Report from the Southern Illinois District (SID) Convention: A Model for Other Districts, by Pr. Rossow

We interviewed Pastor Michael Kumm of  Trinity Lutheran Church – Millstadt, Illinois,  this  evening to get a fresh word from the SID convention that just ended this afternoon. This was a model convention for others to follow since the convention acted boldly to  ask the Board of Directors to cease and desist in their efforts to hinder the Issues. Etc. trademark application, to  reject  President Kieschnick’s Fan Into Flame fundraising efforts for Ablaze and resolved to reject various components of the Blue Ribbon Committee’s proposed changes.

On the first topic, Pastor Kumm reports that the vote to ask the Board of Directors to cease and desist in the Issues trademark matter was an open and shut case. Pastor Kumm wrote the motion and brought it to the floor of the convention. He went to a microphone. The District President acknowledged him. He made the motion. There were numerous seconds. He gave the rationale for the motion. The president asked for debate. There was none. The vote was taken and it passed 108 – 15. (Next week we will run a longer article on how to get motions on to the convention floor using this as an example.)

During his presentation President Kieschnick  was asked why the Board of Directors (which includes President Kieschnick) was threatening legal action against Issues, Etc. He told the convention there was no lawsuit, there never was a lawsuit and that he wouldn’t wish a lawsuit on anybody. According to Pastor Kumm he never really did answer the question. He just made this demonstrative little speech about how there  was never a lawsuit. In our opinion, whether there was a lawsuit or not, it is very clear that the attorneys for the Board of Directors, being funded by our  offerings, wrote a letter to the attorney for Issues, Etc. threatening legal action of some sort if Todd and Jeff would not sit down with them to negotiate a settlement. In actuality there is nothing to negotiate  except more proposed gag orders from the synod and other such attempts at leveraging the wind. The trademark was let go, the synod cancelled the show for financial reasons and that is the story. (We recommend you read Scott Diekmann’s petition  and sign it in order to send a message to President Kieschnick and the Board of Directors.)

The other issue of note from the convention floor was a motion to support the Fan Into Flame fund-raising program. Fan into Flame is President Kieshcnick’s fund-raising effort  for the Ablaze program. Instead of approving a motion to commend the Fan into Flame efforts, a substitute motion was offered, seconded and approved to support the needs within the Southern Illinois District.

There was a Blue Ribbon  Committee presentation made. There is more on it in Pastor Henrickson’s post  from earlier today. According to Pastor Kumm it was “a colossal waste of time.” As Pastor Henrickson points out, everything is very fuzzy. It is a moving target and yet President Kieschnick wants us to vote on these issues at the next synodical convention. According to Pastor Kumm it would be very difficult to vote on something that has so few details ready to go. He also commented that those he spoke with discerned that this was an  unnacceptable  top down effort to grow government in the LCMS. The SID passed several motions sending a message to President Kieshcnick and the synod that they reject the proposed changes. For example they were opposed to the proposed changes  in how congregations would be represented at convention, the redistricting of the synod, etc. As at the North Dakota convention, delegates were asked to answer survey questions about the Blue Ribbon proposals before the question and answer time was conducted. Thus delegates were giving their opinions on the proposals before they were allowed to question them to discover more about them and to learn what others might have to say in favor of them or in opposition to them.

This was a model district convention. We congratulate District President and Bishop Herbert C.  Mueller on a well run convention and pray that more conventions will follow suit. We also call on President Kieshcnick and the Blue Ribbon Commission to allow both sides of the committee’s proposals, pro and con,  to be presented before delegates are asked to complete the survey and to take to heart other criticisms of the recent direction of the LCMS identified by this august group of conventioneers.

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.


Report from the Southern Illinois District (SID) Convention: A Model for Other Districts, by Pr. Rossow — 26 Comments

  1. Thank you, Pastor Rossow, and thank you, Pastor Kumm, for this good report from SID. I was there for the afternoon session yesterday, in order to catch the BRTFSSG presentation, but not for the whole convention. It should be noted that Matt Harrison was the convention essayist, and his talk yesterday on the convention theme, “One Sure Hope,” was theologically substantive, genuinely hopeful, and interesting and engaging!

  2. Thanks be to God for all of you solid confessional pastors and laymen. This is very encouraging news from the SID convention. I am the lay delegate to our MO dist convention and pray we can have equal success for the truth.

  3. I was remiss to not mention the outstanding essay by Pastor Harrison in my visit with Pr. Rossow. Pr. Harrison gave what District and Synodical conventions should be about, being in the Word of God. What a joy to have a true theologian and PASTOR bring God’s Word to life in the convention theme of ONE SURE HOPE. Comments were made from the floor microphones thanking Pr. Harrison for his pastoral and biblical approach in addressing the convention. Thanks, Matt! It was a great study!

  4. You gotta give President Kieschnick his props. He is one heck of a politician. He knows exactly how to answer a question without actually answering it. “Why is the BOD threatening legal action . . .?” “There’s no lawsuit!” Um, Jer-bear, who said anything about a lawsuit. The question was, “Why is the BOD THREATENING legal action . . .?” “Yeah, I answered that; there’s no lawsuit!” Great stuff! Kinda reminds me of Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” statement.

    Anyway, thanks Prs. Kumm, Henrickson, and Rossow for informing us about the SID Convention. Sadly, I doubt very seriously things will go as well here in our District. But, one can hope . . . and pray . . .

  5. “RESOLVED, that Synodical Board of Directors be admonished to be better stewards of donated congregational dollars to be used toward the proclamation and spreading of the Gospel rather than frivolously engaging in legal matters”

    A little limp. With some discussion it might have been reworded more like:

    RESOLVED, that the Board of Director members – Rev. Victor Belton, Mr. Walter Brantz, Mr. Kermit A. Brashear, Dr. William Diekelman, Dr. Betty Duda, Dr. Gloria Edwards, Rev. Raymond Hartwig, Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, Mr. Tom Kuchta, Dr. Robert Kuhn, Chaplain Donald Muchow, Mr. David Piehler, Mr. Curtis Pohl, Mr. Roy Schmidt, Rev. Jeff Schrank, Dr. Kurt Senske, Mr. Walter Tesch – resign immediately from the Board, and be it

    RESOLVED, unless Board members do resign, a memorial be made to the synodical convention to remove all Board members from office, and bar them from ever holding another district or synodical position.

  6. While I am pleased to hear of the actions at the SID convention, I do wonder why there is this seeming need to refer to district presidents as “bishop”. In what way is a district president a “bishop”? What altar/pulpit/font does he serve? The LCMS constitution and bylaws speak of the office of district president, not of bishop — for a reason.

  7. Thanks and admiration to the SID for their faithfulness.

    Oh that Indiana would follow their example.

    And thanks for keeping us all informed.

  8. Steve,

    “Bishop” is from the Greek word “episkopos.” It means “overseer.” It is a New Testament word that is applied to pastors (Acts 20:28, Titus 1:7, etc.). It is also applied to Christ (I Peter 2:25). Every pastor is an overseer of his congregation. According to by-laws, every district president is an overseer of his district and the synodical president is the overseer of the entire synod.

    One of the advantages of using the Biblical term “bishop” to refer to our overseers instead of the corporate word “president” is that it reminds us of thier chief duty which is to oversee the doctrine and practice of those under thier oversight.

    You probably question the use of the term “bishop” because of its “Catholic” overtones. I use it in the true Biblical sense and encourage others to as well. The only authority a bishop has is the word of God. Bishops do not have temporal authority. Of course, with that Biblical authority comes the responsibility to use it rightly. If a bishop, whether he be a parish pastor charged by God with oversiight over a congregation, or a District President charged with oversight by God over a region, or a Synodical President charged by God with oversight over an entire denomination, if any of them ever goes against the clear Word of God they are to be reprimanded in love and called back to the truth. As we like to say in our congregation, even a third grader armed with the truth of God’s word can rebuke an erring pastor.

    I hope that helps. I use the term not to grant anyone any authority beyond what Scripture gives but with the intention of upholding the scriptural requirement of pastors and synodical presidents to get job one done – oversee the purity of the Gospel in thier area of oversight.

    Pastor Rossow

  9. The use of the title, “Bishop” is totally inappropriate in referring to a district president in the Missouri Synod, unless that DP also happens to be the called pastor of a congregation. Even then in referring to his actions as a DP, he should be referred to as “President” or “District President,” because that is the (district) constitutional authority under which he is operating.

    Other Lutheran church bodies may have their own polity structures, but in the Missouri Synod, the infatuation with the title of “Bishop” for non-pastoral executive positions appears primarily as an addiction (picked up from where?) for the heterodoxies of Stephan, Grabau, and Loehe.

  10. Carl Vehse,

    We are all accountable for maintaining pure doctrine in the church: president, pastor, voters assembly chair, Sunday School teacher, catechumen, etc. It is a good thing when the church establishes offices of oversight for doctrinal purity in districts, and even in the synod itself as we have done in the LCMS. Those offices have no more authority than scripture itself.

    As Kurt Marquart taught and wrote, the term “church” is used in the Bible to apply to the local congregation, a group of regional congregations and the church universal. “Church” is not limited to the local congregation in the Bible nor is doctrinal oversight.

    I appreciate your crusade to protect us from power-hungry over-lords but asserting that congregations cannot band together and establish an office in their midst that has the authority of Scripture, and only the authority of Scripture to rebuke erring congregations with that same Word is just wrong.

    Pastor Rossow

  11. Pastor Rossow,

    I am fully aware of the meaning of the word “bishop”; I too went to seminary. But the LCMS does not have “bishops” unless it is in the sense of pastor, hence my question as to what altar/font/pulpit the man serves. As far as I know, President Mueller does not serve at any particular altar/font/pulpit and so is not really a bishop. As I am sure you know, the LCMS had some bad experiences with the title and intentionally chose NOT to use that word in reference to its synodical or district presidents.

    Why this desire to ascribe titles to men they do not have? President Mueller is a district president. It is an honorable and useful office. But he is not a bishop. Not even in the sense of “all pastors are bishops”. A pastor is one who has been called by God to shepherd a flock with the Means of Grace; President Mueller does not have such a call.

  12. By the way, I do not want to derail this discussion; it is far too important to get bogged down in what I am sure is just semantics. You want to call a district president a bishop? Fine. But I just want to be clear that doing so is going beyond what we have agreed upon in the LCMS.

  13. Pastor Bohler,

    As I have said on other strings, I don’t care in the end what these people are called. I refer to them as both bishops and district presidents as I did in the original post above.

    Concerning the use of the term “bishop,” as you agree it means overseer. President Mueller was elected by his district to oversee doctrine in the district. He is an overseer. No matter what we call them, there will always be the possibility that they will be over-lords and not servants, as we are seeing with the case of many “presidents” in our synod in this very day. Changing a title can help but it guarantees nothing. I prefer to call them by thier most important duty, to oversee doctrinally purity.

    Pastor Rossow

  14. Steve (#12),

    I agree the issue at hand is more important.

    One possible way for us to come together on this secondary matter is to look carefully at the earliest documents of our synod and see what they describe.

    They say that the synodical president is to visit every congregation (this of course was delegated to District Presidents when the synod grew) to judge whether or not the pastor is rightly dividing law and gospel, conducting appropriate liturgies, rebuking the erring in his congregation, etc. The next step is crucial and is a great place for clarity. He is then to report erring brothers to the synod in convention for discipline.

    I agree with you that if the next step is for the district president to unilaterally excommunicate the erring brother, that is wrong and an abuse of power.

    If only our synod presidents were regularly doing this I think both you and I would be much happier campers.

    Pastor Rossow

  15. Pastor Rossow,

    The congregational elders are to do the same thing: examine the doctrine and practice of their pastors. Do we call them bishops too?

    The office of district president is a human office; the office of pastor (which is a true bishop) is a divine office. We dare not confuse them, even if the human office serves in a “churchly” manner.

  16. Steve,

    Concerning elders, in the table of duties Luther says that there are two types of people in the church: preachers and hearers. Elders are hearers, pastors are overseers.

    Now Luther also says that elders are to listen for the voice of the good shepherd in their preachers and if they do not hear it they are free to call a new pastor. That is a profound authority that I agree the laity ought to have but it does not make them overseers. As Luther says, they are are hearers.

    Pastor Rossow

  17. Rev. Bohler: “The congregational elders are to do the same thing: examine the doctrine and practice of their pastors. Do we call them bishops too?”

    Rev. Rossow: “Concerning elders, in the table of duties Luther says that there are two types of people in the church: preachers and hearers. Elders are hearers, pastors are overseers.”

    This is taking Luther out of context! In his explanation of his Theses IX and X on the Ministry, Walther provided numerous Scripture that the laity are also to test the doctrine and practices of the pastor (e.g., Mt. 7:15-16; John 10:5; Acts 17:11, etc.). Walther also includes Luther’s writings from the Smalcald Articles, and elsewhere (e.g., “That a Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Authority to Judge All Doctrine”, 1523, St. Louis Ed. 10:1540ff, etc.), as well as other Lutheran theologians.

    As Rev. Bohler noted, the DP has no authority to preach the Gospel from any pulpit or administer the sacraments to a congregation to which his has no call. That he may occasionally preach from a pulpit is based on the permission from the congregation and their called pastor at that location. The DP has no authority to depose a pastor in his district, though he may apply synodical restrictions to a pastor. It is the congregation that has the right and responsibility to judge the doctrine and practices of its pastor and the right and responsibility to depose a pastor for cause.

    As Rev. Bohler also noted, the DP and SP are not bishops, nor is the Missouri Synod an episcopy. As my namesake stated to the Stephanite clergy on November 20, 1839:

    “One can give up only that which one has. What one does not have and is not properly one’s own, one cannot give up. The choice of a bishop or adoption of an episcopal form of church government is a matter for the congregations, not for the pastors. The clergy may accept the office of bishop or an episcopal form of church government if the congregation decides to confer it upon them and if they find it to be for good. Herein we see clear evidence that the position of the clergy has been erroneous.”

  18. This discussion of Bishop vs. District President takes away from the more pressing matters of our Syond being taken over by those seeking a corporate top down re-structuring that will make it even easier for the Inc. to control the clergy and the doctrine. Gentlemen, while I laud your enthusiasm, let us save it for the more urgent matters at hand and let “side” issues be resolved (or not) elsewhere so that from a new beginning here we do not desolve into factions so that the CGers (Church Growhthers)continue to run/ruin our Syond. Thank you.

  19. Mr. Bobb,

    I agree, with this one proviso: making district presidents into bishops (as the term is usually understood, not the “all pastors are bishops”) would be to introduce changes into the LCMS polity as great as anything Dr. Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force is contemplating.

  20. I think an abysmal ignorance of the doctrine of church and ministry, Missouri Synod history, and synodical polity, especially on the part of the synodical delegates has significantly contributed to the LCMess we find ourselves in today.

  21. Carl,

    I agree whole-heartedly. If the laity took seriously their responsibility to listen for the voice of Christ in their pastor, the LCMS would not be in this mess.

    Likewise, if the synodical president and district presidents took their duty to oversee doctrine in the province of their supervision and do as Walther told them to do, i. e. visit the congregations under their supervision, we would also be in a better place today.

    Pastor Rossow

  22. Steve,

    “Bishop” does not have to mean over-lord. It can mean what Walther describes as their duty, visiting the congregations under their presiding to make sure that they are teaching pure doctrine and if they aren’t, reporting them to the district and/or synod for rebuke. This oversight that Walther prescribes for the synod is beneficial for the Gospel.

    Pastor Rossow

  23. Steven Bobb,

    You offer good advice. I will try to not lose site of the overall goal while having this side discussion. I really believe that “Waltherians” and “Hyper-Euros” can come together under a common trust in the only true authority in the church – the Word of God. Each has to reject their undo respect for the office of the ministry or the voters assembly and realize that there is only one head of the church – Christ and that he rules through His Word.

    As I like to say:

    “A third-grader armed with the Word of God can rebuke an erring pastor.”


    “A third-grader armed with the Word of God can rebuke an erring voters assembly.”

    Pastor Rossow

  24. “If the laity took seriously their responsibility to listen for the voice of Christ in their pastor, the LCMS would not be in this mess.”

    Because half of the convention delegates are called pastors, that statement would take care of about half the mess, unless one argues that most of the lay delegates voted for the current SP and most of the pastoral delegates voted for his confessional opponents.

    And then, of course, there’s the fact that the Praesidium and the Council of Presidents are all ordained and were at one time called pastors (several still are).

  25. Um, “Carl”, one problem with your reasoning there about this correcting only half the mess.

    If the laity took their responsibility seriously, and correced their pastors. AND assuming the laity is lutheran and not pentamethawhatever, then we would have more lutheran pastors because the laity would straighten out pastors who tend to go to the dark side …

    I guess that second assumption is one of the problems. We don’t have a lutheran laity because they have not learned what it means to be lutheran.

  26. It’s a “both/and” problem. Trying to shovel the blame from one side to the another ignores the responsibilities both laity and clergy have.

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