As We Predicted, the Bully Pulpit at the Regional Gatherings is a Slippery Slope, by Pr. Rossow

As we predicted  the bully pulpit at  President Kieschnick’s  Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance (BRTFSG) regional gatherings is  greased up with a very slick, professional and calculated presentation by all the president’s men. President Kieschnick hand-picked the Task Force and they are performing up to his corporate and CEO-like standards. Based  on reports we are getting from the first round of presentations (Denver, CO and Dearborn, MI) the Task Force is to be commended for a very well groomed, flawless and precisely orchestrated presentation. But this is not only commendable it is questionable.

Let me provide two examples of the calculation and manipulation being exercised. First, the delegates are seated not in theatre style in chairs of their own choosing to ponder a presentation in a mtter of fact sort of way. Instead they are seated at  assigned places and  at tables.  Why in the world do grown ups,  delegates chosen  by their peers on account of their wisdom,  in a free world and in a free church need to be assigned seats? Who is doing the assigning? Why is  it that who is sitting next to whom is an orchestrated process? Is there a pro BRTFSG person sitting at each table to guide the conversation?

Secondly, sitting at  tables in what I will call “dialogue style” is a peculiar post-modern practice that puts the emphasis not on ratioanle consideration of proposals but on group think that can divert free-thinkers away from matter of fact discernment. It also breaks the larger assembly  down into manageable groups. Think about that for a moment. The group has already been broken down into smaller segments around the country to make it easier for the presenters to manage (at great expense to the individuals and to the synod) and then upon arriving, the delegate are orchestrated into assigned seats.

I have been to numerous synod events that use this “dialogue style set-up.”    It is intended to give the delegates a sense of inclusion in the process but in this case it is short-circuiting the normal free-thinking process.  This entire process has been manipulated from the get-go. The BRTFSG required district convention-goers to fill out surveys prior to discussion of the issues, they never produced any list of cons for the proposals and now they have assigned seats to full grown adults in the group-dialogue set-up.

This  raises a crucial question.  Do we want a church leadership for the family of God in the LCMS that is corporate in nature and  has mastered Power-point or do we want a church leadership for the family of God that is fatherly in nature and has a mastered  the deft touch of our Lord’s words of law and Gospel? President Kieschnick has certainly demonstrated that he is a master of the corporate approach. Our synod has a lot of family issues right now. We have serious differences in approach to worship, to church, and several other issues. Our problem is not about structure. Well orchestrated corporate presentations about our structure and governance are not going to bring us together. As a matter of fact, changing the structure to elevate the power of the presidency and the districts is not going to unite us but will divide us even further.

Again, we ask the delegates to ignore the slick, corporate presentation and orchestrated dialogue and dig deeply into the issues of each BRTFSG proposal and decide on thier own, after hearing pros and cons, what is best for our bleoved synod.

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.


As We Predicted, the Bully Pulpit at the Regional Gatherings is a Slippery Slope, by Pr. Rossow — 28 Comments

  1. The results of the seating were probably less effective (a very important term) that the planners had hoped. All of the participants at my table were hardly cheerleaders for the Task Force. Some were first-time delegates, and I had the opportunity to have some small influence in Matthew Harrison’s direction, and to expose some of the less-well-known flaws, such as the revised Section VII.B of the proposed constitution. I passed out a few copies of Scott Diekmann’s five part analysis of the proposed structure, and the analysis of VII.B.

    I believe that part of the purpose of this seating was so that the table-poll at the end of the gathering would give a more representational cross section of opinions. I’m not sure that was successful. I believe that the effect of the “survey” or “poll” was a watered-down pool of negotiated opinion. Strong opinions on any issue, pro or con, the, were very muted. Is that necessarily desirable? Decide for yourself. And it was wonderful that we could pick out which seat we sat in at our assigned tables. Very democratic. I changed my seat at least once. It made me feel welcome and participatory. I was afraid that I might be a non-participant, but they obviously must have renounced that in their planning.

    The scotch was very good, however….

  2. “I have been to numerous synod events that use this “dialogue style set-up.” It is intended to give the delegates a sense of inclusion in the process but in this case it is short-circuiting the normal free-thinking process. This entire process has been manipulated from the get-go.”

    This suggests that the satire about the “Sleeping Giant” book cover may actually have been a little too tepid for its target, and that a significantly sharper application of mockery and ridicule about these kinds of synodical antics be employed in future photoshops and the like.

  3. Johannes,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    One thing I did not mention is that the “vote on your two least favorite and two most favorite proposals” helps them fine tune things for thier floor committee to know what won’t fly. It also gives a false impression that people are being included in the process. Such a straw poll only benefits the “Central Planners.”


  4. I truly appreciate the possibility of bringing copies or BJS analysis with me to Atlanta (February 5-6). Some sort of compilation of the best of the brightest would be terrific:)

  5. I concur w/Johannes, in that the results of the assigned seating were most likely less “effective” than intended. The table I was at had no great fans of the Task Force’s work, nor did it have overt/obvious cheerleaders/apologists for Synod, Inc.

    I will be writing up a more thorough summary of my time being gathered-in, but I’ll whet your appetite with this brief take on the tenor of the room: Even among those who were conceptually open to the idea that structure needs to change (compared to the curmudgeons like me…), there was annoyance and/or frustration with the specific language and/or continued lack of specificity re: operationalizing in the Task Force’s recommendations.

  6. A vote for the two most favorite and two least favorite proposals, might qualify the geathering to be considered by some as an illegal mini convention.

  7. I was married at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Pastor Elmer Neitzel. Now 58 years later his photo hangs in my office, next to that of my Sainted son, whom he baptized, confirmed and nurtured through 30 years of his life, he died 15 years ago of Cancer, leaving three young boys 16, 11, and 7. I for the past 15 years have been their surrogate father. Mt. Calvary has been my wife’s church since 1943 when she was confirmed there, we were married there in 1951. We were both very active in the congregation. I was a congregational officer for 12 years, a Deacon for 7 years, an Usher for 56 years, we had a Men’s Club, a Ladies Aide, Woman’s Circles, a Youth Group, an 18plus group. We had 3400 members. Pastor Neitzel retired, and for the last three years of his life I was his chauffeur, I would take him to the Bank, the Barber and the Doctor. On each of these trips I would drive him past the old Concordia College and the Churches in the changing neighborhoods, and we discuss church politics. His closing comment to me each time in his stentorian voice was, “I hope they Know What They Are Doing”, how prophetic. The “Ablaze Movement”, has turned away many LCMS, members, “This is not your Grandfathers Church”, is a failure, and the Contemporary Service are a joke. I still support Mt. Calvary financially, but attend and minister each Sunday at the Lutheran Home service. No screens, no guitars or drum’s. Just the word, preached in all of it’s simplicity, and all of those in attendance are revitalized for another week of life.

  8. @#6 – The “3 favorite & 2 or 3 least favorite” could be more accurately/completely described as:

    A) “The 3 Issues That Are Most Important For The Convention In Houston To Deal With…”


    B) “The 2 or 3 Issues That Are Least Important For The Covention In Houston To Spend Time On, aka ‘Don’t Touch These Issues…’

  9. @johannes #1

    Strong opinions on any issue, pro or con, the, were very muted.
    Is that necessarily desirable?

    Strong opinions against the whole thing were “muted”. That’s success. You could only influence your table to some extent. They could hope that for most tables the knowledgable “cons” were a minority.

    The strong opinions “pro” can be made stronger as they analyze the verbiage that got commentary, pro or con.

    It’s all window dressing for another railroaded convention (my more pessimistic opinion).

  10. I don’t know why Pastor Rossow was surprised by the assigned seating. Kieschnick and his minions are very adept at manipulation and will leave no stone unturned to ram or sneak the Task Farce proposals through – whichever technique is needed.

    The radical agenda of the Synodocrats is something they wish not to endure much scrutiny. We are being subjected to a crass and cynically crafted process to pull the wool over the eyes of as many delegates as possible. Please pay close attention to Scott Diekman’s postings on WT. He is dissecting the phony arguments and dangerously flawed “logic” of these proposals.

    My German grandfather’s church (the Evangelische Kirche) is a top down, liberal, theological disaster. And this seems to be what K and company desire. No thanks! I will take the confessional, liturgical LC-MS any time

  11. This is rather cut & dry to me. I know how that sounds, but really, it is cut & dry. Luther speaks on this so much, it would be difficult to choose just one or two quotes. Walther, Maacher, & Charles Spurgeon, fought, the same battle, before our parents drew a breath! As we now, across denominations lines, fight for Him, & His, now. Spurgeon, was ironic & eloquent in his speech, (Luther was too) but when called for, was direct & blunt (so was Luther). I can’t say the quote is direct, but this is as I remember it.

    “Silence, in the face of heresy, is treachery towards God.”

    We are called to be faithfull, even unto death, & sometimes death, looks a wee bit more palpable than private or public vitrol. But, to those who are members of Synod, Pastor, delegate or alternate, now is the time for courage. It doesn’t begin or end with you. That, has always been a gift from Above. The future of thousands, depends on what you say & do, or NOT say or NOT do now, & at this special session & at convention. Speak now, or forever hold your peace. If ya can’t say or do it, when the rubber meets the road, when the fate of thousands, is at stake, you never will.

    We here, & at your congregations, may in time forget, time does that. But, your Father cannot. All you are asked to do is STAND, JUST STAND. Our Heavenly Father gave you a voice, and you have been blest, with an opportunity, to speak against something, at least, two generations have fought against!!!
    What an honor, privilege, and blessing, to stand in such a place at such a time as this!!
    Let those who stand against do their worst, you all, do your best, as it is all that is asked of you! You stood up, when the call went out, “who will hark the voice of Jesus calling.”
    Choose wisely, and use the voice & choice your Father gifted you!

  12. And here’s a page on how to disrupt the Delphi technique, if indeed it is being used at these meetings. Here’s the link and below is the text:

    The Delphi Technique — How to Disrupt It

    Ground rules for disrupting the consensus process (Delphi Technique) — when facilitators want to steer a group in a specific direction.

    1) Always Be Charming. Smile, be pleasant, be courteous, moderate your voice so as not to come across as belligerent or aggressive.

    2) Stay Focused. If at all possible, write your question down to help you stay focused. Facilitators, when asked questions they don’t want to answer, often digress from the issue raised and try to work the conversation around to where they can make the individual asking the question look foolish, feel foolish, appear belligerent or aggressive. The goal is to put the one asking the question on the defensive. Do not fall for this tactic. Always be charming, thus deflecting any insinuation, innuendo, etc, that may be thrown at you in their attempt to put you on the defensive, but bring them back to the question you asked. If they rephrase your question into an accusatory statement (a favorite tactic) simply state, “that is not what I stated, what I asked was… (repeat your question).” Stay focused on your question.

    3) Be Persistent. If putting you on the defensive doesn’t work, facilitators often resort to long drawn out dissertations on some off-the-wall and usually unrelated, or vaguely related, subject that drags on for several minutes – during which time the crowd or group usually loses focus on the question asked (which is the intent). Let them finish with their dissertation/expose, then nicely, with focus and persistence, state, “but you didn’t answer my question. My question was… (repeat your question).”


    always be charming,

    stay focused, and

    be persistent.

    Never, under any circumstance, become angry. Anger directed at the facilitator will immediately make the facilitator “the victim.” This defeats the purpose which is to make you the victim. The goal of the facilitator is to make those they are facilitating like them, alienating anyone who might pose a threat to the realization of their agenda. [People with fixed belief systems, who know what they believe and stand on what they believe, are obvious threats.] If the participant becomes the victim, the facilitator loses face and favor with the crowd. This is why crowds are broken up into groups of seven or eight, why objections are written on cards, not voiced aloud where they are open to public discussion and public debate. It’s called crowd control. It is always good to have someone else, or two or three others who know the Delphi Technique dispersed through the crowd; who, when the facilitator digresses from the question, will stand up and say nicely, “but you didn’t answer that lady’s/gentleman’s question.” The facilitator, even if suspecting you are together, certainly will not want to alienate the crowd by making that accusation. Sometimes it only takes one occurrence of this type for the crowd to figure out what’s going on, sometimes it takes more than one.

    If you have an organized group, meet before the meeting to strategize. Everyone should know their part. Meet after the meeting to analyze what went right, what went wrong and why, and what needs to happen the next time around. Never meet during the meeting. One of the favorite tactics of the facilitator, if the meeting is not going the way he/she wants, if he/she is meeting measurable resistance, is to call a recess. During the recess, the facilitator and his/her “spotters” (people who wander the room during the course of the meeting, watching the crowd) watch the crowd to see who congregates where, especially those who have offered measurable resistance. If the “resistors” congregate in one place, a “spotter” will usually gravitate to that group to “join in the conversation” and will report back to the facilitator. When the meeting resumes, the facilitator will steer clear of those who are “resistors.” Do not congregate. Hang loose and work the crowd. Move to where the facilitator or “spotters” are, listen to what they have to say, but do not gravitate to where another member of your team is.

    This strategy also works in a face to face, one on one, meeting with anyone who has been trained in how to use the Delphi Technique.

  13. I was skeptical of the assigned seating, until the program got underway. I would have done the same thing. It kept those of us, who are friends, away from each other, which forced us to listen to people from whom we might learn something. They did a good job of grouping clergy and lay, and from various districts. The cynic in me was squelched, and simply can’t agree with Pastor Rossow on this. Hey, I’m no fan of the current administration, but I’m trying to retain a godly attitude. And, I was pleased that our five people – two clergy, three lay – were pretty much of one mind: we liked very few of the proposals!

    Sure, the whole thing was polished. If I were in charge, I would polish it, too. That’s what professional people do. And, I genuinely believe them that they will take the suggestions as to which things are most important, and which are least, and use the info to inform their overtures. (I’m not a naive person, but I do trust people.)

  14. @Greg Eilers #15
    I tended to agree with your take re: seating, Greg, and for some of the same reasons. At the same time, I believe some of the more difficult issues didn’t get aired, based on the conversation at my table. The one very negative comment that was read was basically a “straw man,” and could have been written by anyone at any time. I thought it was gratuitous.
    There is no reason, however, why we could not get the names of the attendees. The net effect of the seating business was to mute strong opinions, no matter which side of a question they fell on. After all is said and done, I believe the seating scheme was probably unneccessary.

    Based on my experience at the last several synodical conventions, I’m not as sanguine as you about the floor committee’s work. The chairman and vice chairman of the floor committee are advocates, besides being TF members, and, having dealt with one of them in the past, I’m not convinced that they can maintain an objective attitude. I don’t like the mistrust I see, and I have also spoken to that issue here. I also saw how Pres. Stoterau had a hand in horn-swoggling the 2007 convention, and for that reason, I’m apprehensive.


  15. Greg,

    I am glad to hear that things went well at your table. I want to assure you that I am not some sort of conspiracy goofball. Actaully I am the type of person that routinely dismisses conspiracy nut-balls. What I do know is that President Kieschnick and his men have been very calculating through the years and this BRTFSG has been calculated from the get-go. Here are some examples.

    1) The Task Force is stacked almost to a person, with those who “do church” like President Kieschnick does, focussing on secular corporate things like leadership, surveys, measurable statistics, marketing consultants, etc.

    2) The task force started their work by calling on consultants. The scriptural study they prepared for the process was convoluted and confussing and in the end scripture has little bearing on the proposals. (Have you counted the number of scripture references in the proposals?)

    3) The task force keeps saying that these proposals support “the congregational principle” even though at every turn they take authority away from the congregation and give it to the district, synod and synodical president. They will keep telling people that this is good for congregations until we all start to believe it. That is diablolical.

    3) They refused our requests to add cons to the pros that they published with the proposals.

    4) They forced district convention delegates to take their survey before it was discussed on the floor and delegates were given about 90 seconds (at most) to think about each proposal, even the most complex ones, before being asked to mark the survey.

    5) A great example of their manipulation is the rationale for proposal #2. Even though 52% of the survey respondents (in the survey biased toward the Task Force as described above) said they did not want to change the manner in which circuit counselors are elected, they still pressed on with their proposal to have District Presidents develop the slate of candidates and then told us this promoted the congregation principle. This too is diablolical.

    6) Most damning of all is this point. Why are we spending all this time trying to expand the authority of the synodical president and the districts when our synodical problems are not about structure. They are about worship, the role of women, the use of church growth principles,etc. Isn’t it odd that what is being proposed does not address the issues we face but will make it easier for those in control to push through their agenda? These proposals give much greater authority to the President of the synod and streamline the synodical structure so that it is easier for the sitting leadership group to control the synod. I am assuming that President Kieschnick is counting on winning the election. I would not think that he would be doing all of this so that Matt Harrison, when he wins the election, will be able to more easily promote a traditional, grandfather’s approach to church in the LCMS.

    Again, I am glad things went well at your table. We must keep working to convince delegates how harmful these proposals are for the synod but we must also be aware of the biased approach that the BRTFSG is using. President Kieschnick and his men are working hard to get the proposals passed. We must be vigiliant in opposing them.


  16. @Pastor Tim Rossow #18
    Re: Your point #6: “Structure” is partially smoke-screen and partially real stuff. Let me explain. Transforming Churches (whom we prayed for last w/e), Natural Church Development, and the TF all have structure as an important part, if not THE important ingredient in solving synod’s or a congregation’s issues/problems. In a word, the structure proposed by TC and NCD distorts the Office of the Holy Ministry. The same can be said of the TF–the structure distorts the office of the President. In all cases, gobs of power are transferred to the pastor or the President. Bottom line is it’s all about power. However most pastors don’t know how to use that power. The current President is more than willing. Either way, it’s dangerous stuff. Lots of folks think that concentration of power will solve problems–kind of like Mussolini, who allegedly got the trains to run on time. They are sadly mistaken. In fact somebody I was speaking to in Dearborn quoted Lord Acton: “All power tends to corrupt….” I wonder if the task force proposals would be the same if Al Barry or Jack Preus were the president. Ya’ think?

  17. Here’s more from “The Delphi Technique — What Is It?”:

    “This technique is a very unethical method of achieving consensus on a controversial topic in group settings. It requires well-trained professionals who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against the other, so as to make one viewpoint appear ridiculous so the other becomes ‘sensible’ whether such is warranted or not.”

    And from Defeating The Delphi Technique, here are some techniques to use against the Deplphi Technique.

    Trap-Dooring the Change Agent – The simplest and most effective method to defeat the delphi technique is for everyone in the meeting to know about it. I call it trap-dooring the change agent. Here is how you do it. Prior to the meeting simply make many copies of what the Delphi Technique is (and how its used). That could be as simple as printing and making 500 copies of this document. If there is a ‘facilitator’ in the meeting, and you are reading this – try to see if you can see this tactic at work. Do you think this is a acceptable method of democracy where everyones rights are being equally respected?? I don’t think so either. Why don’t we start with a polite question for him like “Are you using Delphi?”

  18. Wow, Carl Ehrse. There’s a part of the Delphi using Saul Alinsky tactics? Didn’t realize that. If you don’t know who he is it would good for all who blog here to read about him.

  19. Brother Tim Rossow (yeah, I’m a pastor, though I didn’t identify myself as such)

    My concern for you is that you sometimes come off, to me, as a conspiracy theororist. I don’t want you to. Indeed, I just found out, last week at our Winkel, that you were pastor to Michael Boyer, who is in our circuit, and whom I regard, highly. I love this website. I learn much. I have been an ardent critic of K & Co. I wrote letters after Yankee Stadium (as much good as that did!). But, I strive to keep the commandments, even that ever-popular one between the 7th and 9th, which is often elevated to equality with #1.

    I will say that I SUSPECT two of the Q & A questions were planted, but I won’t just plain say they were. They have “suspicious” written all over them, as they were opportunity for the panel to make defense for some things, and Pres K even chimed in on one. Besides, who would write “Pres K and his cronies.” Gosh, I think I groaned out loud.

    I made the comment at our table that, indeed, none of this addresses the heart of our problems, which begin with the practice of our doctrine. Shame on us.

    Keep writing good stuff for us! Please, re-read what you write so that we only get good stuff. Thanks to all of the excellent writers.

  20. @Greg Eilers #22
    Gee, foks, the committee said we were united on doctrine. No problem. What’s your beef?
    If the committee says so, it must be so. In fact, they said we are “very” united on doctrine. Sheesh!!


  21. @#22
    I thought the same thing about “planted” questions. There weren’t too many, but the one about SPK’s “cronies” & the restructuring being their “power grab” on his behalf, just struck me as a plant, mainly because I can’t really believe that anyone who truly believes that would be dumb enough to submit a question worded like that.

    As to the seating arrangements, I’m not horribly offended (anymore), as my experience in the room pushed me in the direction of Dan’s (@#16) observation — i.e., even when known/suspected like-minded folks were broken up, the tenor of the room was generally not pleased with how the TF worded/presented/defended many (most?) of their recommendations (even if they were accepting of the concept that structure needed to be addressed…). That’s not a bad thing, I think.

  22. @Glen Piper #24
    Same old same old. Re: Planted questions. At the 2007 Convention, Pres. K read the text of an alleged email or letter which purported to give directions for disrupting the convention. It may or may not have been genuine–let’s say it was. Of course, the assembly groaned and moaned, similar to what we heard in Dearborn. What Pres. K did not do was to address the blatant “calling the question” by JF “plants” during the convention. If anything disrupted the convention such tactics did–debate was cut off, and discussion was truncated. Nor did He declare JF leader Jim Rogers that he was out of order when he moved the plaintiffs in the infamous law suit be identified. This was a strictly political maneuver designed to discredit nominees to the Synod BOD. Interestingly, the chair had the list of plaintiffs right with him on the podium. Surprise! The organization I call Politics First had done its work.

    Same old same old.

  23. I’m, gulp, honored to have stirred a new post on the subject.

    Tim, the Thumb is unique in Michigan. We are a bastion of genuine Lutheranism. I can be an extremely mouthy SO- regarding the current state of the LCMS, and everything else (it must be the Detroit Lions’ fault), but I really get disheartened by so much of the snidelieness, as in the posts to these articles. Sigh. I’d rather we speak clearly and honestly, but refrain from giving anyone anything to point at, that we are being less than Christian about our differences.

    I’ll be reading, so keep giving us good stuff. I plan on being mouthy in Houston, so educate me. 🙂

  24. Greg,
    I think you are are rather well educated, per speaking. You ask those here to “educate” you, most of have not seen the inside of a sem classroom, in a coon’s age, if ever. I do believe, the burden of education lies with you, first.

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