Kieschnick: I guess we are divided, after all

Last year, President Kieschnick claimed that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod wasn’t divided. Not at all. We were more unified than we’d ever been, he claimed.

In his most recent letter to pastors, he admits that’s not the case.

He lists the following areas where we’re not united:

* “The administration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, mainly the question of who should be invited or allowed to commune at the altar of our Lord in LCMS congregations.
* “The service of women, mainly the question of in what roles and capacities Scripture allows or commends the participation and involvement of women in the church.
* “Questions about proper forms of worship, mainly how much uniformity is necessary in the worship life of LCMS congregations, how much and what kind of diversity in forms of worship is acceptable.
* “Inter-Christian relationships, mainly the question of how to remain a biblical, confessional, evangelical, Christian, Lutheran church body boldly confessing the truth in love, relating to other Christians and Christian churches while honoring our covenants of love to avoid unionism and syncretism.”

Has President Kieschnick has brought us closer to unity or division over these points since he took office in 2001? These problems were always there, but I think the evidence points to President Kieschnick exacerbating all of these problems, not only through horrible decisions immediately after taking office (Yankee Stadium, anyone?) but through a noticeable lack of theological leadership since then.


Kieschnick: I guess we are divided, after all — 23 Comments

  1. At the NID convention a few weeks ago he was back on his unified kick. Of course, it is a fairly liberal district so he is probably telling them what they want to hear for the sake of his re-election.


  2. It may also be that the writing of this most recent communique is a result of his visitation at the various district conventions, and seeing the significant variance in levels of acceptance to the Blue Ribbbon Panel presentations (I attest to the fact that, in SWD, these proposals received less than a lukewarm reception).

  3. Did anyone else catch that the SP starts off his email to pastors highlighting our beloved synod’s confessional unity. So which is it, are we unified or are we not? If we can’t agree about the Eucharist, a sacrament and Means of Grace where our Lord meets and feeds His sheep, how in the world can he even start off by claiming any form of unity?

  4. Kantor B:

    I think you have a good point. I suspect that in light of the way the various district conventions are going, Pres. K is trying to make a move to the middle for the upcoming 2010 convention, ao He can look more moderate to the voting delagates. It’s probably just electioneering.


  5. One should note that President Kieschnick, at least at the Wyoming District Convention via DVD, placed these questions Mollie noted above into a second tier. Thus, according to Kieschnick we’re all united in doctrine, which is primary. We still just have questions & some division over secondary matters like communion & worship et al. And those divisions are caused by personal preferences & by people, like confessional Lutherans, although he didn’t say it outright, who try to impose stuff on other people.

    So, according to him we’re all united in doctrine but not in some practices & we need to realize that there can be diversity amongst us in those practices.

    Of course, he doesn’t realize or care to admit that practices are usually not matters of indifference but that doctrine & practice go together.

    It’s still a matter of him & others misunderstanding or misapplying what our confessions say & mean about adiaphora & about ceremonies not needing to be the same in every place.

  6. At the NID Convention, President Kieshnick did the schpiel about unity and also cited the 4 areas of disagreement above.

    When I heard him mention these points, I had to wonder why these were issues at all, and when did they become issues anyways?

    Here’s my take:

    1) Close/Closed Communion is just that! People are either in agreement with our church’s teachings or not, so this should not be an issue. There is no grey area if you consider a person’s church membership as their confession of faith. We are not in fellowship with the German Methodists, so there should be very little or no pastoral discretion here.

    2) Scripture is clearer about the roles of women than the LCMS is. Historically, communion servers were deacons. Scripture tells us that this is a male office. Women have there own unique “office” in the church as deaconesses. I don’t buy the argument that communion assistants are simply servants. They are administering the Lord’s body and blood. How is that not an extention of the Office of the Ministry?

    3) Putting style aside for a minute, the text of a given song either proclaims the Word of God in truth and purity or it does not. Asking the question, “What truth in God’s Word is this song proclaiming and is it proclaiming it with clarity and purity?” can weed out the weak songs and let the strong ones shine. A little discretion can go a long way toward agreement in worship. Luther kept the basic form of the Mass yet substituted hymn paraphrases for some of the texts. That being said, he did not throw out the Mass! There are essential elements of worship in the forms of the Mass and Matins/Morning Prayer. These elements should be retained and healthy dose of discernment needs to be given to any given song. This would go a long ways toward unity on this point.

    4) This was a no-brainer in my grandfather’s church. Pastors had a keen sense of what was appropriate and what was not. As late as the 1980’s there was an ecumenical service in my home town to celebrate its 125th anniversary, and our pastors stood firm on not participating. They did so in a loving manner towards other denominations, yet did not compromise the tenets of our church.

    Bottom line, these should NOT be areas of disagreement and yet somehow they ARE.

  7. Iggy,
    You asked in your post,concering closed communion, the role of women, etc., when these were issues at all. For the liberals in the NID and other districts, they follow a typical tactic. If there is something they disagree with they clamor that the issue be studied and claim that it is a crisis in the church. If a particular issue is studied, say closed communion, and the result of the study says that closed communion is biblical and the policy of the synod, they will clamor for additional studies. The will keep calling for studies until a study comes to the conclusion that open communion is okay. Then suddenly there is no need for further study and the issue has been resolved once and for all and there is no longer any crisis.

  8. GK: Thanks for your perspective. I have witnessed this process in our church. Sadly, once the ropes have been loosened, those who still hold to the correct, biblical view get negative labels placed on their forehead like “devisive” when really the devisive ones were those who continued to challeng these issues all along.

  9. OK, here’s the script. (1.) Whether we are united or not we ought to be. Right? (2.) If we are united, it is because of President K. – he has done such a wonderful job theologically that all the differences have been ironed out or, if there are still a few miscreants who are not on the same page, he deserves another 3 years to deal with those unwashed unenlightened souls, (3.) If we are not united, it is because of those miscreants who engage in constant theological nit-picking haggling and President K. ought to be given another three years to deal with them. In either case, President K deserves another three years. (See how much work I’ve saved the script writers for “Jesus Fist?” They can thank me later – just ya’ll remember there is a prophet in the land.

  10. The clear voices of the princes still ring out: “…in doctrine and ceremonies we have received nothing contrary to Scripture or the Church universal.” (Augsburg Confession, Conclusion) They were willing to back their words up with their blood.

  11. The Pastoral Letter showed up almost immediately after SPK had delivered (darned near verbatim) the four points Mollie listed, to the IN-D convention yesterday morning.

    From my vantage point on the convention floor, I concur with #5’s observation about a second tier.

    I’m going to be writing up my take on our convention for my blog (of particular interest was our thumping of the BRTFSSG proposals…) — if Pr. Rossow is interested, this member of BJS would be more than willing to share (just let me know who to send it to & I’ll pass it along…). ;^)


  12. Glen,

    Send it to me at trossow “at” .

    Or you can simply post it here and it will get copied to my e-mail. We will then post it here and send people to your blog.

    Thanks for helping out.


  13. Concordia Seminary, St. Louis has a statue of Martin Luther, holding the Bible that he had translated into German. The statue, dedicated in 1903 on the seminary’s St. Louis campus, was moved to its new campus in Clayton in 1926.

    If there were to be a statue dedicated to the 21st century maladministration of the Violet Vaticanâ„¢ it would be of Gerald Kieschnick with the albatross of David Benke hanging around his neck.

    “Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks
    Had I from old and young;
    Instead of the Cross the Albatross
    About my neck was hung.”

    — Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

  14. Say what you want about the divide in the LCMS–it goes back far before the present administration, JF, or any of their minions. Yankee Stadium may have been the polarizing event (or to put it in CG terms, the “Igniter Event”), but this business didn’t start with Pres. Kieschnick. “Wine, Women, and Song” has been a familiar refrain for decades, and fellowship with other bodies is hardly a recent issue. Add to this potent cocktail the fact that CG with its LCMS practitioners like Kent Hunter has plagued Synod for 35 years or so. That Pres. K. has done nothing to mitigate the “trouble in River City” has only served to exacerbate the problem. But it didn’t start with him.
    And it won’t be solved by political means, either. Even if we were to elect CFW Walther as SP, with Martin Luther, John the Steadfast, and Robert Preus as VP’s , the organization is so riddled with Jerry-manderers, that very little would change, and the SP, whomever he is, would have nigh impossible task. Think about it.

  15. At the PSD convention in Irvine, we are to hear S.P. Kieschnick speak tonight at a jubilarian and memorial service. He’s supposed to answer questions Monday afternoon, but they have to be submitted in advance in writing (same as 3 years ago.)

    This afternoon, we heard an opening speech by PSD 1st VP Roger
    Sonnenberg. He led us (some of us declined to sing) “I Love to Tell
    the Story.” I though this was supposed to be a Lutheran convention.

    Now we ware listening to D.P. Larry Stoterau give his speech. It included watching a video with some guy with big hair named Dave Olson. I have no idea who he is.

    We’re supposed to elect a new D.P. this afternoon. I think our choices are Tweedledee (Stoterau) and Tweedledum (the pastor that preceded him at Ephiphany in Chandler, AZ) I actually the district’s bylaws last night and there are no term limits on the district president. No nominations are allowed from the floor for this office (but are for, I think, all of the other district offices.)

  16. Comment 16 was mine. I did not intend it to be anonymous.

    The service is Evening Prayer and the hymns are good. Sadly, a layman, Dr. Mary Scott, provost of CUI served as the lector.

    Kieschnick is giving his sermon now.

  17. I spoke with Pr. Sonnenberg this evening this evening and told him that I did not think that “I Love to Tell the Story” was appropriate for a Lutheran convention because it never really gets around to telling the story. He said he appreciated the input. He’s a decent fellow and has been a strong supporter of Lutherans for Life and I commend him for that, even though I might disagree with him in other areas.

  18. To George Naylor–I’m sorry my posting seemed cynical: it was an attempt to be at least somewhat objectively realistic. A vocal, well-financed, well-organized, and politically savvy minority (the Bohlmann wing) occupies the positions of power in the LCMS, and is not afraid to wield that power. Blaming one man for the current woes denies history . Electing one man (or the afourmentioned men above), in the expectation that he/they can bring substantive changes is unrealistic. We conservative /confessionals have a tendency to indulge in a pity-party, while preaching to the choir–a waste of time, and a poor witness. Having said that, if President K is so concerned about those troubles in our LCMS “River City”, it would seem reasonable for us to hold his ecclesiastical feet to the theological fire, as it were. His interpretation of the “Great Commission” is basically flawed, as are his own programs, Transforming Churches and Natural Church Development. The LCMS is paying a dear price for 40-plus years of poor catechesis, as Dr. Kuhn has observed.

    My previous posting was not meant to sound cynical. The Holy Ministry is, per A.C. V, about building faith, both within the Church, and in those outside her pale. The Synod, its boards and districts, exist to serve that end, any way you slice it. It’s time to get back to basics. And there’s no quick fix–it’s a slog, as Solzhenitsyn describes it.

  19. Johannes, by using the word ‘cynicism’ I didn’t mean to imply negativity. I agree with your points. The problems in our church body have been building for some time, & no, they won’t be solved simply by political means. But despite all our problems & all the ways we try to muck up the church, the Lord Jesus Christ is still Lord of His Church. He will still have His little flock here on earth & will guide it safely home. So, cynical about human efforts is okay; but hopeful about the Lord’s work is even better. 🙂

  20. I do not mind “I Love to Tell the Story” so much. I agree that there are much better hymns to sing, but this one is easy and fun to sing. It does make it clear that the story is about Jesus, and about salvation and comes through the Word. I agree that it does not actually tell the story, but, when sung in a congregation of properly-catechized Lutherans, it should be fine. In my southern congregation, it is soothing to the ears of our converts from Methodist or Baptist backgrounds, and so it is useful to us.

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