Must Read Commentary from Martin Noland

(Editor’s Note: Martin Noland was recently relieved of his position as Director of the Concordia Historical Institute and so is quite familiar with synodical machinations. For details click here Augsburg 1530. He is commenting on Chris Roseborough’s provocative comment which is the 12th  comment on Mollie’s post titled “About the 64 Listeners…” This post of Martin’s is also from that same string of comments, but we thought it was worthy to post on its own. Thanks to both Marty and Chris for these insights as we continue to sort through the politics that led to the cancellation of Issues, Etc. on KFUO. For those new to this discussion, Issues, Etc. is back on the air and can be heard on the internet every week day thanks to your donations and the efforts of Chris Roseborough and his Pirate Christian Radio Network.)

 

I need to respond to Chris Roseborough’s post, since I know about many of the people involved in this affair.

 

First, it would be great to have Issues, etc. back on KFUO. That is really where it belongs.

 

Second, innocent people should not be punished for other persons mistakes. Innocent people are the good folks who work at KFUO, including Diane Sommers, Paul Clayton, Chuck Rathert, Tom Baker, the engineers, the maintenance men, the receptionist, et. al. I don’t believe that any of them draw a very large paycheck. They do it for the love of the work, the audience, and the Gospel. I know many of these people and they don’t deserve this treatment.

 

Third, the complaints should be directed to the persons who are responsible. David Strand is not necessarily that person. He is in the situation I used to be, that is, according to LCMS bylaws “he serves at the pleasure of the board.” He may be very unhappy about the decision of the Board for Communication Services to discontinue Issues, etc., but he is obligated in his position to obey and execute their decision. He might voice a protest in a board meeting, off the record, but never outside. If he gave the board any resistance over their decision, he would lose his job. David is a very amiable and cooperative man, in any event.

 

Fourth, the persons responsible are the board majority of the Board for Communication Services. I know that Mr. Garbe, Pastor Vogts, and Dr. Berger have always been very supportive of Issues, etc. I doubt that they would have voted to close the program, but I don’t know for sure. That leaves four persons probably responsible: Dr. David Kluth of Concordia-Austin, Mrs. Candace Mueller (I believe a sometimes writer for Lutheran Witness or the Reporter), Rev. John Bush of Brownstown, Michigan, and Mr. Dennis Clauss. Clauss’ name rings a bell from seminary class lists, but I can’t locate it, and he is not on the LCMS ordained roster. I believe Clauss is the chairman of the board. If people are going to complain about the decision, complaints should be directed to Kluth, Mueller, Bush, and Clauss, not to the innocent folk who work for the church sacrificially.

 

Fifth, in the broader scheme of things, people need to understand that the synodical offices really are undergoing a severe financial cutback this year. The Treasurer of the Synod and the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Funding the Mission did an excellent job of analysis of the problem of operational funding and suggesting solutions in the last triennium. Their report was submitted to the convention, where it was basically ignored. Now all of the offices and boards that are in the “corporate synod” are going to have to make cuts in staff. There really is no other choice in most departments.

 

Sixth, the Board of Communication Services did have other options, such as selling KFUO-FM, and using the millions from that sale to keep KFUO-AM afloat for the next decade or so. This option was proposed by many different people in the last couple of years, with extensive debate on the subject in the Board of Directors of synod. Check the minutes of both boards going back for the last five years, available on synod’s website.

 

Seventh, and I think this is the main issue, the BCS chose to close down a national ministry that had an evangelistic, educational, and apologetic focus, instead of a Saint Louis arts station, with no religious function at all. This suggests, at first glance, that the board majority at the BCS has a preference for Saint Louis over the rest of the USA; and a preference for classical music and the arts, over evangelism and religious education. But that really makes no sense, does it? Why would they keep a Saint Louis specific function, and ignore the rest of the USA, when the Lutherans in the rest of the USA are the ones who send in the dollars that keep all the ministries of BCS afloat? What makes Saint Louis so special that the rest of the nation should pay for its arts program? And I love classical music!

I am glad that Todd and Jeff are willing to continue their program, and I pray that they get lots of financial supporters. It won’t go for long without that folks! Talk to your congregations, and ask them to commit to regular monthly payments, because that regular stream of unrestricted funds is what keeps these ministries afloat.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

Must Read Commentary from Martin Noland — 7 Comments

  1. Dr. Noland,

    Thank you for your insightful response. I would like to respond to some of your assertions in the spirit of open dialogue.

    1. The primary purpose of my suggestion to cancel The Afternoon Show so that KFUO-AM could save more money was to draw attention to the unsatisfactory explanation given for the cancelation of Issues, Etc. As someone who is intimately familiar with the day to day expenses of the New Issues, Etc. program I am in a position to definitively state that the Synod’s claims that Issues, Etc. lost $250,000 last year is a flat out lie. http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=13252 . The fact is, it ONLY costs about $300,000 to produce and syndicate Issues, Etc. and Issues, Etc. raised FAR MORE than $50,000 in donations last year.

    My point is that if the Synod truly was trying to save money at KFUO and that was the REAL reason Issues, Etc. was cancelled THEN if they were being consistent, they’d cancel the Afternoon Show (which is a sub par program) and put Issues, Etc. back in its old time slot at KFUO which is where it belongs.

    Now that the financial reasons for canceling the show have been removed and are no longer an issue, the Synodical powers should be more than happy to bring Issues, Etc. back to KFUO. Right?

    But, there lies the problem. I for one, do not believe that Issues, Etc. was cancelled for financial reasons and my opinion is based on the numbers. Instead, I am absolutely convinced the show was cancelled because its confessional Christ-Centered focus upset those in the Synod who are trying to steer us into becoming more ‘evangelical’ and ‘purpose-driven’.

    3. I have not seen any evidence to convince me that David Strand cancelled the program as a result of a decision that the BCS had made. It is my understanding that the decision to cancel Issues, Etc. came from outside of the BCS and HIGH up in the synodical ranks. I may be wrong here. If anyone can show me BCS meeting minutes that show this decision was made by them prior to March 18th, I’ll gladly change my mind.

    3. As for ‘good people’ like Diana Sommers being fired. I wish them no personal harm. However, if the decision were ever made to put Issues, Etc. back in its rightful time slot then there would be no need for her to continue to stay on the payroll of KFUO. It’s not personal its just business.

  2. Chris,

    Regarding your first point 3, which I assume you meant as point 2, I’m quite sure you are right that Strand’s original explanation was that he had the power to cancel Issues Etc on his own authority & he did so. It was only later that the BCS acquiesed in the decision.

  3. Dr. Noland,

    I suppose everybody has about made up their minds one way or the other about the real reason Issues, Etc. was canceled. Your comments certainly add to the mix, however, they don’t include the $500,000 given the BCS for the year 2008 & 2009, by Thrivent. This was spent on magazine advertisement, from what I have read. Case of mis-placed priorities?

    I don’t happen to be a fan of the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report that you mention. To me, it has several flaws, particularly as affecting or impacting congregations and has a strong episcopal flavor to to it.

    Since your old email address no longer works I am in need of getting a new one so I can change it on the CLCC mailing list. Can you send me a private email for that purpose? I believe you still have my address.

  4. Dr. Noland:
    Greetings from your hometown…and from those who think of you and yours often and hope to see you in the months to come.
    A note on your comment that “…the complaints [re: Issues”] should be directed to the persons who are responsible. David Strand is not necessarily that person…” While it would not surprise me to learn that there were others who knew about the decision to terminate the employment of Wilken/Schwarz, those of us who sent letters of complaint to Mr. Strand did so because he insisted that it was his decision and his alone. The minutes of the April meeting of the BCS reflect that quite clearly: “Executive Director (ED) David Strand reported that he made the decision alone regarding the cancellation of “Issues, Etc.” and the terminations of its host and producer….. After discussing his decision with the BCS chairman, the ED implemented the decision. The board was not consulted, either by the ED or by the board chairman.”
    In directing our concerns to Mr. Strand, we all acted in good faith that he was being upfront about the matter and even suggested that the Board reverse his decision. They didn’t and the majority of BCS should have to answer for that, even as those responsible for protecting pastors from inappropriate removal from positions to which they have been divinely called should have to account for the failure to do so. That a divinely called pastor can be removed by the decision of one layman shouldn’t set well with any of us.

    The Synod in convention will have likely forgotten the inappropriate dismissal of Pastor Wilken [and your board-requested resignation] and will probably say or do little about either. I’d like to be wrong on both counts, but institutional mechanisms so often forget the wrongs which the Church seeks to right.

  5. The only comment I would like to make is that saying David Strand had to do what he did in order to save his own job is so lacking. It is like saying the survival of the fittest. It was okay for David Strand and the board to swing the ax since it didn’t affect them. But no one dare touch their jobs? Were we to be more concerned with Mr. Strand? Were we even given a choice? If allowed to choose who stays or goes, I think the scales would have tipped heavily in favor of Issues Etc had we been allowed to have a voice. This is not an attack on David Strand but a question still as to how the whole matter was handled. It is still a mystery yet to come out in the open. When he silenced the show, whether by direction or the board or his own design, he opened the mouths of those who were not given a chance to help the show out financially. No appeal for money was ever given that sounded as though there was a chance of imminent cancellation. If the more than 7,500 who signed the online petition had known that Issues Etc was told to raise its own revenue, I think I am safe in surmising the listeners and podcasters would have been glad to donate. Certainly public television has no qualms about appealing for funds and yet we do not know whether they are collecting funds for current or future use. My disagreement with what the board did always has been the lack of transparency over what actually transpired and whether the whole station was in jeopardy or only a few given shows. That still has not been satisfied to my way of thinking.

  6. I am not at all sure who was responsible for letting Pastor Todd and Jeff go, the waters have been sufficiently muddied that I am not sure anyone will ever know the truth. Regarding the people at KFUO, there comes a time in someone’s life when they have the opportunity to do the right thing. And the saddest thing may have been to have allowed that opportunity to pass by. This is not to minimize the difficulty of being in such a situation, but there was a choice made between expediency, self interest and the right thing.

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