Comprehensive Analysis of the Blue Ribbon Proposals on Structure & Governance, Proposal 1 – Manipulation and Deception by the Task Force, by Pr. Rossow

This is a continuing series analyzing the final report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance (BRTFSG). I started out with the troubling revelation that the proposals are based on the work of non-Lutheran consultants (10/28/09) and a follow up a few days later focusing on the fact that these consultants cost you and I one half a million dollars (10/29/09). I then jumped to the “Conclusion” of the proposals to illustrate the Task Force’s abuse of a Walther text in a failed attempt to demonstrate that Walther supports their misleading views on “the mission of God” and the place of evangelism in the role of structuring the church (11/02/09). In this post I will move beyond the opening and closing sections of the final report and begin considering the proposals themselves.

Recommendation #1 – Affirm and Clarify Governing Documents

Here is the text of Recommendation #1:

Amplify, affirm, and clarify the Preamble of the Synod’s Constitution (Reasons for the Existence of a Synod), Article II (Confession), Article III (Mission and Purpose), Article VI (Requirements of Membership), and Article VII (Relation of Synod and Its Members).                  

Klemet Preus has already posted a fine blog critiquing the Task Force’s proposal to change Article II of the LCMS constitution so I will focus on other matters. I would like to focus on the process that the Task Force describes in Recommendation #1 and alert all delegates to next summer’s LCMS convention and all members of LCMS churches to a troubling manipulation of statistics and an attempted deception of the good folks of the LCMS by the Task Force.

The Task Force makes this claim in their description of the recommendation:

In the feedback received from the thousands of delegates at the 2009 district conventions, the task force was encouraged by the 83 percent of respondents either agreeing strongly or agreeing with this recommendation.

                      This is a deception. The Task Force claims that 83% of the thousands of district conventioneers who filled out surveys on the proposals agreed with the proposal. Here is the text from the Task Force’s district convention survey:

No. 1: Affirm in Our Governing Documents the Mission and Purpose of Our Synod

Goal: Affirm in our governing documents that the reason for the Synod’s existence is for congregations to walk together in God’s mission and to serve one another for His purpose of saving all people through Jesus Christ (Acts 15 and 1 Corinthians 12).

Current Problem or Deficiency:

Current wording in our synod’s Constitution fails to underscore the continuity of the Synod’s commitment to Christ, Scripture, Confessions, and the mission of God.

Recommended Solution:

Update our Constitutional language to clarify our:

  • Reasons for existence.(the current Preamble.)
  • Confession (Art. II)
  • Mission and purpose.(Art. III)
  • Conditions of Membership (Art. VI)
  • Relation of the Synod to its members (Art. VII).

Rationale: Affirm and clarify that Christ and His mission are the center of our common confession, while assuring that the confessional basis of our Synod remains unchanged.

The conventioneers had all of 90 seconds to reflect on this and state their reaction to it. The problem with the claim that 83% of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with this proposal is that they did not know what they were agreeing or strongly agreeing to! Let me explain.

                      Who would oppose the goal, recommended solution and rational as described above? As described it would be like opposing baseball, apple pie and motherhood. Look at the rationale specifically. Who would oppose “affirming and clarifying that Christ and His mission are the center of our common confession, while assuring that the confessional basis of our Synod remains unchanged?” I am surprised that 17% of the conventioneers opposed this. Actually I am not surprised by the 17%. I have a partial explanation for it. First let me explain what was missing from the survey managed and controlled by the Task Force.

                      The survey did not include the proposed changes to the constitution and even if it did, the 90 seconds allowed to consider the proposal before voting would not have been near enough time to understand all of the ramifications of four significant constitutional changes!

                      Now let me explain the 17%. Many of the 17% had most likely read a website that got a lot of circulation on Lutheran blogs and here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast. It was put on the web by “Four Interested Laymen.” (To view the site and take the Task Force’s survey click here.) The Interested Laymen posted the Task Force’s questionnaire word for word but in addition to the rationale given by the Task Force they also published the other side of the issue. They gave a balanced pro and con so that their respondents could give a fair and balanced response to each proposal. Here is the rationale they gave against Recommendation #1:

Other Thoughts to Consider:

This first issue will take up more of our time than most of the others since the proposals would have us change the very objectives that the synod has had since its early history.

In order to understand this first proposal you will have to take the time to review the committees proposed changes to the synods constitution (click here or on the sidebar to the left). This first proposal has to do with Article III Objectives.

(The following is a summary of points 8-11 in the “Review of Constitutional Amendments.”) First consider that the existing article title “Objectives” is preferable to the trendy new proposed term “Mission and Purpose.” “Objectives” speak of something lasting and enduring which is appropriate for the Christian faith. “Mission” is a word that comes out of the business world and is trendy, less than a generation old. “Purpose” comes out of the pagan existentialist philosophy of the twentieth century and is grounded in man’s desires rather than the more external matters of the more preferable term “objectives.” The proposed new wording is also long-winded and ambiguous. This would be a hasty and trendy change of terminology.

The next consideration is subtle but important. The proposed language in III.A.2. would have the LCMS manifesting “the unity of the true faith in Jesus Christ.” This speaks of a personal unity among LCMS members. The current language does not distinguish this from manifesting “confessional unity within the synod” which is not about a personal unity between LCMS members but an objective truth that we share revealed in Scripture. The current wording does not have us manifesting unity with one another because the unity is manifested in the Lutheran faith that we share. Basing unity on personal relations would lead to all sorts of ungodly unity between the LCMS and churches that do not confess all of the truth of the Bible. The current wording is sufficient and does not open the door to an emphasis on personal unity outside of doctrinal unity.

A further consideration is that proposed III.B.8 eliminates the phrase “encourage congregations to strive for uniformity in church practice” found in the current III.7. The wording in the current III.7 is offensive to many people in the Missouri Synod who wish to “go beyond” good Lutheran practice. There are many persons in the synod who claim that worship practice and church polity are completely “adiaphora,” (neither commanded nor forbidden by God) and that the attempt to “encourage . . .uniformity” is legalism. Many of them also want a diversity of communion admission policies. One might quote C.F.W. Walther who wrote: “The fact that a truly Lutheran congregation needs neither a definite organization nor a fixed ceremonial instituted by men is attested by Article VII of the Augsburg Confession” (our emphasis; see Walther, The Form of a Christian Congregation [St Louis: CPH, 1963], p. 2-3). But Walther then immediately quotes Luther’s 1539 letter to Buchholzer in which Luther accepts adiaphora “if only the abusus (misuse) is kept away, neither add anything to the Gospel (i.e., New Testament) nor take anything away from it.” Thus both Walther and Luther agree that there are church practices that are not Lutheran or Biblical, so one cannot say that “anything goes” in church practices. The current III.7 has a good balance in that it encourages uniformity for the sake of harmony out of love for the brethren, but also respects “a variety of responsible practices and customs which are in harmony with our common profession of faith.” The proposed III.B.8 reflects the attitude of people in the synod who don’t care about harmony (concordia), but who have accepted the late 20th century American motto “Do your own thing!”

This is an excellent critique of proposal #1. We also recommend, as we did above, that you read Klemet Preus’ critique of this change as well. He gives an even more in-depth analysis than the “Interested Laymen.”

Out of the 450 people who responded to this first proposal on the Interested Laymen survey, approximately 65% strongly disagreed or disagreed with this proposal. That is a huge difference: 83% agreed at the conventions and 65% disagreed when given a chance to hear both sides of the issue. It is important to note that this cannot be chalked up to a bias of those taking the “Interested Layman” survey because there are some proposals where the results are similar between the “Interested Laymen” survey and the district convention surveys sponsored by and manipulated by the Task Force. For sure, this is not a purely scientific comparison. I do not claim that it is but the stark difference in numbers makes it clear that the biased presentation at the district conventions resulted in biased and manipulated results.

I take no joy in making this assertion. As I have stated elsewhere I have come to have a kindly and good relationship with Robert Greene, the chairman of the Task Force, through numerous e-mails exchanged. I do not know if it was him or others on the committee that devised this manipulative approach to gathering information. I addressed this with the committee only a few weeks into the district convention rotation and asked them to give both sides to the issues but they refused. Based on that refusal, reviewing the vastly divergent results from the two surveys and simply looking at the arrogance of announcing that 83% of the district convention respondents approved this proposal when they didn’t even have time to look at nor reflect on the actual constitutional changes being proposed, I can come to no other conclusion than that this task force appointed by President Kieschnick is trying to pull a fast one on the delegates to next summer’s synod convention by manipulating survey results and claiming that there is 83% agreement on this first recommendation.


All posts in this series are listed here.


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.


Comprehensive Analysis of the Blue Ribbon Proposals on Structure & Governance, Proposal 1 – Manipulation and Deception by the Task Force, by Pr. Rossow — 8 Comments

  1. As stated before weather permitting hope to be at Naperville,in Feb. Is this telling you anything????????????

  2. My Mum is here for Thanksgiving. I read her this post. She hears a fair bit & asks me to post, per what is sometimes written here. When I read this to her, her response was,

    “Well that is Synod, MY congregation doesn’t do that, why should I worry” “I stopped giving to Synod a long time ago. This won’t ever effect me or my congregation.”


    Which is more frightening, what my Mum said, or the proposals? Members have no clue, that they are members of…by proxy, is your congregation a member of Synod? Are you a member of that congregation? Then you are a member of Synod by proxy. How many members are there, like my Mum? If it doesn’t visit itself on my congregation, why should I care? You should care, when Synod speaks folks, they speak for you, even if they don’t see you as a direct member. But who you run with, who you tie yourself with, does, in fact, very much matter!

  3. This is why we make copies of much of the JTS and mail them out and give them out. They do not have computer or lap top and we have seen to it that they get informed. This is where our SYNOD does not receive ANY of our contributions. As I stated before the name of the paper is Distorter not Reporter.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. As a lay delegate to my district’s convention earlier this year, I asked Rev Greene a respectful but critical question about one of the Blue Ribbon proposals. His first response was a quick one-liner that made made it look like I was petty and ignorant, which left me too flustered to ask a follow-up. However, after he delivered his quick one liner to me, he gave a longer, more thoughtful answer to my specific question. The same thing happened to my pastor who asked a critical question on a different topic. So it wasn’t just me.

    After pondering this seemingly contradictory behavior: the quick putdown followed by a seemingly sincere and honest answer, my best construction answer is the following. He (and likely other task force members) see that their job is not to guide an open debate but to sell the proposals. In Rev. Greene’s case, he undoubtedly had heard the criticisms my pastor and I asked and had rehearsed lines at his disposal to dispense of them. Hence his first response to the question was to give the salesman’s answer to sell the proposal to the audience, then he gave the brotherly response to the actual question posed. He probably was not deliberately trying to make his questioners look bad, though when the seasoned pro confronts the amateur in public it goes down that way.

    My guess is that most Task Force members have been persuaded that the proposals should be adopted and hence they see their job is to sell them, not to foster an open debate on pros and cons of the proposals. They’ve been at this a long time and if they did not think they weren’t good ideas, they wouldn’t be in the proposal. So they believe the debates are over while we think they are just beginning.

    To me this means that BJS is doing the LCMS a service by keeping up the questioning of the wisdom of the changes. The task force will undoubtedly have an initial response to defend them. However, if we have valid criticisms I think we can expect that they will give an honest response. BJS has perspectives to offer that the Task Force may not have considered. The centralization of authority BJS perceives in the proposals when taken as a whole may be an unintended cumulative consequence of multiple small changes as opposed to a deliberate scheme to give more authority to the Synodical President.

    There may or may not be Machiavellian intent behind these proposals. Obviously the 8th commandment asks us to assume there is not. But if groups like BJS don’t provide careful critiques such as Rev. Rossow’s, Noland’s, Preus’ and so on, the proposals are going to pushed through the convention faster than delegates can blink an eye. In short, those who have been working on these proposals probably don’t see the Convention as a deliberative body but as a hurdle to be cleared. So the message to convention delegates (like me) is to come to the convention prepared to debate or prepare to be steam rolled. Thanks for helping us delegates avoid the latter, Rev. Rossow!

  5. Tim

    Having read all of your work on this I am wondering if you could post them in some kind of format for downloading? Cut and paste makes it possible to miss something. Thanks

  6. I’m quoting myself from “Bursting the Bubble” Part 2: “The Task Force offers no rationale for their constitutional subscription endorsement. Apparently their actions are based on their belief that ‘the suggested word changes not only eliminate cumbersome and unnecessary wording but use language that updates constitutional language without making substantive change’ (p. 20). The only justification the Task Force provides for their recommendation is this: ‘In the feedback received from the thousands of delegates at the 2009 district conventions, the task force was encouraged by the 83 percent of respondents either agreeing strongly or agreeing with this recommendation’ [#1, p. 20]. The referenced ‘feedback’ was the delegates‘ response to this statement: ‘Affirm in Our Governing Documents the Mission and Purpose of Our Synod’ (see Appendix 6). This statement was posed with no supporting documentation beforehand or clear indication that it was linked to constitutional amendments, let alone what those amendments might be. To use a vague statement to retroactively prop up your own agenda is disingenuous.”

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