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  "There is a spirit in LLM members.  They love the church and love to talk about giving back what God has given them."

Joyce B. Cain,
LLM executive director

 

Lutheran Laity Movement
To Cease Operations May 31

 

April 17, 2003

By John Brooks
Director, ELCA News Service

   CHICAGO -- Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship (LLM),
a self-supporting membership organization within the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will cease operations immediately
and officially dissolve May 31. LLM, based at the ELCA churchwide
offices here, has been an advocate and leader in stewardship ministry
for nearly a century. It is currently best known for providing
professionally led capital stewardship campaigns in congregations.
   The LLM board of directors took the action March 31, when it
met by conference call.  Reasons for LLM's closure include declining
membership in the organization, increasing operational costs and
fewer congregational fund-raising campaigns since the terrorist
attacks on the United States of Sept. 11, 2001, said Joyce B. Cain,
LLM executive director.
   The decision will result in the loss of two full-time staff
here, plus 10 contract deployed staff, Cain said.  Nine deployed
staff are based in the United States and one is based in Canada, she
said.
   In 1997, as part of the preface for "Empowered Laity -- The
Story of the Lutheran Laity Movement," the Rev. H. George Anderson,
former ELCA presiding bishop, wrote: "When the organization was
founded in 1907, it was called the 'Laymen's Missionary Movement.' It
invited individuals to contribute a minimum of $100 per year toward
the eradication of deficits in the benevolence programs of the
church. It never tried to become a men's brotherhood or social
organization, but focused on improving the giving methods of
congregations. The narrower focus became clear when its name was
changed to 'Lutheran Laymen's Movement for Stewardship.'
   "The LLM reached its greatest strength and influence during the
1950's, when it was given responsibility for supporting and managing
the stewardship programs of the United Lutheran Church in America,"
Anderson said.
   LLM became part of the ELCA through the former Lutheran Church
in America, one of the ELCA predecessor church bodies. Presently, the
organization has about 1,500 members who contribute financial gifts
ranging from $100 to $5,000 annually.
   In 1953, it developed a fund raising service. Through its
history, LLM has led campaigns that have raised more than $550
million in about 4,500 congregational, synodical, churchwide and
other organizations.
   "Our members are going to be extremely disappointed," Cain
said.  "There is a spirit in LLM members.  They love the church and
love to talk about giving back what God has given them."
   In an April 7 letter to members from Cain and Charles K.
Lindquist, LLM president, Northville, Mich., they explained that the
organization has struggled to balance year-end expenses with income
in recent years.  LLM has drawn from reserves in the past, but, they
noted, "this is not a fiscally prudent approach."
   The board decided to dissolve the organization following
consultation with the ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries
(DCM) -- the churchwide unit to which LLM relates, ELCA Office of the
Presiding Bishop, ELCA Office of the Treasurer and LLM staff.
   "It was not an easy decision, but we sincerely believe it is
necessary to maintain the integrity of the principles upon which LLM
was founded," Cain and Lindquist said in their letter.
   Despite the organization's financial problems, giving by LLM
members to the organization showed a modest increase in 2002, said
Dave Holz, LLM assistant director and director, LLM fund raising
service.  "People are still committed to the organization's
ministry," he said.
   LLM's members give more to the organization than financial
gifts, he said.  For example, many are stewardship advocates and
teachers in congregations and synods, Holz said.  LLM members often
serve as resources to pastors in congregations, he said.  Nearly all
of the congregations the fund raising service has served are ELCA,
but Holz said LLM assisted a few Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
congregations and some from other Protestant denominations.
   In addition to the congregational stewardship services it
provides, LLM produces a stewardship journal, "Faith in Action;" a
stewardship resource, "Rejoice;" and annually honors a parish pastor
for outstanding stewardship efforts, Holz added.
   The Rev. Mark R. Moller-Gunderson, DCM executive director and
coordinator for mission support, said he is "personally saddened"
that LLM must cease operations. In an April 7 letter to members, he
praised the "dedicated and highly skilled" staff, and noted the
organization raised "millions of dollars, and thousands of lives were
touched by this unique ministry."
   "My life as a steward leader was shaped early in my ministry by
an LLM practicum," he wrote.  "I thank God for the energy, passion
and vision of the original LLM founders that was carried on through
successive generations."
   "We pray that each of us will find new ways within and through
our congregations to continue to serve as responsible Christian
stewards," said William Brenner, board vice president, Richboro, Pa.,
in a message to LLM members. "That will surely be LLM's finest
legacy!"
---
   Information about Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship can
be found at http://www.elca.org/llm/ on the ELCA Web site.