District Presidents Squelch Input on Blue Ribbon Proposals, by Pr. Tim Rossow

April 26th, 2009 Post by

A group of LCMS laymen have grown concerned that the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s (BRTF) approach to getting feedback is not as complete as it could be and so they have made the BRTF’s survey available to a wider audience. The council of presidents is not happy with their efforts and during their meeting last week decided to discourage people from taking the survey. We talked recently to the laymen who put the survey on line to find out more about their efforts.

To take the survey go to http://blueribbonsurvey.com. It takes at least 45 minutes but it is set up so that you can log in and out and finish as you have time. The survey consists of the word by word presentation of the BRTF and their exact survey that they used at the Southern Illinois Convention. The “interested laymen,” as they have dubbed themselves, did it that way so that no one could complain that they had somehow tainted the work of the BRTF.

The one thing they added is what they call “other thoughts to consider.” One of the reasons they are frustrated with the BRTF is that during the district convention presentations they are not allowing time for questions and comments before people take their survey on the proposals. To remedy that, the interested laymen have gathered comments from various sources and pastors around the synod to balance out the proposals. The BRTF provides a rationale in support of each proposal (included on the survey site) and so the interested laymen, for the sake of balance, provided other comments to consider which identify potential problems with each proposal. The BRTF is also not publishing the results of the surveys that they are taking at the conventions. It seems like a very closed process which is why the “interested laymen” are bringing the survey to the world wide web for all to take.

They have also made the survey available to the public because the issues involved in the Blue Ribbon proposals affect all of the church. They are also concerned that the input is not public. Members of the synod are encouraged by the BRTF to provide feedback on the synodical website but these comments are not public. They are hidden. In a further effort to be fair and balanced the “interested laymen” have made sure to include a link to the synod website so that survey participants can also speak directly to the BRTF.

We have been informed that the Council of Presidents in their meeting last week decided to discourage people from taking the survey even though it is very fair and contains all of the presentation material from the BRTF and their very survey word for word. Here is the letter that I and all the other pastors in the Northern Illinois District received from our district president discouraging us from taking this open, public and accurate survey.

Dear Timothy Rossow,

An invitation has been distributed to individuals in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to respond to the topics under consideration by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance through an unofficial web survey. This invitation encourages individuals to express their opinions on topics to those who have no relationship with the BRTFSSG or any responsibility concerning the work of the task force. All members of the synod are encouraged to respond directly to the task force after reviewing the current work of the task force as posted on the synod web site, click on “Walking Together.” After accessing and reviewing the “Current District Convention Report” and other documents posted on this site, your comments can be sent directly to the task force by email. The email address and phone number are posted on the front page of the BRTFFS web site. The members of the task force encourage your response.

Together Serving Him,

Rev. Dan P. Gilbert, President
Northern Illinois District LCMS

It is very disturbing that the District Presidents have taken such an overbearing approach toward the “interested laymen’s” efforts to bring the survey to the entire church and to get more involvement from pastors and the laity. The “interested laymen” are doing the work the BRTF should have done in the first place, which is to see to it that input is fair, public and from as broad a base as possible. The District Presidents must be opposed to the average laymen and pastor having input if they oppose this very fair and transparent survey. Maybe the District Presidents are in favor of the proposals and that is why they have acted this way. After all, the Blue Ribbon proposals themselves are overbearing and seek to centralize power and control in St. Louis and also take representation away from the congregations.

If you have received a similar e-mail from your district president please let us know. Also, we here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast think this survey is a good thing and encourage you to let your voice be heard. You can take the survey at http://blueribbonsurvey.com.


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  1. Alex
    April 27th, 2009 at 01:24 | #1

    “This invitation encourages individuals to express their opinions on topics to those who have no relationship with the BRTFSSG or any responsibility concerning the work of the task force.”

    Worst case is you go through the whole survey get informed from a more fair presentation than otherwise available and send comments that are not read by anyone involved with the process.

    If nothing else it would help you to be better informed by exposing you to not only the official presentation but also pertinent comments by others for some semblance of balance. If you comments are not read by anyone on the task force it would either be because they were not forwarded as the “interested laymen” have expressed is their intent on their website, or the comments were ignored by the task force.

    As long as the comments are sent to the task force these laymen are doing them a great service by helping to get as much feedback as possible. If the district presidents are doubtful that the input of members may not be sent to the task force perhaps they could recommend that the task force request permission from the laymen to copy the survey and set it up to solicit comments that would be sent directly to them.

    If decisions are based on input from one side of these proposals then it is a disservice to the whole synod and undermines any attempt at unity.

  2. Susan R
    April 27th, 2009 at 07:35 | #2

    I know they don’t care up there in St. Louis, but conformity is not unity. Submission is not agreement.
    We owe a lot ‘to those who have no relationship with the BRTFSSG or any responsibility concerning the work of the task force,’ who’ve put together this informative survey, since the BRTFSSG has failed not only in its own effort to fully inform, but has so obviously failed to see it has any duty to fully inform.
    The thing about the survey is, you don’t even have to respond. You can simply read it and learn a great deal.

  3. Todd Wilken
    April 27th, 2009 at 08:37 | #3

    If the COP acts like this now, how will they act after President Kieschnick’s restructuring centralizes power even more?

    God help us.

    TW

  4. Jeremy Loesch
    April 27th, 2009 at 09:28 | #4

    I think that’s a scary, yet accurate, comment Todd. Our SED meets in convention May 1-3 in Norfolk, VA and there have been a few overtures submitted that encourage caution in proceeding with the “Walking Together (As Long As You Walk Our Way)” document. (I added that last part myself.)

    I do not expect those overtures to be taken very seriously. And I am anxious for the presentation to the Convention. I own up to my cynicism, but the presentation occurs Sunday morning, the last morning of the convention, so it appears to me that they do not want to spend any more time discussing this docujunk than they have to.

    And imagine that the Task Force is glad that the ELCA study on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust has been released and it taking some of the ‘spotlight’ of our own proposal document.

    Jeremy (Great job with the show BTW. Devoted on-demand listener! Thanks for the love.)

  5. Susan R
    April 27th, 2009 at 09:58 | #5

    The task force is definitely hip to the Alinsky method, isolating and freezing out dissent; even open discussion.
    Whaddayaknow? They’re behaving like leftist community organizers.
    I see dead people.
    I see naked people.

  6. Rev. Scott Hojnacki
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:00 | #6

    I received the exact same note in ND, so I assume it’s a form letter that was given to all the DP’s to forward to their districts.

    We must keep reminding ourselves that the entire restructuring process is not a theological process but a LEADERSHIP process. Real LEADERS don’t allow detractors, dissenters, conscientious objectors, or confessors to get in the way of achieving the GOAL.

  7. Pastor Tim Rossow
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:05 | #7

    Susan R.,

    You are correct about the Alinsky thing. His Machiavellian and worse tactics have become mainstream with the recent national election.

    It is a really diabolical tactic to just keep repeating falsehoods until people start to believe you. In the case of the Task Force, they keep saying over and over again that they are all about input and yet when a chance for real input comes along, like this survey, they try to squelch it.

    TR

  8. Pastor Tim Rossow
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:10 | #8

    Good point Scott.

    They are clearly playing the “input game.” Here is how it works. They come publicly stating that they want input. We want input. We want input. We want input. They then control the input and do not allow a public debate over it. Then, when all is said and done, they think they have the high road and are able to announce triumphantly that they sought lots of input – from every district. That is why this survey is so great. It has revealed the truth about them. They do not want input at all. They just want to claim that they got input.

    You are right – it is all a part of this leadership crap.

    TR

  9. Rev. Alan J. Wollenburg
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:16 | #9

    Disguised heavy handedness is only disguised to the one who is doing it — most other people are smart enough (I pray!) to see it. Even though I had been sharing the survey site with some of the leadership of the congregation which I serve, a couple of them did not start to get truly interested until I told them that the DP had suggested that they really ought to “just trust us” — THAT got them interested! So, thanks, COP – kind of. Folks, be SURE to tell people that the COP does NOT want you to clearly voice your opinions to anyone besides them (does that hint at “spin control” or what?).

    In doctrinal matters, may we NEVER vote. In matters of adiaphora, may it be that we will ALWAYS discuss — AND discuss how changes might affect the individual souls whom Christ has given to our care. For the sake of the Gospel, we dare not permit ourselves to be bullied. Kyrie, eleison.

  10. Dennis Peskey
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:19 | #10

    Dear BJS – Thank you for providing this service to our Church. From the initial receiving of the BRTFSSG document, I have great reservations on the intent and purpose of these proposals. The initial reports from those district conventions which have already been subjected to the “survey” conducted by our Synodical officials, I am hard pressed to witness an effort at “walking together” or any attempt at real dialogue concerning the vast and substantial impact of this task force.

    I am reminded of when I reenlisted in the Marines during the mid-1970’s. A major problem confronting our “mission” was a very poor attitude arising from a total lack of moral. Our commanding officer’s solution was to personally issue the following order the entire Battalion, “There will be no poor moral in my Battalion!” Solved that problem (if your organization is structured militarily on discipline [sola nomus]).

    If these proposals are enacted at our next convention, I firmly believe the LC-MS will cease to exist as a professing Synod and will become just another collection of churches wandering far from the Word of God. I would strongly urge all lay delegates to at least review this survey and participate to the best of your understanding. The key is in the understanding; these proposals represent a great danger to our Synod if we desire to Believe, Teach and Confess God’s Word.

  11. Ariel
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:30 | #11

    Pr. Rossow, championing the need for honest feedback while at the same time cherry-picking the degree of “honest” feedback has long been a tactic of corporations and big businesses. I’m pretty attuned to the goings-on of Internet companies, video game companies, etc, and that seems to be the order of the day with community-driven products. The problem is that our church and synod isn’t a corporation, or a business–it is one arm of the True Church on earth. If Synod directors/presidents want to take a page out of the playbooks of Fortune 500 companies, then perhaps their talents would best be put to use there, and not in our church.

  12. Pastor Tim Rossow
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:33 | #12

    Correct Ariel, this is just corporate shannaigans. The church is a family, not a business.

    TR

  13. Susan R
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:35 | #13

    Related, in that he addresses another threat to even being able–allowed!–to continue to confess and to be who we are to be as Lutherans:
    Scott Diekmann at Stand Firm blog is parsing the Transforming Churches Network, already afoot amongst us.
    http://stand-firm.blogspot.com/
    We’re so fortunate to have such resources to inform us.

  14. Alex
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:44 | #14

    Which is the best construction?

    The DPs do not want the task force to do well by preventing them from receiving helpful responses.

    They do not believe that the task force really wants to hear from members.

    They believe that unity is achieved by ignoring contrary positions.

    They only want members to hear how great the proposals are. If everyone only hears one side then everyone might agree. (This only works if everyone agrees to follow blindly and uncritically, doubtful for the heirs of the Reformation who ask What does this mean? This position would imply they either desire unthinking members or hope that members are unthinking.)

    They feel it is not the place of laymen to inform people on the proposals and believe the biased presentations are adequate.

    They feel it is not the place of laymen to inform people on the proposals and are ignorant of the bias in the presentations.

    Some combination of the above.

    Unfortunately as I look over these the DPs seem to either desire to have poorly informed members or are ignorant of such being the result of their actions. Both call into question their ability to execute the duties of a DP.

    The bias of the task force reminds me of infomercials. 30 or 60 minutes of hearing how great something is and why you need it now. The methodology of the surveys of the task force are more indicative of how effective their presentations are than what people really think of the proposals.

    To accept the surveys as a source of good feedback on the proposals is similar to a scientist designing an experiment to prove a hypothesis rather than to test one. A poorly done experiment designed to achieve the desired results damages the whole process by causing decisions to be based on tainted data. Such actions deepen the divide in synod.

    The bad results give something for others to point to and say, “See, you want what I am doing”. This gives them an excuse to do whatever they want. The task force can stand by their bad surveys and claim they did their best and believe them to be fine. Bad surveys help people to avoid any real accountability.

    Sorry for the long posts.

  15. Susan R
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:56 | #15

    Scientology, btw, has been employing these same method against its critics–many of those critics former Scientologist–practically since its inception.
    So there’s another good model for us to adopt, along with the failed corporate model.
    Way to go, Task Force, COP, and DPs.
    What’s next? A civil suit claiming copyright infringement or the like? (Another page from Scientology, btw, and from somewhere else, if I could only remember where….let me think…)
    Folks, we sheep are being herded into the wrong fold, and by our own over-sheps.

  16. Pastor Tim Rossow
    April 27th, 2009 at 10:56 | #16

    Susan,

    Scott is sharing those posts with us and we will be putting them up later this week.

    TR

  17. Rev. Adrian Piazza
    April 27th, 2009 at 12:00 | #17

    Thank you. for your excellent work on this article. I will broadcast the site regardless of synodical pressure. Keep up the good work.

    Pace
    Adrian

  18. Pastor Tim Rossow
    April 27th, 2009 at 12:15 | #18

    Thanks Adrian.

    TR

  19. Califiowan
    April 27th, 2009 at 12:40 | #19

    I logged onto the survey over an hour ago and I’m STILL waiting for it to download!
    My problem? Or are others having the same? My confuser is fairly fast and I have Earthlink DSL.
    Suggestions?
    Ed Weise

  20. April 27th, 2009 at 13:50 | #20

    We have had sporadic reports of that; it appears that Earthlink DSL users are being blocked from our main site.

    We have now corrected it to use our alternate domain name, BlueRibbonSurvey.org. Unfortunately it means that people who saved cookies on the original site will need to re-login to see survey results.

  21. Califiowan
    April 27th, 2009 at 15:07 | #21

    The new link worked fine. Loaded immediately with no problems. You might consider changing, or adding it in the body of this thread.
    Thanks for the help.
    Ed

  22. Bob
    April 27th, 2009 at 16:44 | #22

    My DP responded to this issue before the COP met apparently because he gave us the information and said we were welcome to jump into the survey if we wanted to. Thanks to his promptness before the collective will was expressed. That’s in MO District BTW.

  23. Pastor Tim Rossow
    April 27th, 2009 at 17:13 | #23

    Bob,

    Can you send me that email at trossow@steadfastlutherans.org because he has now sent out an e-mail discouraging people from taking the survey.

    TR

  24. Bob
    April 27th, 2009 at 17:47 | #24

    Sorry I didn’t save the email. I guess I should save all the important things from Herr DP. BTW. Regarding the line in the DP letter “those who have no relationship with the BRTFSSG or any responsibility concerning the work of the task force.” If the task force saw itself as working on behalf of the brethren of Synod shouldn’t we ALL have a relationship to the task force and have responsibility concerning their work? IMHO

  25. Susan R
    April 27th, 2009 at 21:17 | #25

    Bob, that is an absolutely right thought.
    Unfortunately, that is the old way of thinking. The new way of thinking is to let your betters think your thinking and know your knowing for you.
    I too thought that a most condescending line. And, again, most telling.

  26. Ross Wardenburg
    April 27th, 2009 at 22:18 | #26

    The Church is supposed to be of one mind in Christ. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word and Sacraments to bring Christ to each of us so that we become like minded with Him. Unfortunately, we poor miserable sinners twist God’s Word and are too often not like minded with Christ or each other. Like Susan R wrote we hand over our thinking to someone else. Our definition of being like minded becomes one of towing the line of a leader who has been successful (according to our judgement) or who has come up with some glorious plan even if that leader’s ideas do not square with Scripture.

  27. April 27th, 2009 at 22:26 | #27

    this from Atlantic Distict. My respponse was:I agree with the unofficial survey as it will include both positive and negative critiques of the proposed changes and since the information is identical I see no reason for anyone to have a problem with it.

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    Greetings in the Name of the Risen Lord Jesus!

    Recently an unofficial survey was sent to many individuals and pastors in the congregations and ministries of the Missouri Synod, including those in the Atlantic District. This was discovered as the LCMS Council of Presidents were meeting in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The Council determined to encourage all of our lay, commissioned and pastoral leaders the continued invitation to participate in the extensive work of the LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance, but specifically NOT to encourage anyone to participate in this independent effort, which has no authorization from nor connection to the Missouri Synod and its work. There was extensive comment from leaders around the country at our gathering to attempt in all ways to Walk Together in charity and unity, which is the definition of “Synod.” So please, communicate to the originators of the unofficial email survey your desire to use the Walk Together site and NOT the unofficial survey.

    I therefore commend the memo to you. It directs you to the appropriate Missouri Synod sites for participation. We will be having a full presentation of the Blue Ribbon Task Force at our Atlantic District Convention, on Friday, June 5 in the afternoon and evening. Please know that you are cordially and personally invited by me, for the dialog and our opening Service of Holy Communion on Friday evening at 6:30 PM at Village Lutheran Church, Bronxville, New York. You can contact Kristen Schulz for more details on one day registration.

    In Christ, our Lord,
    Dr. David H. Benke, President
    Atlantic District, LCMS
    Pastor, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York

    Memo

    To: Council of Presidents for Public Distribution

    Re: A response to the unofficial invitation for individuals to respond to the BRTFFS via web survey

    An invitation has been distributed to individuals in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to respond to the topics under consideration by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance through an unofficial web survey. This invitation encourages individuals to express their opinions on topics to those who have no relationship with the BRTFSSG or any responsibility concerning the work of the task force. All members of the synod are encouraged to respond directly to the task force after reviewing the current work of the task force as posted on the synod web site, http://www.lcms.org, click on “Walking Together.” After accessing and reviewing the “Current District Convention Report” and other documents posted on this site, your comments can be sent directly to the task force at LCMSFuture@lcms.org. The email address and phone number are posted on the front page of the BRTFFS web site. The members of the task force encourage your response.

    Atlantic District LCMS
    171 White Plains Rd.
    Bronxville, NY 10708
    (914) 337-5700 x2
    fax: (914) 337-7471
    kristen.schulz@ad-lcms.org

  28. Matt Phillips
    April 27th, 2009 at 22:28 | #28

    #24- Bob,

    You are exactly right. Anyone who is member in good standing of a LCMS congregation has a relationship with this task force and its work.

  29. Alex
    April 27th, 2009 at 23:22 | #29

    “There was extensive comment from leaders around the country at our gathering to attempt in all ways to Walk Together in charity and unity”

    Their response does not sound charitable, let alone in all ways. If they are serious about charity and unity then the materials they recommend on the syondical website should include popular concerns regarding the proposals. A one sided analysis does not aid unity. If the recommendations are approved and result in consequences foreseen by some but not in the official documentation there will be even less walking together.

  30. rev. eckert
    April 28th, 2009 at 09:00 | #30

    A few reflections from the Oklahoma District Convention, concluded this weekend.

    We received a small piece of paper with our registration materials that contained a very similar message as in post # 27. However, nothing was said at a microphone.

    Along the same vein, they do not seem to understand or handle criticism well.

    For example, at the microphone during the questions and answers, I tried to bring up a theological objection to one of the restructuring proposals. (The issue was one vote per congregation, regardless of size, since each is the Body of Christ in that location.) I asked why this theological rationale would no longer apply. I was informed that there is no theological objection they were aware of, followed by another pitch as to why the proposal is a good idea.

    I want to put a positive construction on their words by saying that perhaps they simply did not understand what I said, perhaps due to a lack of communicating clearly on my part. But surely they would at least have done their own research to find the traditional rationale for our synodical practices. Surely they would be aware of some of the theological criticism taking place. Or perhaps they do not see it as their job to know or respond to theology, but simply to promote the proposals.

    fwiw

  31. Susan R
    April 28th, 2009 at 19:42 | #31

    Hmm. Thin-skinned community organizers, averse to criticism, even to open debate…
    Life is so redundant these days.

  32. May 1st, 2009 at 12:47 | #32

    Here’s the notice we Missouri District pastors received from DP Mirly on April 23:

    A Special Notice

    Early this week, four laymen sent out an e-mail to pastors and others requesting help in encouraging laypersons to take the survey that is being conducted at the District Conventions. This is not an official request from the Synod. I would encourage that you consider, if you feel it important, to provide the following information for your members:

    An invitation has been distributed to individuals in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to respond to the topics under consideration by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance through an unofficial web survey. This invitation encourages individuals to express their opinions on topics to those who have no relationship with the BRTFSSG or any responsibility concerning the work of the task force. All members of the synod are encouraged to respond directly to the task force after reviewing the current work of the task force as posted on the synod Web site, http://www.lcms.org, click on “Walking Together.” After accessing and reviewing the “Current District Convention Report” and other documents posted on this site, your comments can be sent directly to the task force at LCMSFuture@lcms.org. The email address and phone number are posted on the front page of the BRTFFS web site. The members of the task force encourage your response.

    There are some within our Synod that believe that the BRTFSSG is conducting its work in secret. This is simply not true. All of their work is posted on the above listed Web site. All individuals within our Synod are free to access this information and, as you can tell from the announcement, to provide feed back to the special Blue Ribbon Committee.

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