Why President Kieschnick showed poorly: Part III

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.


Why President Kieschnick showed poorly: Part III — 9 Comments

  1. I wonder why we have such difficulty with Matthew 20:25-28? “Yet it shall not be so among you” does not appear to be one of Jesus’ “hard” sayings that the disciples didn’t quite grasp. My question as a delegate is this: would this move us in the direction of the rulers of the Gentiles, or in the direction of the one who came to serve and give His life as a ransom for us all? Someone explain to me how #18 et al. doesn’t perfectly illustrate the former.

  2. Maybe a member of the MO bar can weigh in, but I’ve been involved as a member in another private MO nonprofit (under Chapter 355 RSMo, same as the MO synod) and have read this chapter over and over. The law specifies some powers that can’t legally be taken from the members and the directors. Even though the officers (including president) have day to day decision making power, they serve at the pleasure of the directors, who serve the members. Articles of incorporation and bylaws that contradict the law are void.

    The problem is that directors very often appoint themselves as officers (which is legal), and, much worse, the only recourse the members really have is the court system, because nothing else can ultimately stop out-of-control directors (“the board”) from doing whatever they want, including handing over any amount of power to an officer (in this case the president).

    A large and adamant enough majority of members against the directors can change this without the courts. But a minority of members who want the organization run legally can only do this via the courts. The problem is that only a very tiny minority of the people will read the law; the rest assume that the priests of the law are the only ones who can interpret it, fail to distinguish lies from truth, and give up.

    With or without a legal challenge, the directors will retain lawyers who help them violate the plain and good provisions of our state law by way of sidetracks, delays, obfuscations, and tortuous use of words. Those lawyers will invent and support bylaw changes that blatantly violate state law. This all happens totally out in the open.

    The MO Nonprofit Corporations Act (now 355) is a good a moral document. There is nothing in it that’s contrary to God’s law. It should be enforced by the members and their lawyers.

  3. In the post above, you make the following statement:

    Prop 18 would give the synod president authority to keep individuals from even being considered for calls to the seminary.

    Where in the world do you read this? I believe it is absolutely untrue.

  4. Gary Douglas :
    In the post above, you make the following statement:
    Prop 18 would give the synod president authority to keep individuals from even being considered for calls to the seminary.
    Where in the world do you read this? I believe it is absolutely untrue.

    The proposed structure under Recommendation 18 places Seminary Education under the Office of the President through the newly created Chief Mission Officer.

    The manner in which the current Synodical President has already exercised his oversight authority, even under our current system of boards and commissions, has included rescinding calls issued by duly authorized boards. (The particular case I am thinking of, the pastor had already announced to his congregation that he was accepting the call, then received a phone call from the Synodical President saying that he ought not to have received that call in the first place, so he could not accept it.)

    If this is how he exercises his authority now, how ought we to predict he will use that authority when he has more direct control over entities, such as the Seminaries and communications functions of the Synod? While not explicit in the text, it is a logical outcome and conclusion of what is in the text.

    Part of the difficulty is that we do not know what form Proposal 18 will take. The Blue Ribbon Task Force submitted no enabling resolutions to the floor committee. There are 80+ overtures to delay, postpone or do away with the proposals, and one to carefully consider them, but not a single resolution that actually states what the proposed changes will be. So while Pr. Preus was probably overstating a bit (perhaps it would have been better to say “Prop 18, in its current form, would most likely give the synod president authority to keep individuals from even being considered for calls to the seminary”), one cannot in any way, shape, or form state that “it is absolutely untrue.” The floor committee may hone the language a bit so that it is not the case that the SP would have this authority (which would render Pr. Preus’ statement untrue). The floor committee may leave the language ambiguous (which would make Pr. Preus’ statement highly plausible/possible). The floor committee may hone the language to make this an explicit authority granted to the SP (which would render Pr. Preus’ statement absolutely true). We just don’t know what the floor committee will do.

  5. As sinful humans, it is silly to assume that available power and control will not be utilized. Just to put the potential there is wrong. As stated above, seminary candidates are already being railroaded (I know two). The outcome of this will be that confessional and liturgical candidates will be on the bottom of the list if the JF crowd keeps running the show.

    I recall an LCA newsletter from some time ago stating that pastoral candidates have to fill out a survey as to where they stand on issues. Trying to put the best construction on this means that they are merely trying to “fit” pastoral candidates to parishes in line with their styles, practices, etc. I’m afraid the reality is different.

    This is the root problem. One should be able to go to an LCMS parish in LA, NY, or Chicago and get the same thing (TLH #15; LSB #151; LSB #184). One can pray that the possible leadership change in July will help to accomplish this through education of the laity. As said on other threads, I am cautiously hopeful, but political “dirty tricks” are likely to begin now.

  6. The May issue of “The Lutheran Clarion” has an excellent article on prop 18. Keep your eyes peeled for its posting in PDF, otherwise I would have linked to it.

  7. The Lutheran Clarion, April 2010 has an article on pp. 2-3, President’s Kieschnick’s Task Force Recommendation #18: “But that is not what it does!!!”, by Christian A. Preus.

    BRTFSSG Recommendation #18 is not a pretty picture!

    Some more TLC articles point out more flaws and deceit in other BRTFSSG recommendations

    Circuit Realignment: What is there to Restore?….1
    Retain the Board for Pastoral Education……………3
    Flawed Assumptions Produce Flawed Results…….4
    Secret History of the Blue Ribbon Plan……………..5

  8. Just got a letter from 1333 S. Kirkwood (dated April 29, 2010). It is about the national “offering” to synod. It says that the following areas have been identified as areas where support is needed the most, after President Kieschnick consulted with the COP:

    + National and International Mission Planting
    + Congregation Revitalization [ed. TCN – see http://stand-firm.blogspot.com/2009/04/transforming-churches-network-part-1.html%5D
    + Stewardship Renewal and Education [ed. this needs major funding???]
    + Additional National Synod Mission and Ministry Needs [ed. this gives the discretion on use of these funds to whom???] Couldn’t this be more specific?

    Are seminary and seminary student scholarships in the additional National Synod Mission and Ministry needs? I hope so.

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