Prediction on the Restructuring

(from Pr. Preus) OK, we are all waiting on baited breath for the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod’s Structure and Governance which, reportedly, will be unveiled at the upcoming confab in Phoenix later this month. I will not be attending since I have to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments at that time but I can always fantasize from a distance. And this is what I think will happen. If these turn out to be correct then you can admire my prescience. If I turn out wrong then – well – I’ll say I was wrong.  


Reportedly Dean Wenthe and Dale Meyer our two seminary presidents will do their shtick. This was well received at the circuit counselors meeting nine months previous to the last convention when the synod spent the money to bring all 1200 circuit counselors together along with all the district and synodical administrators so that we could hear good things about what the synod was going to do for us under President Kieschnick’s leadership. I sat a table where people were actually unaware that arguably the two most important men in the synod after the president could actually communicate. So their stock went up – kind of – when it was apparent that they could. I fear that this go ’round their little tag-team entertainment before the restructuring proposals will be like Katrina and the Waves opening for Black Sabbath. Some things just don’t belong together.


But I digress, on to the predictions.


I think that we can assume that harebrained ideas like taxing congregations or realigning the districts will not be suggested despite the fact that, reportedly, high ranking if mean spirited administrators want them. Congregations will not sit still for the former and districts will despise the latter. What synod officials may not, but certainly should know is that, unlike 25 years ago, there is far more loyalty to districts these days than to the synod itself. Witness the decreasing amounts of funds that are finding their way to synod coffers despite the anguished plea from the International Center. So anything which transgresses the strength or identity of the districts will not see the light of day.


There are three things which will be suggested. All are unnecessary.


First, there is that chronic and nagging rumor that strong attempts will be made to change the rules of representation so that larger congregations get more representation than smaller. I don’t think this idea has much of a chance of success although it will generate a great deal of heat throughout an already heated church. We are still fundamentally congregational in our polity and our thinking. Little will change that. Even most big churches will see the foolishness of such a power grab. Besides the idea is far too political and most people just want peace. They long for the day when we don’t care about who represents us. That’s they way things were a couple of decades ago when circuits simply chose as their representative someone who hadn’t gone for a while. People will not institutionalize the politics. And except for the most avid supporters of the current president most will see the attempt as too transparently advantageous to him politically.  


Second, it will be suggested that the synodical president have an exclusive or at least largely expanded role in choosing the execs of the synod. This suggestion is based on the assumption that the current practice of boards calling these execs is flawed. The only one who seems to think that way is the president who has a strong track record of wanting do things himself even when others are more authorized and more capable.


Third, it will be suggested that we need a streamlined decision making structure so that our leaders can respond quickly to the urgent mission opportunities of the church as she recognizes to the needs of the world. Again, streamlined decision making capability is something the current administration would love. At the same time many of leaders in districts and in the synod are a bit wary of giving quick decision making capacity to an administration whose decisions are not that great. Most wish the current administration would have been slowed, retarded or even brought to a standstill as it has decided to recall, discourage and bring to a stop the missionaries of the church.


So these are my predictions. What are yours?    



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.


Prediction on the Restructuring — 19 Comments

  1. Working from inside-Synod Inc. information (rumor, speculation and mostly lies), my own (well-earned) cynicism, and knowledge (of how bad things really are at Synod Inc.), here is my prediction:

    Attendees of the Phoenix Fiasco will witness the maiden flight of The Blue-Ribbon Task Force Trial Balloon.

    This balloon will be launched with full fanfare before a hushed and anxious crowd. It’s only purpose: to float momentarily, then to be shot down and to come crashing to the ground in the most spectacular manner possible.

    It doesn’t matter who fires the shots or why. Remember, this is a trial balloon, a sacrifice play.

    After the trial balloon is reduced to a crumbled mess, someone (most likely the president himself) will stand atop its ruins and suggest another idea. This new idea will, by comparison to obvious stupidity of the trial balloon, will seem perfectly reasonable.

    The real goal of the Phoenix proposal is to make WHATEVER COMES AFTER IT look perfectly reasonable and good.

    It won’t be.

    (With this said, please bear in mind that, when it comes to Synod Inc., my past predictions have come true ONLY ONCE –on March 18, 2008.)


  2. Don’t let Todd fool you. His predictive abilities are very good because he is a keen observer of the past. IOW, we have seen this mode of operation already.

    The one most recent which comes to mind is the COP’s response to I.E’s cancellation. A first proposal is made. It is shot down. It is clearly unacceptable. A second proposal is presented. The guys who spoke up and shot down the first idea, feel pressured to show their willingness to accomodate. Voila! The second proposal goes through.

    If we were to look at some other major decisions of the recent past, I think we will see this in operation.

    The question is: What will be that proposal?

    More importantly: How do we prepare the attendees for what appears to be an inevitable maneuver?

  3. Todd is exactly correct. What needs to happen is that when the anchor of the “trial balloon” is tossed out, while the anchor rope is playing out, it needs to become entangled in the POTS legs and drag him down with it. Otherwise, he will do exactly what Todd has predicted, stand and offer a “better” solution, and to many, appear to be the hero. This will not happen by accident. POTS will also not care who crashes with the trial balloon either, even if it’s some of “his guys”, he’ll let them go to bolster his own cause.

    Kyrie Eleison.

  4. Mon dieu! (pardon the expression). Phoenix in late August?

    Oh, wait, I see it now: POTS (love that acronym) is counting on delegates being heat-exhausted when the proposals are made!

    Seriously: This is a fascinating topic and I would hope that there will be delegates there who can blog as things go along. Delegates, please note, not the official “journalists” from the VV.

  5. I should have added that, while the proposal at Phoenix WILL be a trial balloon, POTS and his supporters would love to see it fly in all of this power-centralizing glory. They just know it never will be.

    So, if they can’t go up, up and away in their beautiful balloon, they might as well let the other side use it for target practice while they devise a more “palatable” means to achieve the same ends.


  6. Edith,

    I always thought they scheduled these things in Phoenix in late August to try to keep all the attendees off of the golf courses. 🙂

  7. All right… seriously… What is at stake here? What is the worst case scenario?

    If the “trial balloon” were to be approved what would that mean? We end up with a Pope or a CEO?

    I’m like a lot of the laity and thought that I could safely ignore the politics and theological arguments that take place among the leadership of the LCMS.

    I live in southwest Nebraska which is a long way from St. Louis. If Issues Etc hadn’t been cancelled on March 18th I still would not be paying attention to this day.

    The events of the last few months have grabbed my attention but I still do not have a clear understanding of what is going on or why it is happening. I’m not sure that anyone does but I need answers. We all need answers.

    Since we seem to have none (unless I’ve missed something) I would settle for a few educated guesses or even some wild conjecture (if it has sufficient entertainment value that is).

    Mark L Jones

  8. Mark J.

    It is a bit of conjecture at this point. We are hoping to shed some light on the matter soon. We have a semi-inside source doing some research for us and will bring it to you as soon as we know more.

    I am so glad you are in the game now. Synodical politics are not opitonal for pastors or laity. As you can tell from the things written on this website, synodical politics are all about theology and the church lives or dies according to the extent that its pastors and laity know the word and live by it. Stay tuned and do everything you can to learn about synodical politics/theology and be sure to tell your fellow LCMS Lutherans what is at stake and encourage them to get involved as well.

    Pastor Rossow

  9. Just to be sure that it is clearly noted: the “convocation” will be held at the St. Louis Airport Marriott. What if you who are local show up? Will you be permitted to stay? Will you be turned away? It might make for an interesting attempt to simply go as an observer, don’tcha think?

  10. I appreciate Rev. Preus’ thoughtful comments. I would like to address one point.

    In his first point of three, he writes concerning the giving of more votes to some congregations that are large and less votes to small congregations. Rev. Preus doesn’t think this is very realistic. I would like to challenge that point.

    I spent 6 years in Iowa District West. Our Synod structure is set up already in such a way that if circuits do not have enough members or enough congregations, then it becomes too small to be a voting circuit and must therefore merge with another circuit.

    The opposite is also true. If a circuit becomes too large (too many members or too many congregations), then it must split into two circuits.

    My circuit in Iowa West was one that became too small and has to merge with another circuit, thereby losing a lay vote and a pastoral vote.

    The Midwest has typically been the backbone of the LCMS, but it is typically in the Midwest where circuit are shrinking and being forced to merge, thereby reducing the number of votes that the Midwest has to cast at the Synodical Convention.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, circuits are growing in the liberal areas on the coasts. These areas will end up with more votes.

    This will, in time, deeply affect the direction of our synod. Actually, we are seeing this happen before our very eyes. Beware the cunning nature of the serpent.

  11. Pastor Rossow

    At every Ablaze function that I go to I’m told that theology and doctrine are settled matters within the LCMS. The only issues still on the table are how best to spread this theology and doctrine to the world.

    I was also told that back in the 1920’s and 1930’s the LCMS had to go through “change” due to the exclusive use of the German language during the divine service. The point is then made that the Ablaze movement is no different. It is no more than an improvement in the effectiveness of our means of communicating the churches message.

    I have never trusted this explanation because every time that I ask for details as to how those changes will take place or what the end product will look like I never get a straight answer.

    My guess is that the only thing that will come out of the Blue Ribbon Task Force will be more of the same. There will be more calls for “Change” and more proclamations on how important it is to change to stave off impending doom. The problem will be that none of these things will be defined or explained.

    We have to remember that we are dealing with a movement that is scheduled to last for more than a decade. They can afford to be patient. There is nothing for them to gain by sending up trial balloons that are easy targets and may become a rallying point for the members of the LCMS who are opposed to change.

    I think that the long term goal is to change the culture of the LCMS so that change becomes not a means to an end but the very end itself. The only constant in this world is change and the church must change or die we are told. It is only when the culture of the church has changed that the organization, and what ever else, can truly be changed.

    In the short term the only real change we will see is what can be done behind closed doors. There will be more confessional Lutherans with pink slips I’m afraid but the public face of the synod will be all smiles.


  12. MLJ,

    You are right on again – they are using the frog in the kettle tecnique (put the frog in room temperature water then turn up the heat very slowly until the frog is boiling and it is too late for him to get out).

    One of the key tools they use to make this “work” is to divide theology and practice. They claim that we all have the same theology but that we choose to practice it in different ways. This is why it is so important to notice what words they use and what things they emphasize. They do not talk about word and sacrament (except to sprinkle it on at the end like it was some sort of seasoning instead of the main course – see my post on “The LCMS in Her Own Words.”). Instead they talk about things like small groups and leadership, etc. and use the lingo of the corporate world and of the evangelicals. That is what they are reading. They are not reading Luther, Walther, Chemnitz, etc. but Rick Warren and company. You are what you read!

    Pastor Rossow

  13. “They are not reading Luther, Walther, Chemnitz, etc. but Rick Warren and company. You are what you read!”

    Personally, I think they do, but reject them. This goes as well as for the inerrancy of the Bible and our Confessions. Beneke and this president to this remain unrepented for their sin against the Holy Spirit as far as I know. With this president’s being re-elected twice already and congregations willing to send money to LCMS INC. to support non confessional Lutheran symbols seem so lacking in judgment. Their form of church growth, human reasoning, evangelism, “for the life of the church”, ideology is a disease much like cancer.

  14. Just wanted to throw this little comment in there:

    It is a normal corporate practice make “change” happen by doing something draconian or stupid to either bring the people together or scare them and then put a seemingly more reasonable proposal on the table.

    If the LCMS truly is LCMS INC. you can expect these methods again and again. It is sucessful corporate policy – or always has been.

    In the corporate world, especially automotive, we are seeing the age of Toyota dawn. They actually don’t work with this kind of methodology. They work on a team based continuous improvement strategy in which the workers in jobs that are eliminated due to efficiency gains are reassigned to other areas to study and bring more efficiency. This methods encourages people to be critical of current processes and look for better solutions without fear of retribution.

    So, even when the LCMS decides to go corporate, they are aping business strategies that are obsolete – just like the do for theological practices like mimicking church growth, just like 40 days of Purpose etc.

  15. My guess is that nothing big will happen until after the Symposium. The St. Louis seminary dropped a huge hint in the notice for the Symposium that they will be presenting the case that Walther’s doctrine of Church and Ministry is outmoded and should be replaced. That’s no occasion for the strong-ministry people to rejoice, because Loehe is also rejected. Presumably the model recommended will have the marks of McGavran and of Hunter all over it–a Church Growth model of the pastor as CEO and facilitator, with the direct care of souls having been delegated to “lay leaders.”

    There would probably be a recommendation presented that small congregations should merge to form fewer but larger churches. The small churches’ buildings would be sold to raise money, and the large churches would then open satellite congregations in non-traditional buildings (ones without a cross,an altar, an organ or any of those other icky old-fashioned things that stand in the way of their idea of missions).

  16. Ken,

    I hope you are wrong. I have attended a couple of churches that use this pastor as CEO model and the results have been a disaster. The church was full of poorly educated laymen basically going the way of the pharisees.

  17. I’m not so sure any trial balloon will be shot down. Remember, 100 of the participants are hand picked by their DPs. For a District like Central Illinois that’s one thing, for Atlantic it’s something else entirely. I hope I’m wrong. Even if it does happen it just gives POTS grist for a “pastoral letter” decrying “divisiveness” and “party spirit.”
    Mega churches get all the play in Synod’s press. Bigger is better. Don’t count that aspect out.
    Our disrict runs on the CEO model, and my congregation went to it in ’94. At least some of us in the congregation are working hard to reverse that disaster, but it ain’t easy. Anonymous puts his/her finger on it…poorly educated (poorly catechised)laity
    But I do believe that a “head tax” will go down in flames. Scripture and the Confessions may not reach people, but dollar signs do! That’s the sadness of it all.

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