Just the Facts, Ma’am: LCMS “FOIA” Request Denied

Just the facts ma am

The following information is provided as a service to BJS readers.

FACT: On December 29, 2014 I sent the following request to the LCMS via email:

“I am seeking a list of all recognized Satellite Worship Sites within the LCMS.  If possible, can someone provide me with the name, location, and host church of each of these sites?  I thank you.        Randy”

FACT: On December 30, 2014 I received the following response via email:

Dear Randy,

Thank you for writing. To receive a list such as you describe you would first need to receive approval from your district president. Once he has approved your request the Department of Rosters and Statistics could provide you with the requested information.

I hope this information is helpful. God bless your day.

<<<signed>>>

LCMS Church Information Center

Phone: 888-843-5267

Fax: 314-996-1126

Hours: 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Central Time

Monday through Friday”  (emphasis added)

FACT: The purpose of my request was to simply acquire a consolidated list of Satellite Worship Sites in order to identify how they were being used within the LCMS. The information can be gained via the LCMS website, but only by accessing each congregation individually. However, the LCMS refused my request until I gained District President approval.

QUESTION: Should the LCMS be in the practice of denying basic information to members in good standing? Should a member in good standing be required to get DP approval in order to acquire basic information from the LCMS front office?

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Through the keen ability and “Entrepreneurial Research” of the BJS team, we were able to compile the following list via open source information.

LCMS Satellite Worship Sites by District

We were able to identify 133 Satellite Worship Sites (SWS) throughout the LCMS. As a service to BJS readers, the list is now available here.  Please note, a number of the SWSs are being used in absolutely praiseworthy ways (Assisted Living sites and outreach to areas with no LCMS presence). However, others are store-front parishes planted in close proximity to established congregations.

My appreciation goes out to Tim Wood, T.R. Halvorson, and Norm Fisher for their assistance in this effort.


Comments

Just the Facts, Ma’am: LCMS “FOIA” Request Denied — 147 Comments

  1. @Letetia #41

    @Abby #42

    Great comments. It is truly a sad state of affairs and painful to watch the loss of Lutheran doctrine and practice among so many LCMS members, member congregations and institutions. Nevertheless, be encouraged and comforted by the fact that our faithful God has promised to never to leave us nor forsake us. Hebrews 13:5,6

  2. @GaiusKurios #50
    LINO seems a little harsh for Trinity (Mission), since it is the “mother church” for all of the other LCMS congregations in Johnson County, Kansas. I have not visited Lord of Life (Leawood), Timothy (Blue Springs), or any of the ones in the northern part of the metropolitan area that Rev. Vogts mentioned. Hope (Shawnee) is still liturgical as far as I know; it has been a while since our last time there. We are long-time members at Redeemer (Olathe), which also remains liturgical. Some are calling (loudly at times) for a more contemporary style, but so far we are succesfully resisting. There are other options not far away if that is what they really want.

  3. ross :
    @Letetia #41
    @Abby #42
    Great comments. It is truly a sad state of affairs and painful to watch the loss of Lutheran doctrine and practice among so many LCMS members, member congregations and institutions. Nevertheless, be encouraged and comforted by the fact that our faithful God has promised to never to leave us nor forsake us. Hebrews 13:5,6

    Amen to that. You can’t help but be very grateful for what is right within the LC-MS because of the contrast. The gospel being proclaimed by steadfast pastors, sound doctrine taught, sheep being cared for by faithful undershepherds-all this stands out and shines among heterodoxy. It’s made my husband and I all the more thankful. We’ve seen how easy it is to lose this where you are and have to go searching.

  4. @Brad #49
    I agree to an extent but I see such extremes being presented. What if a church doesn’t have pews, but rather padded chairs? What if that church doesn’t have every Sunday communion? What if that church has a pastor who doesn’t wear a chasuble? What if that church has announcements prior to the service? Because that is my church. Yet we use the hymnal every Sunday and I even try to chant and I pray every Sunday my sermon is a correct preaching of Law and Gospel and not works. I think many Lutherans, like John Rixe points out on here, see themselves as somewhere blessedly in the middle like my church is. Yet the impression is at times in the comments on here that if you ain’t a 100% “liturgical” in every way there is something wrong with you or that your church needs to be fixed. Now do I think praise bands are good? No. But I am willing to live with children’s messages, announcements, albs and stoles instead of chasubles, every other Sunday communion, and so on. Yet I get the impression that many on here are not willing to do so. And my guess is they would walk into my church and make a snap judgment within the first 5 minutes when they see no pews, no chasuble, and start hearing announcements. And that’s a shame.

  5. @Rev. McCall #4
    I understand what you are getting at, but there are also some very bad practices which, in turn, reflect very bad doctrine being acted out by schismatics in our beloved synod. ACELC has called out our leaders on this, but has been largely ignored. Apparently, that’s what they do best – ignore problems and people until they just go away. But ACELC is not going away. If anyone by now has not read the errors ACELC has addressed, I implore you to do so. These things must be addressed if we are to walk together.

  6. @LadyM #5
    I agree, but here is what I am getting at. I think many confessional folks will forever be labeled as far right or extreme if they can’t rise above the mundane. Many things in the articles and comments on here are not truly bad practices. They are just practices that I or someone else do or do not like. But if we make them a big deal it just makes that persons stance look extreme or judgmental when they focus on those things. So for instance, in the spirit of Ronald Regan who wanted a big tent, can’t people agree on the following broad ideas and agree not to criticize them:

    1. Clergy should vest. But I don’t care if you wear a chasuble or your grandfathers hand me down alb and stole. And I won’t think less or judge you either way.

    2. Congregations should celebrate the Lord’s Supper often. But I don’t care if that means one church celebrates it every week and another celebrates it every other week.

    3. Congregations should use synodical materials. But I don’t care what setting, red or blue or maroon, or whether you chant. I also don’t care if you have an organ, piano, or can only afford to use a guitar and the guitar chord edition of LSB.

    4. I don’t care what happens before or after the service. I don’t care if you have announcements, quiet time, prelude music, or whatever. What I care about is what happens once that service actually starts.

    5. I don’t care about things like crafts verses hymn singing during VBS. What I care about is that you are using synodical approved materials and properly distinguishing between law and gospel.

    Feel free to add to this! But here is the positive encouragement we need to be giving, “Dear brother, your church may not be how my church is or do things how I do them but I thank God for you and the liturgy you use and the solid message you preach.” Period. Instead of always trying to fix and change things about one another we think are not right but are really just mundane. God bless!

  7. @Rev. McCall #6
    I am in general agreement with the sentiment, but #2 is specifically addressed in the BoC; for example, Ap XXIV(XII):1 (emphasis added).

    In the first place, we must mention, by way of introduction, that we do not abolish the Mass; for Mass is held in our churches on every Sunday and festival, when the Sacrament is administered to those who desire it, that is, after they have been examined and absolved. Besides, the real Christian ceremonies are likewise observed, in reading, singing, praying, etc.

    Now, some might quibble that this is descriptive rather than prescriptive; but it was clearly the default practice and expectation of the Lutheran Reformers that Lutheran congregations would administer the Sacrament every Sunday. I suppose that technically this is done by churches that have two services and alternate which one includes the Lord’s Supper. Still, what is the argument for omitting it? Why not have it at every service?

  8. @Rev. McCall #4

    Rev. McCall,

    I am not an advocate of extremism, and I hope I have not come across that way. By and large, I’ve not read most of the primary postings on BJS that way, either. Perhaps the decreasing charity in dialogue that you’ve noticed (and I have, in many places and environments, as well) is a result of the long suppressed honesty regarding our practical disunity in doctrine and practice. The greater and longer the repression of such concerns, the more likely they are to erupt in vociferous ways… at least that has been my experience.

    But perhaps more to your point, if we actually worked through our most pressing issues, and a broader charity was restored, then shrill voices with nothing better to do than cause divisions over less significant things, would be easily drowned out. Until then, I think many will view the Synod as either a political prize to be won in order to effect their will on the larger population, or a self serving bureaucracy that is incapable or unwilling to restore unity by confronting heresy/heterodoxy. Neither of those options is particularly healthy for a church body.

    I think it’s past time for a passionate and messy engagement of pastors and laity in the Synod gatherings, where voices get heard, issues get addressed, and honest action prevails. If we don’t do it willingly, it will burst forth on its own eventually– and with much less manageable results.

    Cheers–

  9. @Jon Alan Schmidt #7

    John,

    You’re right. While so many Lutheran congregations (and not just within the LCMS) think this is an open question, our Confessions actually speak to it quite bluntly.

    Not a problem, if your Synod holds an unfettered subscription to the Confessions… or at least, one would think. But unfortunately, long held deviations and errors become traditions themselves, with their own set of traditional defenders and apologetics. The problem isn’t with the text, but with the convictions of the readers.

  10. @Rev. McCall #6
    Yes, and I agree with your points. I think satan, the world, and our own sinful flesh wants to lead us down paths that go nowhere in order to fail on the big issues. That was my point with bringing up ACELC. They have attempted to address those major errors that are tearing us apart. I’m sure there are a few more, but we need to at least start somewhere. There are a few instigators on here who love to turn the subject away from the real issue and many are willing to follow. Perhaps we could ignore those who do this and they will go away (at least the bureaucrats are teaching us something). 🙂 One question I do have about “synodical approved materials,” is what if they are not doctrinally sound? Is every last thing that comes from CPH solid now because I can name a lot of older materials that really stunk.

  11. @Jon Alan Schmidt #7

    Jon:

    Why not have the Lord’s Supper at every service? Sometimes, a pastor is called to a congregation where they have not had the Lord’s Supper at every service and it takes years of patient teaching so they appreciate the gift.

    It is a sad but true statement that there are some Lutherans who think that taking the Lord’s Supper every week is anti-Lutheran and too Roman Catholic. This comes from a misunderstanding of Luther’s argument that the 16th century Roman Catholic church elevated the Sacrament above the Word. So to be Lutheran in their minds, they wish to elevate the Word over the Sacrament by not having the Sacrament. They just don’t realize that they are not elevating the Word over the Sacrament by this, but dismissing the Sacrament as inconsequential and trivial.

    Pietism also plays into it. An LCMS congregation I know proudly remembered their history of having the Lord’s Supper only 4 times a year in years past. This comes right out of the Pietist teachings. This congregation also deeply resented it when they were led to have more frequent communion services. Every Sunday communion for this church led to open rebellion. Sadly, the gifts of Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of their sins could not be received thankfully every week.

    This is why, while one could wish every LCMS congregation could just openly accept every Sunday communion like that, and while it’s easy to point fingers at those who don’t, getting those who haven’t to that point takes patient teaching and longsuffering on the part of faithful pastors.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  12. @Rev. Robert Mayes #11
    I am aware of the historical roots of less frequent administration and agree that changing it in a particular congregation has to be done slowly, patiently, and with much accompanying instruction. In fact, the new article just posted here this morning provides an excellent description of the whole issue and makes the same point.

  13. @Jon Alan Schmidt #13

    Jon:

    So we are in agreement then. When I had read your words before, it sounded as if you were casting blame at all congregations that did not have every Sunday communion because of the expectation give in AC XXIV. And that’s why I responded. There are pastoral reasons why congregations don’t have every Sunday communion. My thought is, even if a congregation is not there yet, they may at least be pointing in the right direction and heading there one step at a time. Likewise, the reverse may be true too. A congregation may have every Sunday communion, but despising it, pointing in the wrong direction, and trying to back out of it several steps at a time.

    We do not have every Sunday communion at my two congregations that I serve. We don’t even have the Lord’s Supper on the 5th Sunday of the month. I personally would love having the Lord’s Supper every week. I definitely notice the months when we go without the Lord’s Supper for two straight weeks in a row, and it doesn’t help me or my spiritual life at all. But congregationally, we’re not at the point where we can get there yet as a whole. So I continue extolling the gifts as I can.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  14. @Rev. Robert Mayes #14
    Yes, my questions above were intended to be rhetorical, directed at anyone who would actively argue against offering the Sacrament every Sunday. In the real world, pastoral situations always require the exercise of context-sensitive practical judgment, not blind adherence to a rigid rule or procedure.

  15. @Jon Alan Schmidt #15
    A humble suggestion as well when it comes to announcements. I realize this too is one of those things Rev. Mayes points out that may cause more harm than good should a pastor cease doing them. So in my instance we still do announcements before the service but then after the announcements there is either silent time to go over the Christian Questions and Answers (communion Sunday’s) or we pray Luther’s Morning prayer together (Non-communion Sunday’s). We still have announcements but at least afterward we still have some time to prepare our hearts and minds for worship.

  16. Jon Alan Schmidt @ #2
    It is true that Trinity Mission did spin off a number of daughter congregations. (I am not sure what their intent is with the satellite in Shawnee.) They have been liberal for a long time. But in recent years they have morphed into a PLI/CG/CoWo, replete with drums up front and big projection screens, congregation. Glad that Redeemer is still liturgical. My hope is that Lange will replace Kohlmeier in a few months which should change the direction of the Kansas District. If nothing else, I doubt you will see that all new graduates who come into the district are from only one seminary (St. Louis) like happened last year.

  17. @GaiusKurios #17

    Kohlmeier retiring? Term limited? Could be interesting, also in regards to the future of lay ministry…. I believe Mirly on the Missouri is ending this summer. May be interesting to see the greater Kansas City area over the next few years.

  18. @Jason #18
    Yes, DP Kohlmeier is term-limited and not eligible for reelection. I have no idea how the field is shaping up as far as potential successors. I might have volunteered to serve as our lay representative at the District Convention, but the time frame overlaps with a long-planned family vacation trip.

  19. I am not “cherry picking” at all. My wife and I are considering that area of the north Kansas City suburbs for possible retirement someday for other reasons, not based on the proximity of LCMS congregations. These four LCMS congregations just happen to be within about a five-mile radius of the neighborhoods we are considering. I have not looked into congregations in other parts of the metro region because those are not areas where we are considering retiring someday.

    As far as I know, they don’t put a confessional, liturgical Lutheran potion into the water up there, and there’s nothing I can see about that five-mile radius that should make the LCMS congregations there exceptional. I see no reason why, compared to the experiences of others, my positive experience should be dismissed as an anomaly and not possibly representative overall of the LCMS as a whole. It seems to me that actually is “cherry picking.”

  20. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #20

    It is not that you have found good churches. We know they exist. For all the stereotyping of the east, I can rattle off a number of good congregations and pastors. Maybe 50-50. However, if you listen to DP’s and districts staffs, they most decidedly want to go in an CoWo, TCN, PLI, CGM direction. Listening to their press, it sounds like a majority or super majority of congregations are of this contemporary ilk. At least that’s what they want.

    So the point I quibble with is when you say your liturgical experiences are representative of the LC-MS, because they are not. The LC-MS is way too much all over the map, with a far too large of a percentage that does not align with Lutheran orthopraxis.

  21. @Jason #21
    My experience is just anecdotal, but here in NID the program called, ‘New Starts, New Believers’ appears to be all contemporary, small groups-type direction. Also I’m aware of one SWD new start that continues to be a small group meeting at an expresso/music bar in downtown Madison on Sunday evenings.

    I would agree with you Jason that the LCMS is all over the map as far as liturgical practices go, with pockets of congregations using LSB. I’ve seen congregations have LSB in the hymn racks but Creative Worship, CPH used consistently. One congregation outside The Villages, Trinity Lutheran, in Florida has no hymnals and they use screens with all TLH hymns.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  22. Jon Alan Schmidt :
    @GaiusKurios #50
    We are long-time members at Redeemer (Olathe), which also remains liturgical.
    .

    Off topic, but would you recommend the Germany trip based on the leaders? Is the pastor going? I have been looking for something just like that to take my teen aged son on. He went with my husband on the Footsteps of Paul tour led by Pr. Wolfmueller. Since then, I have been looking for something like this.

    Oooh, you know what else would be really really cool, a Footsteps of Walther tour. It could start in Germany and end in the US.

    Okay, well I would love to get some idea of the leaders of the Germany trip.

  23. >>Listening to their press, it sounds like a majority or super majority

    When I was serving at Concordia University Wisconsin, I once had someone from one of these congregations tell me, “Don’t you know that 50% of Missouri Synod Lutherans are members of just 5% of Missouri Synod congregations”? The point being that CUW and the Synod overall should cater more to these 300 congregations. But I quickly did the math and explained that would give each one of those congregations some 7,000 members, which couldn’t be correct. And that doesn’t consider the fact that larger congregations often have much lower attendance as a percentage of membership, and larger proportions of people listed as members who don’t actually attend. But he was undaunted: “That’s the figure they told us at our last conference and I know it’s true.”

    >>with pockets of congregations using LSB

    I suggest it is the negative examples cited that are actually the “pockets” and not broadly representative of the entire LCMS overall. For example, Lutheran Service Book has sold over 1,000,000 copies and is now used by over 85% of LCMS congregations. [http://blogs.lcms.org/2015/lsb-prices-to-rise] That is really extraordinary, especially considering that in our Synod adoption of a new hymnal is entirely voluntary on the part of the congregation.

    >>when you say your liturgical experiences are representative of the LC-MS . . . they are not

    I don’t see any reason why my experiences in this regard should be dismissed as less representative of the Synod than those reported by others. If 85% of LCMS congregations have gone to the significant expense of purchasing LSB, it seems to me the negative experiences reported above cannot be broadly representative of the Synod overall.

  24. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #25
    May I suggest that LSB is in the pews and used for the singing of hymns, but the liturgy/liturgies are overwhelmingly printed in the bulletin. Whether or not they are reprinted word for word from LSB I do not know. My family attended a highly liturgical service, LCMS, in a Chicago suburb, with incense and the ringing of bells and yet the liturgy was in the bulletin. In fact, one could tell the front part of the hymnal wasn’t used because of the stiffness of the binding of the hymnal compared to the hymn section. Again this is just anecdotal information.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  25. Diane: May I suggest that LSB is in the pews and used for the singing of hymns, but the liturgy/liturgies are overwhelmingly printed in the bulletin.

    Just curious, is there a major theological objection to this? If the order of service is consistent with the historic liturgy and has been Synodically approved as “doctrinally pure,” does it really matter where it is printed?

  26. @Jon Alan Schmidt #27
    Hi Jon,
    You are correct in so far as if everything is included in the bulletin. About a decade ago, I attended a Lenten service that was printed out. Psalm 51 was labelled as Confession and read by the people. All fine and good except that there was no Absolution printed. If I’m to confess my sins as David did, I want Absolution. To put the best construction on things it was an oversight. The visiting pastor inserted the absolution thank God. If he hadn’t, I believe very few people would have noticed. By using LSB liturgies and hymns by the book so to speak, it prevents errors from occurring. Also, I will never understand why so many pastors print the liturgy in the bulletin. If they would use the liturgies straight from LSB they wouldn’t waste so much paper and the people would come to love their hymnals. It also keeps the pastor from ad-libbing and becoming an emcee!

    In Christ,
    Diane

  27. Jon Alan Schmidt @#19

    As far as the DP race in the Kansas District, it seems to be between Lange (confessional) and Snow (church growth). Firth, the district mission director, was also considered a contender until he took a position with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Some speculate that he was offered this position to make it easier for Snow to win. Encourage your congregation representatives to vote for Lange.

  28. @Diane #28
    My impression is that the main reason for printing the entire service in the bulletin is simply to make it easier for the congregation to follow along. Personally, I would be fine with saving a few trees and always using one of the settings in the hymnal without modification.

    @GaiusKurios #29
    I assume that you meant Frith. He used to be the pastor at Beautiful Savior, the other LCMS congregation in Olathe (Redeemer is its mother church). Having met him a few times, I think that the LHM outreach position is much more up his alley than being a DP.

  29. @Jon Alan Schmidt #27
    Just curious, is there a major theological objection to this? If the order of service is consistent with the historic liturgy and has been Synodically approved as “doctrinally pure,” does it really matter where it is printed?

    If the order of service is all those things, why not pick up the book? (It is in the pews of churches which never go near the selection of five Divine Service liturgies plus numerous special services!)

    The regular use of a special folder is a waste of paper, of energy to make it, of the congregation’s gifts…

    [But don’t mind me! I’m sure one reason for keeping my job so long is my willingness to recycle/reuse paper, paper clips, rubber bands and even for some years, string. It’s a lost art, along with bending to pick up a penny (and more recently quarters and even dollar bills(!) from the pavement.
    But I can remember when penny candy actually cost that much, and a nickel would buy you an ice cream cone. If you had a nickel…]

  30. I prefer to follow the Liturgy out of the hymnal rather than from a bulletin or screen so in those instances I will open my hymnal and use it instead. But I know many like having it all in the bulletin or on a screen. I guess I’m a crudmudgeon; that just doesn’t feel right to me.

  31. @GaiusKurios #29 ??
    Whoa! Really? Should we be touting “our” candidates on here? Is that using this forum for it’s intended purpose? I truly want to know. I always thought it was to address issues, not promote persons. (I’m in Missouri, so I have no vested interest in your candidate.)

    But I will ask this: If someone seeks to attain a higher office, is that serving their call? Didn’t Walther and some of the early SPs desire to not be in charge, but took the office finally whenever they were elected? Would some of the pastors who are promoting themselves through our district and synodical publications and websites be so earnest if the bureaucratic pay was halved? And, finally, is anyone else sick of watching these guys travel around the globe on our monies to be able to make it into the next LW and “get their faces out there?”

    I am sure this is not going to please everyone on this site, but I am sick of the campaigning for offices. Is there no other way to get leaders for our church? Let’s just put some names in a hat and draw! Or pick the longest straw! I do not believe anyone in the formative days in Missouri saw it coming to this.

  32. @LadyM #34

    Is there no other way to get leaders for our church?

    What the heck, I’ll veer off the trail too.

    We should simply draw straws from a pool of pastors who were removed from their call in an unbiblical manner. The short straw becomes the top servant of the LCMS.

  33. @LadyM #39
    @Randy Yovanovich #36
    Brilliant idea!

    We might get a Lutheran theologian out of it.
    Earned PhD’s seemed to come with “bull’s eyes” in the last regime.

    [The fake “Dr’s”, OTOH, were part of the charade, at the top. Very odd of people, to mock the learning, but desire the title!]

  34. @Jon Alan Schmidt #27

    Just curious, is there a major theological objection to this? If the order of service is consistent with the historic liturgy and has been Synodically approved as “doctrinally pure,” does it really matter where it is printed?

    Yes and no.

    Let’s say some Sunday we’re using DS 3. We could print it verbatim from LSB into bulletin inserts. Sure, the service would be okay, but does that acclimate people to using the service book at home?

    I realize that service books themselves were an innovation with the invention of moveable type, but one that offers wonderful opportunities for the church-home, home-church connection.

  35. @Randy Yovanovich #42

    Now that right there is funny. I don’t care who you are.

    I hated it when I first heard Larry the Cable Guy say that, for reasons that I won’t detain anyone with here, insomuch that I won’t listen to the guy at all. But you, your use of the very same words here, brilliant!

  36. @Jon Alan Schmidt #30
    “simply to make it easier for the congregation to follow along.”

    You know what’s simple to follow along? Same good liturgy every Lord’s day and other festivals. You don’t have to be able to read to memorize it, and the very young and the very old teach us if we give them a chance.

    In my experience, the main reason churches print the liturgy in the bulletin is so they can screw with it.

    *If you want to have a handful of preprinted liturgies in an easy to follow format for brand new visitors, go for it. But don’t let regular congregation members just plain be lazy.

  37. @R.D. #46
    Hi R.D.-

    ‘In my experience, the main reason churches print the liturgy in the bulletin is so they can screw with it’.

    That’s been my experience too. To be more precise, IMO it’s the pastors who want to insert something or omit portions of the liturgy. They have the responsibility for the bulletins.

    In Christ,
    Diane

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