An Open Letter on Transparency and Accountability

Read about recent efforts to improve accountability for how contributions are used to support the Synod’s mission.

“You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” (Ps. 139:3–4)

Psalm 139 speaks, in part, to the foolishness of deception and hidden agendas. God knows everything, even our innermost thoughts and motives.

Over the past several years, going back before the last LCMS convention in 2016, we began to re-examine how we view and treat those who make sacrifices in order to contribute to our Synod’s mission. 2016 Resolution 9-04A affirmed that re-examination process, with a churchwide encouragement to improve and expand efforts to be transparent and accountable for how voluntary contributions support the Synod’s mission, its Constitution and Bylaws, and convention-mandated work.

Annual Report CoverThe first annual report for the LCMS since the mid-1980s is part of this issue of Lutherans Engage the World. An electronic version is also available as a no-cost PDF download on the LCMS website.

An annual report alone will not satisfy every expectation for greater transparency. A constituent may wish to see other documents or documentation, depending on his or her unique interests and needs.

I hope you regularly read this magazine, which exists to provide stories and images of the very work made possible by the financial gifts and time voluntarily given by God’s people in the LCMS — and even a few who aren’t members of LCMS congregations. In addition, check out the social-media presence of the LCMS, which includes Twitter and Facebook accounts for many ministries, for information about the impact you are having in the world.

The LCMS also recently created an online “gateway” to transparency and accountability resources, accessible at Other steps taken since 2013 are not so noticeable or obvious, but space precludes a comprehensive review.

Transparency and accountability are not optional in the 21st century. Meeting and surpassing peoples’ expectations in these areas is not an easy task, especially when standards vary from one person or group to another and the goal line seems to move depending on the audience. The LCMS is not a perfect organization with unlimited resources.

To guide our improvement efforts, we submitted ourselves to a weeks-long, rigorous evaluation by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, under independent standards applicable to all nonprofit organizations. In 2017, we received BBB Accredited Charity status, setting an industry standard the LCMS must strive to maintain. We remain open to constructive criticism and recommendations for improvement.

Ultimately, though, we know that the true standard is not a human standard. Psalm 139 is a holy reminder to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Savior we serve, both publicly and in private.

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