(Editor’s Note: Apparently the Acorn undercover investigation has sparked similar ventures into other areas including the church. We thank Rev. Andrew Eckert for “transcribing” this tape-recording so that we can bring it to our BJS readers.)
ABLAZECORN Undercover Investigation
James: My name is James O’Chemnitz. On Tuesday, August 4, 2009, Hanna Gerhardt and I began our investigation of ABLAZECORN in St. Louis. Hannah posed as a praise team leader seeking to bring in teenage girls from South Dakota as liturgical dancers. And I posed as her lay minister equipper with the intention of using mission funds to run for Synodical office. We talked to an employee at the International Center named Geraldo Contempos, a mission counselor/coordinator, and Shirley Methobaptowitz, a receptionist.
[Exterior of 1333 Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, Missouri, LCMS International Center, ABLAZECORN Headquarters]
James: Question: Would the International Center employees – A) show us what the Book of Concord says about the Divine Service, B) invoke Matthew 18, or C) tell us how to disguise our evangelistic praise service as traditional Lutheran Worship?
[Static – Noise – Walking – Whispering – view from “fruit of the spirit bracelet”-cam]
Shirley (receptionist): Hello, my name is Shirley, may I help you?
James: Hi, is there someone we could speak to just for a few minutes about church planting?
Shirley: In reference to what?
James: In reference to whether we can qualify for mission funding.
Shirley: Hold on… [background noise] [answering phones] This is one of our mission counselors. Geraldo? This young man wants to speak to somebody regarding a…
James: Just for a few minutes because we have a unique church situation. Would you mind speaking in private for just a few minutes?
Geraldo (counselor): Okay right this way. [walking, entering room] Have a seat, please. How can I help you today?
James: Well we have a unique situation and my, uh, this is my friend, Miriam, and I apologize about her attire but, um, Miriam is in a unique line of work, and she just got off work.
Geraldo: What work is that?
James: [to Miriam] Um, I dunno if you wanna tell her
Hannah (“Miriam”): I have a leadership position in a praise band.
James: And we have been trying to obtain funding to begin a mission congregation. We’ve tried to apply to work in existing congregations, but we have not had much success, once they hear about Miriam’s line of work.
Geraldo: Okay. What you need to do is convince the congregation that they need revitalization.
Geraldo: Yes. It’s very easy. I’ll show you some of our pamphlets. Once the revitalization process begins, it will be easy for Miriam to find work there.
James: I am worried about will they discriminate against her because she is a woman praise band leader?
Geraldo: Don’t say that she’s a praise band leader.
James: What do you recommend that we say? That’s what we have been struggling with. What do we call it?
Hannah: Like if the congregation starts paying me and then they find out what I really do.
Geraldo: You have to think and find another name for it.
James: Could we classify it as maybe performing arts maybe like she is a performing artist? That’s sort of like what a performing artists would do.
Geraldo: Or you can call it, “praise enabler,” or “worship facilitator.”
Hannah: I like that.
James: But how do we get them started on a praise band if they’ve been using, like, a hymnal?
Geraldo: What you need to do is convince people that this is not really different than what they’ve been doing all along. You can tell them this is Lutheran worship. You can tell them that Luther made creative worship all the time. You can tell them it’s approved by Synod.
James: Ooh, that’s good. We’re also interested in getting ABLAZECORN funds to help us bring in thirteen teenage girls from Woonsocket, South Dakota. They’re members of a liturgical dance troupe. They’re really spirit-filled girls, but I’m afraid it will be hard to justify flying them in from South Dakota.
Geraldo: Okay. All you have to do is keep a record of critical events that result from the praise band and liturgical dancers. You have to keep a record. As long as you look like a legitimate, successful mission, you can get ABLAZECORN funds.
James: What if we get some guys that are hostile toward us, hostile toward her?
Geraldo: Once your congregation is in the revitalization process, any hostility can be labeled as anti-mission. Then if they don’t like it, you could even take legal action against them. You will have official Synodical ABLAZECORN backing. All they can really do is leave.
James: This is great stuff. Thanks for your time, sir.
Geraldo: Hey, I like your fruit of the spirit bracelet.
James: Thanks. People can really see how spirit-filled I am.
Geraldo: Have a nice day.
Hannah: Buh-bye. [indistinct muttering] I feel so dirty.