CENTRALIZED CONTROL IN THE OBAMA HEALTH PLAN AND THE KIESCHNICK STRUCTURE PLAN, by Pr. Martin Noland

January 29th, 2010 Post by

In a recent post on the blog “Brother’s of John the Steadfast,” the Rev. Dr. Tim Rossow comments on the eerie similiarity between President Obama’s health care plan and President Kieschnick’s synodical structure plan:

Both are about Centralized Control – The Obama health care plan would bring one sixth of our economy under the control of the government. The Kieschnick Blue Ribbon Proposal brings an inordinate amount of control under the president of the synod and other centralized power. Just as church growth congregations are x-ing out their voters assemblies and putting control of the parish in the hands of a board of directors, likewise the Blue Ribbon proposals take control out of the boards elected by the synod and puts synod programs under the direct control of the synod president. Currently circuits nominate and elect their circuit counselors. Under the new proposals the district president nominates the candidates. Currently circuits choose their own delegates to the synod convention but in the proposals the district president and district convention can choose the delegates. There are numerous other power grabs in the proposals that we do not have space to describe here. (see http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=8952).

Opponents of the health care plan argue that it gives government the power to control the most private of all relationships, i.e., the relationship between a doctor and his/her patient.   In that sense, it is an unprecedented invasion of privacy for the American public.   Opponents also argue that it will lead to rationing of medical care, reduction in overall quality of medical care, and increase in national total expenditures for medical care.   Supporters of the health plan argue that changes in the medical delivery system in the last fifty years have made medical care, even basic care, inaccessible to those people who need it.   Supporters also argue that if those who need the care can’t get it, then it denies to them the “right to life” guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence.   Whatever you think about the Obama health plan, proponents of nationalized health care are really “modern social democrats,” i.e., a type of moderate socialists (see Wikipedia article on “socialism,” 5th paragraph, and the Wikipedia article on “Mixed Economy”).

Is Dr. Rossow correct that the Obama health care plan and the Kieschnick structure plan are both about centralized control?  The proponents of these two plans don’t see it that way.   The social democrats see inefficiency in our medical care system, which results in the poor not getting needed care.   Centralized control is not the goal, but the means to efficiency.   The supporters of Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon plan see inefficiency in our LCMS national offices, delegate system, and circuits.   Centralized control is not the goal, but the means to efficiency.   This does not mean that the supporters of Kieschnick’s plan are “social democrats,” but they do agree on the same means to their goals of efficiency.

But centralized control is not always a means to efficiency!   Anyone who thinks otherwise just needs to look at the economic record of the Soviet Union in the 20th century, which is just now coming to light through excellent books on the subject.   Centralized control of farms led to lack of incentive for farm labor, thus diminished efficiency and productivity.   Centralized control of industry led to lack of competition between corporations, thus diminished efficiency and productivity.   Furthermore, all the party officers who were supposed to be serving the people were instead serving their own private interests.   The Soviet Union was a “workers’ paradise” and productivity disaster!

There is nothing wrong with the LCMS delegate system or circuits.   The problem with circuit exceptions has come about because district presidents have not been re-drawing the electoral circuit lines at their conventions every year, as they are supposed to do.   And they don’t do it, because their cronies prefer the circuits they are in, and don’t want to change.   This is not an efficiency problem.   Let’s tell the truth on this, folks!

 There is a problem, and big one, at the national headquarters.   It is not an efficiency problem.   It is a financial control and funding problem.     The term “financial control” is used here in a more general sense, not in the specific sense of “financial controls,” such as two-person counting of cash, audits, etc.

The basic problem is that, over thirty years, more and more parts of the synodical financial system have been severed from the control of the LCMS Board of Directors.   Look at the back pages of the Lutheran Annual (page 769 of the 2010 Annual).   There it lists all of the corporate parts of the LCMS, under #s 1 to 12.   There are a total of seventy-five agencies that constitute the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.   Each one of these agencies has its own board (or commission), budget, and control over its financial affairs.

 The only parts of this conglomerate over which the LCMS Board of Directors has direct financial control are those listed under #1:   program boards, commissions, and Council of Presidents.   All the other sixty agencies have varying degrees of relationship to the synod and the Board of Directors.   All the other sixty agencies have control over capital assets that really “belong” to the LCMS, but the LCMS Board of Directors has little or no say in how those assets are used.   All the thirty-five districts have control over regular unrestricted revenue, which is the overwhelming source of revenue for the program boards and commissions, but the LCMS Board of Directors has little or no say in how those assets are used.   Furthermore, the LCMS Board of Directors get annual requests from all seventy-five agencies for revenue streams, grants, loans, debt assumption, and guaranteed lines of credit, and many of those dollars never get paid back.

 Even before the recession hit in 2008, the synod realized that there was a significant financial control and funding problem.   2004 Resolution 4-07 called for a task force to examine the problem and make recommendations to the synod.   The resulting Task Force, “Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission” made its report to the 2007 convention and no action was taken.   Why was no action taken on this “mission critical” report?   Insiders have said that certain people don’t want change.   Who are those people?   The resisters are executives and staff of those seventy-five agencies who would be affected, one way or another.   They have lobbyists at every convention, and connections to important people, so the most likely reason is that the constituent agencies of the synod (as found in #1-12 on page 769 of the Lutheran Annual) scuttled the Task Force in 2007!   Then the recession came in 2008, and the problems have only become worse.

 Kieschnick’s answer to these problems, as found in Recommendation #18 of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Structure and Governance final report, is to centralize control under his office.   But that would give him, and the next president, way too much to do, resulting in lowered efficiency.

 A much better solution is to centralize financial control under the LCMS Board of Directors.   That is their job!   Give them real control over the unrestricted revenue stream from congregations.   Give them more real control, where needed, over the finances of the Concordia University System and other national-service agencies.   Give them the means to ensure that program boards and commissions follow budgets.   Ask the Board of Directors to undertake a study, including paid consultants who are experts in corporate structuring, to determine what is the best financial structure for our synod and its various agencies that ensures financial control, solvency, and flexibility (Bredholt & Co. and Epley Research, who were consulted by the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Structure and Governance, are not experts in these fields).

 The synod’s financial system needs work, but the ability of its various boards and commissions to concentrate on the task at hand would be hindered by the proposed Blue Ribbon centralization of control.   Centralization of control (i.e., non-financial control) would actually reduce the efficiency of those people at the LCMS national offices who serve the synod.






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  1. Todd Wilken
    January 29th, 2010 at 10:23 | #1

    Someone please tell me why Marty wasn’t the chairman of the Task Force? Marty’s suggestion is restructuring that makes sense, financial and otherwise –and it doesn’t result in a little pope.

    Another similarity between the Obama and Kieschnick administrations: “Never waste a good crisis” President Kieschnick hopes to use the LCMS’s financial crisis to push through his agenda for change. But as President Obama has discovered, these things can backfire. Perhaps President Kieschnick is realizing this too.

  2. Todd Wilken
    January 29th, 2010 at 10:30 | #2

    Marty,

    I would disagree with only one point. You wrote, “Centralization of control (i.e., non-financial control) would actually reduce the efficiency of those people who accomplish the mission of the church.”

    Those who accomplish the mission of the Church are the faithful pastors (preaching, teaching, baptizing, serving the Lord’s Supper) and laypeople (hearing, learning, receiving, serving the neighbor in one’s vocation). Their “efficiency” will continue unabated (although their political voice will be largely silenced) under President Kieschnick’s agenda for change.

    Faithful pastors and laypeople aren’t concerned with efficiency. They are concerned with faithfulness. I’m sure you would agree.

    TW

  3. Dutch
    January 29th, 2010 at 11:57 | #3

    Ahh, the ugly head of “Postmodernity/Post Christian Age” finally exposed in the LCMS & receives it’s due. Of course they run in tandem. The are born & srping from the same rotten root. Pastor Nolan, has done so very well, as he always does!

    In the linked blogs, on BJS (apologetics section) there is a site called Extreme Theology. There is a post up, with a video link, that says this, and what those who oppose should “do”. Stellar video, btw.

    You may view it here:
    http://www.extremetheology.com

    The article is entitled, Postmodernity is Incompatible with Christianity. If you don’t know or haven’t scratched the surface of postmodernity or the “post-Christian age”, I highly suggest you do so. You will see where all these the things, mentioned here at BJS, & elsewhere in our world today, run in parallel or in tandem. “When you see these things, look up, for your redemption draweth nigh”.

    That was not said as just a promise or blessing, it was also a “head’s up” warning. He knew then, He knows now, and we should know it today. I know some say, “oh, everyone, (names pillars of theological history), “thought it was”, but folks, there was a reason for that. That same reason still applies today, as so does His Word, Luther’s Reformation, and the reason we drive into a parking lot marked LCMS on any given day. It was for them then, and for us now. But that, is entirely a given choice, to see it.

    Just as it is now, with us.

  4. Martin R. Noland
    January 29th, 2010 at 12:13 | #4

    Dear Todd,

    I agree with your post #2. The faithful pastors, teachers, deaconesses, etc. and laypeople are the ones who accomplish the mission of the church. I should have said something a little clearer in the last clause, like, “those people at the LCMS national offices who serve the synod.” I will ask for it to be changed.

    ((editor: original post has been changed))

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  5. mames
    February 3rd, 2010 at 16:59 | #5

    It is odd that we would want to move toward greater centralization instead of more Districts and circuits, empower the circuit councelors to actually monitor thier pastors and manage a real program of development and discipline. Would that require a WELS view of the church to do so? As a LCMSer I am not so sure the WELS view is not correct. We seem to be majoring on the minors of polity instead of on doctine and practice. The genius of America’s founding fathers is that they understood the Biblical direction ( remember God’s warning in Samuel regarding having a king) to NOT centralize power or decision making in too few hands as it usually only ends up empowering SIN.

  6. Tilly Patts Matthews
    February 5th, 2010 at 21:59 | #6

    Since I am almost done with a master’s degree in language and literature, I will clear up the fallacious and unhistorical description of post modernity on the extremetheology website.

    It is grossly incorrect to say Post Modernity claims there is no “truth.” P.M. is a critique of modernity, but specifically, the way modern culture “produces” culture — how language is used and how various forms of art come into being. P.M. is not kind to modernity. Reality T.V. is considered one of the more insidious P.M. effects. “Pastiche,” the globbing together of household objects to create a piece of art is a P.M. effect, but not necessarily a bad one.

    The body of P.M. criticism goes to great length to explicate how these by-products create new meaning and cloud understanding of what is real. Hence, reality T.V. is “not real” because a person manipulating a camera selects the views (many of which are contrived by set designers and computers) that are later distributed through your set or a computer.

    Certainly, some P.M. theorists have critiqued what is called the “Grand Narrative.” In a P.M. context, there are several types of grand narratives, and the resurrection is considered one of them. However, early modernists were really the critics of this, people like Nietzsche, for instance. P.M. would be more concerned with the idea that one grand narrative is thrown out so something artificial could replace it.

    Many of the original P.M. theorists were French and most were simply concerned with defining how culture ascribes meaning to words and form. Consequently, they did not take issue with something as broad as truth, only the specific ways culture warps it. If you notice, much of this theme has a vaguely Christian aspect to it: specifically, the idea that modern culture and its elevation of “stuff” over what is real has negative consequences. And for most of them, the “real” is primitive, including ancient religions.

    Some of these theorists were athiests; a few may have been Christian. However, I am not proposing that they are models of Christianity; they are not. I am simply correcting a false understanding of the theory. And for anything you find on the internet, nothing is more “post modern” than the transmisison of messages that skews authorial intent to deceive others.

    For those of you who like “The Matrix” movies, this is considered by many to be a trio with Christian themes taking on a P.M. twist.

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