Use more passive voice, please LCMS Reporter, by Mollie

You know, one of the great things about being a confessional Lutheran is that you can usually count on your fellow confessional Lutherans to be straight talkers. It sort of distinguishes us from much of the larger religious community. We certainly receive quite a bit of push-back for the trait and some folks could certainly stand to be nicer about how they work with others — but on the whole, it’s a great thing.

Which is probably why stories like this — on page 2 of the LCMS Board of Directors “Board Briefs” and tucked inside the latest Reporter — annoy me no end:

Toward Reconciliation

On March 18, 2008, the Issues, Etc. talk radio program was taken off the KFUO airwaves by the Board for Communication Services.

Well, the majority of the Board for Communication Services knew absolutely nothing about the firing of the Rev. Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz and the airbrushing away of Issues, Etc. during Holy Week until after it happened. President Kieschnick knew, of course, but the majority of the BCS didn’t know. Executive Director David Strand knew and he told the board chairman. Just to, you know, be factual here.

When it became clear that the program’s personnel, Rev. Todd Wilken and Mr. Jeff Schwarz, were interested in continuing to broadcast Issues, Etc. via a different venue, negotiations were begun regarding the use of the “trademark” Issues Etc. and hundreds of archived programs.

Is that true that negotiations were begun? I’m not sure that’s the best way to put it. It “became clear” that the program’s personnel — who’d been fired during Holy Week without notice — were “interested” in continuing to broadcast the program because the duo TOLD the Board they’d be doing that. It’s also true that the LCMS had neglected to reup the, uh, “trademark” of Issues, Etc. for a decade. So good luck with that negotiating. And what did those “negotations” involve? Oh, that Todd and Jeff agree to a gag order, to relinquish their right to a jury trial, to concede all authority to the Synod, and to force a third party to drop his application for the trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Oh, and what did the Board of Directors do to, um, “negotiate” with Todd and Jeff? They threatened them with a lawsuit.

EXCELLENT INCLUSION OF ALL THESE DETAILS, Board! Oh wait, that’s right you’re covering it up.

At its February 19-20, 2009, meeting, the Board of Directors resolved to “withdraw opposition to the trademark application and to the use of the trademark by Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz.” The board also agreed not to oppose the interest of Issues, Etc. in the archived programs.

Oh, so now we learn that the BoD resolved to withdraw opposition to the trademark application. But the board briefs — the official communication with members of synod and the public — failed to mention that the board had commissioned a legal team to do everything it could to fight for this trademark, including threatening lawsuits, etc. Way to keep the Synod informed. Seriously, this is just unethical and unbecoming of a church body. To announce that you’re withdrawing opposition without explaining that or why you were fighting the fired Jeff and Todd in the first place is just not okay.

Here’s the final quote:

In a separate resolution, the board also “invite[d] Todd Wilken, Jeff Schwarz, and Southern Illinois District President Herbert Mueller to meet with three members of the Board of Directors to pursue reconciliation and to craft a joint public statement by all six participants in the meeting(s).” The board will be represented by Dr. Raymond Hartwig, Dr. Robert Kuhn, and Mr. Walter Brantz.

I’m glad that the Board sees the need to reconcile with these brothers who have been so wronged. That’s good. But the phrasing here implies that the reconciliation is somehow a two-way street. In fact, it is the Board of Directors and Synod, Inc. in general that need to reconcile themselves. Again, thanks for the clear writing . . .

Why is the Synod so invested in obscuring and slanting the truth? If they’re not even willing to tell the truth here, it doesn’t provide much assurance.
A few things.


Use more passive voice, please LCMS Reporter, by Mollie — 18 Comments

  1. Back in my college days of learning the Hebrew alphabet, one “game” which a couple of us used to keep straight where the little dot went on the letters “sin” and “shin” was: “sin is not right.” Those who know Hebrew know what I mean. 🙂

    I offer a variation of that here, and I offer it, of course, to the whole Synod: “S(p)in is not right.” 😉

    Get it? Oh, ok, well, sorry . . . bad joke, I guess . . . A blessed Holy Week and Easter to all y’all through Christ our dear Savior.

  2. And what about the little article about how and when the BOD enters into executive sessions. My reading of that little enlightening piece makes it sound like just about everything the BOD does could be interpreted as needing to be done in executive session. Anyone agree?

  3. I was disappointed in the article on executive session. It very much seemed like a defense of the practice of using executive session as a means to intentionally keep the members of Synod in the dark on any issue.

    That the board has broad discretion over what is and is not subject to executive session, I don’t think anyone will disagree with. We may disagree that it is a “good thing” that it is an option, but I think the disagreement will come about primarily because of the past abuse of such discretion.

    What would make us all happier is if executive session would really be used WITH discretion — that is, as infrequently as possible — and not as a means for avoiding accountability as has (at least apparently) been the case especially in recent years.

  4. Why can’t the “Reporter” get it right in regards to Synodical matters? Well let’s ask another question before we answer that one. Who pays the salary for the “distorter,” opps, the ‘reporter” to write the story? Once that is determined I think the first question is answered. Like the old saying, “follow the money” so it is in LCMS, Inc. A sad, but true tale.

  5. Bob E.

    I agree. When I read thier last set of minutes it might as well have just said: “The entire meeting was held in executive session.”


  6. As someone largely sympathetic to concerns expressed here (but from outside the LCMS – so not as emotionally attached), I have to admit I’m sometimes uncomfortable about the obsession many on this website and others have with picking apart every little “LCMS Inc.” tidbit. While the issues are real and serious, lets please also remember to “put the best construction on everything”.

    That said, I hope the offer to meet and reconcile is genuine. I’ve been wondering for some time whether or not President Kieschnick, David Strand, etc. have been invited to appear on the Issues, Etc. program?? Seems like it would be a great way to help move this forward in a positive manner (perhaps even having the President appear on a regular basis?).

    After all (putting the best construction on, here…), if Issues was really canceled due to budgetary problems, I’d assume LCMS leadership is ecstatic that the program has been able to survive and flourish without draining the synod of any resources! It would be a great opportunity to thank & encourage Jeff & Todd and also to address and mend fences with a significant segment of the synod which are currently feeling alienated by these “misunderstandings”.

    Maybe a private invitation of this sort has already been extended? I’d be curious to know.

  7. As the resident cynic and observer of human nature, I can say LCMS, Inc. will be interested in truth, openness, and reconciliation just as soon as pigs fly.

    One can look at one’s vocation as humble service. One can look at one’s vocation as inspired leadership. Between the two a great chasm has been fixed. This one can be crossed, but only at the cost of all one thinks of oneself.

  8. If the LCMS is happy about the program flourishing on its own they sure had a funny way of showing it when they opposed the trademark application and made demands for their withdrawal of opposition.

  9. Bubbles #9 — Your analysis of “leadership” versus “servanthood” is absolutely spot on. In our grandpa’s church we had servants of the church – this is precisely what is needed in our day. We do not need more “leadership” and “vision” and “bold new moves” kind of thinking — just humble servants of Christ and neighbor.

  10. Reconciliation will happen when the BOD, Synod President and Mr. Strand repent of unjustly depriving Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz of their livelihoods, and threatening their now-independent enterprise and impeding the preaching of the Gospel by so doing.

    I would think that, should that happen, the individuals directly affected, as well as the greater Issues audience would be quick to forgive.

    But I think the probability of such repentence is approximately zero under the current synodical leadership.

  11. In regard to #9, pigs don’t need to fly, Matt Harrison needs to be president.

  12. I agree with Kevin in Indiana. Matt Harrison needs to be president. I’m wondering how many saw the article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch Tuesday 4/7/2009 page A13 written by PK. Hope to see some comments.

  13. My favorite parts were

    As president of the Synod, I have responsibility for ecclesiastical supervision of the officers, districts, district presidents and employees of the Synod and am involved in matters such as KFUO-FM solely in my role as only one of the 15 voting members of the board. This issue is the proper purview of the board, and not of the president’s office.


    To date, our Synod’s International Center in Kirkwood has avoided involuntary personnel layoffs. We are working prudently and praying fervently that such will remain the case, for our faithful employees are critical to accomplishing our Synod’s mission “vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world.”

  14. Who expected “involuntary layoffs” at the Violet Vatican? (They probably got a raise.)

    At CPH, on the other hand, 13 people who had indicated that they couldn’t afford an “early retirement” offer, got pink slips anyway.

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