The Sin of the Synod Board of Directors, by Pr. Rossow

This Ash Wednesday in the year of our Lord 2009 would be a great opportunity for President Kieschnick, Vice President Dinkelman and the rest of the LCMS Board of Directors to confess their sin so that there can be healing in our denomination. I know I have countless sins to repent today and will receive ashes twice today, as a reminder of that sin,  during our Day School Chapel this morning and at our Ash Wednesday service this evening. Many have tried to get to the heart of the Issues, Etc. Trademark story. I think at the root of it all is the sinful behavior of the Board of Directors. The sin is this. They ignored the responsibility of their office which calls on them to speak directly to Todd and Jeff about a problem they asserted existed between them. They further sinned by even claiming there was a problem in the first place when there wasn’t one. Let me explain.


Most of us have been focusing on the process. We have been focusing on the lawyers, the legal threats, the motions at district conventions, etc. These are all important things but by focusing on the process we ignored the churchly matter of the sin involved. It was a sin for the Board of Directors to ask lawyers to do the work that only they could do. They asserted that there was a problem between them and Todd and Jeff and so they should have sat down with them personally to work it out. To make matters worse, as the readers of this website know, there was no problem in the first place. They imagined that they had leverage that did not exist. It is really unclear what problem they had with Jeff and Todd since the trademark was left un-renewed. Then to really get in the way of Christian dialogue between parties, the Board of Directors asked lawyers to get involved in something that needed personal discussion without lawyers.


Once the lawyers were brought in the means they chose to deal with this situation was a letter that we have all read and it infuriated us because of its threat of further legal action if Todd and Jeff would not compromise. But, as I said above, that letter was not at the heart of the issue.


The heart of  the issue is the sin committed by the Board of Directors when they refused to do the work of their office, the work we elected them to do, of conducting the matters of the synod in a Christian manner by meeting with their brothers in the faith and telling them of their concern. Had they done that, it would have been discovered that they have nothing to talk about. Todd and Jeff had not sinned against them or offended them. There would be nothing to talk about but at least that could have been discovered if discussion had been their first step.


I hope the Board of Directors will acknowledge this sin and remedy the situation by meeting directly with Todd and Jeff without any lawyers. If either side believes there was some sort of civil right denied them after that then bring in the lawyers. But until the Board shares its concern directly with Todd and Jeff, they are not conducting this matter in a Christian manner. As members of the board, President Kieschnick and First Vice President Diekelman should have counseled the Board to take this Christian approach.

I know I have many sins to confess today. This Ash Wednesday, in the year of our Lord 2009, presents a great opportunity for  the President, the Vice President and the entire LCMS Board of Directors to repent of thier sin.

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.


The Sin of the Synod Board of Directors, by Pr. Rossow — 16 Comments

  1. And unless the purposes of the Board of Directors meeting with Todd Wilken is for the BOD members to beg his forgiveness for their evil behavior against God, the synod, and Rev. Wilken, to state they are ceasing all administrative and legal actions over the “Issues, Etc.” trademark, and to announce they will resign from the Board in shame and contrition, then there is really no need for Rev. Wilken to meet with them, except to condemn the BOD as a brood of vipers.

    In addition, the members of the Praesidium, unless they have been comatose in the hospital over the past few months, should also ask forgivness from Rev. Wilken, and the synod, for their sin of omission.

  2. According to my admittedly limited resources, there will be good news to report from the BOD meeting. But nobody is being all that specific, and rightly so, until the Minutes are published (my guess is within a week-10 days.)

  3. From the beginning of this conflict, the leadership of the church has treated Todd and Jeff as if they had sinned against the church without ever alleging this plainly. I believe that this is false witness.

    Initially, Todd and Jeff were fired in such a sudden and secretive manner, that it was reasonable to wonder if it had been for some awful undisclosed behavior on their part. Their reputation was unjustly called into question.

    Then, critics of this unjust action were accused of breaking the Fourth and Eighth commandments, again unjustly.

    Finally, the threat of legal action over the trademark creates the impression that Todd and Jeff stole the intellectual property of LCMS, Inc. Once again, this is untrue and unjust.

    If I have sinned against my brother (which I do, with shameful frequency), I hope that my Christian brother clearly rebukes my sin, that I may repent and be reconciled to him. Honesty, courage, patience, forthrightness, repentance, forgiveness; these are the marks of how people should treat each other in Christ’s church.

  4. Pastor Rossow,
    Thank you for putting this issue into the context of Matthew 18:15-17. All too often we (I struggle with this often) forget to first talk in private with someone about matters of sin. Instead, we gossip about it with our friends and publicly humiliate or anger the person who sinned against us. All that serves to do is harden their heart and not create repentance and contrition.

    In Christ,

  5. Last week I asked my district president (IN) to see what he could learn at the C.O.P. meeting this past weekend.

    He emailed me last night and said they were told “there was no lawsuit, there is no lawsuit and there will be no lawsuit”.

    Sounds similar to what the SO IL district was told by Pres K.

  6. Jim,

    Email your DP back and ask him, “Was legal action threatened?”

    Then ask him if he’s read the letter from LC-MS laywers that threatened legal action. If not, send it to him to read.

  7. “But until the Board shares its concern directly with Todd and Jeff, they are not conducting this matter in a Christian manner.”

    Hmmm…. does this advice carry over also to others who are publicly attacked withour warning prior to having shared the concerns in a private conversation/dialogue such as…oh, say… “The Alley” and its pastors?

  8. Steve,

    You are missing the point. The Board of Directors went to get lawyers instead of talking to the Issues people directly. The point here that they did not do this in a churchly way.

    Even if that were not the point, you need to keep in mind what has been pointed out countless times on this website. There is a difference between someone sinning against you personally (e.g. I steal your trademark) and a church publicly and openly straying from true Lutheranism. What The Alley is doing is open and in public and is fit for public discussion. This not a private matter between two individuals but a public matter for the church to come to grips with. I am not even sure that anyone has ever accused The Alley of sinning. They have been accused of poor judgment and doing church in a way that in the long run is bad for the Gospel.

    Pastor Rossow

    Pastor Rossow

  9. I’ve read the “countless posts”…. I just don’t always agree with what is considered public and private. Sometimes the lines seem to blur based on who is “at fault.” But at any rate, I didn’t realize Todd and Jeff owned the trademark that LCMS could “steal it” Really? And…. a radio show and its associated issues heard on public airways is not public? Really? Finally, from what I saw on this site it would be hard to read the criticisms of the Alley without coming away with some sense of “sinning” going on… after all if teaching false doctrine isn’t sinning what is?

  10. Steve,

    I apologize that my example was misleading. I was intending by the example of the trademark to simply illustrate a private sin. In this actually case no one is stealing anything from anyone although it seems as though that is what the Board of Directors is implying. It was a poor example.

    To the point of private and public matters. Again I assert that the Board of Directors had a private issue with Issues, Etc. They sought to block their application for a trademark that was free for the taking. After numerous attempts to address this privately with the Board without any response, Todd and Jeff decided to “tell it to the church” if you will.

    On your other point, I do not remember any of the posts saying that The Alley was sinfully teaching false doctrine. If I am wrong, I will be happy to stand corrected. (Some of the comments may have suggested that. We do not vouch for the comments on this free and open discussion vehicle.)

    Pastor Rossow

  11. Thanks for the clarification on the example. But I do think this issue of “public and private” is not as clear cut as we might like it to be. Having dealt with trademarks and registered marks (and the lawyers necessary to obtain and protect them) quite a bit in my previous job I can say that these vehicles are, by their very nature, public. They are public marks placed on private “property,” in this case the property is something else public, a radio show heard on public airwaves. In my opinion this issue IS public because it involves a trademark and can’t be anything but public (no matter how private the conversation) because a trademark (and who wants it) is a public affair. It’s just my opinion, but I hope it helps illustrate that not everything is as black and white as we might want it to be. The BOD (even though I don’t agree with their actions on this – they ought to just let it go) may, in fact, take this position on what is “public” and is, consequently, acting in good faith. If so, the public call to repentance in your post today may serve to do what was posted earlier on this site by “Luther”, namely:

    “…and publicly humiliate or anger the person who sinned against us. All that serves to do is harden their heart and not create repentance and contrition.”

    BTW: I enjoyed the imposition of ashes at my house of worship today as well. Glad you are teaching your youngsters this good, right and salutary custom.

  12. Good point Steve. I suppose I could have accomplished everything I wished to do without calling on the Board to repent.

    Pastor Rossow

  13. Dear Steve,

    You wrote: “Finally, from what I saw on this site it would be hard to read the criticisms of the Alley without coming away with some sense of “sinning” going on… after all if teaching false doctrine isn’t sinning what is?”

    Could you please clarify what you mean here?

    Pastor Messer

  14. I’m not sure about the public/private distinction or how The Alley fits into all of this; but I do think the leadership of our church has sinned, and I think that repentance would be the quickest road to reconciliation.

    The core of the problem is that a preacher of the Gospel and his assistant were treated unjustly, and in a way which was meant to silence their program, which consistantly and successfully proclaims the Gospel to a wide audience. They were precipitously fired, and threatened with expensive legal action. In so acting, the LCMS was acting diametrically against its stated mission of advancing the Gospel.

    Now it appears that the Board of Directors, possibly in response to pressure from forums like this one, is reconsidering its stance. I think we should encourage them to do so, and praise the more reasonable, moderate and Christian voices within the BoD.

    If the Synod leadership would simply leave Todd and Jeff alone to advance the Gospel as they have been called to do, I, for one will consider the matter closed; at least until it is time to elect leaders who are more fit to advance the mission of the church.

  15. Rev. Messer
    I don’t recall anything being written about the Alley here that was affirming or positive, although I admit I could have missed something. I think the general consensus could be summed up in your own words:

    “So, back to the point I was making in my first post: If congregations like the Alley want to follow the latest fads and do their own thing, fine. Go for it. Have fun. Just stop claiming to be Lutheran at the same time. That’s dishonest. How can anything good come from being dishonest? Why not just embrace who you really are and what you really believe?”

    As a reader I can draw no other conclusion from this than the Alley is not truly confessionally Lutheran and if that is the case then they are, by necessity, promoting some false or heterodox doctrine… or in your words, at least being dishonest. Last time I checked dishonesty was a sin.

    But the only reason I brought it up was my perspective on the whole “public vs. private” sin issue with this trademark thing. Criticizing the Alley from afar with no warning and no obligation to speak privately to them first is justified because it is a public offense. Fair enough. But I happen to believe that at least the trademark issue for Issues Etc… is also a public issue no matter how private the conversations may have, or should have been, because the very nature of trademarks and public radio shows heard on public airwaves is public. And if that is the case then the same rules of “public” engagement should apply and the BOD isn’t necessarily guilty of “sinning” in this particular instance by not following Matthew 18 anymore than this organization is guilty of sinning by making a public attack/criticism on The Alley and its leaders before speaking to them privately. I wasn’t necessarily supporting The Alley, but making a comparison regarding the rules of engagment as it were. Just my opinion.

    For the record, I believe that even though the BOD has a right to fight for the Trademark (actually, almost anyone does, that’s the way it works) I don’t believe they should. But not because they are necessarily guilty of sinning in this instance as was stated in the article by Pr. Rossow. I just think it would be much more prudent and in the best interests of the church to just let it go and move on. I guess you can call me a pragmatist. Oh, and believe me as one who had to file for, renew and protect trademarks and registered marks in my previous employ…. it doesn’t happen without lawyers. It’s the nature of the beast. Sorry if I have derailed this thread and for the long response. Blessings on your ministry and Peace.

  16. Dear Steve:

    I must have missed something – I don’t recall anyone sending threatening legal letters to The Alley.

    The Alley, as a fellow member of our synod, has committed to the Book of Concord. And a fellow LCMS member (a pastor), I’m committed to communing Alley members. This is distressing to me. Our confessions (especially the Augsburg Confession article 24) is unequivocal about our commitment to the traditional ceremonies of the Mass. If the Alley doesn’t celebrate the Holy Mass every Sunday with all the usual ceremonies (as the pastor(s) of that congregation have sworn before the holy altar to do), we are entitled to express our dismay.

    We either all submit to the Augsburg Confession, or we don’t. Our lack of unity is distressing to me, and I am not going to be gagged in expressing that any more than Todd and Jeff are willing to be gagged by the ‘crats.

    This kind of thing (worship practices that openly deviate from our confessions) is so systematically and institutionally rampant in our synod, and is even touted by our hierarchy, that an e-mail to the pastor is not going to elicit a “Wow, you’re right, we’re going to reinstitute the weekly Mass with all the usual ceremonies as soon as we can” – that is not going to happen. The Alley has long since “gone public” with its preferences and practices – and therefore, we pastors have a duty to publicly comment on it. I would not advise my parishioners to worship there. That’s not just my “right” but my obligation and duty to them to advise them.

    That’s a very different situation than the legal arm-twisting being done to the Issues, Etc. guys by the bureaucrats of our church. These two issues could not be more different.

    Once again, Steve, has anyone sent a threatening letter to The Alley? Has anyone used any strong-arm tactics to silence them or compel them not to criticize a corporate structure (as was done to Todd and Jeff)?

    If not, your remarks amount to nothing more than trolling, if not an attempt to “guilt” Lutheran laity and pastors into accepting something that violates their conscience. The Alley is a scandal to me – as though anyone there cares.

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