(Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome to the BJS website one of the longest operating confessional groups in the LCMS – The Lutheran Concerns Association. We will be posting their newsletters on their page on this site: https://steadfastlutherans.org/lca and excerpting articles from those newsletters here on the home page. Some of our earlier posts on the task force recomendations can be found here.)
President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure Report provides much food for thought. However, it is difficult to respond to most of the report because it so vague. This suggests that the more focused discussion will be left to a later day. Of course it also makes reasoned input somewhat difficult on most of the subjects of discussion. However, there are a few more specific proposals that already give reason for serious concern. One of those proposals is that the program boards become advisory and that the executives all report directly to the President of the Synod, and presumably also be appointed by the President. This is the exact opposite of what should be done.
Although not given as a reason in the Report, if efficiency of operations and finances influenced this recommendation, this would be an appropriate factor. There is perhaps justification for change to one or two of the program boards if it will have the effect of streamlining operations and reducing costs. But making all program boards merely advisory, and having the executives report to the President of the Synod is misguided.
First, by making the President the direct administrative supervisor over the executives confuses the responsibilities of the President of the Synod. As a church body, the President of the LCMS is the chief ecclesiastical officer of the Synod, not a corporate Chief Executive Officer. (Bylaw 220.127.116.11.) And while the President currently oversees the activities of officers, executives, and agencies of the Synod, this is in connection with the narrow responsibility to see to it that they are acting in accordance with the Constitution, the Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod. (Bylaw 18.104.22.168). The President of the Synod is not a corporate CEO, and we should not turn him into one. Expanding and shifting the President’s role from one serving in an ecclesiastical function to one ruling with executive power would not be good for the Synod.
It takes no more than a glance at the secular world today to recognize the potential negative consequences to changing the role of the President from an ecclesiastical servant to an executive ruler. On nearly a daily basis we hear from the secular realm of situations in which presidents and CEOs have been given too much power. When considering the financial and legal consequences, why would we as a church body incorporate into our structure the failures of a greedy secular world? Instead, we should learn from those failures. We should not incorporate into our structure a philosophy of control and concentration of power. Instead we should retain and promote an attitude of service.
The current responsibilities of the program boards and the selection of their members also weigh heavily against transferring such power to the President. The members of the program boards are currently elected primarily by the members of the Synod in Convention or appointed by the Board of Directors, who in turn are elected by the Convention. The program boards, especially in the areas of missions, human care, and higher education, have significant helpful influence over these vital areas of ministry. Why take away from the members of the Synod the ability to influence the direction of these important ministries and transfer all of this responsibility to the President? In the congregations throughout the Synod there are wise, talented, dedicated and highly qualified people ready to serve. Why reduce this tremendous asset of the Synod to a purely advisory role and transfer the responsibility and authority to a single person holding the office of President? This would be very unwise.
Christian A. Preus, President, LCA
Member of the LCMS Board of Directors (1995-2007)