By Bob Hulteen
When Boko Haram, an extremist organization, intensified violent activities in the northeast of Nigeria, including the kidnapping of 276 girls from the Chibok secondary school in April 2014, many of the displaced persons from neighboring villages flooded into the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN) compound in Numan, Nigeria. Fearing continued incursions by these terrorists, hundreds of people sought safety on LCCN’s 4,100-square-meter plot that includes the Archbishop’s residence.
Sanctuary is a place vulnerable people can go when they feel threatened. But the LCCN compound where people wanted to seek sanctuary is itself quite vulnerable. The central building is not only visible, but even accessible, from a nearby highway.
The Minneapolis Area Synod, LCCN’s companion synod in the U.S., has decided to support the mission and ministry of the LCCN with a $120,000 gift made possible from the sale of the property of Lutheran Church of the Reformation, St. Louis Park, in 2016. Ten percent of the $1.2 million sale will support efforts to secure the LCCN compound and to stabilize the solvency of pension funds for retired LCCN pastors.
“‘Security is the greatest challenge for the church today,’ explained Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus.”
“Security is the greatest challenge for the church today,” explained Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus, who was installed as the LCCN’s archbishop more than a year ago and was subsequently elected president of the Lutheran World Federation. “The LCCN has its largest membership in the northeastern states of Nigeria, a region that has been hit hard by Islamic insurgents and the incessant violent attacks launched most recently by people tagged as herdsmen.”
“The support received from the Minneapolis Area Synod goes specifically to ensuring security and safety, particularly at the church headquarters,” Archbishop Filibus added. “This was a big push for the church’s five-year strategy.”
“The LCCN headquarters is located near the area where Boko Haram is active,” said Bishop Ann Svennungsen, who attended Archbishop Filibus’ installation in February 2016. “It is near a busy thoroughfare and has become increasingly vulnerable to security threats. [A portion of the funds from the sale of the Reformation property] will be used primarily to relocate buildings and enhance security.”
Archbishop Filibus, who will be a featured speaker at the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly in May, expressed his deep appreciation for the legacy of Reformation Lutheran and its impact on LCCN. “Our hearts are full of joy and thanksgiving for your gift and the love you showed us,” he said. “This legacy will be written as on marble as far as the history of the LCCN is concerned.”
In addition, part of the support goes to stabilize the pension plan of retired churchworkers that has been seriously disrupted, thereby giving confidence that, after years of service, retirees will have stable income for their families. “We are really gladdened as well for this kind gesture,” Archbishop Filibus added.
THE LEGACY PROVIDED by the members of Lutheran Church of the Reformation will also have local impact, in some area congregations and communities. The Synod Council decided the proceeds from the sale would be used to establish the synod’s “Resurrection Fund” for ongoing ministry. The Synod Council also appointed a Resurrection Fund Advisory Council to develop a process for distribution of these funds over the next five years or so. None of the funds from the sale of the Reformation Lutheran property will go to support the operating budget of the Minneapolis Area Synod.
“When Reformation Lutheran Church closed, the property was given to the synod for mission work,” explained Bishop Svennungsen. “When the property sold, we used this generous gift to inaugurate the synod’s Resurrection Fund. Ten percent of the Resurrection Fund will be used as a tithe to support ministries outside the Minneapolis Area Synod.” In this instance, that accounts for the support of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria.
“The Synod Council decided the proceeds from the sale would be used to establish the synod’s ‘Resurrection Fund’ for ongoing ministry.”
In addition to the tithe to the LCCN, other aspects of the Resurrection Fund include a major impact gift to support ministry in North Minneapolis, numerous “ministry innovation grants” for innovative projects originating in synod congregations, support for projects that reflected the unique characteristics of the Reformation Lutheran, and significant seeding of the synod’s new start congregations.
“We are delighted with the framework approved by the Synod Council for distributing gifts that the synod receives from the sale of church properties,” mentioned Bishop Svennungsen. “And, we want to make sure every congregation especially knows about the ‘Ministry Imagination Grants’ – $2,000 to $25,000 grants to launch or enhance an innovative ministry in neighborhoods and communities where congregations reside.” (More information about the Ministry Imagination Grant process will be announced next week.)
EDITED–An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the congregation as Reformation Lutheran Church. It’s official name was Lutheran Church of the Reformation.