“One last term”? Delegates respond

The rumors have been swirling for a month or more, but there is reason to believe that it’s more than a rumor. Supporters of President Kieschnick have articulated the plan in various ways but the bottom line is that they’re suggesting that, if elected, this would be President Kieschnick’s last term. Further, they’re suggesting that the Rev. Matthew Harrison could use an additional three years in a Synodical position before being made president. It’s easy to see how this would be the strategy — nothing else has really gained traction, campaign-wise.

But will it work with delegates? I decided to ask them what they think. I conducted brief phone interviews of pastoral and lay delegates spread throughout the country. I asked them for their response to the rumor (all but a couple had heard about it), whether it changed their vote and who they were voting for and why. Here are some of their thoughts:

Lay delegate from Minnesota:

This wouldn’t change my vote. I don’t like the idea. It sounds like President Kieschnick is trying to be a kingmaker. The rumor has been around quite a while that, if elected, this was probably going to be his last term anyhow. Now it looks like a desperation move and I imagine a lot of delegates will see it that way, too. It indicates that he doesn’t think he has the support to be re-elected and will pull out all the stops.

I’m voting for Rev. Harrison because has what it takes to do a great job. He’s been on the front lines in the LCMS with our relief efforts both here and abroad. He is very theological and will make a wonderful president for the LCMS. I just don’t think Kieschnick has done a great job. I definitely think it’s time to get some fresh blood into leadership and get the LCMS back on the track.

Pastoral delegate from Illinois:

I think it’s silly. If he’s qualified enough to be First Vice President, he’s qualified enough to be President. It’s also something that goes against one of the proposals preferred by the Blue Ribbon Task Force. They want to make sure the President and First VP are of like mind. Based upon each candidate’s answers and campaign materials, you see that there is quite a significant difference of opinion about how the church should be run on a corporate level between the two.

Didn’t Kieschnick have “on the job training” 9 years ago? Had he ever directed a national office? With his experience as Ex. Director of LCMS WRHC, I would argue that Matt Harrison has more experience in leading a nationwide office than Jerry Kieschnick had at the beginning of his term, and is certainly at least as qualified now.

What sold me on Matt Harrison is that he begins with the Scripture. If he’s asked a question, he begins with the Word of God and draws his conclusions from that as opposed to President Kieschnick who, when he responds to anything, whether it be a question or policy statement, his first reference seems to be to the policies and bylaws of Synod.

Also, Harrison’s work with LCMS World Relief and Human Care has changed my outlook on what some of the duties of the church are. He has helped bring the church’s works of charity and works of mercy to the forefront. I read his book “Christ have Mercy” and that was the thing that shifted my opinion or really began my opinion on the matter. That’s where I got my first taste of Matt Harrison and his theology and the Synod would be blessed to have his leadership.

Pastoral delegate from Missouri:

There was a time when I would have found the idea of “one last term” for President Kieschnick appealing. I think he has served the Synod faithfully and done things to the best of his abilities in the last 10 years. But I don’t sense that his leadership is what we need going forward. I think we have a wonderful opportunity, a historic opportunity this year. Matt Harrison isn’t just a stellar theologian, he’s a theologian who can connect with laypeople and with the broader public. He is humble, which makes him open to listening to other people and working toward unity. I’ve worked with him on smaller projects in my neck of the woods and he has figured out how to bring people together and resolve conflict. More than anything, I think that’s because he knows the Gospel and forgiveness of sins.

Lay delegate from California:

That rumor confirms my suspicions about the way current leadership thinks. They talk about experience or management instead of the theology that we’ve drifted away from — that’s what’s causing the problem in Synod today. Besides, Rev. Harrison has plenty of experience! President Kieschnick was just a District President when he was elected. What kind of international experience does he have? Harrison has been a top-ranking Synodical executive for years and has much more international experience, administrative experience and theological wisdom.

I’m for Harrison because I don’t think that structural changes will solve the problems in Synod. From just being at District conventions, I’ve learned that the things that split people are not whether we have a 3 or 4 year convention or who is in charge of what boards. It’s the practices and doctrinal disunity that divides us. We need to stop playing around with structure and start doing something about it. I read Harrison’s “It’s Time” document and it lays out how to address the problems that divide us and work toward that direction.

Pastoral delegate from Ohio:

Yes, I’ve heard that rumor, too. I actually doubt it will happen. Everyone who is familiar with the Synod knows that Matt Harrison is one of the more capable candidates we’ve seen. Whether or not the rumor is true, it doesn’t change my belief that now is the time for change. President Kieschnick has had a healthy tenure during which to enact his vision and I have not been pleased with the results. I truly believe that Lutheranism could be having much more impact in the country and the world and I think we’ve been hamstrung at the synodical level. Restructuring won’t change that — we need someone with a bold vision for the future. The world desperately needs Lutheranism right now and I’m kind of tired of just being in a holding pattern.

Lay delegate who asked me to withhold her state:

I think it might be a smart campaign move but it doesn’t change my vote at all. I have served on a synodical board that gave me some insight into how the International Center operates as well as how the two top candidates operate. Harrison works with everyone and unites the room around common goals. He leads humbly and gently, admits fault easily and earns respect. President Kieschnick silences his opposition through by-laws, councils, firings and cancellations. I don’t want another three years of conflict. I want to start working toward true unity.

Pastoral delegate from Illinois

I think it’s a ludicrous idea. What is he going to accomplish in the next three years that he hasn’t accomplished in nine years prior to this? We’ve heard the Blue Ribbon Task Force is in trouble. There’s the rumor that he’s willing to throw the task force recommendations away and throw the first Vice President under the bus in order to get reelected. If the rumor is true, it would not speak well of his ego. It certainly won’t change my vote and I don’t think it would change the vote of anyone who considers it from a realistic point of view.

Matt Harrison is one of the most pastoral men I’ve met in a synodical position in many years. Has been running World Relief and Human Care since 2001 or so and this is the only division within the Synod bureaucracy that is operating in the black. Here’s a man who constantly has good reputation about responding to the church’s needs. He has positive fundraising, an excellent reputation among the people with whom he works, is a true theologian and pastor, can speak intelligently on Holy Scripture, is wonderful preacher, has a pastoral heart, is involved in true mission work — getting the Gospel out to people who are not going to get it any other way. Why would we not want someone like that with that track record at the helm of our synod?

There are actually many more responses so if yours wasn’t included here, I’ll be posting more in coming days.


“One last term”? Delegates respond — 60 Comments

  1. @Dutch #32
    I think I agree with you Dutch, but then I am not so sure I am reading your post correctly or with your intent. If you are saying we need to quit counting members and faithfully shepherd the members we have both now and in the future who stay in the “former” LCMS because of our doctrine of biblical truth, then I say “right on”. Who cares if we are on the “world stage” as long as we are faithful to our God and faithful to His commands? We simply have to have a change of direction from President Kieschnick. Give me a strong theologian over a glad handing businessman any day.

  2. Gayle,
    That is exactly what I meant! Look, R. Warren(UN P.E.A.C.E. Plan), McClaren, Samir, ELCA, etc, can be “cultural & worldly relevant”, UN makers & shakers, but that has never been what LCMS was about before. That is just the flavor of the moment, & then will come the backlash. We are seeing it now in LCMS. And that…says alot about us. We caught it, many others didn’t. We went ourselves & sent others out from us. It was always, always, about Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, first & last.
    LCMS was about being “relevant Above”, not being a part OF the world. We were about the stability & security (His Grace, His Peace & His Hope & His Promise) of the Solas & TBOC.
    Not this false, fuzzy, fake, rock ‘um sock ‘um relevant, “now & it’s all about me” way of doing Church.
    We used to BE a church, not just play one in the media & world stage.
    Fields are ripe & overflowing, especially across the Pond in the EU, not to mention elsewhere. And we have overplayed our “vacation” from work.
    We seek to have His Peace, Promise, Hope & Joy.
    Not a false & fake, albeit a familar copy. It must be of Christ, not of men. I pray it is the Lord’s Will, Pastor Harrison is elected. If it is not His Will, then He will winnow. Not pleasant, but He does do that. He can, the LCMS belongs to Him first.
    He bought Her with His Life, & the souls therein.

  3. Why would a supporter of the incumbent POS refer to his record of or experience in ecclesiastical supervision? His first significant ecclesiastical advice was to permit Atlantic DP David Benke to participate in the interfaith prayer service at Yankee Stadium in September 2001. The potential for division in the Synod was high; indeed, it was inevitable. To support his ecclesiastical advice, the POS cited Res. 3-07A of the 2001 convention. It “commended for continued use and guidance” a CTCR fellowship document and Report of discussions of same. The document and Report dealt only with church fellowship, i.e., relations with other Christians, not with interfaith civic events, much less interfaith prayer services.

    The years of controversy that followed seriously divided the Synod. A Dispute Resolution Panel that removed President Benke’s suspension based its decision on Res. 3-07A, despite the response of the CTCR to the DRP’s own question regarding its relevance (see below). The CTCR stated that “Section V, B. [of the Report commended in Res. 3-07A] does not explicitly address the issue of ‘offering a prayer by an LCMS pastor in a “civic event” in which prayers would also be offered by representatives of non-Christian religions.’” That is, participation in an inter-faith prayer service is NOT the kind of “pastoral discretion” referred to in the Report commended by Res. 3-07A. That question settled, late as it was, apologies should have been forthcoming for both participation and the bad advice. The POS, who, along with the executive director of the CTCR, served as an advisor to Dr. Benke in the dispute resolution process, apparently disagreed with the CTCR’s interpretation of its own report, and the Panel continued to use the irrelevant Res. 3-07A to support its decision to exonerate Dr. Benke and remove his suspension. Collateral damage: the truth, any hope for unity in the Synod. (The Rev. Dr. W. Schulz had already lost his position at LHM following his suspension of President Benke.)

    That the POS chooses to resurrect this divisive case in his recent book “Waking the Sleeping Giant” (pp. 138 ff.), citing it as a positive example of his ecclesiastical leadership and continuing to refer in the context to the irrelevant Res. 3-07A, is beyond comprehension — a harbinger of future leadership should he be re-elected.

    There is no need to take this writer’s word for it. One can still find official residue of this badly mishandled affair in a presidential memo on the Synod’s web site (URL below). Read first Appendix C ( page 9), the DR Panel’s question and the CTCR’s response regarding the (ir)relevance of the Report commended in Res. 3-07A. Note the careful way that the question and the response are phrased. (There is no mention of Res. 3-07A, and it’s not clear what “violating” has to do with “cases of discretion” other than prompting the word “no” in the response.) The real issue, which the CTCR could not avoid in its response, is that the Report commended in Res. 3-07A cannot be used to justify participating in an inter-faith service with non-Christians — not then, not now, not ever. Note also how carefully, in responding to the second question, the CTCR limits its responses to matters of “fellowship” i.e., relationships with and situations involving other Christians. Finally, note the continuing inexplicable misuse of Res. 3-07A by the POS and the DRP throughout the memo and DRP decision, itself, as if Appendix C did not exist. If one insists on playing by a synodically adopted policy rather than acting on the clear words of Scripture, one must be ready to follow that policy to the letter or pay the price of ignoring it.


    Reliable, theologically astute ecclesiastical leadership is a rare and valuable commodity. For it we fervently pray.

  4. The arguments of the Rev. Charles Mueller are untenable. If the logic is followed consistently, the cleric may well have chosen Eliab to be a leader, on the basis of certain earthly accomplishments (i.e., the number of cubits secured, and perhaps that hair, parted in the middle). Indeed … and this is a quote, from the Master who reaps where He does not so sow … “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Following the Harrison precedent, industrial-strength LCMS, Inc. will now be provided a Scripture reference for the documentation of assertions: Check out 1 Sam 16.

    God does some inexplicable things. He chose Amos, a rustic, to be a prophet. Amos, unlike Moses, was not trained in the schools of the Pharaoh. Evidently, however, he had heart.

    The matter of experience is probably over-rated, in politics. George W. Bush had plenty, and gave us TARP. Mr. Obabma had little, and gave us a jail sentence, if you fail to buy private insurance. Walther was not a CFO, when he stepped up to the plate at Altenberg.

  5. If the LCMS is in such a precarious position today that it needs seasoned corporate leadership to survive, perhaps it’s time to ask the question: who “visioned” us into this mess in the first place? In my opinion it seems counter intuitive to elect the same man and expect him to get us out of our current mess.

    -Matt Mills

  6. @Rev. Clint K. Poppe #48

    Established organizations with lax requirements for membership are rich targets for those who see a shortcut to their goals. I call it a hijacking, and it happens in more than churches. Organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, and MADD all started out as moderate and encouraged easy membership. The public generally has positive images of non profits, especially churches, which makes their task easier. In the secular mind, all Christians are the same, so are all civic organizations; full of good people.

    Why leave and have to do the hard work of building a network and raise funds when they are there for the taking? New member classes in my church barely touch doctrine and it shows. Because we lack people to do jobs, we throw people into church work and authority that have hardly cracked open a Bible, let alone understand what Lutheran doctrine is. Some have just left their Baptist or Methodist churches because of marriage, or they are shoppers, and are actually enthusiastic about implementing new ideas for worship, sunday school, etc. When we confronted one Sunday School teacher about her expenses for crafts, she said the lessons were boring, and you couldn’t expect the kids to come and listen to them, so they did crafts.

    I am just a layperson, but very much interested in the lack of the emphisis on doctrine. Our young people are lost souls (Christopher Lashe’s book on Narcissim and Bloom’s “the Closing of the American Mind”, both remark on the emptiness and hopelessness of today’s youth, and were both written over a decade ago). The young (and old) don’t need praise bands and shallow theology, they actually are longing for an identity and are looking for help outside themselves, not more therapy and mind numbing silliness.

    I think the historian Robert Conquest’s second rule of politics was something like an organization that is not explicity conservative will eventually become left. It seems to be the case.

    I’ve decided if LCMS goes more left, I know I’m going somewhere else.

  7. @Rebecca W. #57

    “I am just a layperson…”

    Rebecca-You are not JUST a layperson, but don’t take it from me. At the convention, there will an equal number of “layperson” and clergy. Walther (“Church and Ministry”, The Holy Ministry, Thesis X): “To the ministry of the Word, according to divine right, belongs also the duty to judge doctrine, but laymen also possess this right. Therefore, in the ecclesiastical courts…and council, they are accorded both a seat and a vote together with the clergy.”

    There you have it! You have eloquently stated your case, you obviously have a good grasp of doctrine, and are not JUST a layperson. If you are not a delegate this year, I would nominate you in a heartbeat for conventions to come. In the meantime, do your homework, check the facts, and be willing to make your voice known.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Johannes (not JUST a layperson, either)

  8. -Sorry off topic-

    But, just thinking it would be cool for all the BJS participants who are also delegates to actually meet over a beer or Scotch on one of the nights.

    Kiley Campbell

  9. @Rebecca W. #57

    “I am just a layperson, but very much interested in the lack of the emphisis on doctrine.”

    I agree with Johannes, and we need more laity like you! Some of our congregations are very shallow and pathetic. There is really no excuse for that. I likewise pray that the LCMS will not move to the left: otherwise those trying to hijack the LCMS, making it what it is not, may find themselves left behind! The church is where the Word is prolaimed in its purity, and the Sacraments are rightly administered–not where the loudest praise band can be heard, and sermons can be fun story-times and self-help tutorials. My voice joins yours and others in one great KYRIE ELEISON! May God indeed have mercy, and stop Missouri from approaching non-Lutherans as the Show-me Synod. Some of us are still happy with Holy Scripture, and the Lutheran Confessions drawn from that Scripture.

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