Why President Kieschnick’s Numbers are Down

This is the fourth and final post analyzing why President Kieschnick showed so poorly in nominations. Perhaps his greatest weakness is that President Kieschnick has a very difficult time working with people who do not agree with him. Before I continue please answer the following question.

What do Wallace Schulz, Daniel Preus and Todd Wilken have in common?

You might have answered: All three used to be employed by the Synod and were busy promoting the gospel of Christ in ways which reflected the rich mission diversity of our church. Wallace Schulz was the assistant Lutheran Hour Speaker. Daniel Preus was the executive director of Concordia Historical Institute and then the first vice president of the synod. Todd Wilken was the host of Issue Etc. one of the most successful radio outreach ministries in the history of the Synod.

What do Wallace Schulz, Daniel Preus and Todd Wilken have in common?

Or you might have said: All three lost their jobs working for the synod because they disagreed with President Kieschnick. Wallace was fired immediately after he made a decision to suspend the Atlantic District President David Benke in the aftermath of the Yankee Stadium worship service. Benke, you recall, had been supported by President Kieschnick. Daniel Preus was defeated at the 2004 convention. He had disagreed with President Kieschnick in an Email to a friend which had subsequently become public. The President campaigned strongly against Pastor Preus. Todd Wilken’s demise occurred more recently. He was fired as host of Issues etc. about two yeas ago. Rev. Wilken was known as a critic of certain planks of President Kieschnick’s platform.  

What do Wallace Schulz, Daniel Preus and Todd Wilken have in common?

Or you might have said: All three now work outside the synod in areas which carry out innovative outreach with the gospel into the world. Wallace is one of the prime movers behind the Good News Magazine and is employed full time by Lutheran Heritage Foundation a parachurch group which translates Lutheran theological works into many languages throughout the world. Daniel Preus is Executive Director of the Luther Academy a parachurch group which plans and resources educational opportunities for pastors all over the world. These pastors learn theology and become better pastors. I am especially excited about the Lutheran Academy’s “Indonesia Project.” Almost 100 pastors are transported to a common site and taught theology for a week by an American Professor. These third world pastors then reach out into their country, a country dominated by Islamic influence, more fervently with the Gospel. Todd Wilken is still the host of Issues etc. which was forced to go independent. Unencumbered by synodical, administrative expectations Pastor Wilken is even more effective in communicating the gospel to a new generation of Christians.

One last question: What is the greatest resource of the LCMS besides the Gospel and the Sacraments? It’s people. Without people nothing gets done. Without wholly dedicated, extensively trained, highly motivated, mission-hearted pastors our mission efforts grind to a stop. And all of us kind of suspect that mission work has grinded to a stop in Missouri.      

Here’s the problem. President Kieschnick has a very difficult time working with people who do not agree with him. Men with full time positions end up losing their jobs. These talented and hardworking men are then lost to the synod. Oh, they all still serve in congregations. And they serve the church. They are missionaries. They don’t just go away. They continue to serve. But the synod does not benefit from their hard work. When President Kieschnick is elected by 52% of the delegates and he makes it obvious that he will not work with those who don’t agree with him then almost half of the people of the synod are disqualified from service. That is a huge loss of our greatest resource. That is why the synod has slowed down and that is why President Kieschnick showed poorly in the nominations.  

And it’s not just these three. These are just the ones that made headlines in the church. Look at the appointments of synodical commissions and boards or to convention committees. You don’t see the Wallace Schulzes, Daniel Preuses or Todd Wilkens sitting across the table from those who support President Kieschnick. It’s typically only his men who are trusted.  

Of course we all know how tough it is work with those you don’t agree with. I don’t like it. But most of us who serve the church have learned to do so. Even most of those whose vocation is outside the church need to learn to work with talented people who may not always be compliant.  

What is needed is a president who is willing to work with the vast majority of those in the synod – even those who may not always agree with him.


Why President Kieschnick’s Numbers are Down — 15 Comments

  1. Pastor Preus,

    I agree with you whole-heartedly. I kept thinking that you could have added Dr. Martin Nolan formerly of the Concordia Historical Institute.

    I’m sure you assumed this but I do, however, want to make a clarification. If a Synodical President is willing to work with others he would have to be compromising to get things done. A Synodical President who uses his personal values and ambitions as the center of that compromise would not be one I would want. Even a consientious, well-meaning, and dedicated man can be completely off-base if he looks to himself for guidance.

    I know it is an obvious point but the men holding positions within Synod (and every person in Synod for that matter) should be guided by Scripture and our Confessions. Using these items which are outside the person at least restrains each person’s sinful nature and gives an unmoving compass from which to set the organization’s course.

    I have dealt with some others in leadership roles in Synod in my discussions. The “inability to work with others who disagree” trait is quite evident there too. These men should be worked with by the Synodical President to re-align their efforts and goals with Scripture and the Confessions or they should be allowed to serve in other capacities but not in roles of Synodical leadership. In this way these men may be seen as a Schulz, Preus, or Wilken by some but not because they wouldn’t conform with the desires of a Synodical President but because they wouldn’t conform with the norm by which they swore to be normed – Scripture and the Confessions.

    To return the Synod to her course the new Synodical President will have to be grounded and bound by Scripture and the Confessions, pastoral in his dealings with all, but also discerning in the removal of the men who disqualify (or have disqualified) themselves from their positions of leadership within Synod.

    Thanks much for a marvelous series. Paul

  2. Thank you Pastor Preus. This is a great article. You have spoken the truth.

    God meant it all for good, but that in no way justifies what was done to these faithful men.

    Even bosses in the world who act this way are despised, and suffer the consequences.

  3. You can add Rev. Edward Balfour (BOD) and Julie Martinez (BOD) to that list, and the open campaign directed against BOD members Elizabeth Skinner, David Hawk, and Christian Preus by the nominating committee (under the direction of the president), and the adminstration’s go-to organization, PoliticsFirst.


  4. I would not place Edward Balfour and Julie Martinez in the same category as the other members of the BOD were tarred with a scarlet letter. Both resigned their seats of their own free will…

  5. @Dan #5

    You have a valid point, but I stand by my assertion, only because life on the BOD had become so contentious. To their credit, neither of them went into detail about their reasons for resigning. That’s all I dare say.


  6. Ok, so since you made a comparison to vocations outside the Church, let me try to make an analogy using my vocation.
    I write software. I work in a company of people who write software.
    I have to work with difficult people. I can be difficult myself. But from the time we come in to the time we leave, it’s assumed that we’re working on software.

    If one of the employees here decided he’d rather change tires, he wouldn’t be doing it for very long before someone in authority would point out that the goal of the company is not to change tires, and if he persisted, he’d get a special little piece of pink paper requesting that he do it elsewhere.

    If the president of my employing company decided to change the company into a tire changing enterprise, it wouldn’t be that long before he found himself without the majority of his previous workforce. And it would hardly be surprising if he was found to be forcing out those people who persisted in writing software.

    Now, if the president of my company didn’t bother to change any of the official corporate documents, and just got a bunch of inside supporters and started telling people to change tires…

  7. Most of us have spent the better part of our lives disagreeing with others around how we do the Lord’s work or even in conflict over a personality style. Leaving Board meetings after having disagreed with someone and then having a Lutheran lemonade with them has been some of the finest times of my life. Me thinks K finds it hard to work with those who disagreed with him because the disagreements are around fundamental issues not adiophora. As my early mentor once said, I paraphrase “there will always be politics but we should do it the right way in His church. Always be honest and up front and if you lose a battle or a vote remain magnanimous unless it is a matter of core doctrine. Let God work it all out for good.” Oh how I have loved the men and women who earnesty wanted the same thing I wanted but desired a different method to get there. It is those who pretend to want what I want who scare me. Abba help us.

  8. This really isn’t surprising; it’s the basic tenets of corporate leadership. The leader establishes and promotes his vision for the corporation, and subordinates are expected to comply (or “buy in”) with that vision. Why should anyone who disagrees with the mission/purpose statement of the corporation be tolerated in a publicly visible position? Everyone is to be working toward the same goal/pulling in the same direction/actualizing the same vision/etc.

    Or to put it more succinctly, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” The SP is the “leader,” which means everyone else’s options boil down to “follow” or “get out of the way” (voluntarily or involuntarily).

    This is why corporate leadership principles fall flat when one tries to apply them to the Church. The vision/mission/purpose of the leader(s) replaces the Scripture and the Confessions as the foundation of the Church and the standard by which it is governed.

  9. Dear Paul in O’Fallon (comment #1),

    Thanks for your kind words and for remembering me. I appreciate that very much!

    Klemet’s list of three: Wallace Schulz, Daniel Preus, and Todd Wilken–didn’t include me because for one, frankly, I am not as prominent as those men, and for two, because as far as I know President Kieschnick was not involved in my termination. President Kieschnick told officers of the synod at the time that my termination was a surprise to him. Until evidence proves otherwise, I believe that statement of the synodical president to be true, because evidence points in other directions.

    Since my first year in college at Concordia, River Forest (1976), I have managed to offend some people who, for one reason or another, disagree with the historic position of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, as defined by its constitution. “Offense” was not my intent, but rather evangelical theological correction as explained by Paul in II Timothy 4:2. Nevertheless, offense was taken, and “revenge” threatened or exacted on several occasions. Here are the cases I remember:

    #1 – Waldo Werning, regarding church growth, 1983; #2 – Waldo Werning, regarding his book “Making Missouri Functional Again,” 1992; #3 – Marie Meyer, cause unknown, sometime in the 1990s; #4 – CHI board majority (including a leading member of Jesus First), cause unknown, 2008; #5 – Dr. X, regarding my defense of lay authority in the LCMS, 2010 (name withheld by me, due to currently being in process).

    So, you can see here, that I have had a pretty hefty group of prominent folks who have tried to threaten or get rid of me. And they are still trying. Why? Because I have attempted to defend the historic position of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod against the encroachments of “church growth” advocates, charismatics, promoters of women’s ordination, higher critics, and promoters of greater authority for clergy.

    I was very circumspect about theological criticism of anyone or anything during my years at CHI. I was, after all, an officer of the synod at the time, and that was not my role or privilege. I certainly did not engage in any criticism of the synodical president or his actions during those years (Feb. 2002- May 2008), either publicly or privately. So the synodical president would not have had cause for offense at me, for things I did or said against him. It is important to know, also, that he never told me he was offended at me.

    It is also important to know that the CHI board did not tell me why they wanted me to resign. They held a three hour meeting, executive session without me, then the board majority asked me to resign, no reasons given then or later.

    So my belief is that I was terminated at CHI because of the long-standing animosity against me by persons, other than the synodical president, who have been the subject of my theological criticism over the years. The fact that these persons respond with threats instead of discussion or debate indicates to me that they have no other defense.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  10. @Martin R. Noland #11

    > my defense of lay authority in the LCMS

    > promoters of greater authority for clergy

    Dear Dr. Noland,
    Am I oversimplifying to analyze at least part of this as follows:
    – the longstanding practice of MO was male-only suffrage and ‘supreme’ (understood properly) voter assemblies
    – Scripture, almost all church history up to the postmodern age, Luther and Walther all hold the order of creation as not dissolving with the coming of Christ and the New Testament
    – a dubious, confused, possibly devious, and (unsurprisingly) socially contemporaneous decision in 1969 to allow female suffrage as long as it did not usurp male headship (sorry, I paraphrase, and I hope not making any semantic change)
    – leaving the stark choice of either de-powering the voter assembly (thus super-powering the pastor or at least the pastor and council) versus openly approving cases of gratuitous female headship over grown men and congregations
    – and the voters gradually but steadily losing their Scriptural (as defined by Walther) privileges and responsibilities in governing the congregation

    All modern MO pastors effortlessly define the impact of the order of creation in the church as applying only to the pastoral office. This is new-ish thinking but now passes for absolute truth and is unquestioned even in self-described confessional circles. They also correctly relate it to family life. But sort of in-between, in congregational polity, it doesn’t exist. That is unnatural, isn’t it? Wasn’t the real clamor for female suffrage about rights? — completely the wrong language and concept.

  11. Martin R. Noland :So my belief is that I was terminated at CHI because of the long-standing animosity against me by persons, other than the synodical president, who have been the subject of my theological criticism over the years. The fact that these persons respond with threats instead of discussion or debate indicates to me that they have no other defense.
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

    Dr. Noland, you were replaced by an interim director who was a major supporter of Jesus First, and later by a CHI board member who happened to be the recently-retired executive director of the Lutheran Hour Ministries/Lutheran Layman’s League, the same organization that “fired” Wallace Schulz. Sounds like you should be added to the list to me.

  12. Remember, in purpose driven seeker sensitive leaders, there is no such thing as a valid Biblical criticism!


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