The Class Divide

On January 5, 2015 thousands of Lutherans were cast into financial ruin. Synod caused their ruin. Sure it was ABC District, but the constitution says District is an agent of Synod. Synod is primary and has supervisory responsibility over District, including District Presidents. Of course, LCC has been adept at ignoring its own constitution and replaced it with three mini-synods within a bigger one.  We’re all bound as the body of Christ until there’s a problem. Then fraternal bonds are just, you know, nice, until you need a lawyer.

There is still a lot of hurt and a lot of anger. Naturally, Synod being a frightened child, has never directly condemned the losses and actions that lead to them. We can surmise that Synod and District thinks it’s okay for thousands of people (and congregations) to lose their reserves, building funds, retirement funds, dream homes, and pensions.

I worked for the ABC District’s restructuring officer for a year. My job was to visit people and just listen to what they had to say. I made 300 personal visits. There were three that I remember because they didn’t cry or yell. They just sat quietly asked questions. Three. The rest were emotional, loud, quiet, but never calm or peaceful. Unanswered spiritual devastation is compounded the financial and legal stonewalling. I’m sure Synod sees the spiritual devastation as legally important. It has to. Why else would it allow it? Abandoning a firm moral position is a necessary part of the process when you throw millions of dollars to the wind and leave people devastated.

Here’s an uncomfortable question: is there a class divide between lay people and clergy in LCC? LCC is aggressively taking steps to prop up the Synod pension fund. Clearly, the fund was drawn down to a critical point which Synod is now addressing to the consternation and financial pain of congregations across the country. As I sat with those hundreds of people, they all ask the same question. I expected “why” since it’s the easiest question. The question I heard was, “We trusted them. How could they?” It’s not easy to restore lost trust. I know this will raise the ire of clergy who are signed up for the pension plan, but frankly, it’s a question that needs to be asked.  It’s a question that deserves a real answer. I’ve gotten emails in the last week that have said, “Synod is protecting pastors, but won’t lift a finger for lay people.” Hundreds of pensions were lost in CEF/DIL. Lay losses caused by Synod are just one of those things, I guess. Synod has been much more aggressive about protecting the pension fund.

Last week’s news of the Alberta Securities Commission hearing on August 13 should be an eye-opener. Here’s a helpful way to think about what’s happened and will continue to happen in LCC, because the culture that caused CEF/DIL is still very much alive and well. The only way to get the point where an investment fund collapses, or when a pension fund needs a significant top up is when every decision leads to that outcome. It’s fair to say that LCC has earned its current circumstances.

Financially, LCC has never been able to get its act together. Convention in 2006 said, “figure out how to make one seminary out of two.” We still have two seminaries. Whatever that 3-year program was, I hope the committee enjoyed their air travel, hotel, and meals, because that was the only thing that came out of that particular effort. LCC’s default action is inaction.

Is all this offensive? Absolutely, it’s REALLY offensive… that Synod is working hard to shore up pastors’ retirements when it has ignored the plight of its own members. Synod membership has dropped almost 7% since 2015. There are ever-fewer people to fill the coffers. It’s a great question and a worthwhile discussion, but it won’t happen in LCC. Lutheran Church Canada lacked the will and fortitude to talk about CEF/DIL at convention. Of course not. It would have been too dangerous legally for those involved, including some of the men on the podium at convention. Luther never dodged legal issues. LCC, dodges like a boss.

One day Lutheran Church Canada will issue some kind of weak statement apologizing for the devastation caused to its own people, but only when it’s legally safe. And that’s all you need to know about spiritual leadership and Lutheran Church Canada.

I’m not wrong, and that’s the worst part.

 

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.

Last Modified on July 3, 2018
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One thought on “The Class Divide

  1. Dennis Kendel

    This quote from the 2015 Task Force Report sums it up well:
    Multiple people interviewed said that there has been an attitude of “Lutheran arrogance” among District leadership… an “unbridled sense of their own competence”… “arrogant incompetence.”
    It is also uncanny how prophetically this excerpt describes how things have played out:
    Faced with accusations and grievances, those with authority in denominational church organizations (like the EC and BOD) typically respond with silence, some type of formal process (like restructuring committees, task forces), and legal procedures (like CCAA). These responses produce even greater alienation in people who have been hurt and trigger similar legal responses (like lawsuits). Silence from leaders and the church family is often more hurtful than the original wrong done. Those who have been hurt typically want justice and change as much as or more than money. Clergy tend to be given the benefit of the doubt by laity. Research tells us that clergy in authority positions can develop feelings of arrogance, exaggerated confidence, sense of rightness, and feelings of omniscience. They can develop the sense that they have the bigger range picture in mind, know what is for the best, and know more than laity. People in the church have inherent trust in clergy, defer to clergy and authority, and are loyal to clergy leaders and the larger church. This loyalty means that group needs are subconsciously put ahead of individuals by people in the church – especially when bad things have happened to these individuals (like CEF/DIL depositors) at the hands of the church and/or clergy. The church typically unites against those rocking the boat (like people demanding accountability) and these people can become scapegoats for the organization. Churches in general are not comfortable with dissent or grievances, and denominational churches are among the least tolerant.

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