What's This About?
The Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church-Canada is in trouble. In January 2015, a fund called the Church Extension Fund (CEF) collapsed, leaving hundreds of people, congregations, and other entities without access to funds they had deposited in the fund.
As of now (spring 2017), over two years later, the District is still in a protection process by the courts (called CCAA), and a class action lawsuit is pending to try to recover at least some of the funds that were lost. As of April 2017, about 12% of the money has been paid back.
The Financial Need
Many of the depositors are elderly, and it's been said that many of the depositors (including congregations) are experiencing financial hardship because their CEF funds aren't available to them. There are a number of different reasons for this, but one of the most likely reasons is that they were using interest from their deposits for everyday expenses.
We don't know the exact amount of need at this time. It's clear there is need, but we don't know the details because other than the few who've put their details into affidavits as part of the Representative Action (RA) process, we don't know who the depositors are who are in great need, and what their level of need actually is.
We believe (by following the public records of the court proceedings and other public documents) that the CCAA process very well might last another 6 months or more (source: CCAA Monitor's 27th Report, page 7, paragraph 20). The RA cannot proceed until the court removes this CCAA protection. That may happen in July 2017, or later. For those involved in the RA, it's been said that it will be up to one year from the removal of the CCAA protection for the class to be certified, so it's reasonable to think that any sort of resolution is a minimum of 2-3 years away from now. That would be a total of about 4-5 years from when the news first broke.
The Need for This Project
Regardless of anyone's personal opinion of whether it is appropriate for Christians to participate in an action such as this, the apparent reality is that many people are having difficulty with their finances due to the CEF collapse. And not only are their financial difficulties weighing on them, it's creating spiritual hardships as well. Many have expressed that their church has betrayed their trust in the way their deposits have been handled, and in the responses to the hardships that have been created.
As a group of institutions and corporations, our church (both the ABC District and the Synod of LCC as a whole) seems to be in no position to help. The District will likely be defending itself in this lawsuit, as we've seen no admissions of guilt or specific statements of repentance from District officials and leaders; Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) leadership has expressed that there is no way for LCC to help from an institutional standpoint.
But we know one thing: the Christian Church is not a corporation. It is the body of Christ, the people of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit. If our institutions cannot help, then we as "regular" Christian people must.
So this site is the home of a project that is seeking to help our brothers and sisters in Christ in their times of hardship. The name is based on Acts 4:32-37, where the early Christians were helping each other out in practical ways, and included a man named Barnabas, who sold a field and brought the proceeds to help.
The name Barnabas means "son of encouragement". And that's what we're going to try to do: encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ in this time of need in practical ways.
What This Project Will Do
Simply, this project seeks to do four things:
- Encourage congregations to be intentional in taking care of those in need in their midst.
- Identify people who have financial need and determine what their needs are.
- Collect funds from people or others who are willing and able to donate.
- Distribute the collected funds to those who have need, with an absolute bare minimum of overhead.
Admittedly, the mechanics of this may not be so simple. As of the launch of this project, these mechanics aren't yet developed. But the hope is that we can develop them quickly and begin to put some practical help in motion.