President Kieschnick inserts a glossy two-page, full color flier into each Reporter that he calls “Leadership News.” In the most recent edition of this Leadership News (September, 2009) he asserts that the LCMS is “exceptionally united in what we believe, teach and confess.”
Before getting to that consider the very title of the insert, “Leadership News.” As I asserted the other day in another post “leadership” is used in the church today as a code word for re-making our grandfather’s church. It has been borrowed from the business world by President Kieschnick and other proponents of the church growth movement. Scripture says precious little about leadership. President kieschnick did not get this empahsis on leadership from Scripture but from the countless church growth gurus who see teh church as a business and not as the forgiveness administering body of Christ and so they pedal the latest buzz words from the corporate world. The business world latched on to “leadership” in recent years (actually it is now a passing fad and as usual when the church tries to mimic the world we are always behind the times and look foolish) in order to encourage brave and courageous thinking in the face of a rapidly changing globalized business environment. In the business world a leader is described as an agent of change. The church needs to be brave and courageous as well but not in terms of change. We need to bravely entrench ourselves in the teaching that Christ passed on to us and courageously battle our enemy Satan.
That leads to the point to be made here. After listing several things we agree on President Kieschnick says this about what we still disagree on
At the same time, there are matters about which we in the LCMS are not in agreement, most notably:
· 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.
In the years ahead our Synod will need to continue to work under Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions to achieve similar solidarity in these matters. Where Scripture speaks plainly and clearly to the question at hand, the matter is resolved. Where Scripture does not speak plainly, clearly, or at all to the question at hand, it behooves us as a group of rational, reasonable, Christian people to come to a godly and common sense conclusion regarding how to proceed with mutual respect and non-offensive conduct.
In the last line above President Kieschnick asks us to proceed with non-offensive conduct in regards to these things we disagree about. That is a good point. We should only speak the truth in love. However, we do need to speak the truth and even if we do so in love, it will still offend those who are embracing falsehoods. We would like to see the president address assertively those who hold to false teachings and practices in our synod and this will most likely offend them and those who defend them. Give us some more offensive conduct please President Kieschnick.
I would say that the main beef confessional Lutherans have with President Kieschnick is that we differ on the very points that he addresses above and that we do not see these as adiaphora (things neither commanded nor forbidden). The administration of holy communion is clear in Scripture and has always been clear in the LCMS until people like President Kieschnick started practicing open communion and then asserting that we are not united. The service of women is clear in Scripture and always been clear in the LCMS until people like President Kieschnick pushed to allow women elders and congregational chairs and then asserted that we are not united. (For sure there are clear differences of practice among confessional Lutherans in the LCMS concerning women’s suffrage but I have talked to many pastors on both sides of the issue on this, and most do not see this as a church-dividing issue but nearly all of them are united against women elders and congregation chairs.) The worship style question is clear in Scripture and has always been clear in LCMS practice until people like President Kieschnick started experimenting with “contemporary worship” and then asserting that we are not united. Inter-Christian relations are becoming much clearer now that the ELCA has become apostate. Indeed President Kieschnick delivered a firm address to the ELCA but he is the one who is confused on this matter because he has proposed absolutely no change in practice with the ELCA to back up his strong words.
I hope you can see what President Kieschnick is up to here. He is downplaying issues that are a matter of heart and soul to Confessional Lutherans all for the sake of trying to extol his own “genius” leadership that he thinks has kept the LCMS basically united during the years of his presidency. How can he say that when each time he has been elected by barely more that a simple majority. Nearly 50% of the synod has voted against him each time. Yes, nearly 50% of the synod voted against President Barry in his first election but he did not go around claiming that we were unified with just a few minor differences on style.
Does President Kieschnick realize that he is the one speaking offensively to the Confessional Lutherans when he talks this way? Has that thought crossed his mind?
Delegates to the 2010 LCMS convention and all Lutherans ought not to be not be deceived by this recasting of the argument. These are serious doctrinal differences that are resulting in LCMS churches falsely communing those who do not discern the body and blood of Christ, bringing women into the office the Holy Ministry through congregation headship and communion distribution, dupe Lutherans into worship practices that are man-centered, and bring shame on the Gospel by cooperating with those who deny Christ. As an exampel of how President Kieschnick recasts the arguemnts notice that he does not understand the worship issue. In the quote above from his “Leadership News” he sees it as a matter of uniformity. Confessional Lutherans have been shouting from the rooftops for an entire generation that it is not a matter of unity of style. It is a matter of Lutheran substance exemplified by traditional worship vs. methobapticostal substance exemplified by contemporary worship.
Rather than re-casting serious theological differences as differences of opinion on which we should not offend each other in our discussion we wish that President Kieschnick would get offensive and deal with what are, even in his watered-down version of our differences, offenses to Scriptural teaching.
In Renton, Washington there is a music director who is a gay activist. In the twin cities there is a church (The Alley) that practices post-modern worship and recommends a steady diet of non-Lutheran books to its parishioners. Right in the backyard of the synodical office building, a few miles to the south, there is a church (Jefferson Hills) that has used filthy language on public billboards, has radical sermons that wander outside the bounds of law/gospel homiletics and have lay elders hosting the Lord’s Supper for small groups in homes.
If President Kieschnick wants to admit these are acceptable practices then let him do so (he already is by his inaction) and then the delegates to the convention can realize that it is time to elect new leadership that doesn’t try to recast our differneces in some sort of Clintonesque waffling way. (It is quite significant that in “It’s Time” Matt Harrison actually proposes a structure by which we will come together as a synod and face these differences directly and resolve them.) Do we want a synod in which these things are allowed and all the president can say is let’s discuss “open questions” without offending each other. It is an offense to the Gospel that these practices are allowed. We have spoken directly to President Kieschnick’s office on these matters and his response is that he does not want to interfere with the district president’s work. Take a look at the how the Synod Handbook describes the work of the president and you decide if
B. Duties of the President
1. The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the administration of
a. All officers of the Synod;
b. All such as are employed by the Synod;
c. The individual districts of the Synod;
d. All district presidents.
2. It is the President’s duty to see to it that all the aforementioned act in accordance with the Synod’s Constitution, to admonish all who in any way depart from it, and, if such admonition is not heeded, to report such cases to the Synod.
3. The President has and always shall have the power to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod.
4. The President shall see to it that the resolutions of the Synod are carried out.
5. When the Synod meets in convention the President shall give a report of his administration. He shall conduct the sessions of the convention so that all things are done in a Christian manner and in accord with the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod.
6. It is the duty of the President, or an officer of the Synod appointed by the President, to be present at the meetings of the districts, to advise them, and to report at the next session of the Synod.
7. The President shall perform all additional duties assigned to him by the Bylaws or by special resolution of the Synod in convention.
8. When matters arise between meetings of the Synod in convention which are of such a nature that action thereon cannot be delayed until the next convention, the President is authorized to submit them to a written vote of the member congregations of the Synod only after full and complete information regarding the matter has been sent to member congregations by presidential letter and has been published in an official periodical of the Synod. If such matters are related to the business affairs of the Synod, such a vote shall be conducted only after the President has consulted with the synodical Board of Directors. In all cases at least one-fourth of the member congregations must register their vote.
Note well that his primary duty is to supervise doctrine and practice in the synod. We do not ask our president to “lead” us. We ask him to enforce the resolutions of synod which are to be in keeping with Scripture. His only other duty is to run a convention. Rather than publishing a nice glossy insert on leadership, we wish he would spend his time dealing with the countless cases of open communion, women sacristans, coffee-shop church, and so forth. He is a president which means that he presides and what he presides over is a convention. But presiding over a convention is just one week out of every three years. The other 155 weeks is to be presiding over doctrine and practice. He is an overseer and supervisor of doctrine and practice according to the policies we have established as a synod, not a purveyor of warmed over “corporate speak” on leadership. The church is a family, not a business. We do not need corporate leaders. We need church leaders who are fathers and who practice headship, not leadership.