The bully pulpit is slowly rising out of the nether regions of the LCMS political stage and standing behind it is none other than President Gerald Kieschnick. After years of silence, President Kieschnick has decided to go on a publishing rampage, making as much use of the bully pulpit as possible. In my humble opinion this unusual onslaught of printed and electronic materials just months before the next election is a sign of panic.
Never before have the conservative, confessional, traditional and mercy-minded folks in the LCMS rallied in unison around a candidate for the presidency like they have rallied around Matt Harrison and it appears to have President Kieschnick and his supporters worried. This coalition of traditional types includes the silent majority that has been x-ed out for the last decade. The machinations have included President Kiecschnick’s stuffing the delegate list with exceptional circuits in regions that favor him and members of Jesus First smearing those who do not support President Kieschnick.
This recent onslaught of material and appearances from President Kieschnick includes his face time at the Blue Ribbon regional gatherings which, by many reports, are not being received well. The Blue Ribbon Task Force has responded by going into full blown down-size mode on their proposals, cutting out those ideas which are going over like lead balloons. Other efforts include his recent book “The Sleeping Giant…,” a new weekly letter available by e-mail, and a book on the doctrine of the LCMS. Looking over this mad rush of media, I have noticed that there is a lot about President Kieschnick personally and his daily struggles. This is not the sort of thing one finds in C. F. W. Walther or Luther. They spoke about their person on occasion, but it was usually to confess the weakness of their sinful flesh and other foibles. Likewise, Rev. Matt Harrison does not spend much ink talking about himself. Instead, he trumpets the work and the needs of others.
The growing popularity of Rev. Harrison is certainly not his doing. This is a grassroots effort. I for one, who have made no secret of my thoughts about Matt Harrison’s God-given gifts to serve as president, have only seen or talked to the man twice and each time for only a few minutes. I and others are basing our support on the wonderful reputation that he has among his peers, the volumes of theology he has published over the years and his fine and loving work as the head of LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
Why is there a sudden rush to communicate by President Kieschnick? This synod has had plenty of problems for the last decade (missionaries called back from the field, a financial problem, loss of membership) and yet President Kieschnick was not so vocal then as he has been now. The grassroots, tea-party like support for Rev. Harrison is evidently a bigger problem and must be addressed by the media blitz.
The bully pulpit will most likely be rolled out again and again by President Kieschnick over the next few months. We encourage you to look carefully at what is spoken from that podium. I have found it to be as much, and even more about the man than about Christ and his pure Gospel.