Jesus First, aka JerryPAC: “Reporting for duty!” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

Jesus First–aka JerryPAC, Geezers First, Jesus’ Fist, and ***us First–is back and gearing up the machinery for another campaign. Like John Kerry standing on the stage and saluting, the political-action committee that helped elect Jerry Kieschnick sent out two e-mails this month that say, in effect, “Reporting for duty!”

Jesus First, for those who may not know, is the coalition of liberals and church growthers that is dedicated to advancing their common cause of not being shackled by Lutheran doctrine and practice. They were successful in getting Kieschnick narrowly elected in ’01, ’04, and ’07, and in pretty much running the table for boards and commissions in ’07. Now they’re gearing up for a) the remaining 33 district conventions this April-July, b) getting their delegates for the 2010 convention elected at the circuit forums this August-October, c) generating nominations for Kieschnick and their other candidates, d) submitting overtures, and e) promoting the Blue Ribbon Restructuring Proposals. By the way, these are the very things we conservatives/confessionals need to be gearing up for also, just in the opposite direction!

So this month I received two e-mails from these folks. The first came on February 17, under the subject line, “Jesus First Email,” and was sent by longtime Kieschnick ally, Don Bokenkamp. Basically it’s a brief commercial for the Restructuring Proposals, saying that they will help us to “Walk Together.” Of course the serious problems and centralizing of power that the proposals would create are not mentioned. But you can see that the Jesus Firsters may be concerned they’re losing the information war, because Bokenkamp concludes: “You cannot ‘Become Informed’ simply by hearing how a friend feels about these subjects, as you may only receive the opinion on the subjects your friends are interested in.”

The other e-mail came yesterday, under the subject line, “Jesus First Email Update for February,” and was sent out by Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Leawood, Kansas. It’s a short summary of the articles in the February 2009 Jesus First newsletter. The articles (and authors) include: “All Districts to Meet in Convention” (Vern Gundermann); “The LCMS Is Ahead of the Curve for Funding Ministries” (David Luecke); “Jesus First Joins the Communication Revolution” (Jim Rogers); and “Jesus First On Duty for Another Season” (Charlie Mueller, Sr.).

That last article is typical Charlie Mueller, Sr., who at least is an entertaining writer. Let’s look at a few excerpts, in italics, followed by the commentary of another Charlie, i.e., Henrickson, in the [brackets]:

Jesus First has decided to remain on duty for another season.

[Reporting for duty!]

It does so in support of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s historic stance on Scripture and the Confessions.

[Standard perfunctory lip-service, designed to sound conservative.]

It does so with commitment to an ever expanding, Gospel-centered, mission-driven, future-oriented approach to ministry.

[The hyphenated-sloganeering-Jesus-First-bumper-sticker buzzwords.]

The developing generation of younger clergy and lay leaders has a right to an unembroidered reprise of our synod’s 172 year trek. Our history is not like the fabled wax nose that could be twisted out of shape by adding this or omitting that.

[I have a feeling Jesus First will be twisting Walther’s nose so hard it may fall off!]

The price of liberty is still eternal vigilance – no matter your age. Hang in there, you are needed.

[The Seminex-era sexagenarians and septuagenarians still form the backbone of Geezers First.]

Change is not an enemy. An automatic knee-jerk negative response to anything that’s new is. Together we must differentiate between change-that-blesses and change-that-blights.

[The hierarchical Task Farce changes are Blight From Above.]

Members of the LCMS are not clones. We have always distributed ourselves across the Bell Curve, the vast majority clustered around a given issue’s Golden Mean.

[Moving the “center” to the left–the goal of Jesus First.]

Attacking that truth are our home grown noisy little bands of extremists who fire away at anyone who has a different take on things than theirs.

[We who uphold historic Lutheran doctrine and practice now are “noisy little bands of extremists.” Nice! Guilty as charged.]

What ought we do with them? Start with identifying the issue and then set about loving them back to sensibility.

[Love them by calling them noisy little bands of senseless extremists!]

One daunting difference between thousands of first-rate LCMS churches is size. Some are very small; some quite large.

[The Charlie Muellers, Sr. and Jr., have been pushing for more power for the megachurches for some time now, and, sure enough, that’s included in the Restructuring Proposals.]

We all need more help with conflict management to match a lowered tolerance of conflict.

[We all need help understanding that sentence. “To match a lowered tolerance of conflict”??]

Future issues of JESUS FIRST will expand on each of these bullets. . . .

[Putting the “bull” in “bullets”!]

mindful of the opinion of Dr. CFW Walther, our founding president. In his 1847 presidential inaugural address he wondered aloud . . .

[“Why are you Jesus First guys twisting my nose?! Ouch!”]


Jesus First, aka JerryPAC: “Reporting for duty!” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 28 Comments

  1. Jesus First’s real problem for the future is that very few of them will be alive to see it. That, and retired pastors can’t vote in conventions –a problem they will no doubt remedy if they manage to restructure synod.

  2. Pastor Henrickson, You forgot the part where he mentions Walther’s first Presidential Address. You know, the one in which Walther mentions “purity and unity of doctrine,” a phrase you won’t see in any of JF’s goals!

  3. I feel so loved.
    Just not back into sensibility.
    Anyone else hear more of Chairman Mao in that goal, than Christ?
    Will we have to attend Re-Sensibilizing Camps in order to feel the love?
    A liberal is a liberal is a liberal ad infimitum. They always know something the rest of us don’t, want something no one needs, and will do most anything to get it done.

  4. After reading some of this Firster gobbledygook I am thankful that my “noisy little band of extremist” brothers and sisters speak in plain English.

    “Change is not an enemy. An automatic knee-jerk negative response to anything that’s new is.Together we must differentiate between change-that-blesses and change-that-blights.”

    Do they mean “together” as in the Firsters and the noisy little band of extremists together or do they mean only the Firsters together must do the differentiating? And do they let the Word of God have any say about which changes bless and which changes blight?

  5. I consider myself proud to be a member of the “noisy little band of extremists”, considering the names that have signed the Firster’s petition on their site, or whatever it is.

  6. “The developing generation of younger clergy and lay leaders has a right to an unembroidered reprise of our synod’s 172 year trek.”

    Perhaps Mueller is referring back to 1838, when Martin Stephan and his Missouri Saxons began their trek across the Atlantic to the United States; that would be 171 years ago. However, the goal of Stephan and his devoted followers was not a Missouri Synod, but a sect with Stephan as an omnipotent pope. Of course, lately the SP and his delegate-packing JerryFirst devotees seem to be working back to Stephan’s original goal.

    As for twisting “the fabled wax nose” of Missouri Synod history, that’s been done repeatedly in a variety of synodical publications over at least the last century. Even last year the CTQ editor was hawking another fairy tale about the Missouri Saxons written by his seminarian classmate, a descendant of Stephan. (It is a miracle that Walter O. Forster’s authoritative history, Zion on the Mississippi, ever got published by CPH in 1953.)

  7. I’ve always wondered what sort of blindness causes someone who considers himself the more loving, caring and and people-oriented party in a dispute to characterize those who disagree with him in such insulting terms. I’ve seen this sort of language repeatedly from JF and similar groups. Isn’t the name itself a not-so-subtle insult toward those who don’t agree with their positions? Or is it simply complete obliviousness to the possibility that those who disagree with them can be as sincerely motivated as they are, just coming to different conclusions? Honestly, I don’t know, it’s always struck me as peculiar.

  8. I don’t think Stephan’s followers came over here with the GOAL of “becoming a sect with an omnipotent pope” as you put it.

    Yes, that was my own wording, but given the “Traveling Regulations for the Gesellschaft,” which became operative when the Saxons assembled for emigration in Bremen, “Stephan’s Investiture” while sailing through the Gulf of Mexico, the “Pledge of Subjection to Stephan” while going up the Mississippi, and the obeisance of the Missouri Saxons during 1839, up until Stephan’s adultery was revealed, such an abbreviated description is accurate.

  9. “We all need more help with conflict management to match a lowered tolerance of conflict.”

    Yes, they need more “Oprah-esque” conflict management training to deal with the increased lack of tolerance practiced by us “noisy little extremists”.

  10. Hello, Pastor Hendrickson. I am a Catholic, and we have been going through the same thing, only the group that is wanting all of the goofy stuff (clown masses, liturgical dance, women priests, etc.) are called “We Are Church.”

    I still say that these liberal groups could easily go off and start their own church, but they don’t want to because what they are really after is the political clout from having the title and also the property. These folks don’t have the strength of their convictions to leave and worship in a school gym or something. They want YOUR buildings, bank accounts, art works, and trust funds. Not for them starting over with no building and scraping by on the donations of their supporters!

    The Methodists have been through this and their congregations have been weakened. These types of people have wrecked the Episcopalian Church. I hope that your group is strong enough to withstand them.

    Nice blog!

  11. *The developing generation of younger clergy and lay leaders has a right to…*

    I find this talk so highly ironic. Since graduating from Seminary three years ago, I have increasingly and insistently been informed that I am a know-nothing fledgling punk who should exercise his right to listen to and obey the over-fifty something, mortgage-fat, career men who believe their churches are in tatters but can’t for the life of them think it might have something to do with the two-score of theological negligence. Rather, I am their pawn, to give myself freely to worker-priest status and a firm training in using the Gospel imperative to whip my 80-year-olds into mision-mindedness, while narry a once presuming to have any skills beyond, perhaps, good theology – which we all know is only 15% or real ministry and should be left out of all polite conversation.

    Oh the stories I could tell out of school…! XD

  12. Does anyone happen to remember an article that was posted on JesusFirst’s website a few years ago wherein the author described confessional Lutherans as snakes to be driven out of the house that is the LC–MS? When the article started getting some attention from confessionals, it got disappeared and I haven’t been able to find it using the wayback machine– has anyone an archived copy of this article, or is my memory faulty?

  13. “Does anyone happen to remember an article that was posted on JesusFirst’s website a few years ago wherein the author described confessional Lutherans as snakes to be driven out of the house that is the LC–MS?”

    Yes, it was an article, “A Time for War And a Time For Peace,” by Stephen J. Carter, in the April 2003 issue of Jesus First:

  14. And here all this time I thought that I was a both/and Lutheran. Now I am just a “nosiy little extremist”. Hrmpf

  15. SHG @ #8:
    Wonder no more at such behaviors. A liberal is a liberal is a liberal….
    99.9% of liberalism is belief in lies, but lies the liberal has accepted, towards some other goal.
    So 99.9% of liberal activity involves tamping down the truth, as truth stands squarely in the way of the goal.
    And 99.9% of all causes liberals undertake have nothing to do with the organization they work within. Their cause is liberalism, and the group they’re in is just a tool. The power they crave is just a tool.
    That’s why they’re never satisfied and never have enough power, influence, control. Because there’s always that little remnant of free people who don’t buy it, let alone submit to it.
    But resistance is not futile.

  16. Susan R. – I’m sorry but I don’t think you’ve offered a fair description of the JF crowd’s motives. I vigorously disagree with them, but I do believe that they think they are trying to do the right thing. I would like us to have an open and mutually respectful discussion with them about important doctrinal issues and I think this is possible with many if not all of them. I was not always on the confessional side of this debate (I didn’t always know what that meant). So I know that we can change minds and hearts if we can simply discuss these issues openly. Isn’t that what Issues Etc is all about?

    What has been frustrating to me about this episode is the lack of openness and mutual respect offered to Rev. Wilken and Jeff Schwarz by the BOD and synodical president, not the fact that there was disagreement about who had control of the trademark. SHG

  17. SHG: If you really think ‘open and mutually respectful discussion…about important doctrinal issues’ is a likely possibility, then never mind supporting Issues, Etc. BJS, or the continuation of good confessional practice in your own congregation.
    Never mind trying to awaken Missourians to the maneuverings of factions and other bad actors, whose sole aim is control *through political means*, through subterfuge and shell games and whatever works.
    Like I said, a liberal is a liberal is a liberal. My mother used to caution that, sometimes even your best friend isn’t playing by the same rules you are. So, what do you do? Play the game their way? Try to talk them out of their mindset? Compromise with them so they’ll let you play along?
    No. You just be who you’re called to be and do what you’re called to do. And you certainly don’t try to resume your place in the game, because it’s not the same game any more: it’s now their game.
    You value, and work to maintain, solid liturgical practice and call liturgically-minded, confession-bound preachers, and you support with prayers and sweat and dollars those people and organizations who are doing likewise. *THAT* is what Issues, Etc. is all about; not ‘mutually respectful discussion’ with those from whom respect and openness never come. It takes two for ‘mutual’ to come into play.
    They aren’t talking to you; they aren’t respecting you. Know who you’re dealing with. Talk past them. Talk around them. Talk over them.

  18. Susan,
    Sure Pr. Wilken, Mr. Schwarz and supporters of IE have been shown a great deal of disrespect. Sure most in the JF crowd will not listen. However, there are a lot of people who think contemporary worship is great, that doctrine divides, that orthodoxy is a dead weight, don’t know or care about the Lutheran confessions – BUT have never really thought about it either ( I believe this is due to a generation of grossly inadequate catechesis, following the belief that once Seminex was over, the battle was won. Exactly where that blame lies I don’t know but I also think is immaterial beyond recognizing that it happened). Those are the people we need to engage in discussion, not the committed JF people who casually insult confessionals. WIth the Holy Spirit behind it, people can change their minds with proper catechesis. My wife and I have, as have others in our congregation. IE has been effective in catechesis, and that is why I support it.

  19. SHG,

    You are so, so right! I grew up in the “mushy middle” of the LCMS in the Seventies and Eighties. My catechetical instruction was haphazard (and this is my own fault as much as anyone elses). I had never laid eyes on a Book of Concord and never heard of CFW Walther.

    It wasn’t until a few years ago (I’m 38) that I got connected with a liturgical, confessional church and began to understand what is most precious about Lutheranism, and how it is under attack from inside and outside the LCMS.

    And nothing has done more than Issues, Etc. to catechize me into a mature and knowledgable Lutheran Christian faith. I’m amazed at how many other LCMS “lifers” in various parts of the country have never heard of this program.

  20. Yes, JesusFirst managed to elect Kieschnick three times, and continues to micro-manage his administration from behind the scenes. But even they must realizing that every day their man looks more like Harold Hill in the River City of the LC-MS.

    President Kieschnick, having abandon theological leadership early on, has more lately squandered his political capital. President Kieschnick’s election margins are thinning faster than a JesusFirster’s own hair.

    2010 is fast approaching.

  21. A proud noisy little extremist here. Even a placard carrying one at the protest at the Purple Palace. I have so many new names. Hallelujah

  22. Charles:
    Now, seeing what had been written by C Mueller, I can understand you are concerned. It reminds me of one evening in 196e at University of the Pacific, when a small group of Methodist students met with their pastor. Not one word about Christ during the meeting. I asked the pastor later about that omission, and he responded, “We all believe in Christ, so we don’t mention Him.” What??? Ever since, I have been most cautious about Methodism.


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