A Pastoral Letter to
Pastors of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
From President Jerry Kieschnick
August 11, 2010
Dear Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace be with you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
This will be my last “Pastoral Letter” as president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. My term officially ends Sept. 1, so I’m spending some of the days of August moving out of the fourth-floor International Center office, not an insignificant challenge!
My thoughts and feelings these days are many and varied. I’m thankful for the privilege and humbled by the burden of having served as president of our beloved Synod, which has been led by men whose names are fairly familiar to many: Walther, Wyneken, Schwan, Pieper, Pfotenhauer, Behnken, Harms, Preus, Bohlmann, Barry, and Kuhn. Kieschnick is now leaving and Harrison is coming. Men with feet of clay, touched by God’s Spirit with a variety of gifts, recognized and asked to serve by people with hopes and dreams for the church body we all know and love – The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
My hopes and dreams for our Synod have not been fully accomplished. No surprise there, for we are still the church militant, not yet the church triumphant. During my time in office, I’ve been perplexed by a number of things, some of which I identified and described in my verbal report to the Synod Convention a few weeks ago. One matter in particular continues to be a concern for me and for many. Here are slightly paraphrased excerpts from my report dealing with that specific concern:
1. An “inability to deal with diversity” in such issues as admission to Holy Communion, worship substance and style, the Office of the Public Ministry and the role of laity, and the service of women in the church.
2. A “lack of civility” that leads to rumors, lies, slander, sarcasm, and cruel satire, doing violence to the Eighth Commandment and sorely wounding our church.
3. A “politicized culture” that has turned our Synod into “a denomination of parties.”
4. These problems are “primarily a clergy problem.” Pastors “seem to be in the forefront of practices and attitudes unbefitting God’s people.”
5. “Poor communication across ‘Party Lines'” hampers the ability, or the will, to listen to one another.
6. A “lack of accountability” for “sinful attitudes and behaviors,” falling on the shoulders of district presidents and circuit counselors to “admonish, teach, encourage, and model ‘churchmanship.'”
7. “Distrust,” particularly among clergy, resulting in increasingly partisan politics.
Delegates to this convention have witnessed or experienced some of these firsthand. As disconcerting as these aspects of disharmony are, it is important that we acknowledge them. For only by facing up to our problems can we hope to fix them. Unity, harmony, and concord among us are not what they ought to be and need to be improved significantly.
This will not be accomplished by changes in structure and governance, but by the Spirit of God working within us through Word and Sacrament. That does not make structure and governance improvements insignificant or unnecessary. All problems we face must be addressed. A person who has both heart disease and kidney malfunction cannot ignore either of those conditions.
From my perspective on this side of the convention, those words have not diminished in importance. Unless and until these matters are addressed and resolved, our Synod will continue to be blown about by the changing winds of political persuasion. We are not at our best when finding fault with each other, when believing rumors and promulgating innuendo, when failing to “defend, speak well of, and put the best construction on everything.”
Satan delights at these failures, which I’ve described elsewhere in these words: “It is my own sense that the propensity for political propaganda that seems imbedded in our denominational DNA all too often divides our well-trained clergy, dispirits our godly lay men and lay women, weakens our witness to the world, and leaves us feeling torn and empty.”
In the place of such division, may God find us faithful in fulfilling vigorously the ONE Mission of seeking the lost for Christ, by communicating the ONE Message that Jesus Christ, and He alone, is the Savior of the world, as ONE People – Forgiven, striving side-by-side for the faith of the Gospel.
To that end I share with you these words of biblical encouragement and counsel:
- “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
- “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:24-25).
- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9).
- “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5-6).
The peace of the Lord be with you all!
Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
e-mail: [email protected]
Web page: www.lcms.org/president
“Transforming lives through Christ’s love … in time … for eternity …” John 3:16-17