President Kieschnick Releases Statement on the Trademark Issue; He Pleads Innocent to a Charge No One has Made (by Pastor Rossow)

Here is a memo issued moments ago from President Kieschnick. Take a moment and read through it and I will provide a few comments below.

To:                                  LCMS Council of Presidents
From:                          Gerald B. Kieschnick
Subject:                    Issues, Etc.
Date:                            February 26, 2009

Dear Brothers in Christ:
Grace and peace be with you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
In order to assist you in responding to inquiries and/or rumors about my involvement in an alleged lawsuit involving “Issues, Etc.,” I am providing this memo, which you may share as you deem appropriate.
As indicated during our Council of Presidents discussion of that topic earlier this week, contrary to allegations and rumors you and I have recently received, I have not filed, initiated, supported, or encouraged any lawsuit against Rev. Todd Wilken or Mr. Jeff Schwarz, nor have I ever had a desire to do so. Any allegations or rumors to the contrary are simply untrue. As an individual Christian, as a Lutheran pastor, and as President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I take seriously the Holy Spirit-inspired words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 regarding such matters.
Furthermore, the LCMS Board of Directors has not filed a lawsuit against these brothers in Christ and in fact has taken action that effectively ends any and all legal considerations regarding this matter and is designed to restore relationships with them through fraternal conversation, mutual respect, and genuine humility. A communication from the Board with additional information about this matter will be forthcoming.
It is my prayer that this memo will be helpful to you in responding to anyone in your district who has expressed concern regarding this issue. I know you join me in prayer that it will be resolved under the leading, guiding, and directing of God’s Holy Spirit.
The peace of the Lord be with you all!  
Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick,  President
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

“Transforming lives through Christ’s love …  in time … for eternity …” John 3:16-17

C: LCMS Board of Directors

Someone told me earlier this week that  what President Kieschnick would do is plead innocent to something that no one has charged him with. That is exactly what he has done.

He is using word games to try and excuse himself. No one ever accused President Kieschnick of filing a lawsuit against anyone. We and others have said that the attorneys that work for the Board of Directors (President Kieschnick is a member of this board) have sent a letter to Todd and Jeff’s attorney’s informing them that if Todd and Jeff do not come to the table to work out a compromise they will be forced to take further action. WE EVEN PUBLISHED THE LETTER FOR ALL TO SEE SO THAT OUR CLAIMS COULD BE JUDGED BY ALL THE WORLD. The Board of Directors (President Kieschnick is on this board) on the other hand, released nothing. It looks as though they are going to back down from the threats their attorneys made but this only after we all screamed and hollered on the internet, through e-mails to them, via the petition, phone calls to them, etc.

I do not like having a synodical president who plays word games! Say what you will about President Kieschnick’s church growth theology (we have said a lot about it here and will say much more about it in months to come), but that pales in comparison to this Clintonesque use of language.

This memo sadly squares with what President Kieschnick did at the Southern Illinois convention. He took a screened question (more on that below) about the trademark issue and then spoke dramatically about a scenario that was make believe. “There is no lawsuit, never was a lawsuit, there never will be a lawsuit, I wouldn’t wish a lawsuit on anybody” he exclaimed.  No one ever claimed there was a lawsuit. What was claimed is what is described above:  a threat to take further action by lawyers (we call that “legal action” in our common parlance). President Kieschnick is twisting language for his advantage.

Does it bother anyone else that President Kieschnick will not take questions from the floor of the conventions? President Barry did. He screened nothing. President Kieschnick will not face the members of synod squarely with their questions. He will only answer questions that have been handed in hours before the question and answer period and then he picks the questions that he will address.  This is called spin-doctoring and it is based on fear of hard questions or  fear of the inability to think on ones feet.  This has been his practice for as long as I can remember. It is in keeping with  the word games that he is playing with this memo. It is not rooted in trust nor in straightforward communication.

By the way, he also falsely claims in this memo that Christians cannot sue each other. He has to claim that because he decried lawsuits among Christians when he was sued for “stuffing the ballot box” (approving too many exceptional circuits) at the last convention. I know a lot of you have complained about Christians suing other Christians  but we have a lot to learn on this matter. Stay tuned for a series by Klemet Preus on how and why it is OK for Christians to sue each other. The threatened legal action in the trademark case was wrong because it was unfounded but there is a time and a place for Christians to sue each other. (We hope to have the first post in that series up later today.)

Speaking of the misuse of language by the president, I asserted above that President Kieschnick’s theology is a church growth theology. Since we  have reproduced one of his memos for this post it is a good opportunity to examine  his personally chosen theme:

“Transforming lives through Christ’s love …  in time … for eternity …” John 3:16-17

With this theme he is taking  a justification passage and turning  it into a sanctification passage. John 3:16-17 is not about transforming lives. It is about salvation by grace through faith. This is more twisting of words by our president. Sanctification is certainly important and is even too often overlooked in the LCMS, but it is not the crux of the Bible and it is not the point of this passage. The justification of the sinner is the heart of the Biblical message and that is the clear message of John 3:16-17, the Gospel in a nutshell. The Bible is Christ-centered and cross focused. It is about forgiven lives and not about changed lives.

To summarize, this memo is much ado about nothing. It knocks down a straw man. Real men, in the flesh, with real vocations and real families to support, Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz, have been tormented by the synod under President Kieshcnick for nearly a year now. We wish he would stop fighting the wind and join us here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast and start living, breathing and speaking the Lutheran Confessions as is done daily and faithfully on a great radio program, Issues, Etc.

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.


President Kieschnick Releases Statement on the Trademark Issue; He Pleads Innocent to a Charge No One has Made (by Pastor Rossow) — 48 Comments

  1. Pasor Rossow – you closed with, “We wish he would stop fighting the wind and join us here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast and start living, breathing and speaking the Lutheran Confessions as is done daily and faithfully on a great radio program, Issues, Etc.” Amen to that but if that doesn’t happen President Kieschnick should remove himself from his position for not being “Lutheran” or be removed. I echo the call, “Matt Harrison in 2010.”

    Paul in O’Fallon

  2. On a more serious note, Pres. Kieschnick is technically telling the truth in everything he’s said. He’s just telling the truth regarding, as Pastor Rossow mentions, something that he was never accused of. Or he’s telling the truth but not all of it. Kind of like saying the cat was running across the room, hit the lamp, & broke it, but leaving out that the cat was running because you were chasing it & trying to force it into doll clothes.

  3. President Kieschnick may not be a theologian, but he is a pretty good politician. I say, Dr. Kieschnick for congress, Pastor Harrison for LCMS President.

  4. Just more duplicitous doubletalk, carefully crafted, methinks perhaps with the assistance of the same shysters who threatened Todd and Jeff.
    After all, it just depends on what the definition of “is” is dontcha know.?

  5. Notice the change of language of the above memo from the language of the email sent out by Rev. Jon Braunersreuther, the SP’s senior assistant?

    “President Kieschnick has neither initiated a lawsuit against anyone connected with the radio show “Issues, Etc.,” nor has he threatened or encouraged a lawsuit or any other type of legal action. Any allegations to the contrary are simply untrue. The President of the Synod has neither the authority nor the desire to initiate legal action on behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. That authority is vested solely with the Board of Directors of the Synod.”

    Rev. Kieschnick dropped language such as “nor has he threatened or encouraged a lawsuit or any other type of legal action.” So did he encourage “any other type of legal action” such as challenging the Issues, Etc. trademark?

    And what were the “legal considerations” in front of the BOD? Could they be classified as falling under “any other type of legal action” which we were assured Kieschnick was not aware of or was he participating in?

    Political “hot potato” always ends with somebody’s hands being burned.

  6. You got it Califiowan – your’e comment the other day about “is” inspired me in this post.

    Pastor Rossow

  7. And I await “A communication from the Board with additional information about this matter….”

    Will we see a withdrawal of the opposition to the trademark?

    Will the BoD issue a directive to the attorneys to cease and desist all actions against Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz?

    Will the BoD issue an appology to Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz for mistakenly giving the impression of a threat?

  8. Jerry is doing his Pontius Pilate act again, washing his hands of the matter, just like he did last year after the Holy Week firings.

    When you read anything from Kieschnick, you need to read between the lines. Notice here that Kieschnick says, “Furthermore, the LCMS Board of Directors . . . in fact has taken action that effectively ends any and all legal considerations regarding this matter. . . .” If you read between the lines, you can see that the BOD *was indeed* considering legal action and has only recently decided to not pursue it further–maybe (note the qualifier, “effectively”), and that probably only due to the grief they were getting.

    And as always, notice what Kieschnick does *not* say. He does not even mention the December 16, 2008, letter from Thomas A. Polcyn, Esq., of Thompson Coburn LLP, in which the legal threat was made, to wit: “unless your client is willing to negotiate in good faith to finalize a mutually acceptable agreement in the near future, along the lines that we were discussing last summer, we will be left with no alternative but to recommend that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prosecute the opposition against Madsen’s application and take action against your clients to enforce its rights to the trademark.”

  9. Rev. James #9
    I’d hold my breath waiting for an apology, but I’m 75 yers old and wouldn’t last that long, even with an oxygen bottle or two and a case of nitro pills. Just gonna chill out for a while and wait for Dr. Hartwig to do his thing with the Minutes.

  10. At least the PoTS is consistent. Yes, that’s all the nice things I can think of saying about him. I really hate being so negative, but then I try to be realistic and, if nothing else, PoTS is consistent – consistently evil, but consistent.

  11. President Kieschnick is lying in that he is intentionally creating false impressions. The casual reader would come away from this memo thinking that there is no threat of a lawsuit from LCMS, Inc.

    The fact of the matter is that Synod, Inc. IS threatening litigation against Harry Madsen who filed for the trademark. So while Todd and Jeff would not be named as defendants in the lawsuit, this is ultimately who Synod, Inc. intends to harm.

    Shrewed politician that he is, President Kieschnick is telling the truth that there is no talk of suing Jeff and Todd, but his PR tactics are designed to give the false impression that there is no discussion of legal action whatsoever. Dispicable.

    I’m not a synodical historian, but at least in recent decades the Kieschnick administration marks an absolute low-point in terms of leadership and stewardship.

  12. This is the problem you get when your PotS is a politician and not a theologian. When he’s corporate focused instead of cross focused. That statement he made then referencing it to John 3:16-17 is a pathetic indication of his lack of Lutheran understanding. We may as well have Rick Warren as PotS right now, or any Southern Baptist, or something.

  13. Can someone point me to the letter from the attorneys that “threatened” legal action? I anticipate a discussion with my DP and need to have the wording correct.

  14. We hear a lot of 4th and 8th commandments being thrown around by these guys, but I think it’s about time they do some explaining about their understanding of the 2nd.

  15. Has anyone else noticed that Ron Schultz seems to have an awful lot of influence and authority in this situation? How does an unelected and seemingly unaccountable individual fit into all of this? Does anyone know where his authority comes from, and what checks and balances are in place over his position?

  16. I find his tag line particularly troubling. Pastor Rossow, thanks for calling that out. I read it at the end of his memo and thought to myself that I didn’t remember that being the essence of John 3:16-17. It is scary that the President of our Synod would get it so wrong.

    Where is he trying to take us? There are plenty of churches out there already where he wants to go. Why doesn’t he join up with them? The trip is much faster and easier than trying to drag a Synod along with him.

  17. I just noticed that President Kieschnick is a “Dr.”. Since he claims not to be a theologin, can someone explain what his doctorate is in? This may be old ground for some of you, but I’d like to know. It could go a long way to explaining where he’s trying to steer the synodical ship, and why. My inquiring mind would like to know.


  18. Interestingly, his major in all of his college work is listed as “unknown”. How common is that? I have looked up many pastors on the LCMS directory, and don’t think I’ve seen that before.

  19. I did not realize his Dr. was only honorary. I’ve never before heard of someone with an honorary doctorate using Dr. as a title (I’m in academia). Even lawyers don’t refer to themselves as Dr even though they have earned JD. It’s clearly a self-aggrandizing affectation and to use that title in a professional context to imply education not obtained is misleading at best. Why someone widely quoted as having said he’s not a theologian would care to try to impress people with his level of education is rather strange.

  20. I’m going to go against the grain here and say that this situation now calls for a little patience and (dare I say it…) backing off a little.

    BJS and others have succeeded in shining quite a bit of light on this situation, to which the President and the Board have had to respond.

    The President assures us that a resolution is forthcoming, along with another statement from the Board. Let us give them the opportunity to rectify the situation, and wait and see how these matters are resolved before assuming the worst.

  21. “I’ve never before heard of someone with an honorary doctorate using Dr. as a title (I’m in academia).”

    In March, 2006, the LCMS member directory was searched for doctoral degrees for the then current (> 2004) synodical president, vice presidents, and district presidents (these changed somewhat after the synodical and district district conventions). Of the 41 men, at that time:

    12 had only an honorary degree listed;

    4 had a doctorate listed but no additional information of where or when it was obtained, or if it was honorary;

    5 had a doctorate listed from a given institution, but that institution has no thesis listed in the institution’s library catalog (one man also has another honorary doctorate);

    2 had earned doctorates with a thesis listed in their institution’s catalog;

    1 had an earned doctorate along with 2 honorary doctorates; and

    17 had no doctorates listed.

    Thus, at that time, out of the 24 men in the COP and the Praesidium who used the title “Dr.”, 50 percent have only an honorary degree, 38 percent claim a doctorate for which no confirmation of an earned degree was possible, and 12 percent have clearly earned doctorates.

    The three listed earned doctorates came from the University of Basel (1957), the University of Iowa (1976), and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL (1993). There may be others out of the 41 but I could not find a thesis in the school’s online library catalog or the earned degree was not clearly identified on the LCMS directory.

    It would be interesting to take a similar list from today or perhaps the 1950s or the 1930s and find the distribution of those with earned or honorary doctoral degrees, and whether the latter people used the title, “Dr.”

  22. Pr. Hojnacki,

    I understand your advice to back off, but I respectfully disagree with it. Backing off is the reason we’re in the mess we’re in today. We have allowed our current synodical leadership to respond to disputes with evasive, side-stepping, half-truthing, non-responsive statements for too long. It is time we keep the pressure on them to respond to clear questions with clear answers.

    In his memo, President Kieschnick does not address the real concern we have in this particular dispute. Our pointing that out is not uncharitable or “assuming the worst,” but just the plain old truth. While some may have wrongly surmised that he and/or the BoD had initiated an actual lawsuit against Todd and Jeff, the real concern is what involvement he had in the opposition to Mr. Madsen’s trademark application and in the threat of legal action against Todd and Jeff. President Kieschnick is well aware of the real concern here, but has chosen to release a memo in which he claims innocence to something of which he has not been accused. It’s a neat trick used all the time by politicians, but we should expect much more from our synodical president. I wrote this on another forum, but President Kieschnick’s memo is akin to me asking my teenage daughter why she hasn’t cleaned her room, only to get the response, “Dad, I never hit my sister, I swear!”

    Not only that, but allowing President Kieschnick’s memo to go unchallenged would be to allow him to give the impression to others that he has been unjustly and falsely accused of doing something that he has not, in fact, been accused of doing. Why should we allow him to play the victim in this dispute?

    No, better to keep the pressure on our president to respond to the real concerns we have. Otherwise, this will just be another case in which he neatly sweeps controversy under the synodical carpet without having achieved true reconciliation with those involved.

  23. Thanks, for the detail. Carl. I withdraw my suggestion that Mr. Kieschnick has done something unusual with regard to his title. Apparently he is in the mainstream of behavior of the LCMS. Thus I withdraw my characterization of his use of “Dr.” as ‘self-aggrandizing affectation.’ Rather, that seems to be a general characterization of LCMS leadership unless there is some other justification for bestowing the title Dr. to someone with an honorary doctorate (beyond the award ceremony itself).

    I actually have no problem with the LCMS member directory listing honorary doctorates if the editorial decision has been made to do so. It is a notable honor (among many types that could be listed), but it’s not an academic credential to be listed along with earned degrees. No one I know who has an earned PhD uses ‘Dr.” as a title outside of the professional setting where it is relevant. Using Dr. as a title when one has only an honorary doctorate is fatuous at best (has Bob Dylan ever been introduced at a concert as “Dr. Bob Dylan” or has a movie ever been advertised as starring “Dr. Tom Cruise”?), fraudulent at worst (it would get a person fired from an academic position), and misleading in any case. It lead me to believe that he had 4-5 years of education beyond most parish pastors.

  24. In a discussion about honorary degrees within the Missouri Synod one should also note that the founder and first president of the Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther (1811-1887), also held an honorary degree. It was one that he received in 1878 from Capital University, Columbus, OH, after a lifetime of theological and organizational achievements. Capital University is a Lutheran school founded in 1830.

  25. The fact that he held an honary degree isn’t the issue to me; especially if it was “after a lifetime …”. Did he call himself Dr. Walther? He was president of synod from 1847-1850 and 1864-1878, and president of CSL in 1861. He therefore was not an “honary” doctor during his working life. Is this correct? I don’t know what he did between 1878 and 1887.

  26. “Did he call himself Dr. Walther?”

    I don’t know, but Walther had plenty of other titles during his lifetime, including synodical president, seminary president, professor, and, of course, “pastor” (or the German word) for forty-six years at Trinity Lutheran, St. Louis.

  27. #29 “Thus I withdraw my characterization of his use of “Dr.” as ’self-aggrandizing affectation.’ Rather, that seems to be a general characterization of LCMS leadership unless there is some other justification for bestowing the title Dr. to someone with an honorary doctorate (beyond the award ceremony itself).”

    That it “seems to be a general characterization of LCMS leadership” does not eliminate “self-aggrandizing affectation”…it only multiplies the offense.

    I have observed that honorary “doctorates” are often the remuneration for speakers at small college graduations.
    (“Dr.” Kieschnick had only to ask; I believe he was Chm of the BOD of the awarding institution at the time.)

  28. Helen,
    I agree entirely. I think it is an absurd/fatuous/self-aggrandizing/etc. to use the title Dr. when the only basis for the title is an honorary doctorate. My initial post criticized Mr. Kieschnick for doing so himself, but based on Carl’s information, he apparently is just following LCMS practice, so my implication that this was his personal decision to use this title was not warranted. I’d apologize to him personally for having made that implication. However, as you note, the adjectives I used still apply to the practice, it’s just that the criticism needs to be dispersed among the LCMS bureaucracy generally rather than Mr. Kieschnick personally. Like Carl, I’m also interested in when this practice started and what the reason for doing so was. I would like to know who has the power to stop it. It is highly misleading, whether deliberately or inadvertently matters little. And frankly it makes any person following this practice look small, insecure and vain (even if they are imply going along with organizational practice).

  29. My perspective on the “honorary” doctorate is this. The ones I have seen given out at the four ceremonies for my four earned degrees have usually been given to older folks who are beyond their professional days (thus the notion of honorary) and so it is not even a question of them being used in any sort of mistaken professional way.

    Pastor Rossow

  30. I’m not all that impressed with the practice of putting a “Dr.” in front of your name if you didn’t earn it through the normal process. Most people have to work for that sort of a degree, and it’s not easy. I could rightfully put Dr. in front of my name, or D.D.S. on the back of it, but I rarely do – as Christians, we’re all equal in God’s eyes. To then see somebody who didn’t earn the degree walk around flaunting it seems a little preposterous. Sort of like somebody padding their resume with a title they never received.

  31. Harrison for President, Kieschnick for Congress!! I like that! But please, could he represent from his home state, Texas? Missouri’s guys and gals are doing just fine … well, not really, but I’d rather not have my brother Kieschnick represent me “anywheres.”

  32. A couple of things:

    How about a day counter on the front page? The days are accumulating. I wonder how many days the CoP, BoD, PotS would want to wait for a reply to one of their (non-legal threatening)letters.

    A second matter regards the refusal of the PotS to reply to direct questions and instead filtering them. This is nothing new – Ralph Bohlmann did the same . I don’t remember if Rev. Berry did or not. But the PotS doesn’t like (regardless of whom he is) to be confronted with a clear question that they can’t wiggle out of. Such is politics in the LCMS.

  33. How many days is it now?

    No hurry at the Purple Palace – the peons can just wait or eat cake! Hahahahahahahaha!

  34. And tell me again how this is doing God’s will?

    Is holding on to this adding to the numbers of the Way?

    Is this topic something we need for our salvation??

    Let’s move on… to something positive! Like maybe preaching the Word of our Lord!!!!

    dan d

  35. Dan D,

    Yes, this topic is a part of our salvation. Our Lord asks us to hold each other accountable as brothers and sisters in the faith.

    What would you do about this situation? If you had a synodical president who was harassing you would you like your brothers and sisters to come to your aid?


  36. What would I do? I would pray! I would examine the real root of the problem, because you know there is more to this story. I would do my best to sit down and work out the problem. This should not be exposed to the public on a website, IMHO.

    I see God at work everyday, and I don’t think this being made public is His way of doing things! This has a negitive impact on you, your website, and the LCMS.

    Have you ever heard, “What would Jesus do”?? This would not have been it.

    dan d

  37. Dan,

    I would ask you to think again about what you would do. Your synod has done something that you know is contrary to what is found in God’s word, you have tried for years to get the synod leaders to discuss these problems and they won’t and you are saying you would not go public with the problem. This is exactly what Jesus would do and what he said to do in Matthew 18.

    We are not the ones making the synod look bad. The ones making the synod look bad are the leaders of synod who are doing things contrary to what the Bible says.


  38. I disagree. Read it again. You are making this bad. And as long as you are those synod leaders (who are the leaders, like it or not) will shun you.

    dan d

  39. Dan — multiple people have tried multiple times contacting this administration to get reasonable explanations about things that have happened behind closed doors, or to perhaps get some kind of apology for things that were done that clearly were not right. This is what Pastor Rossow is saying when he says “we have been trying for years to get the synod leaders to discuss the problem”. Every time we are ignored or issued statements saying that what happened was done “without the foreknowledge or approval” of the individuals involved.

    At some point the leaders of the synod have to accept the fact that they need to take responsibility for what happens in synod. It is very frustrating sitting on this side of the issue and see wrongs committed and everything done in secrecy, with noone being able to make a public statement saying what happened, what they learned from that, and that they are truly sorry and it won’t happen again.

  40. Yes Norm I know… but this is very post is the ways of men, and not the way of Christ. You Pastors know better than this in your hearts. God has set the way to deal with our leaders in the very way the LCMS is built. He has set our leaders in place by calling them, just as pastors are called by their own church. He has a reason for our leaders to be in office at this time.

    You are looking at the small picture….

    Having this topic on the main page is like two 10 year old fighting with each other and one has hurt feelings. (sorry no offence to ten year olds implied!)

    Let it go. Trust God! Where is the faith on this website??? If God wants more action in this matter HE will step in again. Maybe God is correcting this matter in another way! You my never see this happen, or you may in a year or two from now. Doesn’t anyone here understand how God works???

    Are you placing limits on God by hanging on to this? Think about it! And Pray!!!!!!

    dan d

  41. If this is the way President “Dr.” Kieschnick treats our brothers in Christ who regularly share the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world, we must ask ourselves, “Do we really want this man serving as Synodical President of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod for another term? Perhaps he would be better gifted to serve in some other capacity. He may be able to impress some employers with that doctorate of his. I’ll bet that other candidate for SP would be quite supportive of the hard work Rev. Todd Wilken and Mr. Jeff Schwarz have done to spread the truth of God’s Word at this critical time.

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