The Blue Ribbon Task Farce Comes to SID, by Pr. Charles Henrickson

Charles Henrickson(Note: While many of us are upset about the treatment of Todd and Jeffâ„¢, and rightly so, we need to connect the dots and see this IE issue as a symptom of a larger problem, i.e. [id est, “that is”], The Powers That Be at 1333. Who’s in charge at the Violet Vatican ®, and what they’re planning to do–that’s where we need to pay greater attention and take action, effective action, especially this year and next, to stop them in their tracks and change course. I will have a lot more to say about this in the months to come, and critiquing the sweeping and far-reaching Restructuring Proposals will be a big part of that. CH)

President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Farce came to Southern Illinois yesterday (Feb. 20) to put on their traveling dog-and-pony show. And I, like a modern-day Martin Stephan crossing the river from Missouri to Illinois as a form of punishment, was there to observe. Two hours out of my life that I will never get back. But forewarned is forearmed, and that is why I went. North Dakota in January, and now SID in February–these two early conventions are serving as canaries in the coal mine for what’s in store for the rest of us in mid-April to early July.

BRTFSSGThe Blue Ribbon Task Farce–no, that is not a typo. For what I observed was indeed a farce. Even apart from the specific proposals, just the way this whole thing is being handled and presented is a joke. The BRTFSSG was given two hours to present, the first hour to conduct their “survey,” the second hour for Q & A. President Jerry Kieschnick, First Vice-President Bill Diekelman, and Chairman Robert Greene were there to represent the BRTFSSG.

Here are some reasons why I think the whole process is a farce:

A Moving Target. In August the BRTFSSG came out with one set of “Proposals and Possibilities”. In January they made a presentation to the North Dakota District Convention that was significantly different. Now in February the presentation to the Southern Illinois District Convention is different again. Chairman Greene assured us this was the “final” version, as it will be presented to the remaining 33 district conventions, but then President Kieschnick contradicted him and said that the other presentations  could be different still. And these people want us to vote on this stuff next July??

Don’t Mess with Texts! That seems to be the attitude of the BRTFSSG. They have not posted a text-only version of either the North Dakota or Southern Illinois presentations. They have only posted a color-and-graphic-intensive “Flash Player” version, but you cannot copy and paste the text from that into other places, in order to distribute and discuss the proposals within congregations, circuits, and other forums. And they have not posted any version at all of their “feedback” survey form.

Change Overload. The BRTFSSG presents their proposals under 19 (for the moment) major headings, but each category can include several “recommended solutions,” and the cumulative effect would mean huge, broad, sweeping changes in our structure and governance. This is a lot to digest, even if the proposed changes were good ones! And they expect us to make fully-informed, well-thought-out decisions on each proposal, any one of which could have enormous ramifications?

The Devil Is in the Details. And we’re lacking the details. So much is still vague at this point. What would be the exact changes in the Constitution and Bylaws? The proposed changes would entail a mountain of work to be done on the Handbook. And they want us to vote on this next year??

The Clock Is Ticking. See above. We’re about 16 months out from the national convention, a little over a year out from the Convention Workbook–and there’s plenty to prepare for just for the regular business–and this is as far as they’ve got?? I don’t see any way possible for this thing to be ready to go, in final Handbook form, with adequate time for thorough debate and discussion, all across Synod, in every congregation and circuit and district. We’re not even close. And that would be the case even if the proposals were not so far-reaching and controversial, which they are.

One Side. One Slant. One Spin. What would be helpful in weighing these proposals would be to see and hear the best arguments on each side, pro and con, of each question. But instead we only get the “pro” side, couched in flowery terms. Thus it sounds like propaganda.

The Skewed Survey Gimmick (SSG). The first hour of the BRTFSSG presentation consists of Greene and Diekelman reading the 19 proposal sections–with no opportunity for discussion or debate. Each section is immediately followed by the respondents marking a corresponding set of survey statements, on a range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” But without having a full discussion and debate on each point first, how can we expect the respondents to give well-informed answers? Furthermore, the survey statements, many of them, are worded in a vague, confusing, or loaded manner, e.g.: “2.2 Reaffirm, clarify, amplify, and strengthen Constitution (Art. VIII) and Bylaws to enhance doctrinal unity.” This loaded statement presumes the Constitution and Bylaws need fixing in this regard. What if you want to “reaffirm” the Constitution article and therefore not change it? And who could be against “doctrinal unity”? But if you agree with the need for doctrinal unity does that mean you endorse every “solution” of the BRTFSSG? It should not. But that is how I am afraid the survey results will be extrapolated. “See? 75% are in favor of doctrinal unity! Therefore they support our proposals!” Non sequitur.

By the way, on the BRTFSSG website, they do have posted proposed wording for several constitutional amendments, but a) these are only “provisional,” b) they were not even read (much less discussed or debated) at the district presentation, and c) you cannot copy and paste the text from the website into other formats, in order to discuss them in a forum such as this. This is but a small sample of the inept handling of the process by the BRTFSSG–and this is one of their better cases, where they actually have come up with some proposed Handbook wording!

Enough for now on the flawed process of President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Farce. In the days and weeks to come, I will take up the even worse content of the Restructuring Proposals.

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