Harold Hill Comes to the Show-Me State: Convention Review, Part Two (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

In Part One, “MoDist Gains,” I reviewed the elections and resolutions that took place at the Missouri District Convention last week. Now in Part Two, I will review the other major business at the convention, which was the presentation and proposals of President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG).

President Kieschnick was not there in person on the first day of the convention, so he delivered his President’s Report via DVD. As you may have heard from other conventions, this was his now-famous “Trouble in River City” speech. In it, Kieschnick makes an analogy to “The Music Man,” Professor Harold Hill, and his urgent appeal, “Ya got trouble, right here in River City!” Of course, the irony is that Harold Hill was a con man! He was trying to create a crisis and do a sales job on the people!

That was Monday morning. On Monday afternoon, Kieschnick’s assistant, Jon Braunersreuther, gave the presentation for the BRTFSSG. The first hour was the presentation and the survey, the second hour was Q & A from the floor. Braunersreuther also did an hour open forum that evening. Throughout, he kept emphasizing what he called the “congregational bias” of the Task Force. However, it seemed like a case of “he doth protest too much,” in other words, that Braunersreuther knew what the objections would be and that if he just said “congregational bias” often enough, people would believe it. It did not work. Most all the comments from the floor were against the restructuring plan.

For example, I said I had problems with both the process and the content of the BRTFSSG proposals: On the process, that we were getting only one side of the arguments, that there is a lack of specifics on the proposed changes, and that everything is coming out too late. On the content, that I saw not a congregational but a bureaucratic bias to the Task Force, that most of the proposals would move power away from the congregations and centralize and consolidate power higher up. I said our problems are not structural but theological. Finally, I said: I feel like Harold Hill is trying to sell us a boys’ band that no one was looking for, and we haven’t even seen the instruments!

Then on Tuesday morning, the convention passed two resolutions related to the Blue Ribbon proposals:

Res. 2-03, “To Affirm the Integrity and Diginity of the Congregation”: The convention sent a message to President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, which wants to give more power to the megachurches. We said: “Resolved, that the Missouri District memorialize the Synod to continue upholding the equal dignity, gifts, and authority of its member congregations in its theology and reflecting these truths as its theology is applied in polity and in day-to-day relations.” This resolution passed with a 97% vote!

Res. 2-06A, “To Exercise Appropriate Care in Considering Structure Changes”: A final resolved was added: “Resolved, that the Missouri District memorialize the Synod not to act on the Task Force’s report until the 2013 national convention, thus allowing optimum time for congregations, boards, commissions, and other synodical entities to study the report and consider its full implications.”

I and others stood in support of this resolution. I said there is so much here to consider, it’s so vague, and it’s coming so late. Let the Task Force complete its work in the full and final form, with the exact texts of the changes in wording. Present those at the 2010 Convention to begin discussion. Then send those proposals out for a full triennium of careful consideration by congregations, circuits, and districts. See if any of these ideas “percolate up” from the congregations, not “top down” as they are now. I think such a move would strengthen and enhance trust, and would strengthen, enhance, and expand congregational involvement.

Res. 2-06A passed with 64% of the vote!

Based on what I saw at the Missouri District Convention (as well as what I’m hearing from other districts), it seems that President Kieschnick has tied his Blue Ribbon to a lead balloon, because that’s how his restructuring plan is going over. “Doctor” Kieschnick (Austin, Gold-Medal Class of ’96) may cast himself as “The Mission Man,” but Missouri isn’t buying what he’s selling! You gotta know your territory!

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