I am analyzing the mistakes which President Kieschnick has made in the last nine years which lead to his poor showing on synodical nominations. Last time we looked at his apparent inability to recognize and address our theological divisions. The second mistake President Kieschnick has made is to have theology take a back seat to administrative goals.
Every leader wants to build on his strengths. I do. So I really can’t fault President Kieschnick for wanting to focus the attention of the synod on administrative details. This is where his strengths lie. He is a detail guy when it comes to bylaws, parliamentarian procedures, how to lead meetings, and the minutia of leadership that typically cause most of us to suffer the “eyes glazed over” syndrome.
But what are lost in this style of leadership are the rigorous theological discussions which have historically characterized our church body. We just aren’t talking too much theology these days.
The upcoming convention is a perfect example. Normally as a convention approaches the driving issues of the synod are theological. We talk about worship and about what the hymnal should look like. We talk about what it means to be a pastor and how our pastors are trained. We talk about the sacrament; how often it should be offered in the congregation or what criteria should be employed as we seek to find consensus on who should be invited to our altars. We discuss the role of women in the church and how best to confess and practice the truths of God in a pluralistic and increasingly pagan culture. Historically the seminaries have submitted overtures of a theological nature. These set the theological agenda for our church. We attempt to address our problems theologically. In decades past we have discussed these articles of the faith: predestination, objective justification, the inerrancy and inspiration of scripture, the nature of confessional subscription etc.
But look at what is before the delegates at the upcoming convention. Two days of discussion over 22 proposals all of which have been set forth by a task force appointed by President Kieschnick which was to deal with administrative stuff. And this is after the delegates were told to attend one of nine two day regional meetings geared to inform and instruct them about the upcoming administrative proposals.
The agenda of the church these days is simply not theological anymore. We are focusing more and more on the minutia of administration and it is not healthy for us. Some one said that the last three year cycle has been the greatest example of ecclesiastical naval gazing in our synod’s history. At our last circuit meeting we spent an hour and forty minutes talking about the administration of the synod because that is what our synod is discussing these days. I went home strangely disquieted. Are we so united on doctrine that we can spend an entire convention ignoring it?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that President Kieschnick is ignoring our theology. During his nine years he has convened meetings of the synod’s elite to discuss our theological differences. But it is not in his game plan to dedicate an entire convention to it. Nor will he present a systemic approach to resolving theological issues. He leads with his strengths and we see the results.
And there is little doubt that throughout her history the church has never resolved theological issues or furthered her mission through bylaws or administrative tweaking. In our circles over the last couple of decades our constant attempts to further our mission through by-law change have rendered these bylaws almost impossible to decipher.
The synod is tired of this. This weariness is reflected in the nominations for president. We need a theological approach to the life of the synod.
Next: Why did this obsession with administrative details happen?