Rev. Greene, Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force Says He Does not Care How this All Turns Out: NID Convention Wrap-Up Part VII, by Pr. Rossow

(The other posts in this series can be viewed by clicking on the Editor’s Blog in the Brother’s Cafe.)


So far we have considered several components of the Northern Illinois District (NID) convention including a motion passed in support of Issues, Etc., the questionable opening devotion, and President Kieschnick’s presentation. I will consider two more parts of the convention. In this post I will review the Blue Ribbon Task Force presentation and the final post in this series will be a review of the Ablaze grants in the NID. One of the most interesting comments in the two hour presentation was Rev. Greene’s assertion that he does not care how all this turns out. That assertion came during the Q & A period which we will review later in this post.


What struck me most about the presentation was how quickly it was given. This is not an exaggeration. Chairman Greene had to speed read to get through all of the information on the slides. I was very well versed in the proposals before getting to the convention but even I had a problem marking each survey question before Rev. Greene would put up the next slide and move on to the next proposal. This is why we refer to the convention surveys as nothing more than a giant push poll. (Push-polling is a device used by political campaigns to conduct surveys by asking questions in such a way that they get the results that will favor their candidate or issue.)


Consider this scenario. Most of the delegates have not seen the proposals nor even heard of them before arriving at the convention. They hear President Kieschnick speak for an hour about how unified the synod is and see his slick video that tells heart-wrenching success stories from the world of Ablaze and then they get a professionally crafted presentation from a well spoken Rev. Greene about changes that will make the synod more efficient and save us some money. (This is music to the ears of pragmatist Americans and frugal Lutherans.) Then each proposal is speed read with the last words heard by each delegate being the nicely written rationale as to why this proposal should be adopted. The question and answer period happens after the survey. There are no downsides or negatives heard about any of the proposals until after each delegate has filled out their survey. Now, how do you think the delegates are going to vote in general, in favor of the nice-sounding proposals that are presented as changes that will make their church more efficient and save money or will they vote against them?


This is why it is very important that you take the time (right now, before you finish reading this post even) to fill out the Interested Laymen’s survey. It is the very survey put out by the Task Force with their rationale but includes some further thoughts on each proposal that give the reader a chance to consider both sides of each issue before voting. You can also take the survey at a more reasonable pace and think about your answers. So far over 1,000 people have registered at the site and 500 have completed the survey. It will be important at the 2010 convention for the Interested Laymen to report a few thousand responses and so they need you to complete a survey.


Rev. Greene is very professional and direct. During the question and answer period he did not dodge any questions but gave very direct and clear answers. I have also found him to be very professional and respectful in the numerous e-mail exchanges I have had with him. (I will share some of those e-conversations on future posts.)


About 90% of the questions/comments from the convention floor were critical of the proposals. Again, it is important to stress that these comments were not allowed until after the presentation and survey were completed. The critical majority is not surprising. Even though the NID is one of the most liberal districts in the synod, there is little motivation for anyone to get up and say good things about the survey. If you are in favor of these proposals you were able to say such via the survey. The confessional pastors and laity of the district did a good job of asking probing questions.


After hearing several critical comments and questions Rev. Greene played the ultimate trump card. He told the convention that he does not care how all of this turns out. How are we to understand that? Is he truly neutral? That seems unlikely. Why would President Kieschnick appoint someone who really does not care about structural revision in the synod to head up this task force on structural revision in the synod? Maybe Todd Wilken is correct. He claimed on a comment string a few days ago here at BJS that President Kieschnick himself would ultimately distant himself from this process. Maybe Rev. Greene’s comment is along those lines. Maybe he too is beginning to distance himself from this silly exercise of artfully imposing structural change on the synod? Maybe he is tired of trying to defend the indefensible.


Let me repeat, you can make a difference by filling out the Interested Laymen’s survey. Even if you support the proposals, we encourage you to go the website and take the survey. It only seems right that everyone should hear both sides of the issue before registering their opinion. If you think these proposals are harmful for the synod that is even more reason to take the survey. If you are not sure what to think about all of this then you certainly should go the website, learn more about these fundamental and significant changes that are

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.


Rev. Greene, Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force Says He Does not Care How this All Turns Out: NID Convention Wrap-Up Part VII, by Pr. Rossow — 18 Comments

  1. This article is great. Thank you for informing those who may not have access to all the reports, letters, and documents regarding the direction the synod has taken over the years. The South Wisconsin District convention is underway, I wonder what those I know, may think of all this. I know, (in a way), but what can they, or we mere members really do? “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”, and considering the LCMS history, this seems to repeat that pattern. May the Lord redeem the LCMS, preserve it, and bring it back to what He began.

  2. Interesting in your post that Rev Greene claims he does not care how the proposals turn out; because at our Kansas District convention, Rev. Kieschnick said that he himself believed some proposals to be more important then others. Unfortunately he did not elaborate as to which he believed to be the more important.

  3. Rev. Green also noted that he was not paid to serve on the task force, and implied that he was not costing the synod any money. My question, who is paying for his travel, food, and hotel accommodations when he is traveling from convention to convention? I doubt this is coming out of his own pocket.

    Also, I went back and changed some of my answers after hearing the debate. I drew an X through the wrong answer, and filled in the proper circle. I hope this doesn’t result in a spoiled ballot or dangling chad, hehe.

    I was somewhat familiar with the survey, had read the guest responses here at BJS, and still needed the Q&A session to clarify a couple of points.

    Perhaps at remaining conventions the chairman can call PRO-CON during the presentation! There could even be a two minute limit on the discussion, but at least we would hear some sort of counterpoint.

    As a delegate, I really listen to both the pro and con of any proposal, then vote accordingly after weighing both sides. It was hard to be objective about this survey given the manner in which it was presented. A couple of questions sounded good until I heard them addressed in Q&A.

    There MUST be a better way to present this survey.

  4. The logic of my prediction that President Kieschnick will begin to distance himself from his own Task Force and its proposals is simple.

    Since the 2007 Convention, President Kieschnick has been careful to distance himself from anything controversial or unpopular (with one exception: Ablaze!).

    For the old-line LCMS liberals, Synodical restructuring is do or die. They know this is their last chance to take and retain institutional control of the LCMS. But not so for President Kieschnick. He has to stand for re-election in 2010.

    President Kieschnick will publicly distance himself from his own Task Force and its proposals when he calculates that they are hurting his hopes of re-election.


  5. Greene may be the “front man” for this, but my observation is that he is not the “idea man.” For that I think we need to look to Bohlmann, Nafzger, Sohns, and Kieschnick and his boys on the COP (e.g., Newton, Stoterau, Diefenthaler).

    This is all about the centralization and consolidation of power, couched in the non-threatening language of “efficiency,” “strengthening,” “enhancing,” etc.

    BTW, here again are my responses to the BRTFSSG survey statements:

  6. Rev. Matthew Harrison should publicly demand from Pres. Kieschnick a financial accounting of what the cost is to the LCMS for all of the time spent by his paid staff on the BRTFSSG planning, revisions, consultants, etc. He should not be allowed to distance himself but rather should be held accountable even if he later chooses to distance himself.

  7. I was a district convention lay delegate last week and had the exact same experience regarding the BRTFSSG as described by Pastor Rossow. One constitutional change that was not mentioned in the presentation or that I noticed being discussed on this site is replacement of the article subsection (VI.4) that required “exclusive use of doctrinally pure” materials by Synod members with one (VI.B.4) that requires materials ‘in harmony with the confessional basis of Synod” be used. Since it wasn’t discussed (I didn’t note this until after the presentation so I didn’t ask myself) I don’t know what the intent of the change. Maybe it is innocuous rephrasing but it reads to me like it intends to broaden the scope of acceptable materials beyond those judged ‘doctrinally pure”.

    It was stated that missiology and stewardship were driving the need for the changes (as best I recall). Thus to me the most interesting new thing I heard in the Q&A was that in response to a question about how much the proposed changes would save the Synod, Rev. Greene said that there had been NO attempt to estimate the cost savings (except that reducing delegate numbers could save $1.6 million per convention, or $400,000 per year if the convention frequency is also reduced to every 4 years) since it was thought to be a waste of time to do so before the district conventions weighed in on the proposals. So it would seem that they are simply *hoping* that any changes beyond convention size/frequency will save money. What percentage of the annual Synod budget is $400,000?

  8. I think that a periodic review of organizational structure is a good thing so I think the BRTFSSG was a worthwhile undertaking. However, based on Rev. Greene’s presentation and the materials at the LCMS website I have difficulty figuring out which if any of the proposals are good ideas. Some I’ve been persuaded by the analysis on this site and by Rev. Schurb I’ve been convinced are bad ideas. I don’t know what good restructuring ideas were left on the table. While I may criticize the process and proposals I don’t fault Pres. Kieschnick for initiating the review.

  9. “President Kieschnick will publicly distance himself from his own Task Force and its proposals when he calculates that they are hurting his hopes of re-election.” –TW

    But we should not let him get away with that. Let’s keep this albatross hanging around his neck. Like you do, Todd, I like to emphasize that this is PRESIDENT KIESCHNICK’S Blue Ribbon Task Force! He hand-picked these guys! This is Jerry’s baby, with a nice blue ribbon tied around the little bundle of joy!

  10. #10: If you go to the Rt. Rev. Bauer’s blog, you will see that the Rt. has to do with his hat. (Of course, there is also a hidden meaning that is an abbreviation for something else.)

    #12: A big dog has a big collar.


  11. Here are a couple interesting BRTFSSG-related comments from the May, 2009 BOD meeting minutes:

    Page 4:
    In my [Thomas W. Kuchta] opinion, the current recommendations by the BRTFSSG will have an immaterial effect on the financial operations of Synod, Inc. Most of the BRTFFM recommendations have not been considered by the BRTFSSG. The recommended elimination of program boards and commissions and the transfer of some national office functions to the districts will not resolve the financial problems of National Synod. Functions transferred to the districts will need to be funded by the districts with the likely result that contributions to the Synod will decrease.

    Page 11/12:
    Near the end of the meeting, the board discussed further the report from the chairman of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance and the proposal by a member of the board that the task force consider including in its recommendations the position of chief executive officer, separate from the ecclesiastical structure, to handle the business of the Synod. The following resolution was introduced and adopted:

    Resolved, That the Board of Directors strongly recommend that the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance include in its final report the establishment of the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Under this organizational plan (a) the president of the Synod will supervise all ecclesiastical aspects of the Synod; and (b) the CEO will supervise all business, legal, and property aspects of the agencies of the Synod to the extent such authority is assigned to the Board of Directors and the program and services entities of the Synod.

  12. #16: Page 11/12 – Isn’t the inclusion of a CEO as well as ecclesiastical chief the structure used by ELCA, in the form of presiding Bishop and Church Secretary?

  13. Charlie,

    Of course you’re right. This is President Kieschnick idea from beginning to end.

    However, no one can deny that he has been remarkably successful in avoiding accountability so far. Why should the BRTFSSG be any different?


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