More on President Kieschnick’s Claim of Doctrinal Unity in the Synod, by Pr. Rossow

Yesterday we reported  a quote from President Kieschnick from his presentation to the Northern Illinois District convention. He asserted that there is overwhelming unity in the synod and that our disagreements are only on lesser issues such as the role of women, who should commune, inter-Christian relations and the like. Designating those things as secondary is poor judgment in our opinion but we have been informed  of an interesting twist that makes this story even more disconcerting.

Our blogger Charles Henrickson and another reader both pointed out a different  claim by President Kieschnick.  In  a letter printed in the  August, 2000 Reporter President Kieschnick asserted that “The reality is that while our Synod appears to be, and actually is, far from united in some areas of doctrine and practice….” As Charles Henrickson pointed out in a comment on the story from yesterday

I’m puzzled. How did we get from “far from united” to “overwhelmingly united” in less than nine years–most of which, coincidentally, happens to correspond to Kieschnick’s time as SP? Did I miss this great unification he accomplished?

We cannot think of a single action that President Kieschnick has done that has brought doctrinal unity to the synod. Sure, he has sponsored theological convocations but there was no teaching at these events nor was there any theological supervision exercised. The gay activist is still a music director in Renton, Washington, Jefferson Hills Church is still having lay people serve communion in their homes in the St. Louis suburbs, and in increasing numbers Methobapticostal hymns are being sung in our parishes and yet President Kieschnick has not addressed these issues.

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.


More on President Kieschnick’s Claim of Doctrinal Unity in the Synod, by Pr. Rossow — 40 Comments

  1. If our synod is doctrinally united, then practice should be too as doctrine and practice are yoke fellows. Clearly practice (highly liturgical worship/contemptible worship, open communion/closed communion, etc.) would not be all over the spectrum. President K. clearly is proving that he is not a very good theologian. “What a fine mess you’ve got us in Ollie!”

  2. “President K. clearly is proving that he is not a very good theologian.”

    Good to see Brother Elnathan the Younger putting the best construction on things. Sadly, I’m not so charitable today: I well remember, and will always remember, President K’s ebullient declaration: “I’m no theologian!”

    At least there, our Texas friend was straight-shooting.


    (From a 2002 [?] letter to the editor in the LCMS Reporter paper)

    Doctrine and outreach

    President Kieschnick’s concern about “incessant internal purification” distracting us from mission work (January Reporter) is, with all due respect, pure fantasy.

    If anything, we are plagued by incessant confusion and division about the pure Gospel. Examples? First, there is the neo-Pentecostal movement in our Synod. As President Kuhn said in his 2001 convention report, “the charismatic movement and the teachings of God’s Word are incompatible.” And then there are the lobbies for women’s ordination, open communion and various confusions about the Gospel ministry. Instead of “incessant” attempts to correct these aberrations, our real danger is incessant yakkedeyak to evade the issues.

    Getting the message straight is logically and theologically prior to getting it out! Evangelism depends absolutely on the evangel, the content of the Gospel. If synodical trumpets cannot give a clear sound (1 Cor. 14:7,8), they need to be replaced –precisely for the sake of the Church’s sacred mission!

    Dr. Kurt Marquart

    Fort Wayne, Ind.

  4. “President Kieschnick…. asserted that there is overwhelming unity in the synod….”

    Such an assertion is troubling; especially because he must truly believe that assertion otherwise he wouldn’t be making it. So, what unity is he seeing? Is he seeing a majority of the synod unified behind church growth principles, seeker sensitive, and the Emergent Church movement? I would really like to understand what Pres. Kieschnick thinks the synod is united around.

  5. Maybe he thinks it’s united around himself. Or else, united enough–by way of marginalizing anything ‘other’–that he’s nearly got the control he needs to make it ‘truly united’–as in: no opposition tolerated. That kind of united.
    He almost can’t hear us anymore.

  6. Jim,

    I fear it is just a campaign slogan to get the district convention delegates to feel better about the synod with its current leadership but I am no mind reader so who knows. What I do know is that inconsistency in language and logic is a smoking gun.


  7. United. Except for a few “speedbumps.”
    Between the “restructuring” and TCN, we’ll get rid of them.
    Then we’ll be one happy methobaptocostal church.
    “WE are the church!”

    YOU confessionals : “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

  8. I just read these posts (and a few from recent discussions) and must say that I find this all quite pathetic. You all love to whine about how difficult things are because President Kieschnick did this or didn’t do that. Then there are complaints because he didn’t come across the district convention floor with a different kind of attitude. What would you expect? You people blame him for your lot in life and he’s supposed to bring you candy and flowers? Give me a break. It seems your “movement” doesn’t have anything going for it other than a commitment to tear others down. The percentage of posts and articles that are written from the negative perspective is overwhelming. Maybe you should think about that. Tearing others down doesn’t reflect leadership and doing it from the comfort of a blog site seems cowardly.

    The world if full of complainers. Too many on this site. I was interested in what I had heard about it in regard to scriptural integrity but I have now learned its a place where people go to log their complaints instead of doing something about it. Stay in the church where that kind of stuff is tolerated. You wouldn’t make it on main street.

  9. Truly, parsing that statement requires mindreading, of which none of us are capable.
    But I don’t think the motivation for such a statement really matters. Nor does it matter that many will allow themselves to believe it’s either true or true enough, for whatever purpose they wish to assign: peace, unity, an end to the carping, if not to division itself.
    You can’t know why it was said, any more than you can know why people will accept it. All you can know is, it’s not true, and it’s not helpful to claim it as truth, nor helpful to want to believe that it is.
    I do, however, feel safe in a firm belief that our synod is full of willing dupes who simply don’t want to have to handle the truth. Useful–and willful–idiots.
    That’s as sad as Kieschnick’s untrue statement.

  10. Here’s the beautiful part: You can say it isn’t true but all you have to do is read the posts and the articles – they’re all negative. It isn’t subjective Susan R, its right there in black and white. It follows popular culture I suppose, look at the cable shows. No one is “for” anything anymore; they’re “for” being against someone else. Take the issue of communion. Instead of worrying about what some church in Texas, Kansas, Illinois or someplace other than where you’re at is doing, simply state that you must be a confirmed member of an LCMS congregation, heck, say THIS CONGREGATION. There you go, one problem solved. But I might suggest not all problems around the country in every congregation are Jerry Kieschnick’s to solve. He’s one man and the leader of a church body that intentionally designed itself so that no one man would have such authority. That’s what I find so fascinating about the anti-Kieschnick group. They forget that the power is local, not in St. Louis. He simply doesn’t have the power to impact local decisions in the way in which he accused on this site.

  11. Jim Gallagher,

    I am a bit confused over your statements. You are here complaining and whining about the “complaining and whining”. And, you are doing so as a guest on this blog site from the comfort of your desk and chair. Don’t you find that all ironic?

  12. Mr Gallagher,

    I agree with you to some extent. It becomes very easy to see the bad things going on and look away from the good. Some people feel so disappointed in the trends in the Synod that they take the opportunity to vent sometimes.

    However, would you have us just ignore blatant false teaching and practice in the Synod? Our congregations are ‘walking together’ and have promised to uphold the teachings of the Bible and the Book of Concord as the true exposition of the Bible.

    Of course, every problem is not Pres. K’s fault. However, he and the DPs are called to deal with pastors who have sworn to preach, teach and act in certain ways when they do not. A hypothetical example: if a congregation asked a woman to preach the sermon or prophesy, or a non-Lutheran, non-ordained football coach to deliver the sermon, should we as members of congregations who have agreed to walk together in doctrine and practice not say anything if the DP or PoS said nothing about it?

  13. But Dr. Phillips, that non-Lutheran, non-ordained football coach was a Nebraska Cornhuskers coach! Surely that covers over any impropriety? 🙂

  14. I wish the reformers hadn’t complained so much about the goings on in other churches and what church officials said and did. I’m sure the church was very united. What business was it of Luther if the Pope wanted to espouse bad theology in order to increase the wealth of the church? As long as it is in other places. He was always so very negative and insulting of church leaders that marginalized the gospel. Why did he have to care so much about doctrinal purity? I’m sure the relics and indulgences made for an easy spread of the religion. It was very outreach friendly. No questions of faith, no classes to go through, just pay the money and do the work and you’re done. Too bad Luther didn’t just stay positive about everything and keep to himself. The coward did all that negative writing from a comfortable distance. So what if he did meet with people as well, such actions are apparently easy to ignore.

  15. jim gallagher said:
    That’s what I find so fascinating about the anti-Kieschnick group. They forget that the power is local, not in St. Louis.
    What makes us anti-Kieschnicks so anti, is that he–Kieschnick–has forgotten that the power is local and not in St. Louis.
    That ‘power’ you speak of, that we locals possess, is practically no more.
    Granted, you might have the good fortune to find yourself in a confessional congregation at the moment–there’s your local power, jim gallagher–but your pastor will one day retire or otherwise vacate, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another seminary-trained confessional man to fill the void.
    Kieschnick has no plans to remedy that sad fact.

  16. Re: post #11, I’m not complaining or whining, just observing the trend that is such in the entries on this site.

    Re: post #12, thanks for the reasoned articulation. No doubt, venting happens within the church and about other daily activities. However, it seems there is almost a devotion to venting as opposed to holding up what one believes and is committed to. The all-too-infrequent references to those individuals and congregations that hold true to those confessional core elements are overshadowed by all the Kieschnick-bashing, which, believe me, will get your movement nowhere. It simply doesn’t work. Its why those ELCA congregations that will find themselves at odds with their Synod this summer won’t come to the LCMS because we’re not about what’s positive. We’re too focused on telling everyone they’re doing it wrong. Again, that’s not leadership and people won’t follow it. Peace.

  17. Jim G,

    When you read about Jesus in the Gospels, particularly his interaction with the Pharisees, how does that compare to your point about leadership? Was Jesus the sort of leader you are speaking about?

    Let’s also be clear on why ELCA people will not come over to the LCMS. They have rejected the truth of the Bible. They do not believe the Bible is the true word of God. They cannot come over to the LCMS with such a fundamentally flawed theology.


  18. I would agree that it is discouraging to have to read so much negativity.

    However, I would respectfully ask Jim-

    If not currently, then at what point would it be acceptable for error to be confronted here? How grievous does the problem have to be? Why should such doctrinal issues be allowed to fester and grow before being confronted?

  19. ‘-bashing’ is a mere term of art–and a very tired one. It’s an attempt to invalidate valid criticism–a way of saying, ‘Shut up.’
    Did jim gallagher take offense at the firings of confessional men from pulpits and other positions within the Synod, or other acts of ‘confessional-bashing’ at the hands of St. Louis?
    Our objective, by the way, is not to attract any disenchanteds with sweet talk, and it certainly isn’t to sweep our problems under the rug as Pres. Kieschnick tried with the statement under discussion, but to reform the church of the Reformation.
    Surely you knew that. Surely you’ve been reading all the great posts here, and gleaning lots of info that many of us would otherwise never hear of, whether it’s theological-talk or inside-Synod talk. It’s essential to our future, to know what’s being said, proposed, and done; more essential than enticing unhappy ELCA folk who haven’t a prayer of saving their denom.

  20. Thanks for proving my point and bringing out the giant brush. I guess you know what in the hearts of all ELCA members. I know of several in which I have attended (no available LCMS congregation) that would espouse no such thing. But again, my point is, what are you trying to gain with the constant beating of the “I’m right, you’re wrong” drum? What is the end game – two people saying they’re more pure than the other?

    And I guess your analogy makes Kieschnick the Pharisee? Pretty bold statement pastor. No wonder he came across the room to meet you.

    My point, I fear, is getting lost in how I stated it. It isn’t a disagreement with the position. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, without exception. However, the constant beat down of others that believe differently on issues of women in the church, hymn selection, etc and still hold that Jesus is the only means of salvation isn’t going to get any traction. I know many confessionals misinterpret that as focusing too much on emotion but its a simple fact that people are tuning that message out. People want to be FOR something, not AGAINST. Keep the
    message (grace through faith alone), by all means, but if being a “confessional” means taking everyone else to the woodshed, count me out.

  21. Might I be so bold as to link to an article by my fiancee in the latest Logia:
    It deals with the problems of a weaker view of Scriptural authority by examining the position of a conservative ELCA theologian who opposes many of the ELCA’s recent innovations in sexual ethics.
    Although not really about the ELCA, it does touch on Pastor Rossow’s concern above about differing views of Scripture in the LCMS and ELCA and the consequences of these views for the rest of the body of doctrine.

  22. Kevin –
    For certain, when in error, one should be confronted. However, just with family, co-workers, total strangers, it should be done directly would you not agree? Is it ever helpful to make your case to the general public, attacking, etc? It doesn’t lead to a productive solution. And isn’t this this ultimate objective? Perhaps others would take the approach that the end game is to replace Kieschnick. Is that really the objective? If so, well, then perhaps the current approach is the way to go. But if building unity – and I would submit unity be applied to doctrine as well as our relationships to one another (though not at the expense of doctrine)- if that is the end game, we need to approach it differently.

  23. Jim G,

    I am a little dense as you can tell. What is the “giant brush?”

    Can you please answer my question. Can you tell me how Jesus in the Gospels fits your point that we are to be “for something?” I just do not see it. You and I both beleive in the proper distinction of law and gospel. When law is needed we use the law. When gospel is appropriate we use it. Your notion of “being for something” just does not capture the spirit nor the Spirit of the God’s word.

    I had not thought of President Kieshcnick as the pharisee. My point of comparison was the manner in which Jesus conducts himself. I was not trying to do some modern day parable. You are the one who thought of President Kieschnick, not me.

    Again, can you please give me some examples of how Jesus is all about being for something?


  24. Jim G,

    I have had at least seven personal, man-to-man conversations with President Kieschnick and his assistants on the issues we are discussing here so please stop accusing me of hiding behind a website.

    BTW – as Jim P. said above, why exactly are you excluded from your own critique? You get to come on this website and “bash” our “bashing” free of guilt?

    Grow up. This is straight-forward, direct, heavy duty theological discussion. If it bothers you, I guess you are just too thin-skinned.


  25. Besides the posts on this site which address problems within synod, the consequences of poor supervision and weak theology which I do not believe consist in personal attacks since they are not about any particular people so much as their actions and inaction as it affects our synod, there are also many posts to help educate and edify. The post just previous to this was the 20th in a series on the Liturgy. There are readings in the Book of Concord, Bulletin inserts and devotionals.

    When there are no problems with something there are rarely heated passionate discussions, when the Gospel is at stake by being marginalized then it should be no surprise that people may be upset. When there is a lack of unity on such things as the Office of the Ministry and the Sacraments surely there is cause to take a stand and to be vocal. It is not our pride or position that is at risk, but the spiritual well being of those with whom we have a common fellowship.

    I have been to LCMS churches that have a very clear lack of Law and Gospel teaching and one that practices open communion. I am sure that many churches may not have much in the way of outreach, but unless it involves a well catechized congregation it may be a very good transmission of a poor understanding of the Gospel message. Sometimes a half truth does more damage than a lie. We do need to get the Word out to people but it must be the True Word of God and not some reduced version that is dressed up to fill pews. The Word of God is a means of grace and far more powerful than our poor attempts to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ. We must not forget the work of the Holy Spirit and trust in God and His Word.

  26. Thank you Alex for pointing out that we have plenty of “positive” posts on this website.


  27. “However, the constant beat down of others that believe differently on issues of women in the church, hymn selection, etc and still hold that Jesus is the only means of salvation isn’t going to get any traction. I know many confessionals misinterpret that as focusing too much on emotion but its a simple fact that people are tuning that message out. People want to be FOR something, not AGAINST.”

    Sometimes the truth is just plain ugly. The idea that we are
    hopelessly lost in sin without intervention from God can’t get any “traction” in the human mind. People tune that message out. Should we ‘tweak’ that message as well so people can feel good about themselves? Norman Vincent Peale would be so proud. In the end, unity will only be found in truth. God will bring that about through the work of the Holy Spirit. Nobody rejects the truth because someone vented
    his frustration publicly. Perhaps it provides a tidy excuse for rejection but it does not excuse us from speaking the truth. Whether it gets “traction” is not in our hands. It is certainly not reliant on whether we are positive enough.

  28. “You’re Good Enough, You’re Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You.”

    Stuart Smalley

  29. Bro Gallagher,
    You haven’t by chance read President Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo, have you? It sounds scarily similar. “Our differences are just misunderstandings, we have more similarities than differences, why can’t we just get along, etc, etc, etc”.

    Neither of you seem to realize that “The Truth” doesn’t unite, it divides. Brother against brother, parent against child. Take a look at Mark chapter 13.

  30. Dear Jim (Gallagher),

    You came here seeking sciptural integrity. And that’s what you found. Too bad you chose to respond with John 6:66. Your baptism says John 6:68!

    Truth divides. Our confession divides. And, on the last day, our Lord will divide.

    Listen to Him.

  31. And may we once again have prophetic seminary professors like our sainted Kurt Marquart. He never shied away from making a good confession. And also did so with clarity and love.

  32. Thank you Mr. Magness, I agree with your statement about division. The Lord will divide in the final hour. His Truth does divide. My comment, however, is this – let His Word divide, let Him divide. That division is ordained by Him. The division I am trying to address is that which is directed by man through the rhetoric that is often included on this site. We don’t need to create division and the bashing creates it. We need to call that what it is – man’s division.

    Re: post #28, no, in fact we shouldn’t dilute that message. But help me understand then why the incessant need to shout from the mountain tops “You’re all wrong!” If the pure Gospel is preached and pure doctrine is followed, wouldn’t one think the Holy Spirit would bless that? My point, the last time I’ll attempt to make it, is that the constant bashing of others doesn’t work. It isn’t effective. And if the point is to get people to listen (why else would one speak?) then wouldn’t it make sense to deliver the message in a way that people will listen? As we do with our children, do we try to teach them or do we simply say “you’re wrong?” If we want them to listen, to follow, to learn, we don’t do the latter. Don’t change the message, just the delivery.

  33. Jim G.,

    I am happy to learn. Please take one of my posts that you find written in a “bashing” style and rewrite it for us so we can see specifics of what you mean.


  34. I wonder if Jim Gallegher complained to anyone of “negativism” when Wallace Schultz was deprived of his job and called a “Nazi” (with Kieschnick silently standing by) for doing his assigned job in synod according to the tenets of Lutheran doctrine and synodical policy.

    Did he find it worthy of complaint when Prof./Pr. Kurt E Marquart was publicly snubbed on the convention floor by Kieschnick, and even at his death when timely announcement from the Purple Palace was conspicuous by its absence?
    [It takes a very small man to be vindictive toward the dead, but Kieschnick was.]

    Does Mr. Gallegher complain when one confessional Pastor after another is deprived of his Call un Scripturally, to make way for entertainment church, with not a word of reprimand from the DP’s who take fat salaries but do not supervise?
    Or it is only Mr. Gallegher’s complaint that we who notice protest these injustices?

  35. Actually, Helen, I’m beginning to feel about the Synod’s direction as I do about the nation’s, in that all I seem to have the power to do, at present at least, is to realize precisely what the problems of each are, and to complain about others’ ideas for solving them.
    Other than that, I got nothin’.

  36. Jim,

    The “bashing” and “division” as you put it on this site is not done in ad hominem attacks on individuals as your comments seem to infer. Bad church practices are bashed, false teaching is bashed, reducing the Gospel is bashed. Sometimes such things are done by individuals, sometimes even prominent individuals in our synod and those instances are no less deserving of a response, if anything even more deserving due to their position of authority and the influence of their words. When a high ranking church official says something it can get confusing when people have to weigh it and its consequences against scripture instead of just trusting such an authority. I believe many people do the latter and may be easily led away from the pure Gospel, however unintentional.

    There is far more on this site than the criticism of the actions of one individual. There was the recent post on the liturgy I mentioned, the 20th so far in a series, there was Pr. Klemet Preus’ 9 part series on Resisting the Influence of Evangelism, Scott Diekmann’s 9 part series on the Transforming Churches Network, Bethany Tanis’ series on Calvinism, Modern American Evangelicalism and Lutheranism, there’s the Devotional of the Week and some very positive articles about churches that were visited. These all focus on learning more about good theology and common threats to that theology that we may encounter. Far from consisting of shouting “You’re all wrong!” Bethany’s latest article was about how similar parts of Calvinism is to Lutheranism. When bad theology is deeply penetrating modern Christianity I can’t imagine not wanting to tell people that it is wrong and the Gospel is so much better. I don’t recall any of the articles saying that “You are wrong!” so much as “This theology is wrong”.

    You said “wouldn’t it make sense to deliver the message in a way that people will listen?”
    Not if you deliver it in a way that detracts from the message. Congregations practice open communion to encourage people to listen since closed communion can seem off putting, but such a practice is abandoning the responsibility of the church to properly administer the sacraments. When the focus of a service is to get a warm feeling and to go out and help others it may help to get people to listen but it misses the Gospel. Telling people that they are a worthless sinner but God loves them so much that his son died to pay for their mistakes may not be attractive in a day in age when schools have long been overly concerned with self-esteem, but it is a powerful message and one the world needs to hear. Having women in authority in the church may help to appeal to a modern audience but it abandons scripture in the process. “Just” changing the delivery can often have severe theological consequences. When we want to appeal to this world it is often easy to forget that we should only be in it and not of it.

    You said “As we do with our children, do we try to teach them or do we simply say “you’re wrong?””
    Refer back to my comments about the many other articles available here. Many of them are about teaching, reading though the Book of Concord or starting small groups to learn and encourage one another.

  37. “The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, is never present where lies are told. There is actually more unity of the church present where Christians of differing confession honorably determine that they do not have the same understanding of the Gospel than where the painful fact of confessional splintering is hidden behind a pious lie.”
    — Hermann Sasse, “Union and Confession”

  38. Jim G:

    Perhaps we just don’t have an agreement on the meaning of your use of the word “bashing”

    You say: “And if the point is to get people to listen (why else would one speak?) then wouldn’t it make sense to deliver the message in a way that people will listen? As we do with our children, do we try to teach them or do we simply say “you’re wrong?””.

    I can’t think of any article or Blog posted on this website that doesn’t do exactly what you’ve sugested, i.e., point out the error or problem, them explain exactly what the error is and how to resolve it. How is this “bashing”? It seems to me to be the very definition of Christain love.

    I know you said you wouldn’t restate your point again, but for those of us too dense to get it, maybe you could explain exactly what you mean by “bashing”. Do you mean disagreeing with? Do you feel that you’re being bashed here?

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