Smiley Face – Official Newspaper of the LCMS

(Update: I have modified the second last sentence in the fourth paragraph to clarify it: “does not report all facts, it presents positions” TW)

“Official newspapers” are breeding grounds for pride in their publishers, and cynicism in their readers. We rightly ridicule the likes of Granma, “Órgano oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba”, but what are we to make of party-line publications in free societies and religious polities?

Those were my thoughts upon receiving the latest edition (Dec 2014)  of the Reporter, the “official newspaper of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod”.

gty_arts_culture_subordinated_ll_111221_vblogAll sorts of organizations have ‘official publications’, and the meaning of that phrase is clear: “This is what we want you to know and believe about us.” That is not necessarily wrong or a bad thing, but such publications need to be read with great care because they are essentially propaganda. They are designed for influence and control rather than information and debate. That becomes a lethal problem when the target audience discovers the world to be very different from what has been described to them – think escapees from the North Korean gulag.

The Reporter has a primarily propagandistic function which would be less of a problem if there wasn’t confusion about whom the LCMS is actually targeting. The Reporter is produced as if its primary audience is external to the Synod, yet the bulk of the circulation goes to members. It’s name is also misleading because it does not report all facts, it presents positions. So it might be more accurate to rename it Presenter.

The Reporter formula is straightforward:

  • LCMS responses to natural and human disasters dominate the text and graphics (Mercy).
  • Missions and activities receive most of the rest of the space (Witness).
  • No space is given to intra-Synodical controversies (Life Together).

The Synod bosses are certainly entitled to fill their own newspaper any way they choose. However, given the nature of our polity, putting a smiley face on everything is patronizing. It creates a reality vacuum that has to be filled, and the result is that we have a situation with the Reporter on one end and Christian News at the other. The reason we know that it’s a problem is because you cannot reconcile the two after reading them. The Reporter is all unicorns and rainbows, Christian News is all Sturm und Drang. There is simply no middle ground. Consequently, it is nearly impossible for LCMS members with vocations outside the Synod, and who cannot invest a great deal of time to understand the issues, to come to grips with disagreements, debates or controversies.

It seems that our Synod likes it this way.

For example, my congregation recently spent dozens of hours unpacking the controversy regarding Prof. Jeffrey Kloha’s “plastic text” paper and presentation. It dragged on until October when we finally drew some well balanced conclusions after a good deal of debate and research. The Synod and Seminary were aware of our efforts. Yet only in November did we find out that way back on August 15, President Harrison had issued an exoneration of Kloha via a letter to the Regents of CSL. Adding insult to injury, we have yet to receive any clarification of the revisions made to the paper by Dr. Kloha in response to “official” critiques. That information should have been carried in the Reporter.

Not doing so is utterly tone deaf and rather irresponsible. It suggests that members are to be patted on the head and sent on their way to less taxing endeavors like writing checks to the Synod.

My plea is for the Synod to be honest with itself. We are not too frail or stupid for hard debate. Why not use the Bible as a model? Tell it like it is, even when it has to be something like Judges 19.

There are dozens of issues on the boil that need forthright handling. Failing to do so imperils the Synod because each controversy is taking chunks out of the foundations. If we cannot rely on Synodical publications to address us robustly and honestly, then we should take a hard look at the communications budget which sucks up over $3 million a year. Imagine if we deployed those funds to supporting churches struggling to maintain a full-time pastor?


Smiley Face – Official Newspaper of the LCMS — 65 Comments

  1. Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. :
    @Tim Wood #48
    I do wonder what you call it when a pastor urges you to think of an action before you sin?

    If my pastor were to approach me, a married woman, and urge me to think about adultery before I commit it, I would call it presumption. Would I be wrong or perhaps this is not what you meant?

  2. @Letetia #50
    I think presumption is a good word. We must be oh so very careful if we do this of course. Sort of like someone saying to another, “if you keep going down this road…” Thanks for helping me out.

    Now if you are trapping me about the adultery comment, I would probably not do that ever. I may preach a sermon to the congregation reminding them of the joys between a man and a women in the bed of marriage if I think some in the congregation are embarking on bad behavior (I heard it through others, etc.)

  3. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #47

    Pr. Prentice,

    You don’t know me, and I challenge you to be more circumspect in your accusations. In fact, I have an exceptionally high regard for Christ’s Office. Error, however, is error, regardless of who speaks it. I do not, and did not assail Pr. Gallup’s character, nor did I challenge yours. I noted that an error was made, and you participated in it. You were wrong. So was he. Good men do stupid things. That was just a case in point.

    If you wish to chat privately, I will be happy to do so. But please, stop flinging accusations around that are so blatantly inappropriate. You’ve done so to Mr. Wood, and now you’ve done it to me. With brotherly affection, I say to you, knock it off.

  4. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #47
    I thought about this a bunch…and with all due respect, you have a low respect for the pastoral office and the men who try and shepherd the flock.

    “With all due respect”, I don’t think that’s true of Brad and the OHM.
    He may have a low opinion of our bureaucracy, (many of whom wear collars and don’t live up to the honor or the responsibility of them.) [So do I; I submit that they, as persons, earned our disrespect. That doesn’t apply to the Office.]

    There are those who would argue that the man who voluntarily leaves the pastoral ministry for a “desk job” has forfeited the right to be called “Pastor”. Dr. Luther had his opinions of “bishops” who wouldn’t fulfill their duties as “bishops”, too.

    Others would argue that, yes, they are pastors but they aren’t acting responsibly but selfishly. But maybe that also puts them out, per the definition of Pastor(bishop) to Timothy.

    As someone pointed out, the problem is money…and the notion that a desk jockey is worth so much more than a parish pastor. We used to say that the parish Pastor held the highest office, which is nice to hear, but small consolation when you are living on a subsistence wage.

    We don’t hear that so much any more, either.

  5. @helen #6
    Dear Helen, I have communicated with Pastor Brad, more chat will occur.We are good. Internet posting is not the best of communication, much is left off.

    Men that leave a call, unless defrocked are still Reverend, fondly called pastor in my eyes; some would differ.

    Not sure what you mean of a desk jockey? Referring to a worker/priest?

    But I do hope most, if not all people, still hold the pastor and the office he holds as high. Yet as pastors, we are simple servants of Christ.

  6. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #7
    Not sure what you mean of a desk jockey? Referring to a worker/priest?

    A man still on the roster but in the bureaucracy without even nominal responsibility for a congregation. They are all clustered up in a few churches and entirely forget what being a Pastor means to the laity.

  7. @helen #8
    Dear Helen,
    We do need some men to take on those desk jobs, remember Paul said we all have different skills. But a Parish pastor with all its joys, and lows; there is no better calling. All Reverends should remember why they got into the “business” (OK, I sometimes say some came in to the business kicking and screaming, God calls the man), we became a pastor to love and tend His sheep. And yes, the sheep drive us crazy at times (just like kids, I have three), but we need to take the extra time to love them, tend them, rebuke them, teach them.
    There are still good men that take those desk jobs, they can’t forget why though.

  8. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #9
    There are still good men that take those desk jobs, they can’t forget why though.

    If many of them haven’t forgotten “why”,
    their reasons are not the best reasons for Lutherans. 🙁

    The Economist
    World politics
    Business & finance

    The psychology of power

    Power corrupts, but it corrupts only those who think they deserve it
    Jan 21st 2010 | From the print edition

  9. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #11

    Dear Pr. Prentice,

    I have occasionally spoken to the “powerful”
    (and I do not think their opinion of themselves
    comes entirely from the Lord).

    They do not listen well to people who disagree with their agenda.

    But I may be off topic here?

  10. @helen #13
    Dear Helen,

    Remember what is behind ALL men and women that error or stray, or just plain sin, many times Satan, that clever rascal.

    Jesus rebuked Satan, not Peter when Peter in Matthew 16:22-24, doubted the words of the Lord leading to the cross.

    And tough for all of us, we MUST and SHOULD pray for all leaders, pastors, people, that are part of this Church, that the Lord keeps Satan back from causing sin and error.

    perhaps this is where the exhortation to “look for the good” or “keep best construction” in mind.

    Is Satan at work? Oh yes, he is, but God certainly has crushed him at the cross, and Satan cannot do anything without God knowing. That is another days discussion.

  11. Tim Wood :@Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #47 I did understand what Pr. Gallup was trying to say, although I do believe he misunderstood what I wrote because there was no likening of the Reporter to Communist propaganda.
    In fairness to Brad, Pr Gallup did call on me to repent for violating the 8th Commandment. That has not been retracted so I have to presume that he still maintains his accusation (which I hold to be ill-informed rather than false).

    I would have agreed with Pr. Gallup but I haven’t looked at BJS for several days. I certainly thought you were breaking the 8th Commandment when I saw the Communist propaganda scene with the flag of North Korea flying over it.

    If it has nothing to do with this article then why is it there? One would think you could remove that image if it has no bearing here.

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