As I write this President Kieschnick is presenting his report to the convention. He is doing the same thing that he did in the district conventions. He is reciting his adherence to the basics of Lutheranism and he is chiding those who assert that he is not confessional. As we predicted yesterday he is also backing off from his statement from years ago that “this is not your grandfathers church.”
I encourage people to listen more carefully to what President Kieschnick does than to what he says. He says that he is confessional and I believe that he really means this and that he truly believes his summary confession of Lutheran doctrine. But I am also thoroughly convinced that he does not properly translate this doctrine into true practice. Let me turn a favorite phrase of President Kieschnick upside down. He just said that the LCMS has a problem getting its head knowledge into its hearts. I assert that President Kieschnick has a problem getting the head knowledge that he professes into godly practice. Contrary to what President Kieschnick asserts, confessionals have no problems of the heart. We passionately embrace the Gospel and whole-heartedly proclaim it. President Kieschnick on the other hand has some problems getting his Confessional head knowledge into practice. Here are some examples
Let’s start with the worship service last night at President Kieschnick’s convention. As I mentioned last night, the service included a song that caused a couple of hundred people in the convention hall to sway and some to even wave their hands like charismatics. President Kieschnick did not directly cause this movement but his approach to worship is one of tolerance and openness that the writers of the Confessions rejected. They denounce again and again this informal schwarmer worship (worship rooted in emotion and subjective feeling). In his presentation today President Kieschnick clearly stated his support for informal “coffee-house worship where the pastor is informally dressed.” He used that very term. This informal style leads to the type of schwarmer/Pentecostal worship that we witnessed at the convention divine service. Luther and Walther spoke vociferously against such worship styles because they focus on the individual and not on the objective gifts of God in Christ.
Another example of President Kieschnick’s disconnect between confession and practice is his constant beating of the leadership drum. For the last several years President Kieschnick has gone to the expense of inserting into the Reporter a full color, slick folder on leadership. Leaders are great. We need them, but being a pastor does not mean being a leader. President Kieschnick has taken his cue on leadership not from the Confessions or even the Scriptures but from modern evangelicals and sociologists. The Scriptures say little about leadership and what they do say is that we ought not to be leaders but servants. Rather than training leaders, Jesus would have us train shepherds who are servants faithful to His word.
Other examples of President Kieschnick’s failure to connect his confessional head knowledge to his heart and practice include his failure to clearly and quickly rebuke Pastor David Behnke’s unionistic worship with Catholics, Jews, Sikhs and others at Yankee Stadium a few years ago. We could list more but it time to get back to the convention.
As the delegates are listening to what President Kieschnick says this week they would do well to listen even more carefully to what he does.