President Keischnick’s Task Force Recommendation: Power to the President, by the Lutheran Clarion

(LCA just released the January issue of the Lutheran Clarion. We are pleased to post articles on the BJS website from one of the longest operating confessional groups in the LCMS – The Lutheran Concerns Association – LCA. We will be posting the LCA newsletters on their page on this site: https://steadfastlutherans.org/lca and posting selected articles from those newsletters here on our site. We recommend you join the LCA and subscribe to The Clarion.)

This is the first of a three-part series analyzing significant changes to the LCMS Constitution and Bylaws being proposed by President Kieschnick’s Task Force on Structure.

The structure and governance of an organization is often about who is given what authority and power. There must be some person or group within the organization given the authority to make decisions and carry out the purposes of the organization. So it is not surprising that President Kieschnick’s Task Force on Structure would make recommendations relating to who in the LCMS has what authority and power.

But what is deeply troubling is how far the recommendations would have the LCMS go in fundamentally shifting power to the Office of President. Authority and power are shifted to the President from the Board of Directors, the seminaries, the members of the Synod, the delegates to the Synodical Convention, the program boards, and many of the executives. If adopted, the cumulative effect of the transfer of power and authority to the President of the Synod will result in a very different church body than what currently exists.

A sample of the recommended changes to the Bylaws that expand the power of the President illustrates the overall direction that President Kieschnick’s Task Force recommends. Consider the following:

  1. All program boards of the Synod, most of which are currently elected by the Convention delegates or the Board of Directors, would be eliminated and replaced with two commissions under the direct supervision and control of the President.
  2. The Board for Mission Services and Board for Human Care would be eliminated and replaced by a “Commission for National Mission” and “Commission for International Mission,” which would “assist the President” and “advise the President.” The President in turn would appoint the “Chief Mission Officer” who would “serve at the pleasure of the President.” The President further would supervise all “national and international mission.” The new “Office of National Mission” and “Office of International Mission,” which effectively replace most of the program board executives, would “be responsible to the President” and “receive direction from the President of the Synod on all aspects of its responsibilities, including program, policy, budget management, and staffing.”
  3. Following the Convention, the President would set the goals for the national office “that will support and encourage ministry at the congregational level.” Instead of the congregations, through their elected delegates, establishing the goals for the Synod, it would now be the President identifying the goals for the national office that would influence work at the congregational level. The President also would “supervise the content of communications, public relations, and news and information provided by the Synod.”
  4. The Treasurer of the Synod would no longer be nominated by the Board of Directors and elected by the Convention. Instead, the Treasurer would be appointed by the Board of Directors, but only with the “concurrence of the President.” And the Commission on Structure, currently appointed by the Board of Directors, would be replaced by a “Commission on Handbook,” appointed by the President.
  5. The President would select from the list of the top 20 nominees those five persons the delegates would be allowed to consider for First Vice- President. No longer would the delegates be able to elect whom they deemed best suited for First Vice-President. Instead, the delegates would be limited to electing from the President’s list of who he deems “most compatible with his style of leadership and vision.” Thus the congregations of the Synod would be confined to following the “leadership and vision” of the President, instead of the President being subject to direction given by the congregations.

This is just a sample list of the far-reaching and extensive transfer of power and authority away from others in the Synod to the President. The list could go on and on.

Unfortunately it is not possible to correct such a massive transfer of power by making a few amendments here and there. Because the transfer of power to the President is so deeply incorporated into the recommendations, stopping this power shift can only be done by defeating President Kieschnick’s Task Force recommendations altogether. It will be up to the delegates at the 2010 Convention to decide whether the President of the Synod should be given such far-reaching and unchecked power.

Christian A. Preus
LCMS Board of Directors (1995-2007)

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

President Keischnick’s Task Force Recommendation: Power to the President, by the Lutheran Clarion — 8 Comments

  1. I haven’t openly asked this question, but have been pondering it for some time. The risk is that I won’t be able to put my thoughts into accurate words, but here goes nothing:

    God forbid the structural changes are shoved down Synod’s throat and are actually passed at the 2010 convention, and with great hope that a solid Lutheran theologian such as Rev. Harrison is elected president, what would be the result?

    Many of you know Rev. Harrison personally. I do not (however, I have read It’s Time) and could not begin to speculate on how he would lead the Synod under the revised structure.

    Much of the concern regarding the structural changes appears to be tied to a greater concern about how our current Synodical president would use his far-reaching powers to effect changes in the LCMS. Would these changes so tie the hands of a man such as Rev. Harrison that nothing good could come about? Or, if power is truly consolidated at the top, what might happen if those who are afire with pop American neo-evangelicalism suddenly find themselves with a sound, apolitical Lutheran theologian at the helm? Could the consolidation of power at the top actually backfire? Is this yet another reason to elect a different Synodical president: separate the man from the proposal to see just how much support there is for broad changes?

    Again, this may not have been clear as I had hoped.

  2. Concerned,

    You were crystal clear! If President K. is so convinced that this is for the good of the synod it would be an excellent gesture on his part to withdraw from the presidency.

    If I were a prognisticator I would predict at this point that the proposals get defeated and Matt Harrison gets elected.

    If the proposals get passed and Harrison is elected I believe President Harrison would begin work to mold a synod that is not based on the power of leadership but on the truth of God’s word. What that would look like I am not sure. In the hands of a leader who wants to maintain the LCMS as a traditional Lutheran denomination the structure does not matter much because he will allow himself to be rebuked by God’s word.

    TR

  3. Could the restructuring, if approved at Convention, provide a truly conservative but more politically-oriented president with the power and means to start ‘cleaning house’ (so-to-speak)?

  4. And why it is a bad idea to actually have these activities under the supervision of the president? It’s a mess right now at the national level because the program boards executives are responsible only to their respective boards and can do just about anything without any sort of coordination with the other ministry areas.

    A clear line of accountability from means a much greater chance of everyone pulling zealously yet peacefully at the same yoke. Right now we’ve got people pulling the Synodical wagon in every direction, which means we’re getting nowhere at all.

  5. “Right now we’ve got people pulling the Synodical wagon in every direction, which means we’re getting nowhere at all.”

    This reminds me of the analogy at the beginning of Harrison’s paper, though he recommends a different course of action.

  6. I have often thought about how LCMS would proceed with a Confessional pastor as President after years of…er….the ‘other type’ of governing.

    Personally, I think it’s possible that the pop-culture-driven Lutheran churches may revolt against going towards a traditional Divine Service. Since much pop music comes out of rebellion, I suggest that those who enjoy it might rebel.

    I have asked some leaders at my church how they intend to prepare church members for a more traditional approach should K. and Co. not be re-elected. Responses have been, “Oh, no one is going to come in and change anything, for that would make people mad.” So it comes down again to polling the people for their opinion, and go with that?

    Mighty curious to hear more thoughts about this from Confessional pastors. Thank you.

  7. I chuckle at the “for that would make people mad” line we so often hear.

    Was Jesus concerned about making people angry when he threw a certain group of folks out of the Temple? They had taken over his Father’s house for their own self satisfaction, for Pete’s sake! Would we rather make people mad, or our Father in heaven mad?

    My attitude is that people get mad about stuff all the time. Let ’em be mad! For one thing, it means people care. Anger could be viewed as an opportunity for sound Biblical instruction and dialog (catechesis?). Unfortunately, some leaders just don’t have the patience or the (dare I say it) love needed to listen, diagnose where the error lies, then walk the misguided and angry person through to a clear understanding and consensus of what God wants. Dealing with an angry person is, for them, just too hard. It’s hard work. In addition, sin makes all of us take a lot of stuff personally when it doesn’t need to be personal.

    After all, isn’t it God who ultimately decides what is good, right and proper… not me or my neighbor? If our neighbors in church get angry, we should probably help them be angry toward God for sticking to His standards, and then let His Word and His sacraments do the healing. The “for that would make people mad” line seems to come from the same crowd who doesn’t want to hear God’s Law because it stirs up some uncomfortable emotions. They would rather preach or hear a personalized “Gospel of love and tolerance” without God’s Law because it makes them feel good. Look at what is happening in the ELCA and other Protestant denominations because some folks just don’t want to hear ALL of God’s Law, nor ALL of his Gospel. They’ve sold their birthright for a bowl of porridge riddled with worms.

    But that’s just my opinion as a lay person. I’m sure the pastors here will have a better take on this.

  8. I suspect that most churches heading in the “happy clappy” direction also have their contingent of traditional Lutherans, who would cheerfully turn around if they had the right leadership. [Unless, of course, the Lutherans were used as “funders” and actively invited to leave when they asked for a Lutheran service, (as has happened).]

    Presumably, in those cases, the “happyclappies” would ‘grow faster’ without the traditional Lutherans. Actually, not so much as they thought. 🙁

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