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

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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)

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