Questions About my Take on the Bully Pulpit – A Thoughtful Comment Exchange, by Pr. Rossow

An attendee at the Dearborn, MI BRTFSG regional gathering has some thoughtful questions about my take on the bully pulpit occupied by President Kieschnick. Here is his comment and my response. (The original comment string can be seen here along with other helpful responses to the original post.)

December 14th, 2009 at 07:00 | #15
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.)

Here is my response.

December 14th, 2009 at 09:59 | #18

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. Actually 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 confusing 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 diabolical.

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 diabolical.

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 vigilant in opposing them.


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.


Questions About my Take on the Bully Pulpit – A Thoughtful Comment Exchange, by Pr. Rossow — 7 Comments

  1. One of the ways in which this is being “managed” by the presidents is the way he has selected who will chair the floor committee that will review the proposals before they go to the convention floor. He has choose a MEMBER OF THE TASK FORCE TO CHAIR THE FLOOR COMMITTEE THAT WILL BE REVIEWING THE PROPOSAL. This is a clear conflict of interest. The people who will be reviewing it will be led by one of its principal authors, the fox guarding the hen house.

    Floor committees should be giving an independent review of all material submitted to the convention. As someone that has served on floor committees in the past I can tell you the chair has tremendous influence on the direction of the committees work. When the chair of the committee is a member of the task force it gives the impression that the job is to ram it through.

  2. To us it may seem like conspiring to shut confessionals out, but I have no doubt that in the minds of the BRTFSG steering committee they’re only doing what it takes to facilitate and bring about “change”–change in the “good” sense. You know, growth and transformation and all that good stuff. After all, secular sociologists have taught for decades that the best way to bring about change to the status quo is for the people to “own the decision”– in other words, to make people feel like THEY chose something, as opposed to having the decision being foisted upon them.

    And to be honest, a lot of that social psychology stuff that the BRTFSG take from their playbook is really just the science of mass deception, fakery, and misdirection. Making sure that the group “chooses” the decision themselves is great–but why not sort of hedge our bets while we’re at it by re-arranging some chairs and re-positioning some perennial ne’er-do-wells? It’s not cheating–it’s just accentuating the potential for real change and accomplishment.

    Besides, keep in mind, to the steering committee we’re nothing more than some isolated sticks-in-the-mud. To them we’re just a minority–a small bump in the road on the superhighway to growth and transformation. To them, confessionals aren’t even worthy of being considered a faction in the Synod–just some noisy rabble-rousers.

  3. One of the interesting exchanges on Friday was over the word “non-participation” re: unionism and syncretism. The constitution currently uses “renounce.” The committee said that “non-participation” is a stronger expression.

    Hmmmm. I wish I had thought of this at the time–that brings up the question. Had the alleged much-stronger expression “non-participation” been in the 2001 constitution with respect to unionism and syncretism, would Pres. Benke have been allowed to do the Yankee Stadium event? Gee, I wish I had asked that one! Darn! Curses! Rats! Phooey!!!!!

    Well, future attendees at the gatherings can use this–please!!

  4. These proposals are slick along with the presenters. One of the things I noticed was how well dressed Kieshnick and Dinkelmann were. They had snazzy suits and cuff links on both days. I know they have important jobs and meet important people and get important salaries, but it seems that they were more fit to work in a corperate office. I guess that’s what they are trying to make in St. Louis anyway.
    Kieshnick tried to hold his tongue in CO on certain topics during the Q & A time, but just couldn’t do it all the time. He had to get up and take the microphone a few times just to make sure his point was getting across and so we would all know it. The only thing he was missing at his bully pulpit was his gavel and parlementarian.
    Sounds like another well run show in MI. I dread to think how they will take these meetings and blow them out of proportion to push their points in 2010. Yes, the guys on the BRTF will also be running the floor committee in Houston, Stoterou and Buegler. So they will still be there and they will be even slicker than they are now.
    What we need is a new preacher in the pulpit like Harrison. Kieshnick hasn’t been helping the Synod at all and has been hurting it since he “gave ecclesiastical permission” to Benke back in 2001 and fought against Schulze’s decision to reprimand and remove Benke. He formed his CCM to give decisions that supported him and his agenda. He has always been in control and never wanted to let go. That first taste of power has gone to his head and hurt the body of Christ in the LC-MS. These proposals will do that even more. We have before us a new, watered-down constitution for any evangelical and not a confessional, biblically Lutheran constitution.

    One question I have for you MI attendees, did you have allotted time to fill our your survey responses or did you have to fill them out while someone else was talking like we did in CO? People were trying to catch a shuttle for their plane or like me were going with their group for the long drive home and had to do that when we could. It made it hard to follow along that last day.


  5. @Rev. Kurt Letcher #4
    Filling out the surveys was no big deal. There was a bit of a rush to do them at the end of the gathering, but it didn’t take all that long, and they could have been done any time. I just don’t know if it makes any difference. Let’s say everyone there had marked “Strongly Disagree” in every single category. Does anyone think it would amount to a hill of beans?

    You are right, Rev. Letcher–it is all about power. And, while task forces deliberate, bloviate, massage language, finesse the gatherings, write reports, revise them, send out surveys, and chair floor committees, the synod’s problems continue. The finances crumble, the unity of doctrine disintegrates, the power-meisters grab for more, and the congregations are less and less involved. Are we truly a genuine “synod” anymore?

  6. “When the chair of the committee is a member of the task force it gives the impression that the job is to ram it through.”

    This reminds me of so many situations in the last few years. The key part is “gives the impression”, it may smell, a lot, but there is no hard evidence about reasons or intention, just like with Issues, Etc. Since there is no hard evidence then the 8th commandment is pulled out and abused as it is used to smack anyone who dare criticize very suspicious activities. If Synod Inc. pees on your leg and tells you it is raining you should go grab an umbrella because to think they are lying would be sinful.

    A couple recent instances to note, as johannes pointed out “non-participate” is not stronger than “renounce” and shifting power to district, synod and the SP is not a “congregational bias” no matter how many times you say it. What is the best construction of task force members lying to delegates? They were apparently very well prepared so I don’t think unintentional consequences from sloppy work is an option.

  7. My thoughts on filling out the form with little time to do so is that proper consideration will not be given to each of the points and subpoints. You just fill out the “Strongly Disagree” oval and then run out of time to write other thoughts even though there was time and space and it seems like they were inviting us to do so. I did write some thoughts, but not like I did last summer at the District Convention. I can see them using the “results” in a way that makes it look like there is little to no opposition to their proposals. That’s why we are obligated to “Strongly Disagree” with the TF AND to write down WHY we are concerned and why they should be as well.

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