Arrived in Houston – Let’s Review How we Got Here and the State of the Synod, by Pr. Rossow

I arrived in Houston this morning for a day of R + R with my college roommate and his family. It was supposed to be a day of golf but the tropical storm ruined that. Maybe there will be a new wind blowing in the synod by the end of next week or sooner.

Golf was replaced by a visit to the original Fuzzy’s Pizza, the favorite pizza hangout of the Bush family in west Houston. The walls were decorated with presidential aura. Maybe Matt Harrison should eat at Fuzzy’s?

Enough of the travelogue. This is my last post before coverage of the convention so I thought it would be good to review how we got here and remind you of the important stories that the Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) has covered in the last two years which should give delegates a sense of why it’s time for a change.

BJS is committed to promoting and teaching the Lutheran Confessions to laymen, upholding the traditional liturgy, supporting new Lutheran media and encouraging men and women in their catechetical vocations. These goals have drawn us into numerous discussions on the state of the synod and the need for new leadership.

Our support for new Lutheran media caused us to chronicle the unjust dismissal of Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarzand the rest of the Issues, Etc. team from the LCMS radio station KFUO. President Kieschnick could have intervened in the situation but remained silent during the debacle. We certainly don’t blame President Kieschnick for their firing but it happened under his watch and started much of the momentum that has led to the potential Harrison victory next week.

We have also noted in the last few years several examples of false doctrine and practice in our synod that we have brought to President Kieschnick’s attention but have met with no response. For example there is the gay activist music director at an LCMS church in the state of Washington, the Concordia-Chicago professors who go uncensored for signing a petition in support of terror bomber Bill Ayers, and the female pastor who led the worship at the Texas Lutheran youth gathering., just to name a few.

Then there is the matter of traditional Lutheran worship that is near and dear to the Brothers of John the Steadfast. Under President Kieschnick’s three terms worship has become far less Lutheran in the LCMS. Examples of this abound such as Jefferson Hills and The Alley.

We have arrived in Houston and will give you regular updates for the first few days of the convention. We will be heading back to Naperville on Tuesday to help finish out a week of creationism camp at our parish. Hopefully before I leave I will have experienced the advent of a new era dawning in the LCMS, the Harrison era.

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.

Comments

Arrived in Houston – Let’s Review How we Got Here and the State of the Synod, by Pr. Rossow — 22 Comments

  1. If you know anyone who will be attending the open hearings of the floor committees Friday and Saturday, reports on them would be appreciated.

  2. Thank you, BJS, for your tireless work for the Kingdom. Thank you, Pastor Rossow.

    As President Gerald Kieschnick’s presidency comes to a close, it is indeed a good time to reflect on where we were prior to nine years ago, what were the high points and challenges of the GK presidency, and really where the Synod can really go in a new era, should we be granted a fresh breath of air.

    I dislike attention brought to a man serving as president, because I do not believe Pastor Matt Harrison is focussed on himself: he is willing to step forward and become more of a servant for the Synod, as we seek God’s direction for HIS church at this juncture.

    Will things change overnight? I certainly doubt it, and perhaps its best that some change is at least gradual, as he helps bring us together around Christ’s Word. It is not about coersion and inclusion and exclusion. We should truly aspire to be one people, but not based upon our (synod leadership’s) own desires, but rather on what pleases God and is good for the sake of the church–not just our larger featured congregations, but even the small ones and the struggling ones, where the Word is still proclaimed, and the Sacraments are still administered, and His sheep are fed and nourished, and the Good News is being shared to a world indesparate need. Such a congregation is not about converting to some business model of administration, but rather, doing the work of the Kingdom from day to day, and from year to year, striving to be faithful to such a high calling in thankfulness for the immense love shown to us by the Good Shepherd. Some of these pastors will never have their names on the lips of Church growth enthusiasts–some will only be remembered by those God gave them an opportunity to serve. But they are God’s under-shepherds none the less, who truly care for the sheep, and are willing to give their own lives for these people. It is all about ministry, not strategy and the ivory towers and the International Center. It is where the rubber hits the road. God is there among us. That is our grandfathers’ church, and our father and mothers’ church, and by the grace of God it is also our church. May we treasure so great a living heritage.

  3. >>We certainly don’t blame President Kieschnick for their firing<< Pastor Rossow

    That is really charitable! His silence was suspicious, considering IE is/was the premier Confessional Lutheran media outlet.

    In 2006/2007 on an episode, I heard Pr. Wilken say something to the effect of "Matt Harrison would make a great president of any institution." I think the target went up then.

    Where I live, there are 15 to 20 LCMS congregations within a 15 mile radius of my home. Not one of them is confessional – at least in practice. The Lord's Supper is offered at best bi-weekly. Private Confession is not practiced. Contemporary and Blended Worship is slowly pushing the Divine Service to 8 am and then off the menu. I don't see that a Matt Harrison win will change this, at least where I live. For me that is ok, we have a WELS congregation that is faithful to the practice of the Confessions very close to home. The prospect of a Harrison win is exciting, because what it would mean is that there would be two presidents of the two largest confessional/conservative Lutheran synods in North America who are willing to come talk on Issues, Etc.: Schroeder (WELS) and Harrison. Maybe they will talk to each other and instead of Presidential addresses at conventions of the heterodox (ELCA and LCMS), there will be guest Presidential addresses at the conventions of those who are not apostate.

  4. Jon and Rick,

    Well spoken. You are correct Jon – I was being generous to President Kieschnick.

    Also, will President Harrison make a huge difference? Not really, but he will make a difference. Hopefully this will be the beginning of an authentic Lutheran renaissance in the LCMS. But it will slow and deliberate and not forced.

    TR

  5. I’m glad you arrived safely in Houston. I’m sorry to hear about the tropical storm–I hope it didn’t blow any crosses off any steeples as in Minneapolis, August 2009.

    I was reading what you wrote concerning Issues Etc. and President Kieschnick’s silence / inaction to rectify the wrongful dismissal of Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz (sins of omission?) and the “several examples of false doctrine and practice in our synod that we have brought to President Kieschnick’s attention but have met with no response.” I was wondering if the Kieschnick presidency could be compared to the LCMS presidency of Ralph Bohlman.

    Some have considered these men somewhat conservative, yet after their presidencies, the LCMS seems to have lost some of its Lutheranism. As president emeritus, Bohlman even went so far as to embarrass the synod by directly opposing President Barry
    http://www.wfn.org/1999/12/msg00166.html (see especially the last three paragraphs!).

    When Kieschnick is in office, it is easy to say we are all one united synod, and anyone who thinks otherwise is somehow divisive (read: the conservatives), and yet during an Al Barry administration it is somehow okay for a president emeritus to announce to the world that Barry is only speaking for himself in not embracing the ambigously worded document between ELCA and the Roman Catholics on Justification. Where was Bohlman’s show of unity then? I would like to read a comparison of Bohlman’s presidency with Kieschnick’s, and of what comparisons one could make between Al Barry and Pastor Harrison. Then I would have a better idea of where our synod lies now and what could be expected in the near future.

    Pastor Rossow, you wrote, “This is my last post before coverage of the convention so I thought it would be good to review how we got here and remind you of the important stories that the Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) has covered in the last two years which should give delegates a sense of why it’s time for a change.” Perhaps such comparisons might give us a general idea as to what kinds of changes we might reasonably hope for.

  6. @rick #5

    Ralph Bohlmann is no longer the issue. His organization, Jesus/PoliticsFirst, is no longer the issue. There’s no sense nursing those old wounds–we know where those people are coming from. The primary issues are (1) electing Matt Harrison and (2) defeating the BRTF fiasco in its odious entirety. Secondary issues are the elections to the various boards and commissions and other important resolutions that may come to the floor. No sense in rehashing the past–as Pr. Harrison says, this is a great time to be an LCMS Lutheran, so go for it, Pr. Rossow. You have with you the prayers of a great many people, lay and clergy alike, both within and outside of the LCMS.

    Johannes

  7. Let’s not forget the numerous times the SP has invited church growth consultants and futurists such as the panentheism teaching, Emergent church guru, and heretic, Leonard Sweet (more on Sweet here) to instruct leaders in the LCMS how they can grow the church. That we should mark and avoid such men is clearly taught in the scriptures (Romans 16:17-18).

  8. Jim,
    Well spoken, really scary, but well spoken. That letter of support is frightening. If ya look at these resolutions, ya can’t miss how & where the influence is from. Well said, as always.

  9. I attended the last half hour of the hearings for FC8, and from what i saw and heard, there is a lot of confusion with the resolutions. Im taking this as a good sign that it will have trouble passing, if at all. Tomorrow morning begins another hearing session for FC8, and I plan on attending.

    Kiley

  10. I was at the FC 8 hearing. Much confusion, requests to clarify, etc. There were 13 at the head table – about half FC8 members and half BRTFSSG members.

    Many of the committee responses were along the lines of ” that’s your interpretation, we have a different interpretation”, “we’re not sure what the effects will be”, we’re not sure how that will be implemented”, “we’re not sure if eliminated functions will be done by the new mission boards, by the districts, or some combination of the two”, “that is our intention”, “that’s our assumption”, “we’re leaving that up to the new boards”. They are basically making proposals to “coordinate” functions, they say.

    Several WRHC employees had very specific questions about their job functions and futures that could not be answered.

    FC8 didn’t answer a lot of concerns by any means.

    Several delegates mentioned typo and grammar errors, etc.

    Maybe 100 people there at any one time, lots of coming and going.

    One of the board members mentioned the consultant report saying that most of those interviewed did not see the need for change. He also said the consultants reported that “doing nothing is not an option”. I don’t remember that as part of the report!

  11. One of the FC8 members declared that the changes in the resolutions were as much as they thought they could get passed this year. They see the need for even more changes in the future.

    VP Buegler also declared that the structural changes would have little impact on the work of the church. It’s structure, not mission, after all. The real work gets done at the congregational level, not synod level.

    Pr Rossow asked about the changes that appear to take “power” away from the congregations, In response, a long list of ways the committee sees congregations being strengthened was read – they were ready for this question obviously.

    I also got to hear a little of PK’s address during a sound check. He starts off by saying that “This is not your grandfather’s church” doesn’t mean what everyone (confessional, that is) seems to think it means. “Nothing could be further from the truth”.

  12. Jim Pierce :Let’s not forget the numerous times the SP has invited church growth consultants and futurists such as the panentheism teaching, Emergent church guru, and heretic, Leonard Sweet (more on Sweet here) to instruct leaders in the LCMS how they can grow the church. That we should mark and avoid such men is clearly taught in the scriptures (Romans 16:17-18).

    I’m surprized JF didn’t push for LEONARD SWEET FOR PRESIDENT! It might be more in keeping with what they’re trying to re-image the Missouri Synod into. After all, doctrine doesn’t matter so long as we can fill up seats with warm bodies, and count them…….NOT!

  13. @jim_claybourn #13

    “One of the FC8 members declared that the changes in the resolutions were as much as they thought they could get passed this year. They see the need for even more changes in the future.”

    Aye-yi-yi.

    “I also got to hear a little of PK’s address during a sound check. He starts off by saying that ‘This is not your grandfather’s church’ doesn’t mean what everyone (confessional, that is) seems to think it means. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth’.”

    Yep, kidnapping Grandpa. Chuck Jr. gave it away in his video.

    Well, in three days we’ll know who gets Grandpa.

  14. @wrl #15
    wrl,
    I definately think PK is old enough to be a grandpa, perhaps a great-grandpa. Perhaps he meant the LCMS was not his church “Not your grandpa’s church.” With some of what I see on LCMS district websites (eg. South-east District), Grandpa Walther sure wouldn’t recognize it has his church.

    Are there statistics available for who the oldest LCMS president was, and who was the youngest? It sure was a loss when Al Barry died while in office. The Synod lost a great shepherd, yet he was transferred to the Church Triumphant. (do pastors use LCMS transfer sheets for those kind of transfers?) How I wish we still had President Barry.

  15. I was at the open floor committee eight session yesterday I walked away with the following thoughts.
    1. I don’t think minds were changed either way.
    2. Everyone was courteous and respectful at the microphone.
    3. Overwhelming theme from the floor committee is we must make these changes, and yet when specific questions were asked such as “submission to the constitution” the floor committee actually said they did not change that. There were other times they used the same tactic and when pushed they said that is just your interpretation.
    4. On the topic of 8-08 they promised Sunday we will get more accurate information on how much money we will save with this restructuring. They made it a point to show us they had a paper that we will receive. Another overwhelming theme was we don’t know how this will actually work but we have to do it, and you will have to trust us.

    Curmudgeon in training

  16. @Rick #16

    Sorry, my point wasn’t clear. By “Grandpa” I wasn’t referring to President Kieschnick, but public relations ownership of the keyword “Grandpa” and “Grandfather” in the LCMS. Change management is always about three groups: the adopters, the resistors, and the fence-straddlers. Since the adopters are on board and the resistors won’t change, the target is the fence-straddlers. One way to convince them is to repeat buzzwords and keywords that appeal to their resistor side….even if those words were used by change management as a pejorative in the past (“NOT your grandfather’s church”). Somebody must have figured out that trashing the concept of “grandfather’s church” isn’t working, hence the change in tactic right before the convention.

    Maybe I’ve spent too much time in big corporations. ;^) That’s why all this Church Growth/borrowed-from-business stuff turns my stomach when it shows up in the Church.

    Make no mistake, the Church isn’t grandpa’s, or Kieschnick’s, or Harrison’s, it is Christ’s.

  17. “We certainly don’t blame President Kieschnick for their firing ”

    I do. I granted him the benefit of the doubt at the beginning, but between the reasons David Strand gave, every ratings report we’ve seen since March 2008, that sorry excuse of a Q&A provided by Synod, and the clear lies told after the firings, I have no reason to doubt the firings took place at his direction, with Strand positioned as the fall-guy.

  18. The “straddlers” are on a fence so thin, one wonders how they avoid razor cuts. Maybe the sensation is still traveling up their nervous system.

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