The One Positive Difference Between the Health Care Summit and the Blue Ribbon Process, and Some Troubling Similarities, by Pr. Rossow

As the synod undergoes President Kieschnick’s attempted blue ribbon overhaul, it has been interesting to compare the process to President Obama’s unending, aborted attempts to overhaul the American healthcare system. There are several similarities that ought to alarm the members of LCMS churches and delegates to the convention but there is at least one major, positive difference. The LCMS task force has actually made some changes after getting feedback.

We do not know the exact form these changes will take but as they make the regional presentations the Task Force is hinting that certain proposals just are not going to fly and so they will be taken off the table. In a certain skewed way, they have been listening and are planning on adapting their proposals to what they are hearing.

It is a good thing that they are listening but we call it a “skewed listening” because the way in which they are listening and the rationale for making changes leaves much to be desired.  There will be changes because they are getting feedback that they will not fly at the convention. This is not the way we do things in the LCMS. We do not make decisions based on what works or what passes popular opinion. That is called pragmatism. It is a very American thing. Divorce “works” in many cases. Open communion brings the sacrament to more people. That works, on a certain level. Preaching “practical life” sermons keeps parishioners happier than preaching Christ crucified (I Corinthians 1:23). But LCMS Lutherans do not do these things that work. Instead, we do things based on principles of truth revealed in Scripture. We do not do things because they work. We do things because they are right. The Task Force has set up a process by which they control the “listening” and are making changes based upon what is working or not working.

The one proposal you can bet will not be changed substantially is #18 which gets to the heart of the structure changes. (See page 48 of the linked document.) It is the proposal that most clearly violates a scriptural approach to making sure that authority in the synod is based on scripture and not on personal power. It is President Kieschnick’s bold step to have all of the “ministry work” of the synod run through his office and to get all staff members reporting to him. This makes our synod president a CEO and not a shepherd. This makes the church a business and not a family. One of the reasons the LCMS has flourished for 150 years is because its polity has always been slow, encumbered, and bogged down in processes that allow even the humblest of members of an LCMS parish to use God’s word against the synod when necessary. That is all gone with one fell swoop of proposal #18 which gives the president supreme power rather than the boards elected by the delegates.

This is one of the troubling similarities between the Obama plan and the Kieschnick plan. They both put authority over sacred trusts into the hands of an over-arching bureaucracy

Other troubling similarities include the Alinsky-like way[1] in which both Obama and the Blue Ribbon Task Force reply to disagreement. It has been clearly  proven on this website and elsewhere that the Blue Ribbon proposals rob congregations of their authority. The intellectually blind and those who do not want to know the truth simply ignore this fact and follow the piper’s song of the Task Force. They have stated early (already in the study document that preceded the proposals) and often (dozens of times in the final report) that the proposals are based on the congregation principle. This is just not true. Alinsky teaches his community organizing protégés to address disagreement with non-stop repetition of your assertion. He tells them that if you just keep repeating something people will begin to believe it. This is what the Task Force has done with the congregational principle. We implore you, especially delegates, to read the final report and judge for yourself if the proposals strengthen congregations or if they take authority away from congregations and give it to the hieracrchy.

Another haunting similarity between Kieschnick and Obama is the way in which the deck is stacked. Obama and his party have a majority in each legislative body. The deck is stacked and he knows it. However, popular opinion is against him and that is making a difference. We need public opinion to continue to grow against President Kieschnick’s blue ribbon proposals. He stacked the deck. When you review the list of participants on the Task Force it is easy to see that they are, almost to a person, those who are in President Kieschnick’s “progressive party of church growth.” There are some neutral characters on the Task Force but they are there because of their administrative offices (for example the LCMS treasurer and secretary) and have proven that they are not going to rock any boats outside of their office.

This stacked deck should be an alarm bell for all LCMS members. Like Obama, President Kieschnick has made it appear as though this is a bi-partisan shift. The Task Force members appeared at District Conventions and did their due diligence in listening but they never made a single substantive change to the proposals based on anything said by the members of the other LCMS party – “the conservative party of the traditional, 2,000 year old church.” There were countless objections raised by confessional Lutherans on the various Task Force “listening tours.” The Four Interested Laymen put up a very insightful website and survey that was sent to the Task Force and yet not a single suggestion by these individuals has been incorporated into the proposals. For sure, now that the Task force has completed its second round of “listening” in the Regional Gatherings, there are proposals that will be dropped, but not due to principle but because they just won’t fly.

Like opponents to the health care proposals, opponents to the Blue Ribbon proposals have desired a fair and balanced debate on the issues but all they got was a tightly controlled “listening” tour that in the end was geared to the success of the proposals and not oriented around principle based change.

What is the next step for Obama and his crew? It looks like it will be the questionable ploy of reconciliation. What is the next step for President Kieschnick? The similarities continue. His form of reconciliation is to appoint more of his party members to the floor committee that will fine-tune and massage the Blue Ribbon proposals. Again, there is no bi-partisanship.

We are glad to get the impression that the Blue Ribbon Task Force will be dropping some proposals but we are disappointed that overall their process has been more similar than dissimilar to the endless managed and controlled attempts by the Obama administration to overhaul the sacred trust of our health care. We are similarly disappointed in the way the overhaul of the sacred trust of LCMS governance is being done. Can we benefit from some changes in the LCMS system of governance? Certainly. The way in which it is being managed by President Kieshcnick’s Task Force is however, very disappointing.


[1] Saul Alinsky is the community organizer who wrote “Rules for Radicals” which is the Bible for bringing about radical change. He is the avowed mentor of folks like Hilary Clinton, Bill Ayers, and Barack Obama.

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