President Kieschnick’s Curious Response to the LCMS Convention, by Pr. Rossow

President Kieschnick has written a curious response to the LCMS convention. On the one hand, it is great that he prays God’s blessing on the new presidium. On the other hand, I am not sure about his comparison of the LCMS to the church in Corinth. He is correct that we are divided like the church in Corinth but it seems odd that he would admit that on July 21st when just a few weeks ago he was touting our unity under his leadership. It also may be uncharitable to label the convention that voted him out of office as “Corinthian immature.”

Maybe I am reading something into this note that is not there. We certainly agree with President Kieschnick when he quotes St. Paul affirming that God is the one who gives the growth in the church.

Here is the text. Let us know what you think. (This is from President Kieschnick’s weekly “Perspectives” which you can sign up for at the LCMS website.)

Volume I Number 42

“Planting, Watering, Growing”

The 64th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is now history. Resolutions were adopted, decisions were made, leaders were elected. At the convention and throughout the Synod, a wide variety of emotions and responses resulted—rejoicing, grieving, praying, and wondering. Affirming that Christ is Lord of His church, brothers and sisters in Christ responded in different ways to the election of a new Synod president. The office of president of a national church body, especially The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, is a sacred trust. The president is called to lead the church to internal peace, productivity, and even prosperity, especially in a time of external uncertainty, economic recession, and international conflict. Doing so is not an easy or simple task. I pray the blessing of our gracious God will abide with the new president and vice-presidents-elect, upon whom the mantle of Synod leadership will now be placed.

In the New Testament, Paul addresses a church in conflict, experiencing divided loyalty. It was a young church, characterized by partisan, immature behavior. He writes words worthy of consideration, especially at this time in the LCMS: “… For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed … I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Co r. 3:3-11).

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!

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.


President Kieschnick’s Curious Response to the LCMS Convention, by Pr. Rossow — 68 Comments

  1. Dear Andrew (comment #47 et al),

    I am sincerely sorry to hear about your experience with that “confessional Lutheran,” whoever he/she was, whatever the circumstance. Things like that will “turn you off” to just about anything that reminds you of that person or experience. I have had my own share of being pushed out of congregations and positions and jobs by both “liberals” and “conservatives” and “whatever.” So I know how that goes and how it feels.

    The wrong thing to do with experiences like that is to merely react to it emotionally. Then you become a “reactionary,” of one type or another. Better is to analyze the situation and persons involved. Was it a situation where people reacted poorly to stress, conflict, or disagreement? The majority of people on this planet do that, so you can’t blame it on a group loyalty or personality trait.

    This is the situation that Western societies are facing right now with Islam. Are the Muslims just reacting poorly to stress, conflict, and disagreement in the nations they live? Well, that is just human nature. Or, is there something intrinsic or essential to Islam that makes it violent? Quoting all sorts of passages about “jihad” will not answer that question. Islam has to be understood as a complete religious system, in order to answer whether or not it is intrinsically violent, or leads to violence.

    “Confessional Lutheran” is a religious type, that includes several US denominations, such as the LCMS, WELS, ELS, and a few others. It includes churches around the world associated with the ILC and the WELS global association. It is characterized by allegiance in doctrine and ecclesial practice to the 1580 Book of Concord, which summarizes the teachings of Luther and his colleagues. There are a very few folks who might make the name “confessional Lutheran” mean something more than this; but for us it really just means people who want to follow LCMS doctrine and eccesial practice, as defined in LCMS Constitution Article II and VI.

    “Confessional Lutherans” are a religious minority in the United States. The three dominant Christian groups are Roman Catholic, Evangelical, and Liberal Mainline. LCMS and Confessional Lutherans do not fit into any of those groups, so there will always be stress, conflict, and disagreement between those folks who follow the “confessional Lutheran” religious type and those who also want to interject aspects of one of the three dominant religious groups.

    “Confessional Lutherans” are also morally conservative, so they are likely to come into conflict with those people in our culture who are morally liberal.

    If we want to be Lutherans in the 21st century, we have to learn to live with disagreement and conflict, and how to lead by example in “cool-headed dialogue. This is because most people become agitated emotionally over religious disagreements. Pastor Harrison’s “It’s Time” is an excellent proposal for “cool-headed dialogue” within our church.

    I see “It’s Time” as necessary in our life as a church, in this point in our history. If we can’t learn “cool-headed dialogue,” then the constant stress of “hot-headed dialogue” will lead to greater membership loss. Or we will solve the stress by transforming ourselves into one of the main religious types, as the ELCA has done by becoming “Liberal Mainline.” So our LCMS has three choices: 1) learn cool-headed dialogue; 2) begin to fracture and continue membership decline; or 3) ape Catholics, Evangelicals, or Liberals.

    Regarding being “missional,” Dr. Ken Schurb has written an excellent article on what that term means. I believe it was published in LOGIA. Some folks in the LCMS have claimed that “If you don’t do X, you are not missional.” In other words, they are mandating to the church HOW it has to do outreach today. Since Scripture has not mandated HOW to do outreach, besides Word and Sacrament ministry, these folks are adding dogma to Scripture.

    The fact is that Lutherans do outreach in many different ways, because the HOW of outreach is adiaphora. Some of those ways are different that Evangelical ways, because of our different theology. Our LCMS has been very outreach oriented from the very beginning. Its history of missions and evangelism was slandered by John Tietjen’s “Mission in the Making,” who basically said that LCMS missions were worthless before Danker went to Japan after WWII.

    Tietjen’s book was published in the early 1960s, and caused many LCMS pastors, teachers, and leaders to think that we have not been “missional.” The truth is that Tietjen was looking for anything to make “Grandpa’s church” look bad, so he and his crew could come forward as the saviors of the LCMS. Ever since, there has been a large contingent of LCMS people who don’t think LCMS Lutherans are concerned with outreach. They don’t know they were duped by Tietjen, so I don’t hold that against them. They just need to learn our real history!

    This comment is longer that I wanted, but you seem open to responses to your comments above. May our Lord bless your work in His church, as you prepare for the next school year.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. revfisk,

    Huh. You’re a pretty bright guy. I should have paid more attention to you when we were in Seminary together. =)


  3. Jim Pierce :
    @Andrew Strickland #47

    Since you brought up Leonard Sweet, the problem is not that he isn’t Lutheran, but he isn’t a Christian. He is a panentheist deeply involved in what used to be called the New Age movement. That he has been allowed to trapse around LCMS conferences and events unchecked is a travesty, to say the least.

    Dear Jim
    I used Sweet’s quote because it struck a nerve with me. I have a pretty good sense of where he is theologically and that I can stay away from. What he has to say on culture is another thing to me. But yes dangerous ground.

  4. @Concerned LCMS Lutheran #20
    The word “united” can be verrrrrrrrrrrrry scarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrey these day, especially when it comes to the church as evidenced by all those denominations who in the 60’s and 70’s inserted the word united in their name. Problem with wanting unity today as I see it is that there is always disharmony as we try to figure out who to unite with and what to unite about. It should be obvious that we as Lutherans should unite around the scriptures, the Book of Concord, the proper hymnody and evangelism done properly but I think that is a big task considering all the distractions and attractions with which we are bombarded on a daily basis that would lead us from unity. I think this is God’s job to get us all on board through worthy pastors who will point out nonsense in today’s Christless Christianity and point us ever toward Christ not to the next great program.

  5. Have to share this. I visited my Orthodox dad in the hospital. His priest was there as well. We got into an interesting discussion over the continual division in the western church. The priest laughed, and said you guys are reaping what you sowed. It was funny, but in a sense he was right. We have not been able to halt the continual divisions in the church. Although I did say that I was LCMS and that we were right. Maybe that is why I was excommunicated. 🙂 “You guys”, he said, “are alright.”

    Thank you for the clarifications. I do firmly believe that we have always been missional minded, but I also believe that it needs to shift a little.

    I taught at an inner city Lutheran school for nine years, before we closed. We closed not due to money, but the three association churches were pulling in three different ways. As an aside, a very liberal pastor and a very conservative pastor are not like oil and water, but more like a match and a Christmas tree. I realized that the kids at this school did not have a church. They never went to church and did not have a church home. In essence school was their church. The only place they were going to hear the Gospel was at school. And it was working. Unfortunately the internal strife drove us down.

  6. Dear Andrew (comment #54),

    This reply will be brief. 🙂

    On the parochial school issue, brother, I am right there with you!

    I have always believed that our Lutheran schools are one of the chief parts of our LCMS outreach. It is one of the unique elements in our LCMS identity. That is the main reason I matriculated at CTC, River Forest, and had intended to become an LCMS elementary school teacher, before going to seminary.

    We could have a much broader outreach and more competitive schools (i.e., competitive against Catholic, private, charter, and top-ranked public schools) if our LCMS congregations could work together in supporting schools, in an inter-parish way. Some still do, but many of our parishes have only “parochial vision,” i.e., they are not really interested in cooperating with their neighboring LCMS churches in a significant way.

    One bad pastor in the mix in an inter-parish school can tear the whole thing down. Or conflict any which way between pastors, principals, teachers, or lay leaders. It isn’t a “liberal-conservative” thing. Its just bad leadership; and the people who get the brunt of the pain are the teachers–and then the kids–when the school closes. But it is everyone’s loss!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  7. Matthew Gunia :
    Huh. You’re a pretty bright guy. I should have paid more attention to you when we were in Seminary together. =)

    Don’t know what I said, Matt, but I appreciate the sentiment. 🙂

  8. revfisk,

    In particular, your analysis of Corinth in view of (post) modern Western culture in comment 28. But your various blog posts, appearances on Issues, Etc., and other general pithy theological insights.

  9. I sincerely wish the Reverend Kieschnick a happy retirement. I am not without hope that he, personally, might return to professsing pure doctrine and practice. Stranger things have happened! As for the history books, I think I can say with confidence that he will be regarded as the man who did the most damage to Confessional Lutheranism in our time. He will be remembered as the Samuel Simon Schmucker of the 21st Century.

  10. @MCP #56
    They are divided, but on cultural lines, which to the Orthodox poses not problem as they place value in their doctrine. Not defending, just sayin. So if my Anticohian Orthodox father visits a Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, OCA, or any other Orthodox church, the doctrine will be the same.

  11. “The president is called to lead the church to internal peace, productivity,
    and even prosperity,” quote from Pres. Kieschnick’s “Perspectives”

    Um, no. Here we have evidence of either poor, unLutheran theology, or atheology.

    No one in the church is ever called to lead her in any such things. That is up
    to God. The president is elected to oversee the pastors and congregations and organizations of the LCMS in the faithful confession of the one true faith in what we say and do. Period.

    Furthermore, the president of the LC-MS is *not* a called position. If it were we would only have elections when a president died, resigned, or was dismissed for Scriptural cause.

  12. @revfisk #46
    I must as a man who loves to flyfish and wishes he didn’t live 2.5 hours from good trout waters both play with with your analogy and disagree wtih the point your trying to make.

    The “plastic pants” are waders.

    They are in one sense the way to keep the water out and get as close as you can to the fish; but they can be the wrong equipment at the wrong time even the best high tech breathable waders can get hot and stuffy in July and August in the streams adjacent to the Mississippi in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Sometime you just have to leave them off otherwise you’ll boil. There’s a reason why lots of self respecting fishermen wade out in aqua socks or sandals in the height of the summer heat enjoying the feeling of a cold spring fed creek rushing over their legs while their upper body sweats.

    The same goes for the church. Shut the doors and windows intellectually and spiritually in the midst of the heat and it’s unbearable; even unsafe. Open them up; engage in the culture, debate with your neighbors, and tell them about Jesus and Paul and what they taught.


  13. At least Pres. K’s email wasn’t as bad as Cleveland Cavalier’s President Dan Gilbert’s email after losing LeBron.

  14. @revfisk #65
    From Higher Things to Pirate Christian Radio, I’m afraid the rising confessionalism in the LCMS is anything but stuffy.)


    Don’t be “afraid”! (I don’t really think you are.)
    Celebrate Higher Things, Issues Etc., Pirate Christian Radio!
    They are a witness to Lutheran faith and are “engaging the culture”.

    You do pretty well yourself, “revfisk”! 🙂

    To create another imperfect analogy: When I was a gardener, I enjoyed getting down in the dirt, planting seeds, pulling weeds, harvesting fruits or vegetables. But I did all this in the garden. I didn’t bring the dirt which was useful there into the living room where we have another attitude about dirt.
    So also we may enjoy (or learn to enjoy) some aspects of “the culture”, such as pop music (or even this computer screen) which do not really assist God in serving us in church. IMHO.
    (But of course you have to understand that “God serving us” is what should be going on in church.)
    Have your concerts in the fellowship hall.

    God bless!

  15. I heard that! Yes while the Shepard’s are arguing we sheep are looking for food, and if you have not noticed the flock is wandering off. We sheep get lip service while the real passion in the LCMS is who among you is feeding the sheep in a correct way.
    Look, the Shepard over there is holding out his arms to me and turning his back on the arguing flock masters. He cares about me more then the arguments. I think I will travel with him.

  16. @Jim Pierce #48
    Bravo to you, Jim. I’m hosting a show tomorrow, September 9, on Leonard Sweet and the LCMS is getting dishonorable mention on the show. The South Wisconsin District is bringing in this New Age false teacher for an ALL DAY seminar at Lake Country Lutheran High School. Interestingly enough, although I have been in broadcasting for 22 years in this city, Rev. Wille will not even return my phone calls, which is not only unprofessional of him, but from a Christian standpoint, is appallingly callous behavior. I am also an LCMS member. Are the denomination’s leadership above accountability now? Just like Rome once was?

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