President Kieschnick’s Stimulus Package, by Pr. Charles Henrickson

BRTFSSGThe news is filled these days with stories about President Obama’s “Stimulus Package.” The funny thing is, he’s not the only president pushing one. Right here in the Missouri Synod, President Kieschnick has a “Stimulus Package” of his own that he’s trying to sell: the restructuring of the Synod. And there are a number of parallels between the two packages.

Sense of urgency. President Obama is claiming that, unless Congress hurries up and passes his stimulus bill, doom and disaster will result. “A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.”

President Kieschnick also has used a sense of urgency to try to rally support for the restructuring proposals of his Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance. At the convention in Houston in 2007, we delegates were told by a Kieschnick committee chair, “there is urgency about facing the issues” (Reporter, September 2007). When calling a special convention didn’t fly, President Kieschnick had to back off and shoot instead for a couple extra days at the 2010 convention, “while affirming the urgency of the matters being addressed by the task force” (Reporter, October 2007). In his closing remarks at the August 2008 theological convocation, President Kieschnick spoke of “the urgent necessity of amending the structure and governance of the Synod.” So President Kieschnick has tried to gin up a sense of urgency for restructuring, but at this point–and I’ve been paying attention–I still don’t see what is so urgent about it.

Lack of rationale. President Obama has pressed the urgency of his stimulus bill, but he has been short on explaining the rationale for all of the proposals, how they all will alleviate the problem without creating more problems.

That’s how it’s been, too, with President Kieschnick’s restructuring proposals: long on urgency, short on rationale. We hear flowery language about “walking together” into “the future” and “strengthening the voice of congregations” for “one mission,” but we do not hear much about why this massive restructuring is so needed, how it will accomplish these lofty goals, or what problems it might create or exacerbate.

Lack of detail. When President Obama proposed his stimulus bill, he talked about “economic recovery” and “reinvestment,” and there were a host of possible projects mentioned that might be funded, but there were also a lot of gaps and holes and question marks in the “plan.” Lack of detail–and, as we all know, often the devil is in the details.

Likewise with President Kieschnick’s Task Force’s “Proposals and Possibilities.” It’s not always clear which are “proposals” and which are “possibilities.” Right now we are into the 2009 district convention cycle and we still do not have a specific plan being proposed. What would be all the resulting changes in the language of the Constitution and Bylaws? Unclear at this point. But it would take many months to rewrite the Bylaws for such sweeping changes. And we need to be able to see the exact wording and weigh it and discuss it, far ahead of time, in order to vote intelligently on it in 2010. Otherwise, we’re being asked “to buy a pig in a poke.”

More power at the top. President Obama’s stimulus bill would give far more power to the federal government, because with federal funding comes federal control. More power is rising to the top.

And that is perhaps what is most troubling about what we’ve seen so far in the proposals from President Kieschnick’s Task Force. More and more power is flowing to the top, away from the grassroots (congregation and circuit), and more toward the district and national synod, with more power especially being given to the district presidents and the synod president. Overall, there is a strong centralizing tendency in these proposals.

Sense of urgency. Lack of rationale. Lack of detail. More power at the top. Those are some initial observations on “President Kieschnick’s Stimulus Package.” We’ll have some more “unpacking” of the package in the days to come.

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