President Kieschnick’s BRTFSG and President Obama’s Health Care: Similar Trajectories, by Pastor Rossow

I have heard numerous people over the last year suggest that President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon proposals and President Obama’s Health Care Plan have striking similarities. Now that we are seeing President Obama’s plan unravel and President Kieschnick backing away from certain aspects of his plan the uncanny resemblance cannot be avoided.

Here are some of the similarities I see:

Both are about Ideology – This has not been discussed much but at the heart of it all, the Blue Ribbon proposals seek to remake the synod in the image of your local church growth congregation where the input and ideas of the average member are restricted in favor of a ruling board of directors. Just as President Obama’s health care plan is the product of an ideology of big government, President Kieschnick’s proposals are the product of a church growth ideology. In numerous instances the Blue Ribbon proposals eliminate the voice of the people and increase the roll of centralized planning in the hands of the synodical president. We will give examples of this under our fifth comparison below.

Neither Brings about any Real Cost Savings – President Obama asserts that his health care plan will bring cost savings but a serious number of pundits have actually made legitimate cases that it will increase the cost of health care for most people. Likewise, the BRTFSG asserts that a major reason for making structural changes in the LCMS is to save money. Why has the BRTFSG not created any forecasts of exactly how much will be saved? They haven’t because any savings will be insignificant. The savings are just not there. The LCMS treasurer has already gone on record to say that the effect of the proposals is budget neutral, i.e. they bring no real change in our finances one way or another.

What’s the Rush? – All watched and wondered why President Obama tried to force health care reform through by last September and when that failed by last Christmas. (His critics assert it was for political reasons.) Likewise, many are watching the proposal of sweeping changes to the synod and wondering why President Kieschnick is going so fast. Entire districts are petitioning President Kieschnick and the synod to slow down the Blue Ribbon process by submitting overtures to that effect for this summer’s convention but President Kieschnick and the Task Force are ignoring this sentiment and pressing on. If these changes are so important, it only makes sense to present the completed product to the convention this year and then let the synod and its congregants unpack the proposals and discuss them for the next triennium so that we can come to a reasoned, reflected decision.

Where is the Bi-Partisanship? – Critics have pointed out that President Obama has locked out the Republicans from the health care plan and cut all sorts of back room deals while all along claiming that the health care process is transparent and bi-partisan. We hear the same from President Kieschnick’s task force. It is indeed his task force. He appointed them all and when one looks down the list what is crystal clear is that there are no representatives of a traditional, liturgical approach to church. The task force members, almost to a person, are sympathetic to President Kieschnick’s church growth ideology. The process has also been highly controlled. People who have attended district conventions and now the regional gatherings where the proposals are being presented are coming away with the impression that the task force is not listening to the folks in order to adjust their plans, but are listening in order to decide what will fly and what will not fly. They seem more interested in having successful proposals than actually adjusting what they are proposing to accommodate criticism and different approaches.

Both are about Centralized Control – The Obama health care plan would bring one sixth of our economy under the control of the government. The Kieschnick Blue Ribbon Proposal brings an inordinate amount of control under the president of the synod and other centralized power. Just as church growth congregations are x-ing out their voters assemblies and putting control of the parish in the hands of a board of directors, likewise the Blue Ribbon proposals take control out of the boards elected by the synod and puts synod programs under the direct control of the synod president. Currently circuits nominate and elect their circuit counselors. Under the new proposals the district president nominates the candidates. Currently circuits choose their own delegates to the synod convention but in the proposals the district president and district convention can choose the delegates. There are numerous other power grabs in the proposals that we do not have space to describe here.

Overall, the similarities between President Obama’s health care plan and President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Plan are uncanny. We pray for one more similarity. President Obama’s health care plan is slowly unraveling due to a populist tea party revolt. We can only hope that LCMS Lutherans will put their coffee cups down and pick up some tea bags of their own and unravel the misguided plans of President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon proposals.

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