A Call for Theology in the LCMS Presidency, by Pastor Rossow

We have made some claims on this website that President Kieschnick is not at heart a theologian. Those are serious claims. There have been all sorts of examples through the years that support this assertion. Some of those examples have come up in a recent string of comments on the site. Here are some audio clues for you to check out.

[podcast]https://steadfastlutherans.org/mp3/Kieschnick1.mp3[/podcast] [podcast]https://steadfastlutherans.org/mp3/Kieschnick2.mp3[/podcast]

The problem with these two comments is that we do believe in baptismal regeneration and we do believe that God has elected some to salvation. (Concerning the latter, we do not believe that God has elected some to damnation.) The Bible also does not say that God has “saved” everyone. It does say that every one’s sins have been paid for.

Now I am sure that President Kieschnick believes in baptismal regeneration. We are not claiming here that he does not. I am also sure that once it was explained to him again that he would agree with the Bible and Lutheran teaching that we believe in eternal election but not double predestination.

We are not accusing him of heresy but we are accusing him of sloppy use of theological terms or a lack of understanding of such terms. We expect more of our pastors and certainly of our synodical president. President Kieshcnick has demonstrated over the years a sloppy use of theological language. He is not a first rate theologian. He has even said “I am no theologian.” I suppose that President Kieschnick and the Jesus First group that supports him would say that the synodical president does not need to be a first rate theologian but needs to be a leader. That is setting the bar way too low. He ought to be a leader but one cannot lead a Biblical and confessional denomination like the LCMS without being a first rate theologian.

It is time that we have a synodical president who is a leader, but more importantly, our synodical president needs to be a theologian. Let me be blunt about something here. President Barry was an excellent leader. I knew him personally. He was not a great theologian. Many people are talking about Rev. Matt Harrison as a good synodical president. Matt Harrison far exceeds the theological abilities of our beloved President Barry. Keep in mind however that President Barry surrounded himself with expert theologians. His two assistants, Paul McCain and Ken Schurb are two of the brightest theologians you will ever meet. They are also each incredible administrators as well.

President Kieschnick has not surrounded himself with theologians. He has surrounded himself with two bureaucrats as assistants. I know one of them personally and can vouch for his character. He is one of the purest, kindest people you will ever meet. I respect him greatly but he is not a first rate theologian.

We are not personally attacking President Kieschnick. We are also not being political. We are a group of men, the Brothers of John the Steadfast, who rank being steadfast in the word and promoting the Lutheran Confessions as the most important work of the church. President Kieschnick has demonstrated that he is not a theologian. He has also caused great wakes of controversy as he has sailed through his years as president. Agree with them or not, these wakes of controversy have brought disunity to the LCMS. We call on every reader of this website to consider these things and pray that God would bring calm, unity and theological virtue to the office of the presidency in the LCMS.

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.


A Call for Theology in the LCMS Presidency, by Pastor Rossow — 15 Comments

  1. These are serious comments and I think you are on the right track here, however – this quote disappointed me: “We are not personally attacking President Kieschnick. We are also not being political.” C’mon. If you’re not at least being political, what’s the point behind this post and then posing Matt Harrison as a good presidential option? I think you have good points here, have the guts to call a spade a spade, including when you’re using the political process. It’s not a sin.

    in Christ,

  2. I think the point is “this is not a political attack on Kieschnick.” Which it doesn’t seem to be. It’s pointing out a serious flaw. But maybe I’m wrong.

    This is not your grandfather’s leadership.

  3. jW,

    What I said was not clear. Thanks for pointing that out. Let me clarify.

    There is nothing wrong with being political in the church. I suppose you could construe this as a politial post. I am fine with that. However, we have been careful not to endorse anyone for the presidency. We may do that some day. Others are doing that and that’s fine.

    What we are trying to do here is identify the issues and talk about the two people who have the most buzz, President Kieschnick and Rev. Harrison. The things that President Kieschnick does and that he writes tend to be out of harmony with the goals of BJS. Rev. Harrison tends to do things and stand for things that are keeping with the goals of BJS. This is my point in asserting that this is not personal. It is intended to be based on the principles of what BJS is all about. When one brings the principles of BJS to the issue of the election of a president in the LCMS, Harrison is a far better fit.

    Lately a few people have said that this website is getting too political. I do not think we are political. I think we are theological. There is an important election that is coming up in the LCMS and it has significant ramifications for the theology of this synod. That is why BJS addresses these issues.

    Your point is well taken. There is nothing wrong with being political in the church. We are certainly writing on matters that are political. We are trying to let the politics serve the theology. That is what I was trying to say. I think we are at the same place.

    Pastor Rossow

  4. I would like to learn more about the theology behind and function of presidents and directors within the LCMS.

  5. In his acceptance speech to the 2001 Convention of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, President Gerald Kieschnick said,

    I do not believe in the ordination of women to the pastoral office. I do believe that women should have the privileges of voting in the church and serving in any and every capacity except pastor and elder. I also believe that our Synod should explore the clearly acceptable biblical role of prophetess and its implications for women in the church in the 21st century.


  6. If you are a pastor, DP, or PoS you are de facto a theologian.

    That would be like me saying I’m not a historian…I just studied for many years and have these degrees and teach history.

  7. A district president or synod president should be a theologian, a scholar and a churchman. He should know the Bible, the Book of Concord and the liturgy and love them. His zeal for mission should be shaped by theological acumen. He should know that doctrine and mission are not in competition but indivisible. A district president or synod president should not have to have someone else do his theology for him, or work just from bylaws, but live and breath Scripture, Confessions, and liturgy, and not merely pepper comments with the odd reference to them, when it is evident the thinking does not naturally arise from them.

  8. I want a president who is a shepherd with a shepherd’s temperament. I want a president who loves the Gospel. I want a president who wants to be Lutheran.

    I don’t want a partisan taking sides in disputes between faithful Lutherans unless Scripture and the Confessions require that a position be taken. I don’t want a bureaucrat expanding administration for its own sake or a businessman looking to growth and market share. I want a president who sees pure doctrine as the answer to Evangelical fads, and not vice versa.

  9. Ross – you are exactly right and, if memory serves, Pastor Todd Wilken has said that very thing on Issues Etc.

    The Great Commission in Matt 28, “18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in [2] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (ESV)

    The word in the Greek for “make disciples” is μαθητεύσατε. A disciple, μαθητής, is a pupil or learner who usually follows a particular teacher. So, we, who have been made disciples through the waters of Baptism, are now “being taught to observe all” that Christ has commanded. It follows then that to be a theologian is to be a God study-er which is what we are being disciples, pupils, and μαθηταὶ, of Christ.

    Paul in O’Fallon

  10. I am responding to the comment that “…we have been careful not to endorse anyone for the presidency. We may do that some day….” I ask you once again, who is “We”? We increasingly seems to be the founders and not the membership in general. When and if this organization endorses a candidate, all BOJS chapters must be included in the decision for this to be righteous.
    Please make sure that “we” is truly the voice of the “brotherhood” and not just the voice of tje leadership.
    –Rev. Walter R Steele

  11. Rev. Steele,

    That is a very good question. Before we could endorse anyone, if we ever did (that is not really in the works), we would have to make it clear who “we” is and then lay out a clear mechanism for determining what “their” position is.

    That is why we will limit ourselves to highlighting characteristics of people whose names have been thrown around for the presidency and leave this site open for all to comment on such opinions.

    Pastor Rossow

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