President Kieschnick holds the gavel at the upcoming LCMS convention in Houston. He ought to be respected as the elected leader of our synod and holder of the gavel, delegates need to be aware of the significance of the authority of the gavel, and there should be some fear of the gavel as well.
First we need to respect the gavel. We have chosen to use a system of representative government and elected leaders for our church polity and so the president should be respected. He has been elected by the synod. Here at the end of his three terms as president, the synod is struggling (cuts in missions, financial woes, shrinking membership, etc.), but until another is elected and installed to take his place, he is our president and ought to be respected.
Secondly, delegates to the convention need to be aware of the power of persuasion that comes with the gavel. It is often times an unnoticed and subtle persuasion. The fact that the incumbent president gives the synodical report just prior to the elections is a huge advantage for him. After all, even in the worst of times in the synod (as we are experiencing now), there are still plenty of pictures of missionaries in Africa and hurting children in Haiti that can be flashed on the scene as proof that our little ole’ synod from Missouri is having an impact around the world.
The momentum to elect Rev. Matthew Harrison as the next president of the LCMS is strong but it will be challenged by this subtle power of the gavel. After all, both his critics and supporters alike will acknowledge that President Kieschnick has a powerful way of persuasion. He is one of those folks, as we say, who could sell air conditioners to Eskimos so we ask the delegates to be respectful of the gavel but also be aware of it and to an appropriate extent fear it.