I am analyzing the factors which lead to President Kieschnick’s poor showing on synodical nominations. Last time we looked at President Kieschnick’s strong tendency to get bogged down on the administrative aspects of his job and ignore the theological. Today we look at his third mistake; an appearance of accumulating power to his office. We will analyze certain aspects of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. And these will show a troubling appearance of the accumulation of power on the part of the president of the synod.
President Kieschnick appointed the task force in June of 2005. His immediate stated reason for doing so, as he said in his March 2005 pastoral letter, was because of “contention during and following the 2004 convention relating to the limits of authority of the Synod’s Board of Directors.” The synod had voted in convention to change the constitution which would limit the power of the Board of Directors and give the president more. But the convention decision was not ratified by the congregations of the synod as is necessary for constitutional changes. This frustrated President Kieschnick who was in disagreement with his board at the time over precisely what authority he had over the board. So the question which precipitated his appointment of the task force was one regarding the authority of the synod president relative to the board of directors. There were also significant issues raised regarding synodical constitutional changes and their compliance with Missouri law.
This is all the more noteworthy when you consider that a task force on structure already existed which was working on many of the issues which President Kieschnick’s task force ultimate addressed. Why would president Kieschnick appoint a task force when one already existed?
His task force is offering proposals, especially proposal 18, which vastly increase the President’s authority both over the board of directors and over others boards as well. Further, these proposals create a conflict between the bylaws of the synod and the synod’s constitution thus causing even more confusion in the synod over precisely the administrative questions which President Kieschnick’s task force was formed to resolve.
I don’t know why President Kieschnick proceeded the way he did. But I can see the results of his decisions. The most controversial proposal, number 18, would give the president of the synod immense powers. He would oversee $50,000,000.00 of the synod’s money. (That’s fifty million dollars) I heard one analyst say that no president of any church body in America has as much authority in his church as our synodical president would have should proposal 18 be adopted. Prop 18 would give the synod president authority to keep individuals from even being considered for calls to the seminary. It’s a type of veto power over the selection of professors at the seminary by their presidents and boards. Never in our history has the president had such power over the seminaries.
Since the task force was appointed by President Kieschnick all this has the appearance of the president being too eager for more power. And the last thing that the church wants is a leader who wants to multiply his own power. We want a president who will empower the members of the synod; its congregations and pastors.
I don’t know President Kieschnick well enough personally to know what lead him to make these decisions. I don’t know what is in his heart or his head. I just know that when you appoint a task force because you are in a power struggle and the task force comes forward with recommendation which give you unprecedented power that looks bad. And I believe that the poor showing of President Kieschnick in nominations for president reflect an increased uneasiness with the president who seems endlessly engaged in power struggles and who cannot accept the status quo if it does not give him more and more authority.
Next time we look at President’s Kieschnick’s fourth mistake, an inability to work with those on the other side of the aisle.