(The other posts in this series can be viewed by clicking on the Editor’s Blog in the Brother’s Cafe.)
A couple of commenters on my last post are complaining that this is just a negative, “beat up on President Kieschnick” blog. That is not the case. These are very newsworthy items that are being reported here which also help us accomplish the purposes of the Brothers of John the Steadfast.
It is newsworthy when the president of the synod asserts that we are unified. Whether it is true or not, it is worthy of discussion by synod members. When he asserts that differences on open communion, inter-Christian relations, worship practices and the role of women are secondary matters, that is certainly worth knowing and discussing.
Reporting and knowing these things also helps us accomplish the purposes of the Brothers of John the Steadfast. Our first duty is to learn and promote the Lutheran Confessions. Our reporting of these statements by the president of the synod and the blog discussions that ensue help the Brothers of John the Steadfast grow in their understanding of Scriptural and Confessional doctrine. We wish the tone did not have to be so critical but these are days of great division in the synod and we are compelled by the Gospel to identify these differences and discuss them.
So what did President Kieschnick say about German Methodists? It came during the question and answer period of the presentation. He did not take questions from the floor but questions were selected from those submitted the previous day. (It continues to strike us as odd that he is afraid of facing people and their questions directly.) Our lay delegate had submitted a really good and probing question but of course it was not selected. Instead the president was given a series of softball questions. Question number two was “What is the greatest challenge to the LCMS these days?”
His answer was in keeping with the point of the silly devotion that opened the convention. It was all about promoting change in the synod. He mentioned a congregation in Walburg, Texas. I did not catch his relation to the church. I think it was the church he grew up in, maybe his grandfather’s church. He made two points worth noting.
First, he pointed out that the reason the people of Walburg first got a Lutheran pastor was to bring together the German Lutherans who were already there. President Kieschnick went on to point out how this just isn’t needed anymore. We can’t just be the church of gathering together German immigrants since the boats aren’t coming anymore. The point, the church needs to change. He did not go into any specific changes. This was more like an Obama-like call for generic “hope and change.” We can assume, based on what he has said and written elsewhere that the change he is talking about refers to dumping the historic liturgy for something more catchy, moving away from a pastor as shepherd model for ministry to a pastor as leader model (this is born out by his regular leadership notes in the Reporter), changing the material principal of the church from justification to evangelism, and other such changes that have been hallmarks of his presidency.
This point about the end of the immigration is either so obvious that it is meaningless (does anyone know of a church that is literally sitting around waiting for more immigrants?) or it is a call for the church to abandon its traditions which have served the Gospel effectively and which are defended in the Lutheran Confessions. Just because we started out as a German immigrant church does not mean that 90 years after the boats stopped coming that we now need to have praise bands, women elders, and pastors as CEO’s. It just does not follow logically.
Secondly, he pointed out that the church records from Walburg showed that one of the very first problems that the church had to address was the presence of German Methodists in town threatening the purity of the Lutheran and Scriptural Gospel. BY BRINGING THIS UP HE WAS ACTUALLY MAKING A RHETORICAL POINT OF THIS EXAMPLE THAT THE CHURCH IS NO LONGER THREATENED BY GERMAN METHODISM AND SO WE MUST CHANGE OUR APPROACH TO DOING CHURCH. I was flabbergasted by this. The Scriptures and the Confessions are very clear that preserving the Gospel is job one for the church (see Gal. 1, Eph. 1, I John, John 8, etc.). Criticizing these good Texas Lutherans and their desire to uphold the pure Gospel against the weak, moralistic Methodism of its day is a mean act against one’s own family, one’s grandfather’s church.
In a very sad way President Kieschnick is actually correct. We no longer need to be concerned about Methodism because we have brought Methodism into the LCMS. President Kieschnick and his ilk no longer have Methodism as their chief concern because under their leadership the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has embraced the practice and thus the doctrine of Methodism, or more accurately Methobapticostolism (i.e. the strange combo platter in American Evangelicalism of Methodism, Baptist and Pentecostal theology expressed in seeker sensitive worship based on emotion, churches geared toward programs than meet people’s felt needs, preaching designed to make the hearer a “more effective Christian,” etc.). President Kieschnick asserts that our new enemy is not Methodism but Islam and an immoral culture. These are certainly important issues for the church to address but they have not replaced the opinio legis (natural man’s faulty belief/opinion that we must justify ourselves before God) as the chief thing that we must battle day in and day out in the church.
There were numerous other bothersome things in the presentation including a misuse of Jeremiah 29:4-7 as a justification for his point that the church must engage the culture. Jeremiah 29 is actually clarifying for the captive people of Israel that they might as well settle down in Babylon because God was not going to rescue them anytime soon. President Kieschnick yanks this passage out of context to try to convince us that God wants us to engage the culture. This misuse of Scripture most likely came from a Rick Warren or John Maxwell book. We could spend a lot more ink on these other annoying things in the presentation but there are other important topics to address from the NID convention. Our next topic will be the Blue Ribbon proposal presentation. In the meantime I encourage the Brothers of John the Steadfast and all our readers to heed the words of St. John and remain vigilant and keep battling the influx of false practice and doctrine into Christ’s church.
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (I John 2)