necessary risk related disclosures, amounted to misleading statements. The Respondents knew or ought to have  known that the information withheld from investors was material, and meant that the statements which had been made were misleading. The Respondents knew or ought to have known that the price or value of the securities in issue was dramatically affected by the non-disclosures.

3. Investors in the program have lost many millions of dollars as a result of its collapse, with the exact value not yet determined. In recognition of investors’ losses and in order not to deplete assets  that may be available in ongoing CCAA proceedings, Staff will seek no monetary administrative penalties against the corporate Respondents.”

So, in spite of the many protestations of being nice people, the Alberta Securities Commission alleges ABC District breached securities laws and mislead church members/depositors. In order NOT to cause more loss to the investors, the ASC isn’t going to go after money from District. Which is nice. It’s more than District or Synod have ever done for depositors in meaningful terms (any defence to the contrary is silly because…well…the ASC says “breached securities laws,” and depositors are suing District, so there’s that.

As is the way in LCC, the gospel will take the back seat; lawyers and the courts will have the final say.

Click here for the entire Alberta Securities Commission Document

Andreas Schwabe is editor and publisher of SolaGratia.ca, and an Edmonton-based multimedia & communication strategist and producer. His focus for SolaGratia is on administration, governance, and issues of faith. For clients, he writes or produces just about anything.