Rocky Mt. District President Golter Shares Concerns about Restructuring, by Pr. Rossow

In the reserved and conservative LCMS it takes a lot for a District President to speak out against a synod wide initiative. They just don’t do such a thing  because synod wide initiatives are usually done  slowly, carefully, and with genuine input and are also only done  when the synod-wide initiative unquestionably resolves the synod-wide crisis that prompted it in the first place. That is not the case with the LCMS Task Force on Restructuring appointed by synod President Gerald Kieschnick, at least that is what Rocky Mt. DP Randy Golter has decided. He writes about it in his June President’s Letter to the district.

It may be  because the resolutions his district submitted asking that the restructuring proposals be slowed down were ignored by the Convention Floor Committee. In the following letter to the Rocky Mountain District he gives an even better reason. He asserts that the LCMS needs to pause for deeper theological thinking and pondering than what President Kieschnick’s  Task Force has provided for us.

It is a big deal in the LCMS when a District President speaks out against a synod-wide initiative. We commend Bishop Golter for his straight-forward talk on the shortcomings of the Task Force process  and ask all synod delegates and congregation members to read his critique and ponder it deeply.

Here is a pdf link to President Golter’s June  newsletter article. We are working on obtaining a better copy of it and will post it here when we obtain it.

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.


Rocky Mt. District President Golter Shares Concerns about Restructuring, by Pr. Rossow — 41 Comments

  1. “Restructuring will happen, but it may not happen the way we expect. Financial collapse of the LCMS structure may well be the Lord’s way of restructuring.”

    I have often thought this too.

  2. I must say that I am rather surprised by President Golter’s letter. I did not think that he would get back to the confessional basis which so many thought was part of his being–including some classmates. I would still like to see other District Presidents put something into print and even speak at the convention about their own disappointment with the total lack of consideration for “the other side.” I can totally agree that we still need to go deeper which is why I think those Districts etc., who asked for at least three more years, were asking in the first place.

  3. This is a perfect time to insert a quote from Tacitus: “Truth is confirmed by inspection and delay; falsehood by haste and uncertainty.”

  4. DP Golter is teaching about the church what we were taught at the Seminary (St. Louis, ’85) by the Scripture and Confessions. How refreshing. I look forward to hearing truth spoken with love and boldness at the Convention, and watching the delegates choose wisely.

  5. Has any other DP spoken or written publicly, questioning President Kieschnick’s Task Force proposals? I know several have expressed concern privately.

    This is exactly the time we need our DPs to speak up. Otherwise, their silence will be interpreted (and championed by restructuring advocated) as support for President Kieschnick’s Task Force proposals.


  6. Question of the night..Do you think our MISSOURI DIST. PRES. will speak out???

    He sure gave his opinion in the June/July Mo. Voice Paper.

  7. It was not on anything pertained to the convention . It came under the heading Oh How They Loved One Another….Then ten points HOW TO DESTROY A CHURCH. In my opinion he doesn’t discuss in this article anything about the BRTFSSG. This Blue Ribbon sure hasn’t been discussed in voters meetings. So happy the Rockies DP came out the way he did. No opinion from him on this!

  8. Can the President of Synod fire a DP over something like this? I would hope not.

  9. tradition seems to have gotten in the way of deliberation on the truth. DPs who are unwilling to take a public posisition have already made a decision. All it takes for evil to suceed ,,,,,

  10. @12

    President J. A. O Preus dismissed several DPs during the height of the Seminex period in the 70’s because they were ordaining and installing Seminex grads into congregations in their Districts (my recollection is that the Synodical Convention had expressly prohibited the Districts from doing this, but I may be wrong). Pres. Goelter’s expressing his opinion does not rise to this level.

  11. @Todd Wilken #6

    I couldn’t agree more. This is when we need our DP’s to speak out. Inaction and silence are as a good as a vote in favor of the proposals in my book.

  12. @Todd Wilken #6

    Pastor Wilken,

    Your words:

    “This is exactly the time we need our DPs to speak up. Otherwise, their silence will be interpreted (and championed by restructuring [advocates]) as support for President Kieschnick’s Task Force proposals.”

    I recently made a related assumption. Read the first paragraph to see the response I got:

    Your thoughts?

  13. Why again is a district president referred to as “bishop”? Rev. Rossow, after the last dust-up here on that subject, I thought you agreed that it would be best to use the language and titles we have agreed upon as a synod.

  14. @GaiusKurius #19 – having recently read the Power and Primacy of the Pope, I would consider Pr. Kieschnick to be more Pope than Archbishop.

  15. Rev. Bohler,

    I do not remembering making a commitment to not use the title “bishop.” I think it is important for our DP’s to be parish pastors in which case they are then bishops. I believe I may have committed to that.


  16. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    Rev. Bohler,
    I do not remembering making a commitment to not use the title “bishop.” I think it is important for our DP’s to be parish pastors in which case they are then bishops. I believe I may have committed to that.

    I agree that it would be a very good thing if DPs were indeed parish pastors and, therefore, bishops.

    Unfortunately, that is not the case for most of them at the moment.

    The concern I have with calling them bishops under the current system is that it leads pastors and church workers to see them as safe people to go to for confession/absolution. But, since the current system makes them administrators/ecclesiastical supervisors instead of pastors, I have to agree with the DP I once heard warn his pastors to find someone else to go for confession/absolution. He did not want to have to be put in a position of taking administrative action against pastors who had trusted him with the confidentiality of confession.

    I hope we can change the system one day so they are pastors. I pray that day will be soon. But under the current system, I see it as as promising a level of trust that is not there if we call them bishops.

  17. Andrew,

    I am not sure “administrative action” and absolution need to be distinguished. If there is a consequence for some shortcoming and/or sin that needs confessing then it needs to be enacted. What I am trying to say is that if there is some sinful behavior that means that I should not be in the office then that is the case whether I confess it privately, to a brother who is not a DP or to a DP.

    Also, it seems to me that if I am repentant, I cannot see any reason why a confessed sin and the new will born of forgiveness would be grounds for “administrative action.”

    Maybe I am naive but this does not seem like a reason to not call or treat a DP as a bishop. I do realize that many pastors do not trust thier DP’s. That is a whole different matter. I could never go confess to someone I do not trust. I am fortunate to be in a dsitrict, where even though I do not agree with the bishop on how to do church, I do trust him and could see him as a trusted confidant and father confessor.


  18. Pastor Rossow,
    Our DP specifically says not to confess to him anything because it will go in our file and be reported to needed parties. He recounted a few times when pastors went to him with something and he abruptly interrrupted them to remind them of this. He has also reminded the circuit counselors they are agents of his office to report things.

  19. Rev. Robert,

    It seems like the DP and circuit counselors are more like the gestapo than clergy/pastors. But that helps me to understand why over the years I have run into a number of pastors who have had a low opinion of their DP and circuit counselor.

  20. Back to the topic……

    Does anyone else know of any other DP’s who will publically take issue with the Task Force on Restructuring? I know the DP in my district will not since he is in Jerry’s back pocket.

  21. Rev. Randall Golter wrote,
    “I must confess to you that I am disappointed about what has not happened. It was my sincere desire that a deeper conversation would have ensued, one that got beyond the reshuffling of furniture.”

    Why did this deeper conversation not take place? President Golter answers this question with the following words:

    “The other church, the institutional fellowship, looks like this:

    Over time–and I have never seen this written anywhere–it is my conjecture that the longer a church body remains in existence, the more the church acts, speaks and conducts business as an institutional but not as a confessional church. No longer are circuit meetings and conventions dominated by the Word as applied to each other and beyond.

    Pure teaching is no longer loved and desired and considered as essential for the life of the church and her mission. Church officials are tempted to persuade apart from or without the Word. Individual churches see the bigger church not by what we gladly and boldly confess together but by the common products offered and received.

    These churches then act with a silo mentality, operating as retail outlets with a loose and lifeless connection to a corporation. Competition is bred among the franchises for the greatest production. Corporate headquarters laud those who are successful according to certain standards of production. Each is out for its own needs, and those needs take precedence over the needs of the church down the street. Success is viewed moving up the corporate ladder. The enemy is the other, as it is all about me, myself and I. And the lost fall off the radar screen. This may seem like an extreme portrayal, but does it not have some truth in it?”

    A deeper conversation did not take place because the LCMS is no longer a confessional synod of congregations which discuss theology together. We have become a number of congregations connected by history, or a corporation, or any number of other things, but divided in what we believe and confess. As President Golter points out, “The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Mark 4:19

    Many of our pastors and laymen have forsaken Lutheran doctrine and practice in order to make friends with the world. Some can not or will not discuss Lutheran theology because they do not believe it. Our unity is gone because the confession we joined together in confessing in the first place is being denied by some and being allowed and even encouraged to be denied by others who should know better.

  22. Father Robert,

    Your DP is wrong. It is too bad that you must endure such a leader. My DP can be “administrative” with the best (i.e. worst) of them and yet when he and I talked about this he assured me C/A with him was not fodder for the file. How could it be any other way? Again I will point out that if there is unrepentant sin then of course someone needs to be disciplined but where there is repentance and forgiveness and a change of behaviour, there is nothing for the file.

    Your experience sheds light on why so many bristle at the thought of a DP as a “bishop.”


  23. If something is confessed in the course of Confession and Absolution, would he not actually be required to keep it confidential, or he himself would be in violation of his own ordination vows? Do not the ordination vows also still apply to him? “Will you . . . forgive the sins of those who repent, and will you promise never to divulge the sins confessed to you?”

    I would say this rules out putting information learned through Confession and Absolution into a file. It would be very poor and unusual pastoral practice to keep files on individuals listing their sins confessed to you. At the very least, if that is necessary as an aid to memory, perhaps in a very large congregation, those files should be absolutely secure, available only to that pastor, and destroyed when he leaves that parish and not passed on to the next pastor.

    Perhaps what the District President in question meant was that he feels his role as ecclesiastical supervisor is in conflict with the role of father confessor. I could see that perceived conflict due to legal considerations, etc., but it is really very sad, and not allowing the District Presidents to render an important service to the Pastors of their District.

  24. Sorry, Rev. Rossow. You are right; my memory was faulty. I thought the last time this came up you agreed to use the terms/titles as agreed upon by the Synod. But in going back and reviewing those comments, you had opted to use a “fill in the blank” for the title instead. So, I will simply follow suit and adopt a “ditto” response here of my comments there for your use of the inappropriate title of “bishop”

  25. @Henry Bimpage #29

    Sharp, unapologetic, and sadly true of many churches.

    The dynamic of churches becoming independent franchises marketing their “product” in an attempt to be “successful”…it just has no place. People in this world need the pure Gospel brought to them by the Corpus Christi…not the church corporate selling Law packaged as Gospel with the promise of a victorious life through holy living. Our victory is found only in Christ, our crucified and resurrected Lord. I am deeply troubled when I hear problems and issues in the Church settled by statements that begin with “well in the business world” instead of “God’s Word tells us”.

    see 2 Timothy 4:3

    Thank you Rev. Randall Golter.

  26. @Henry Bimpage #29

    If one looks at the history of conventions for the LCMS one has to have a totally blind outlook to not see that through this history our conventions have taken on the secular/business side of the world more and more. We have seen less and less actual theological conversation for many years–which I would think would bother the ancestors who put this LCMS together in the first place. And–which I would think would actually bother those in leadership positions today, even more. Had we had those conversations about hymnals, women’s positions in the congregation, etc. –at conventions–there would have been somewhat of a split years ago. Instead, we dance around those “touchy” subjects with the fine tooth comb of the CTCR making a statement which really says nothing–but we will live with it since it doesn’t require any final decisions.

    I would further venture the guess that convention time is used about 90% for business of the worldly nature–i.e. adoption of by-laws and the like as opposed to theological issues such as whether or not to maintain ties with the ELCA even in “external matters.”

    We have so greatly forsaken the original purpose of our synod by constantly increasing the pages in the “handbook of the LCMS” and not increasing the number of missionaries sent into the fields, which everyone and his mother keeps saying at “white for the harvest.” Certainly our Lord has to be shaking his head along with the Father and the Spirit, saying [in my human words] “why did they not stick with the original plan of men such a Walther and the like.”

  27. In response to #30 MBW….I don’t see NO disrespect..Todd is right on there is no comment from the DP..and I won’t hold my breath .

  28. @Rev. Roger D. Sterle #36

    Your comments are right on. C. Northcote Parkinson said it very well: “Complexity breeds decay.” In ecclesiastical terms, as the synod (or any church body) gets away from its original purpose(s), it becomes a self-perpetuating entity, and builds itself into a bureaocracy that tends to decay. Are we witnessng that in the LCMS? Is the LCMS more complex than even 20 or 30 years ago? DP’s that stand in the way of this organizational steamroller get flattened. And, for good measure, Parkinson’s First Law, that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” is being verified before our very eyes. Altho formulated for governments, it applies equally to SynodInc. You can check out the rest of his “Laws” on the web, I’m sure.

    Wise fellow, that Parkinson!


  29. @Johannes #38

    You could add Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics to describe organizations:

    1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

    2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

    3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

  30. @sumbody #37

    > I don’t see NO disrespect

    Memo to JF: we ain’t no got no good grammar here at this here place, but at least we can ask questions and make statements out in the open! I don’t think God likes secretive human organizations.

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