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.

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.


The One Positive Difference Between the Health Care Summit and the Blue Ribbon Process, and Some Troubling Similarities, by Pr. Rossow — 12 Comments

  1. I see that 8-01A of the 2004 Houston Convention was not sufficient for President Kieschnick, as that Resolution mandated equal power sharing between the C.O.P. and the Synod President, each watching the others back.

    Now Kieschnick wants his bishops ( the C.O.P.), as he calls them, to be under his direct supervision. Any wonder the title of ” antichrist comes to mind in this power grab.

    The mark of the antichrist is that he usurps all authority in the church.

    Rome has ‘The’ antichrist and the LCMS has it’s little antichrist.

    Unless Res 80-1A is rescinded and all Churchly Power is restored to the Congregations to whom Christ gave it, there will be no real reformation by the Church at large.

  2. Deacon Hughes,
    I haven’t seen you here at BJS before (probably just me), but a hearty welcome! Well said, well put & too true.

  3. The political doublespeak that was going on at the St. Louis regional gathering was truly amazing. Almost enough to make a DC insider’s head spin.

    Proposal 6 is to increase congregational participation in the election of the Synodical President. When it was pointed out by an attendee at the microphone that the bylaw wording does NOT permit congregations to vote for Synodical President, but rather their delegates to the District convention are the ones who vote for SP, someone else submitted a written question as to whether congregations could hold a voters meeting to cast their vote. “Of course they could, if that’s that way a congregation wanted to do it,” answered Panelist A [name intentionally withheld]. And that, in so many words, was the extent of his answer. When a member of the assembly again pointed out that such a provision is not in the by-law wording, Panelist B [name intentionally withheld] added, “The assembly can vote and state their desire, but they cannot bind their delegates to a particular vote.” Later, during the second round of open mic Q&A, another attendee asked, “You say that this restructuring is necessary because the current structure is incomprehensible. How comprehensible is this proposal when the panel gives different and sometimes contradictory answers? For example, on voting for Synodical President, the question was asked if congregational voters assemblies could vote. Panelist A said yes, Panelist B said no…” Panelist A took the mic to answer the question by asserting, “Our answers weren’t contradictory. The voters assembly can vote. But just as it is now, they can’t bind a delegate to a certain vote. There wasn’t any contradiction.”

    And they just kept on repeating that it was the congregation voting for Synodical President…

  4. Thanks for this article, Pastor Rossow. Another similarity I see between health care and BRTF is that they will be incrementally implemented. I heard a politician the other day on TV saying as much. To paraphrase, “If we don’t get everything we want now in health care, then we can pick away at it until our goal is accomplished.” It’s kind of like taxes. 1% here, 2% there, and 1.5% over here. Next thing you know, you wake up and see 60 cents on every dollar gone.

    This is why I am a little uncomfortable with statements that some of the BRTF proposals are okay. If one little thing passes to further centralize LCMS Corp’s power and usurp power from the individual parishes, then the next step is more easily implemented. We will wake up in 20 yrs and see that they eventually got nearly everything they wanted. That’s why I’m pleased that our district rejected the whole thing.

    The lay and pastoral delegates from my circuit said the “propoganda tour” went over like a lead balloon. However, after seeing some of the BRTF survey stats, I am a little alarmed. My district must be more conservative than I thought.

    Word and Sacrament have become secondary to missions. Like a pastor told me some time back, “Welcome to the Church Militant.” Thanks again, Pastor Rossow.

  5. Exactly how many boards and commissions would be placed under the President’s control in the BRTF proposals? The chart at says seven boards and six commissions, but I’ve read the total could be in the seventies. What’s the correct number?

  6. That’s the problem, wrl. I’m no rocket scientist, but much of this stuff is (intentionally, I believe) ambiguous and goobldigook. Most of us that go to church to receive Word and Sacrament are not going to read all of the Walking (down the happy-clappy road) Together proposals word for word. That’s why my argument is to trash it all. Just like health care, let’s wipe the slate and take our time in coming up with rational solutions to problems that really exist. More butts in the pews and money in the plates is not why the visible church exists. Whether 5 or 5,000 people are in that sanctuary, Christ is present to give His gifts. What is hurtful is that those of us that feel this way are told that we don’t care about all of those souls going to hell, as if it’s just up to you and me to save a soul…

  7. @PPPadre #3

    “Our answers weren’t contradictory. The voters assembly can vote. But just as it is now, they can’t bind a delegate to a certain vote. There wasn’t any contradiction.”

    This sounds just like the way the Communists and all dictators run elections.

    God help us.

  8. @boogie #4
    Word and Sacrament have become secondary to missions….

    If “mission” were really the goal, as we hear continually, why isn’t the decline in lcms membership turning around instead of accelerating?
    What have we got for the $18 million (more?) laid out to outside non Lutheran consultants…
    except an increasingly non Lutheran church?


  9. Thanks, Helen. Since we are comparing BRTF to health care, it’s very much like a gov’t program. “Let’s throw money at the problem; and when/if it doesn’t work, that means we weren’t throwing enough money at the problem.”

  10. Somewhat off the subject, but re: Resolution 20. Did y’all notice the last statement of President Kieschnick’s back-page article in the Witness? It says, “So we speak of “our beloved Synod,” The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod: Lutheran Christians in Mission and Service.” New name, same acronym. How about that!

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