Letter #9 — Accountants give it an F

A few days ago, I wrote about one of JesusFirst’s campaign pieces that said some pretty horrible things about one of Synod’s most wonderful programs — World Relief and Human Care. It was the type of letter that could actually lead to decreased funds going to help those vulnerable people most in need. As such, I can’t begin to understand why it was written or how it met with the approval of anyone on JesusFirst, much less made it to production.

It also turned out to be factually incorrect. Within a few hours of the letter being distributed, the CPA who serves as Vice President of World Relief and Human Care’s board responded with a detailed explanation of just how far off base the Rev. Jon Coyne and JesusFirst were.

I assumed that the letter would quickly be retracted, apologies would be made, etc. Instead, I was disappointed last night to read the Rev. Charles Mueller defend the piece. He said that these numbers were subject to different interpretation.

Well, the chair of World Relief and Human Care, the Rev. Bernard Seter, asked Synodical Treasurer Tom Kuchta to review the letter and World Relief’s response. His letter can be read here. It’s time for JesusFirst to stop with the deception:

As you requested, I have reviewed the financial information included in the LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WRHC) response to Jesus First Delegate Letter No. 9. At my request, the financial data was reviewed by the LCMS Accounting Department. We have concluded that the data included in the response is consistent with LCMS accounting records.

Regarding the conclusions reached in Letter No. 9, there are two items that should be considered that could affect the Jesus First conclusions.

The first item deals with grants made by ELCA and LCMS to Lutheran World Relief (LWR). LWR does not incur fund raising expenses in connection with these grants. On the other hand, all contributions received by WRHC result from incurring fund raising costs. A valid comparative analysis between LWR and WRHC should exclude the grants received by LCMS and ELCA. It doesn’t appear this was considered in Letter No. 9.

The second item relates to personnel costs. Not all personnel costs are administrative expenses. Some of the costs are incurred in the performance of a particular program (mission and ministry) of WRHC. Therefore, Letter No. 9 should treat some of the personnel costs as core mission.

Another accountant who reviewed JesusFirst’s campaign letter against World Relief & Human Care said the exact same thing Kuchta wrote above, adding that if JesusFirst had used the same faulty assumptions to gauge World Mission, the results would look even worse, saying the analysis seemed intentionally deceptive and dishonest.

I don’t know why the Rev. Charles Mueller thinks that leading a large congregation gives him more insight into basic accounting than professional accountants have, but I would suggest that he stay away from accounting.

All of us, no matter who we support, need to be fair and honest in our critiques and defenses. This letter has failed miserably on that front. Sad, disappointing and precisely the type of thing that so many of us have had enough of.

It’s Time — indeed.


Letter #9 — Accountants give it an F — 25 Comments

  1. It sounds as if PF is using either the “historical/critical” method of accounting (“Do the numbers really say….?”), or the postmodern/deconstructionist accounting method (“You have your truth, I have my truth….”) Allowing for variations in legitimate accounting and reporting methods (but not the two I referenced), as far as I know, the laws of economics have not been repealed, by either Republicans or Democrats, the Supreme Court, or the Ninth District Court, the CCM, or the CTCR, the BRTFSSG, the COP, or my circuit counelor.

    Let’s keep the main tihing, the main thing, eh? Important as this is, it’s a bit of a smokescreen. If it is of critical importance, then get the word out to ALL THE DELEGATES!!!!

    j (number-meister, but no accountant)

  2. Actually, in a warped way, this is amusing. My better half has his CPA & has for almost 2 decades. The math/accounting in #9 only proves the author’s naivety. (being generous)
    W/o going into the detail at nauseum & boredom, think of how we were all taught to ck a math problem. Ck the problem from the bottom up.
    JF’s “9 + rebuttal = true & factual answer.

    Unless you have education & training, in not-for-profit accounting & tax law, vs intact & asset of funds, (assigned or free) you will NOT be able to understand the workings, let alone decipher them. I can’t, I rely on my better half for such. This with my own, 6+ years in the Financial industry, on my own part.

    If you don’t know, stay silent. However, desperate times, call for deperate measures. But many can see that, and many have.

    Poor judgement, lack of Faith & insight, & gross misstep on the part of this pontification’s author & those who allowed or support it…glare like a Las Vegas neon sign.

    Just think the, “that’s my story & I’m stickin’ to it” principle.

  3. Johannes,

    You crack me up!

    Keep up the entertaining (and educational) posts!

    Again, it seems the JFers want it both ways – “you guys must play by the rules, but we can do and say as we please!” Reminds me of the old Bill Cosby routine about the Revolutionary War.

  4. @jim_claybourn #3

    Well, one can’t lose one’s sense of humor–it helps to keep things in perspective. With respect to PF, I remember what my late boss once said in a high-level meeting: “The dirty linen is on their side of the aisle.”

    Johannes (distantly related to Mrs. Malaprop)

  5. Pastor Mueller,

    In Jesus First Delegate Letter #5, titled, “Called To Be For Each Other,” we read the following:

    “We are for… the leadership of Rev. Gerald Kieschnick and Rev. William Diekelman. In contrast to other publications and websites, Jesus First is not against Rev. Matthew Harrison, Rev. Herbert Mueller, or any other pastors who stand for election to the office of president or first vice-president. In the LCMS we need to learn that we can support a candidate, a resolution, or a program of the church, without denigrating another candidate, resolution or program.

    “Jesus First will continue to provide information about candidates, overtures, reports and proposals to assist your deliberations and decisions. And we will continue to provide supporting information so that our reasons to endorse certain candidates rather than others will be clear. We will always be for those candidates and proposals we endorse, rather than against people and their ideas.”

    My question is, If Jesus First is not “against people and their ideas,” then why did it publish Delegate Letter #9 in which Jesus First is clearly against Rev. Harrison and his administration and stewardship of LCMS World Relief and Human Care?

    Pastor Brian Crane
    St. Peter Lutheran Church, Hilbert, Wisconsin
    Pastoral Delegate, Circuit 14, SWD

  6. That Johannes guy is a crack-up, isn’t he? 😉

    I am a Lutheran Deaconess and a CPA, and the article completely baffled me from the first read. The logic I would have expected to be employed in such a piece was nowhere to be found. I think it can be said that pastors should stick to preaching, and accountants to counting . . . and never the twain shall meet (unless of course a CPA goes into the ministry, which CAN happen). Of course Mr. Edson handled the whole situation like you would expect from a pro, and his quote to this effect will go down in the history books.

    A wise man recently reminded me that “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

    I did have personal communication with the author of this piece and have decided that forgiveness is in order, however. God’s will shall be done in a few short weeks despite man’s best effort to thwart it.

  7. One can only hope that if Harrison wins, he will request that all those involved (like Rev. Charles Mueller) with JesusFirst repent of their blatantly sinful behavior in this manner and, if they choose not to or do, but are shown to be insincere by future actions, simply move to throw them out of the LCMS. They are simply not needed.

  8. Pastor Crane,
    JF had hoped that you and all who had received their newsletters had forgotten about letter #5.

  9. I am not saying that he is publicly repenting. It was a private exchange, and I am satisfied with his response in that he made it clear he is not as qualified as John W. Edson, CPA/ABV, CVA, CMA, CFF. I believe that Mr. Edson’s response to the article completely cleared up the confusion, both mathematically and theologically. My prayers are with anyone who would try to exploit the truth, whether it be numeric or otherwise. I am called to forgive Pastor Coyne whether he repents or not. I believe JF is doing more harm to themselves than good by the manner in which their articles are being written, so more power to them if they want to continue down that same track. As a wise man recently reminded me, “keep smiling.” I’d be much more concerned if I didn’t see Satan working so hard right now; it provides me with a lot of peace that God has a pretty great plan to unveil in the very near future.

  10. @Eric #7

    I don’t think that is how he works.

    Let try to keep the expulsion talk to minimum it serves no purpose and is not constructive.

    Hey if it goes the other way, they may talk about booting us, which I wouldn’t like.



  11. John,

    Actually, I believe would be great if they did start booting us should they win. At least then there would be no confusion as to where people stand.

  12. @Eric #7

    Emotions do lend to this feeling that is true, however, it is not just them that need to repent, but all of us. When Harrison calls us to repent, he like Luther believes that one’s entire life be one of repentance. It is not a war cry for excommunication.

    Kiley Campbell
    Wyoming Lay Delegate

  13. @John Hooss #11

    Well spoken John. If this thread about booting this, that or the other person continues we will delete the comments. It is innapropriate. Rev. Harrison is committed to a serious and intentional discussion with different factions from the LCMS and is confident that 85% of us will come to agree with one another. Let’s wait and see how this godly process unfolds and then consider where we go from there. In the meantime, let’s keep it positive and constructive.


  14. If Pr Harrison is indeed misusing or misappropriating funds put into the purse of Human Care then let us not mince words, is this not what the Gospel of John accuses Judas of doing, taking what was put into it for his own needs and purposes?

    And if Pres Kieschnick tok funds from the coffers of Human Care with the attitude that he was going to use a sleight of hand, whatever that would be, not to pay it back, i.e., use some show of right not to give it back.

    If that is the case, then he is acting like Judas and so we are involved in a case of open sin, now or latter, that also deals with a living faith or no.

    We are dealing here with Eternal Souls which will live eternally.

    Make an accusation, openly or by inference or innuendo, if you will, but please remember the Lord of the Church, who sees all and knows all, when the books will be opened having all this recorded for judgement day.

  15. Everyone should be aware that Jesus First has a team trolling sites such as this just looking for what is now called in policits a “macaca moment” [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/14/AR2006081400589.html] which they will then try to pin on Rev. Harrison — no matter who said it, even if an opponent of his disingenuously posted it on such a site.

    They are desperate and their newsletter #9 shows they are quite willing to distort the truth.

  16. Has Rev. Jon Coyne and JesusFirst been called to repentance for the obvious distortion (smear campaign?) on letter #9? Are they being publicly called upon to retract it BEFORE the convention, as it clearly bears false witness against Rev. Matt Harrison? I would think this would be necessary, considering how others have said that Rev. Jon Coyne has done similar tactics in the past (and waited till AFTER the convention to repent)http://steadfastlutherans2.org/?p=11255 . With a theme like “ONE PEOPLE–FORGIVEN”, it would be particularly important for him to have this opportunity to repent beforehand. Are convention delegates being given corrected information from a neutral source–not just from BJS, which some may be biased against?

    It appears to me as though the plan to bring down Harrison’s potential synodical presidency was JF delegate letter #9 immediately followed with letter #10: Letter # 9 tries to make it sound as though Pastor Harrison was unable to do his job at LCMS WR&HC properly, and certainly not as well as the LWR, immediately followed by delegate letter #10, which sings the endless praises of Gerald Kieschnick, who, in their mind, clearly DESERVES three more years. This letter #10 could make a good case for them to change their name from JesusFirst to KieschnickFirst. What ever happened to boasting in nothing but in the Lord?

    I pray that the delegates will receive this corrected information so they can’t enter the convention still believing the lies that JF have been circulating, and that this corrected information will be accessible to them amidst all the other literature they have to read. A formal apology is certainly in order. I also thank God for the letter by Synodical Treasurer Tom Kuchta. May God remove all deceptions ad subterfuge, that all will be seen in the light of day, that delegates can make wise, informed, and godly decisions in the election of a new synodical president and in all the other decisions which need to be discussed and dealt with in Houston. May we all repent of our sins in thought, word and action, that we may together hear God’s absolution to us, if we are to truly be “ONE PEOPLE–FORGIVEN.”

  17. Amen, Rick. Don’t forget about letter #8 by Rev. Norris that attacked Harrison through his supporters, implying the company that Harrison keeps should be reason for denial of the SP, and taking a comment made by Harrison out of context and using it against him.

    I have corresponded with Rev. Norris encouraging him to repent but was met with a no.

    Kiley Campbell
    Wyoming Lay Delegate

  18. Kiley,
    That’s interesting. I’ll have to look letter # 8 up. I just don’t get it. These are pastors who are making false statements against a candidate for the presidency of our synod. Whether he is their preferred candidate or not, they should know better than to spread false witness against any candidate for elected office. These people went to seminary, they studied under great pastors with wonderful teaching abilities and great knowledge, and they have even studied God’s Holy Word in its original languages. They have studied the Lutheran Confessions, including Luther’s Small and Large Catechism.To have an experience as blessed as that and then to turn and try to put the worst construction on a fellow pastor in hopes that their words will hurt his chances to use his gifts in a different office to build the church–this is beyond sad. What about their ordination vows.

    I know what you’re going to tell me. Pastors are sinners, even like the rest of us. Okay, I understand Simul Iustus Et Peccator. I understand that pastors are not perfect. I, too, am a sinner, in need of Christ’s forgiveness. But, if we are to be “ONE PEOPLE–FORGIVEN”, we dare niot ignore God’s words “But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John). If these pastors have, in fact, sinned, and if they have in fact bore false witness against their neighbor, I pray that God would truly lead them, too, to confess their sins and plead His mercy. May they be moved to love their neighbor and right the wrongs they confess they are guilty of.

    As for Pastor Harrison, and anyone on the receiving end of these falsehoods, let them remember our Savior’s words
    10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (St. Matthew 5:10-12).

    All in the LCMS, especially when preparing for Synod in convention, should remember the words inspired by the Holy Spirit: ” 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” I think this would apply also for fingers on a computer keyboard, or a hand holding a pen. Thank you, Kiley, for representing the church as a lay delegate. May God bless your time as you seek to do this faithfully, to His glory.

  19. Rick, believe me, you are not alone in this frustration. As a sheep, observing the shepherds behave in this manner is disconcerting for sure as is seeing other sheep behave in similar fashion to include me being guilty as charged.

    Although our Convention Theme is One People Forgiven, before there is forgiveness there needs to be repentance.


  20. Kiley Campbell :Amen, Rick. Don’t forget about letter #8 by Rev. Norris that attacked Harrison through his supporters, implying the company that Harrison keeps should be reason for denial of the SP, and taking a comment made by Harrison out of context and using it against him.
    I have corresponded with Rev. Norris encouraging him to repent but was met with a no.
    Kiley CampbellWyoming Lay Delegate

    Kiley, I’m reading that letter right now. I wish I knew that all convention delegates could read through this ridiculous approach:
    “Some of
    Harrison’s supporters have even gone
    so far as to say, ‘Nowhere in the
    Bible are we told to grow.’” – Jesus First’s Delagate Letter #8

    This is garbage! “Some of Harrison’s supporters…”!!!!!!!
    So, if I hear two or three supporters of President Kieschnick say something wrong, I should therefore blame our Synodical President?

    The title of the article is “The Company You Keep.” These supporters, whomever they are, may have never even met Pastor Harrison. They may not even be delegates. How is Pastor Harrison to be held accountable for keeping company with people he may have never met? If his own words, he had said “Nowhere in the Bible are we told to grow,” we would know the source of that thought. But just because someone holds to an erroneous idea and supports a candidate for office in know way automatically paints the candidate with the same brush. If only three people in this country said “I hate white people”, and they then voted for Barach Obama, it would be insane to say, therefore Obama hates white people, because some of his supporters said it. The logic (or lack thereof) does not add up! Norris further wrote, “To say that there is no command to grow the church, to suggest that the Gospel isn’t proclaimed so that the hearer believes is, to me, inexcusable.” We should be careful that the words we choose accurately reflects what we mean to say. We are not called to “grow the church.” We certainly are called to bear witness to Christ and His redemtion for the sins of mankind, but that isn’t “growing the church. It is God Himself who grows the church. This is not mincing words: we are not held accountable for how many people reject the message of Christ. We are called to be faithful in sharing the Good News, but the Holy Spirit gives life to those words. If we do not understand this distinction, we will approach evangelism all wrong. I have not heard anyone in the Missouri Synod, regardless of who they may support for president, say or imply that we are not called to proclaim the Gospel. It is shocking that Norris would distort this.

    Has any Harrison supporter ever thought or suggested “It might be best if we lost even more LCMS members in order to achieve a greater measure of doctrinal purity?” It might be possible. Did Luther say anything against the Jews out of frustration when they didn’t flock to the church after hearing the Gospel proclaimed clearly? We are sinners, and no matter who we support or don’t support, ideas like these may arise. This is not Harrison’s position. Anyone who has read his writings knows he desires to unify the church, to bring people together. Does this mean we unite people like the ELCA, implying it doesn’t matter what we believe, the tent is big enough for everyone? Such a view is not Biblical, and is certainly against the teaching of the LCMS. Why should we desire false teaching to exist side by side with pure teaching? We should all desire that through the study of God’s Word, He will unite us around His truth. God does not tolerate un-Biblical teaching. Are we called to be more generous than God Himself in tolerating those who promote error in our fellowship? We desire to kick no one out. Where one promotes wrong teaching, as Christians, we are called to confront them, be sure they are teaching what we have heard them teach, and lovingly call them to repentance, that they too may be restored to the fellowship. To do otherwise would not be loving to our neighbor.

    Where in the world does Norris get the idea that Pastor Harrison’s supporters are angry? In a paragraph entitled Delegates Themselves Decide, Norris writes “Rev. Harrison’s angry supporters, in addition to their opposition to the growth ot the church are engaging in personal attacks on President Kieschnick’s character and motivations, especially concerning the work of the Blue Ribbon Task Force.”
    First of all, why is he supporting his suopporters are angry? I have looked at websites which are positive toward Rev. Harrison and have not come across any ‘angry supporters.’ It’s deceptive of Norris to try to create this false perception, especially in a letter addressed to our delegates. Then he falsely accuses Pastor Harrison’s supporters of being opposed to growth in the church. Earlier, Rev. Norris said he has been a pastor for 20 years, and has served four congregations on the West Coast. Is he really so naive as to assume that Missouri Synod Lutherans who are favorable toward Pastor Harrison oppose the growth of the church? Pastor Norris, you know better than that! Whatever happened to “speaking the truth in love?” Some people may oppose a certain philosophy called the “Church Growth Movement” (CGM), which often errs in seing people as numbers rather than individuals for whom Christ died. Some in this movement have been willing to sacrifice sound doctrine for the sake of reaching more people. But, to accuse people to be against the church growing just because some reject the CGM philosophy or methodology is pure falsehood.

    Pastor Norris accuses Harrison supporters of personal attacks on President Kieschnick’s character, yet his very writing is character assasination against candidate Harrison. Should Norris not first remove the log from his own eye first? Pastor Norris was instructed and ordained to be a pastor in Christ’s church, and in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, yet he presumes the worst toward his fellow pastor, Matt Harrison. Not only does he feel disgruntled toward Harrison: as this was published by the group “JesusFirst”, it would seem to be somewhat reflective of this orgainization’s views as well. No where did I see a disclaimer stating that Pastor Norris’s views were only his own personal views.

    Harrison’s supporters are accused of engaging in attacks on the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF), and are described as “denouncing” the BRTF proposals. Just because many in the LCMS are opposed to some of the BRTF proposals, this is rather strong language Norris has chosen to use. Some oppose the proposals, “even before they were finalized and presented to the church.” Did Rev. Norris hope they would wait till the convention to hear the proposals for the first time? Obviously, if something is worth opposing for the sake of the church, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the proposals earlier rather than later. The Synod in convention should not rush to make changes for the sake of change. Some of these proposals could be harmful to the LCMS, and pastors and delegates do well to familiarize themselves with the proposals well in advance of the convention. That is the wise way, to be prepared.

    No one is suggesting not giving our Synodical President Gerald Kieschnick a fair hearing. No one is being hysterical here, and where people see problems which coulod negative consequences on our synod, there is nothing wrong with LCMS members warning other members. Characterizations such as “power-hungry” are less than constructive, as we don’t know the motives of our current or our next president. Only God can see what is on their hearts. Norris has given a litany of what he would like to hear from President Harrison. If that is the case, why does he bother the delegates with all this? He can personally contact Pastor Harrison, read him his growing list of questions, and they can discuss it themselves. I would hope that in the future the group calling themselves “JesusFirst” could find better representatives to author their letters to delegates. His article is anything but constructive, and whether intentional or not, he is attacking the character of a fine pastor and servant in our synod. I don’t know enough about legalities to know what here might rise to the level of slander, but I do know that Pastor Norris’s writing is certainly not putting Jesus First. It is probably too late for him to recall his letter, but he could certainly turn from such and apologize sincerely to all he misrepresented here, especially Pastor Harrison.

  21. Well, Jesus First and Rev. Mueller are again distorting the facts about World Relief and Human Care. He has complained on this web site about their supposedly lavish event at the convention to which he as a delegate had received an invitation. Well, I’m a little farther out from St. Louis so I just got my invitation today.

    It seems Rev. Mueller didn’t read the last line!

    “CO-SPONSORED BY: lcmsworldmission.org, lhm.org, lwml.org, worldrelief.lcms.org”

    Oh, boy, that Matt Harrison and his board are sure radical, waaaaay out of the mainstream LCMS!

    Of course, I now expect Rev. Mueller to make the same harsh criticisms of LCMS World Missions, Lutheran Hour Ministries, and the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, for wasting money on such lavish extravagances! Or, is it only wrong for World Relief and Human Care to participate in such a co-sponsored event?

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