Tuesday, September 05, 2006

More to the dropping of the lawsuit?

Read the following and discern what you can from the BOD minutes found here: Minutes

A motion was introduced “that the four members who are requesting to intervene in the Anderson litigation be excluded from discussions of the Board’s response to their legal action.” Board members Edward Balfour, Elizabeth Fluegel, David Hawk, and Christian Preus requested that the minutes reflect their conviction that the motion “is improper, out of order, and therefore illegal.” After discussion, the question was called and the motion was carried (Yes: 9; No: 6).
Discussion continued regarding the purpose of the meeting and the extent to which the four members who filed the Motion to Intervene should participate. After conflict of interest issues were further identified, it was concluded that personal conflict of interest issues of the four would be discussed while they were present to participate and that conflict of interest issues pertaining to their legal counsel, along with the Synod’s response to the Motion to Intervene, would be addressed in their absence. During the discussion of the personal conflict of interest issues that followed, repeated reference was made to paragraph (1) of Bylaw 1.5.12.1 (b), “Activities shall not be entered into which may be detrimental to the interests of the Synod and its agencies,” and to the concern that the filing of the Motion to Intervene would be detrimental to the Synod. The four members who filed the motion spoke in defense of their action, while other members of the Board continued to express concern that the legal action wouldnot only be detrimental to the Synod but also to the work of the Resolution 7-02A Committee. A motion
was introduced and carried “to recess to allow opportunity for the four to conference via telephone” to discuss whether they would be willing to withdraw the Motion to Intervene. The remaining members of the Board paused to spend time in personal prayer, after which a motion was introduced and carried “to move into executive session” for further discussion of matters pertaining to the Motion to Intervene.

After the Board exited executive session, the following resolution was introduced, discussed, and adopted by unanimous vote:

Resolved, That the Synod’s legal counsel send a letter to the Bryan Cave Law Firm on
behalf of the Synod advising of its conflict of interest in representing the four Board
members; and be it further

Resolved, That if Bryan Cave declines to remove its firm from representation of the four
Board members, that corporate Synod’s legal counsel proceed with a complaint to the
appropriate Missouri authority and that Synod counsel be instructed to file a motion to
disqualify Bryan Cave from representation of the Board members and their Motion to
Intervene.

The following resolution was also introduced, discussed, and adopted by unanimous vote:

Resolved, That in keeping with the exhortation to always proceed decently and in good
order, the Board of Directors entreats the four individuals who have filed the Motion to
Intervene in the Anderson lawsuit to reconsider that motion and withdraw it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

LCMS membership continues to drop

Despite the Kieschnick administration's stress on "Ablaze" the membership of the LCMS continues to drop as does the dollars being contributed toward church work. It is interesting that when membership declines were observed during the Barry administration, it was rated to the fact the LCMS was too concerned with correct doctrine and practice, was isolationist, and not missional focused. Now the same trends are described as typical of mainline denominations.

The LCMS reports the following:


September 3, 2006 .................... LCMSNews -- No. 55

Latest statistics show drop in LCMS membership

If there's a bright spot in the Synod's statistical report for 2005, it's that "back-door" losses -- the number of adults removed from congregational rosters (not counting deaths and transfers) -- have declined by 2,453 members. That figure dropped from 44,219 in 2004 to 41,766 in 2005.

But LCMS membership and contributions from members to congregations also declined, as did the number of baptisms, confirmations, and Christian education programs/students, according to 2005 congregational statistics reports.

Baptized membership fell from 2,463,747 in 2004 to 2,440,864 in 2005, a drop of nearly 23,000 members. And confirmed membership in 2005 was 1,870,659, a decrease of 9,554.

LCMS Senior Research Analyst Dr. John O'Hara attributes the loss of members to a "continuing trend" that is affecting most mainline Christian denominations.

In the 1950s and '60s, churches saw a "natural increase" because families were larger, O'Hara noted. Today's families are much smaller, and societal norms regarding religious participation have changed, he said.

"The expectation that you went to church [every Sunday] isn't as prevalent as in the '50s," said O'Hara. "You have to work harder to get the people in the front door."

The downward trend in membership and Sunday-school students -- in spite of a rising U.S. population -- also is a sign that "we're not reaching as many people as we could reach," he said.

Membership figures for 2005 were based on reports from 81 percent of the Synod's 6,144 congregations. Nineteen percent did not provide information on membership, so figures from their previous reports were used to compile the data for 2005.

Also down are contributions from members to congregations, which fell $10,945,272 -- from $1,307,764,010 in 2004 to $1,296,818,738. Those figures do not include contributions members give directly to LCMS entities.

The shortfall of nearly $11 million in 2005 is due primarily to the "under-reporting of contributions," says O'Hara, who estimates that some 29 percent of congregations did not provide that information.

LCMS Secretary Dr. Raymond Hartwig, who supervises the Synod's Office of Rosters and Statistics, which compiles the information, says it's "less than helpful" when congregations choose not to report -- a phenomenon that occurs every year. And, he says, "it's a little puzzling, since we've simplified the forms to the extent that it would only take a few minutes to complete them and return them."

Every three years, the Synod's national office asks district staffs and circuit counselors to contact their own congregations in an effort to get the forms returned because "delegate representation at the coming convention depends on the statistics we receive," Hartwig said. "Our [return] goal is 100 percent, and one of these years we're going to get there."

According to the 2005 report, of the nearly $1.3 billion congregations received in contributions, they gave $120.2 million for work beyond their own ministries. This "work at large" total includes money forwarded to the 35 LCMS districts, which then send a portion to the national and international work of the Synod. Congregations sent $3.2 million less for "work at large" than in 2004.

In 2005, the Synod had 6,144 congregations served by 5,343 pastors. The number of congregations declined by seven, while the number of active pastors increased by 20. Average attendance at weekly worship services was 164.2 in 2005, compared with 173.6 the previous year.

The number of baptisms, confirmations, and Christian education programs/students all fell between 2004 and 2005, according to congregations. But the number of adults gained by "profession of faith" grew -- from 12,878 to 13,114, an increase of 236.

Among the official acts reported:

  • 31,701 children were baptized (down 1,150).
  • 24,572 teenagers were confirmed (down 753).
  • 18,684 adults were confirmed (down 469).

In the Christian education category:

  • 3,922 weekday religion classes (down 230).
  • 184,934 students in weekday religion classes (down 13,120).
  • 24,078 non-members in weekday classes (down 2,582).
  • 3,804 vacation Bible schools (down 181).
  • 5,106 Sunday schools (down 224).
  • 423,958 enrolled in Sunday school (down 27,456).

Membership and attendance statistics for 2005 will be included in The Lutheran Annual for 2007, available from Concordia Publishing House by year's end.

Lawsuit status

According to Rev. Balfour of the Board of Directors, the lawsuit is not rescinded but dismissed without prejudie meaning that it could be reinitatied after 30 days. According to posts on Lutherquest, Rev. Balfour has shared the following:

The legal action was not rescinded, but rather "dismissed without prejudice, " placing (the 4) us exactly where we intended to be (at this juncture) from the beginning of our intervention. There are now 30 days during which we will meet and talk with those who we believe to have violated the law and its spirit. What is now going on now not only gives hope, but will also reveal the Truth. Again, I tell you, "We have attained the position we sought." Please give the process a chance.

Rev Edward J. Balfour

The editor suspects the next major aspect we shall here will be a coordinated call from leadership of progressive political organizations in the LCMS such as Jesus First and Daystar for the resignation of the 4 BOD members who think this issue needs further discussion and resolution. Such a resignation would guarantee that the power and authority that has been assumed by the President and Commission on Constitutional Matters would continue unimpeded and without substantial debate.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Why a lawsuit

The following was provided to the editor for consideration to post. After reviewing, the facts of the synopsis appear to be correct and the editorial reasoning worth considering.

______________________________________
Why the Motion to Intervene?
Why the Withdrawal?


Background

LCMS before Kieschnick was elected in 2001

Gerald Kieschnick was elected President of The Lutheran - Church Missouri Synod in July 2001. Before then, the LCMS Synodical conventions, Board of Directors, and Commission on Constitutional Matters had consistently honored and followed Missouri law. In 1994 the CCM issued an opinion, stating that “the Synod must obey the laws of the state from which it derives its legal existence. It is equally obvious that the convention cannot declare the Synod exempt from the operation of law.” The CCM went on to conclude that if a convention resolution “conflicts with the statute, it is a nullity, and binds neither the Board of Directors nor the member congregations.”

Similarly, the President’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Structure appointed by President Al Barry issued a report to the 1998 convention explaining that “the Synod is in no way exempt from the applicable provisions of civil law.” The Blue Ribbon Committee observed that there was in the Synod “disagreement about the precise nature and extent of the Board of Director’s supervisory authority,” and thus conferred with legal counsel extensively to insure that necessary changes were made to the Constitution and Bylaws so that the authority assigned to the Board of Directors did “not conflict with the authority. . . under applicable Missouri law.” The Blue Ribbon Committee report repeatedly states the need for the Synod to comply with Missouri corporate law. The report of the Blue Ribbon Committee was given to every delegate of the 1998 Synodical convention, and the recommendations of the Committee were adopted. The “disagreement” that had existed as a result of certain changes made at the 1992 convention were resolved.

Kieschnick appoints new CCM members

Soon after taking office in September 2001, President Kieschnick appointed three new members to the CCM. Soon after that, the CCM issued a series of opinions that were not consistent with the Blue Ribbon Committee report or the language of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod, and more importantly diminished the authority of the Board of Directors in violation of Missouri corporate law. These opinions caused great difficulty for the Board of Directors as it attempted to carry out its responsibilities to the Synod, while also following Missouri law. The opinions also created conflict with other boards and agencies of the Synod. The CCM opinions essentially placed the Board of Directors in the difficult position of having to choose between following the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod and the laws of the State of Missouri or following the opinions of the CCM. The Board of Directors chose to follow the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod and Missouri law. President Kieschnick, however, demanded the Board of Directors follow CCM opinions instead, and threatened to bring the matter to the convention.

Kieschnick appoints Floor Committee 7

As the 2004 convention approached, several overtures concerning the Board of Directors and its authority were submitted by certain members of the Synod. Those overtures were assigned to Floor Committee 7, the members of which were all appointed by Kieschnick. Committee 7 proposed dramatic changes to the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod, as well as the Articles of Incorporation, concerning the authority of the Board of Directors. These changes were proposed to attempt to legitimize the previous opinions of the CCM. During the course of the convention, members of Committee 7 were told by members of the Board of Directors and special legal counsel for the Synod that the proposals of Committee 7 were in violation of Missouri law and would create great difficulty for the Board of Directors.Knowing this, Committee 7 nonetheless made the recommendations to the convention. The 2004 convention adopted two resolutions – one of which had absolutely no discussion from the floor – that altered the authority of the Board of Directors as recommended by Committee 7. One of these resolutions proposed to change the wording of the Constitution. But the congregations of the Synod rejected this Constitutional amendment, thus making the changes in the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation in direct conflict with the Constitution.

CCM opinions following 2004 convention

CCM opinions limiting the authority of the Board of Directors continued after the 2004 convention. During the latter half of 2005 several questions were submitted to the CCM that raised questions concerning the authority of both the Board of Directors and the President. Three of the questions challenge the Board of Directors’ action in filling vacancies under bylaw 3.2.5 for the CPH Board of Directors and the LCMS Board of Directors. Without first consulting with the Board of Directors or Synod’s legal counsel as required by bylaw 3.9.2.2(b), the CCM issued an opinion stating that the actions of the Board of Directors violated bylaw 3.2.5 and 2004 convention Resolution 7-14 and that the actions of the Board of Directors in filling the vacancies was “null and void.”

Bylaw 3.9.2.2 gives the CCM the function to “interpret the Synod’s Constitution Bylaws and resolutions.” Nowhere in the Bylaws is the CCM given the authority to interpret or overrule actions of the Board of Directors. Before Kieschnick was elected, the CCM had specifically stated that the CCM “is not an adjudicative body. It does not, and cannot, resolve disputed factual issues or assign fault.” The CCM also stated that it “does not undertake to determine the propriety of any specific action taken or not taken by the officers or directors of Synod.” Thus the CCM again departed from the historical role of the CCM and the function assigned to the CCM in the Bylaws. Further, the CCM, in essence, removed from office the two individuals elected by the Board of Directors to the CPH Board of Directors and the LCMS Board of Directors. Missouri corporate law allows members of a board of directors to be removed only by the members. Thus, the CCM’s opinion declaring the Board of Directors’ action “null and void” and thus removing the two board members elected conflicts with Missouri law and usurps the authority of the Synodical convention.

The CCM opinions also are not consistent with Bylaw3.2.5 or Resolution 7-14. Bylaw 3.2.5 and Resolution 7-14 both make it clear that the Board of Directors is to fill vacancies from a “list of nominees.” This “list of nominees” is first submitted to a subcommittee of the Synodical Committee for Convention Nominations. This subcommittee reviews the “list of nominees” and submits to the Board of Directors a “list of candidates” for consideration. The Board of Directors then fills the vacancies by considering the recommendations from the nominating subcommittee and then ultimately selecting from the “list of nominees.” This is essentially the same process as is followed by Synodical conventions where the nominating committee makes its recommendations, and then the delegates can make floor nominations from the list of those previously nominated who are then also on the ballot for consideration. Nothing in Bylaw 3.2.5 or Resolution 7-14 prohibits the Board of Directors from making floor nominations from the “list of nominees.” Robert’s Rules of Order also requires floor nominations when there is a nominating committee. The CCM, without any authority to do so, created a new rule that the Board of Directors could not make floor nominations.

After issuing its opinion overruling the Board of Directors and removing from office those elected, the CCM then backtracked in an effort to cover its failure to follow Bylaw 3.9.2.2 (b), which requires the CCM to “first consult with the Board of Directors of the Synod and/or the Synod’s legal counsel.” But even after receiving input from the Board of Directors and Synod’s legal counsel explaining the deficiencies in the CCM opinion, the CCM refused to budge. Thus the CCM’s opinion setting aside elections by the Board of Directors and removing two directors from office is inconsistent with the applicable Bylaws, a convention resolution, Missouri law, the actions of the Board of Directors, and apparently also even the advice of legal counsel.


The Anderson Lawsuit

In November 2005 the Anderson lawsuit was brought. About 90 members of Synod joined as plaintiffs in this lawsuit. Named as defendants were Gerald Kieschnick and William Dieckelman. The LCMS was designated as a “nominal defendant.” This lawsuit challenged the questionable and large number of exceptions granted by Kieschnick to allow extra delegates to attend the 2004 convention (Count I) and the actions of the CCM that attempted to undermine the legal authority of the Board of Directors (Count II).

After motions to dismiss were filed by the defendants, the Board of Directors adopted a resolution that set in motion settlement discussions with the plaintiffs. Four members of the Board of Directors were appointed to a committee and four plaintiffs were designated. There were multiple meetings between the board committee and the four plaintiffs, some of which were attended by Kieschnick and Dieckleman.

Ultimately the board committee, the four plaintiffs, Kieschnick and Dieckleman reached a proposed settlement. The settlement was subject to the approval of the Board of Directors and the individual plaintiff members. An integral understanding of the agreement, although not expressly stated, was that there would be no more vacancies filled at the Board of Directors that would improperly deprive Board members of the right to make floor nominations. However, at the same meeting that the Board of Directors voted to approve the settlement, the Board, under very dubious circumstances, filled several vacancies, including two on the Board of Directors, one of which had already been filled and thus was not even vacant. Kieschnick apparently was adamant that the Board of Directors must fill the vacancies and that the Board must follow the CCM opinion instead of following the Bylaws and convention resolution, Robert’s Rules, and Missouri law. Kieschnick also, as he has done in other situations, threatened to take action if the Board of Directors did not succumb to his demands.

Last minute changes to the proposed settlement agreement and other events made it apparent that the settlement was going to be used to deprive Board members of the right they otherwise have under the law to seek redress in the courts in order to correct illegal or wrongful activity. The argument was also being made that the settlement meant that the Board of Directors was placed under the authority of the CCM, even though Missouri law makes it clear that “all corporate powers shall be exercised by and under the authority of, and the affairs of a corporation managed under the direction of, its board.”


Motion to Intervene

The consequence of the settlement and how it was going to be used thus forced four members of the Board of Directors to intervene in the Anderson lawsuit in order to prevent the settlement from being used as a means of depriving the Board of Directors of its legal authority. Every Board member has an obligation to act according to the law and to protect the legal integrity of the organization. The Motion to Intervene and Petition did not attempt to set aside or undermine the settlement in any way. It was only an effort to prevent the settlement from being used in a fashion to promote further illegal deterioration of the Board of Directors authority.

The Motion to Intervene and Petition also was not a “suit against the Synod” as some have wrongly characterized it. Instead, the interveners were bringing what is called a “derivative” claim in which they were acting “for the benefit and in the right of” the Synod. Missouri law specifically allows directors to go to court to protect the rights and interests of the corporation. The ability of a board member to protect the legal rights of the corporation can be found in corporate laws across the country and is very important because it helps keep the officers and management in check, and protects the integrity of the corporation. Otherwise, there could be little or no ability to stop conduct that did not follow the law.

The Petition in intervention only asked the court for a “declaration” of the law. The four board members were not asking for damages and were not in any way acting on behalf of themselves. Their action was purely to defend the legal integrity of the Synod.

Kieschnick and Dieckleman, along with a majority of the Board of Directors’ members opposed the motion to intervene. They also moved to disqualify the lawyer selected by the four board members.


Withdrawal of Motion to Intervene - Board of Directors Agreement

The hearing on the Motion to Intervene was scheduled for August 29, 2006, a few days after the Board of Directors’ regular meeting held on August 25-26, 2006. At this Board meeting an agreement was reached between the four Board members intervening in the lawsuit and the rest of the Board members. This agreement included withdrawing the motion to intervene. It also included two extremely important provisions. First, it preserved the rights of Board members to proceed in a separate lawsuit to ensure that the Board and others within the Synod were complying with Missouri law. Thus the agreement prevented the attempts to use the settlement to deprive Board members of this important right and to prevent the efforts to officially place the CCM above the Board of Directors. Second, the agreement allowed for a 30-day period of time in which a committee of the board would meet to discuss openly and honestly the issues concerning board authority. Thus the motion to intervene accomplished exactly what it was intended to do. It put a stop to the efforts to use the settlement to deprive Board members of their legitimate legal rights and the efforts to use the settlement to place the CCM above the Board of Directors. It also appears that the Board of Directors may finally squarely address the legal and authority issues.

LCMS reports lawsuit is closed

The following was sent out on September 1st from the LCMS as a news release.

Additionally, on Tuesday, August 29, the Circuit Court of St. Louis County dismissed the Anderson lawsuit and the Motion to Intervene was withdrawn effectively closing the entire Anderson matter.

So we are left to wonder, if this could be picked up again as suggested in our previous post, or if this is a "permanent" closure. No information provides a definitive answer to this question.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Withdrawal may be temporary

There are strong indications that the 4 board members decision to withdraw their motion to intervene may be temporary. The following was written by Rev. Edward Balfour according to Reclaim News regarding the issue. Rev. Balfour is one of the 4 board members who was requesting the court to rule on whether the CCM's limitations placed on the BOD are legal or not.

"Dear Brother,
The posting on the LCMS website of the dismissal of the intervention into the Andersen Lawsuit may mislead you. This is exactly where we intended to be at this juncture. Since this dismissal will be 'without prejudice' this enables a clean suit to be brought forward at any time. One problem exists:
we currently have a debt of $32,000 with the Bryan-Cave Law Offices. It is true that we (I) will not be able to continue unless this debt is paid and funds continue to come in. We appreciate your support and prayers, and in no way want you to think that we have deserted the cause. Please continue to pray for us and hold up the truth in Christian love.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Board Members Withdraw Motion to Intervene

The following statement has been issued by the LCMS' Board of Directors:


Board Members Withdraw Motion to Intervene

In a spirit of Christian love, mutual repentance, and forgiveness and with concern for peace and unity in the Synod, the Board of Directors rejoices that the four members of the Board who filed the Motion to Intervene in the Anderson Lawsuit have agreed to withdraw their motion.

The Board will instruct its legal counsel to take all necessary steps to conclude this matter and to move forward with the Agreement to terminate the lawsuit approved by the Board at its meeting May 24.

We thank God for this action and pray for His blessings on these decisions.

-----

Just a few days earlier, LCMS attorney Sherri Strand, wife of David Strand a longterm employee of the corporate synod, filed a motion to disqualify the attorney for the 4 board members from intervening. Strand was arguing that the 4 filing for the intervention are not parties to the suit inspite of being members of the LCMS Board of Directors.

The end result is that the legality of how the Synod conducts business will not be evaulated through this lawsuit. For many the question remains whether the LCMS is in compliance with the law under which it is incorporated regarding the conduct of its business affairs.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

4 BOD members explain why they are suing LCMS

To: Members of the Board of Directors of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

From: Rev. Edward Balfour, Elizabeth Fluegel, David Hawk and Christian Preus.

This letter assumes that all members of the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are aware that we four Directors have sought to intervene in the litigation that is pending in St. Louis County, Missouri Circuit Court. The case, Anderson v. Kieschnick, has been pending for almost a year and involves claims by a group of members and pastors relating to the elections at the 2004 voting convention . secondarily, relating to the power of the Commission on Constitutional Matters. The purpose of this letter is to explain why we, as Directors, have taken the step of seeking to intervene in that litigation.

Over a period of years, we four, and many other thoughtful pastors and members of the Church have been troubled by efforts to relocate power within the corporate structure of LCMS. We have witnessed the expansion of the CCM's authority at the expense of the authority of the Board of Directors. The consolidation of power in the CCM has, in our opinion, worked a fundamental change in the governance of the LCMS. The change has, in fact, removed power from the hands of individual directors, who are directly responsible to the members, and put that power in the hands of appointees of executives who do not answer directly to the membership. This unhealthy development has made the management of the LCMS less responsive to the will of its members.
Unchecked, this wrong accretion of power in the executives, de-legitimizes the authority of LCMS in the eyes of the faithful.

In the past, despite our deepening concerns, we were content to work within the LCMS structure to correct what we knew was an imbalance. We believed .
and continue to believe . that persons of good will, particularly those who share our faith, ought to be able to resolve their differences without the aid of the courts and without appeal to civil authority. We did not join in the Anderson litigation for that reason, although we welcomed the attempt by the Anderson plaintiffs to garner clarification from the court on the scope of the Board's secular authority. Of course, that changed when we learned that the Anderson case was about to be resolved without a full airing of the issues raised in Count II of the Anderson petition . the issues bearing on the power of the Board versus CCM. Concerned that the termination of the Anderson Case could be viewed as a settlement of the question and an affirmation of the power of the CCM, we sought legal advice on our options.

We were advised, while the settlement of the Anderson Case might not foreclose consideration of the question by another court, safety lay in seeking intervention in the pending litigation and resolution of the question there.

In our view, concern and uncertainty over the power of the CCM had lingered too long. That serious issue, combined with the unknown effects of the termination of the Anderson Case, compelled us to initiate intervention to bring the question to a head and to obtain a resolution of the issue which, despite patient work, was obviously not going to come from within the LCMS.

he truth is: We did not want to take this action; it was thrust upon us by the termination of the Anderson Case without a clear and certain resolution of the CCM issue. Our action does not threaten the amicable settlement of the Anderson claims by Plaintiffs who wish to exit the litigation. Those who wish to drop their claims can do so, just as easily as they had planned to do, after our entry into the case. Our pursuit of clarification cannot affect the incentive for either side to compromise their differences. The parties have reached accord for practical reasons - the financial resources and time demanded by litigation probably being foremost. The fact, however,remains: Neither side settled perceiving that they had resolved an issue, which our intervention will rekindle. In a word, Plaintiffs and Defendants put the issue in play and then quit the field. We are finishing a contest that we did not start - but a contest of the greatest urgency to the Church.

We hope this explains our reasons for taking the action that we have. Some of you will not agree with the reasons we have cited, but, as Christians, we must respect our differences and continue to work side-by-side with civility as we attempt to heal the division that exists. If you have any questions about our actions, please feel free to contact any one of us.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Little History -- 2004 Convention Overview

Missouri motioning
Conservative Lutherans lose elections and power in the LCMS | by Edward E. Plowman

From World Magazine


This month conservatives in the dissension-racked Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod barely missed ousting Gerald Kieschnick, 61, from the denomination’s leadership. The vote at the triennial meeting of the 2.6-million-member denomination was 52.8 percent for President Kieschnick’s reelection and 47.2 percent for four other candidates. (The three most conservative candidates split 46.5 percent of the vote.)

Kieschnick opponents have worked for a change ever since he approved the participation of Rev. David Benke, the church’s Atlantic District president, in a civic interfaith rally. The rally was held at Yankee Stadium 12 days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Rev. Benke offered a short prayer there. The critics said his involvement showed syncretism (worshipping the true God along with the gods of other religions) and unionism (formal fellowship with other denominations).

The LCMS officially opposes both. One leader, Wallace Schulz, lost his job as speaker of The Lutheran Hour for trying, in his role as a synod vice president, to enforce the denomination’s stated position on the matter. The dispute has been doctrinal and emotional: “The dislike, I’ve never seen it worse,” LCMS pastor Greg Smith of St. Louis told reporters.

Overall, the LCMS is largely a conservative denomination, with both sides affirming commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, justification by faith alone, and other biblical essentials. But some LCMS leaders want to make the denomination more like mainstream evangelicalism, and a few want to ordain women. The LCMS is known for practicing closed communion and liturgical worship; Kieschnick supporters often see both denominational teachings as obstacles to church growth.

Kieschnick supporters dealt the minority another rebuke when LCMS first vice president Daniel Preus (who received 31 percent of the votes for president) and second vice president Wallace Schulz lost bids for reelection. Some church leaders said they could not recall any previous ousting of a sitting first vice president, whose position is full-time.

In a bid to head off future disputes like the one involving prayer at Yankee Stadium, the delegates voted 757-446 to direct church leaders to study guidelines drawn up by an LCMS theological commission. The guidelines address how and when clergy should participate in non-church “civic events.” Among other things, the guidelines suggest clergy should demonstrate concern and sensitivity for how such participation might be perceived by those inside and outside the LCMS.

The guidelines permit LCMS ministers in special circumstances to take part in “serial prayer” - one person praying after another, even if other participants might not be Christians. Lutheran ministers must be free to proclaim that Jesus is the only Savior, and the events can’t promote the notion that Christians and non-Christians are praying to the same God.

Delegates approved a new dispute-resolution process that allows for only the denominational president and the district presidents to file disciplinary charges. Supporters see the new process as one that will lead to more order and less rancor; opponents point to a major concentration of power in the denominational hierarchy.

In other business, the delegates voted 1,163-22 to affirm marriage as “the lifelong union of one man and one woman.” They also affirmed the biblical account of creation and said the church would not “tolerate” the teaching of evolution as the explanation for the origins of the universe (as seems to be the case in some LCMS classrooms).

The LCMS continues to struggle with finances. It has reduced its national ministries staff, recalled many foreign missionaries, and cut back its budget; overall, the denomination laid off about half of its full-time missionaries. Nevertheless, delegates voted 653-533 to support raising $100 million over the next six years to proclaim the gospel to 100 million people worldwide. Many opponents said the measure was unrealistic financially: Pittsburgh pastor Scott Stiegemeyer called it “a feel-good resolution to make us feel like we are getting stuff done.”

Some LCMS congregations already show their opposition to denominational trends by not giving to the synod. Their number is likely to swell as others dismayed by the convention actions follow suit. A split remains a real possibility. —•

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Important Context to Remember between CCM and BOD

This editor believes an important and telling event in the course of the controversy within the current adminstration between the BOD and CCM is found in August 2004. The 2004 Convention under the leadership of President Kieschnick passed a resolution to change the Constitution and Bylaws of Synod to limit the authority of the BOD. However, when presented to the congregations of the Synod, (including the laity and pastors) it could not secure the approval neeed to be carried. However, the CCM issued another "binding ruling" in response that basically stated that it did not matter if the congregations did not so approve, they considered the resolution to be in force. (Thus providing much of the context and confusion regarding the current lawsuit over what authority and responsiblity exactly does the BOD have?) CCM opinion 04-2409 states:

It is the opinion of the Commission on Constitutional Matters that the proposed amendment to Article XI F 2 states more clearly what the existing language already means. Any amendment to the Bylaws which is consistent with the former Article XI F 2 would similarly be consistent with proposedArticle XI F 2. As such, the answer to the question presented is that if the proposed Constitutional Amendment A entitled "To Amend Constitution Regarding Officer and Board Responsibilities" as set forth in Resolution 7-21 of the 2004 convention of the Synod is not passed by a two-thirds majority vote, it would not affect the implementation or validity of any other resolutions or changes to the bylaws passed at the 2004 convention.


Am I hearing correctly here? The CCM did not care that the congregations voted "against" the proposed changes to the Constitution? Even if the CCM wants to argue that in their opinion, there was no change in meaning but only in wording, could one not understand the failure of the congregations to pass the changes to the Constitution to signal that the Synod is in disagreement with the CCM. The CCM likes to say the Synod has the final voice in all things, but does it? Especially when the CCM likes to remind us that its rulings are binding.

Again, it will be interesting to see if the floor committees are bold enough or confident enough to allow the resolutions to discuss and overturn certain CCM rulinngs to come to discussion on the floor, or if they will simply ignore the many requests from congregations and districts like they did in 2004.

Julie Martinez is "welcomed to the BOD"


Here is some further insight to how some of the BOD members treat one another. Julie Martinez was newly elected in 2004 to the Board of Directors by the convention. Ms. Pophal and Mrs. Garton have been fervent supports of President Kieschnick since 2001. Julie Martinez writes:

The first official meeting of the BoD after the convention was in September of 2004. I have to say I was quite nervous going to St. Louis for the first time. I already knew many of the issues in the Synod, and knew that the BoD, with its confessional majority, had already been the target of many of the more liberal Jesus First writers. While I did not expect a “warm fuzzy” experience, I did expect that other BoD members, being fellow Christians, would at least be civil in their interactions with each other. It turned out that even that simple expectation was not met.

Prior to the meeting, we were hosted in a lovely dinner at the home of Tom and Ilona Kuchta. We then had one day of meetings, and went out for dinner as a board that evening. We all had a chance to meet and get acquainted. Later, I realized that I had met and conversed with everyone on the BoD, except Mrs. Garton.

So, the next morning, I made a point to introduce myself to her before that day’s meeting was to begin. I was standing in the hall outside the boardroom talking with a few other board members, when Mrs. Garton walked by. I approached her, smiled, held out my hand, and said, “Hi, we haven’t officially me yet! I’m Julie.” She looked at my hand as if it contained dog droppings, and, in an icy tone, replied, “And we are not going to meet or to talk. You have no business being here, and I have nothing to say to you!”

I stood there for a few seconds with my hand still held out, absolutely stunned that she would respond in such a personally spiteful way. I walked back to the group I had been talking with, who had witnessed the interchange. They said that I could not let that drop, and I needed to bring it up in the board meeting so it could be resolved.

Great. Here I was the new member, and my first contribution would be to say that somebody was being mean to me!

At the appropriate time, I shakily raised my hand, and stated what had happened, without mentioning names. I ended by asking how we could ever expect to work together if we could not even be civil in the hallways.

Mrs. Garton jumped right in, and admitted that she was the person of whom I spoke. Actually, the word “admitted” isn’t exactly the right one, for she actually was gloating about it. In open session, she made the following comment, “She doesn’t belong here. In fact, I sent welcome cards to the other new members, but I don’t think she deserves one, so I didn’t send her one. Isn’t that right Victor, isn’t that right, Walter, didn’t I send you nice cards?” Both of them sheepishly nodded yes, they had received cards of welcome from Jean. I, of course, had not.

It appeared that almost everyone in the room was so stunned by the inappropriate and unchristian nature her comments that nobody thought to rebuke her immediately, and the business of the board continued. At the end of the meeting, an attempt was made by another board member to redress the issue, stating that we could not work together as a board with attitudes like hers being allowed to continue. Mrs. Garton then stood up, started throwing her materials into her briefcase in a show of emotion bordering on hysteria, and stated, “I cannot discuss this now. It is just too emotional for me! If you insist on bringing this up again, I’m leaving right now.” So the meeting adjourned, and her behavior was never rebuked.


Character, it has been said, is what a person is when no one is looking. Our job would be easier if daily vitamins or childhood inoculations supplied character. Character forms in only one way: by doing the hard thing, the unpopular thing, the right thing. (Dr Jean Garton in Lutheran Women's Quarterly)

READ more about how Julie M. was treated during her time on the BOD.

Insight into the interaction of the Presidency, CCM, and BOD

The following is a lucid description found on the blog LCMS ISSUES of just one example of how an issue played out in the "power" struggle between the President,CCM, and the BOD. You can decide whose is using organizational power and position to manipulate outcomes of events.

Since the 2004 convention, all authority and power in the LC-MS, for all intents and purposes, has been consolidated in the Office of the President. The Board of Directors (BoD) has become a decision-making board in name only, but in actual fact it no longer even has the authority to name appointees to fill its own vacant positions, or those of other boards.

While technically the BoD has the authority to make these appointments, if they don’t choose an appointee approved by the President, the appointment is invalidated. Here’s how the new “system” works.

[More:]

In May, 2005, Ted Kober resigned from the BoD, for personal reasons, leaving a vacant position. The process was begun by the BoD to appoint a replacement. The nominations committee was asked to provide a list of candidates. Any candidate for the position had to have been nominated for the position for consideration at the 2004 convention, for those nominees have already been vetted and remain eligible to fill vacancies until the 2007 convention.

One of those nominees was Mr. Walter Brantz., a former CEO of Husky Oil, now retired, as well as a rancher and businessman. As such, he has had high-level business experience and financial savvy that would have made him an excellent BoD member.

However, when the nominations committee made their recommendation, there were only three names on the list, and Mr. Brantz was not one of them. In fact, all three people whose names were submitted are avid supporters of President Kieschnick.

At the BoD meeting in August 2005, we were presented with an analysis done by Pastor Jim Fandrey, a member of the BoD, who had consulted a certified parliamentarian, and it was determined that the BoD (just like the Synod in convention, Districts in Convention, and congregations), is permitted, under Robert’s Rules of Order and the Constitution of the LC-MS, Inc., to accept nominations from the floor in making appointments.

During the course of the discussion, the names of Mr. Walter Brantz, and one other candidate, were brought from the floor. The vote was then conducted, and Mr. Brantz was appointed to the vacant position on the BoD. Mr. Peter Cage was also nominated from the floor for a vacancy on the Concordia Publishing House Board of Directors, and was elected to that position. Both men were notified of their appointment, and both agreed to serve. The meeting was adjourned.

Within days, the matter was taken to the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM), who put it on their agenda for their October meeting.

From the CCM minutes of October 16-18, 2005, where an opinion was rendered on this question, first we see these interesting paragraphs, under sections 70 and 71:

Chairman Albert Marcis called the meeting to order with all members of the Commission present and opened with an invocation and prayer. Synod President Gerald Kieschnick was also present for the Sunday evening session of the meeting held in the hotel….

The Commission moved into executive session for the Sunday evening session to receive input from the President of Synod regarding the request for opinions he had submitted and regarding questions before the commission that had been forwarded to the Board of Directors for its input. The Commission moved out of executive session at the end of the discussion.

For those unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure, an executive session is one that remains confidential and no minutes are ever released to the public regarding what was discussed. No voting may take place during executive session, but issues that will be voted on in public session can be discussed without limitation in these executive sessions. In this case, it is highly significant to note that the President of Synod, unbeknownst to the other members of the BoD, attended the executive session the CCM to discuss questions that affected the BoD without any other BoD member being present.

From the same meeting minutes, in Section 86, this binding opinion was later rendered by the CCM:

The first Whereas paragraph of Resolution 7-14 (2004) makes it very clear that the Board of Directors is required to fill the vacancies of boards and commissions elected by the Synod from a list provided by the nominations committee. Bylaw 3.2.5 does not make provision for nominations from the floor.

The Commission on Constitutional matters through this opinion has informed the Synod (including the Board of Directors) that the aforementioned appointments are null and void…

That’s the “binding opinion” in a nutshell. (see minutes for complete opinion)

This may seem at first glance as if the “historic checks and balances” the supporters of President Kieschnick cite so often is working. However, let’s identify exactly who sits on each of these boards, commissions and committees.

The Board of Directors is composed of men and women who are elected by the Synod in convention. They are authorized to manage all the business and legal affairs of the Synod when the convention is not in session.

The Commission of Constitutional Matters is composed of men who have been appointed directly by the President of Synod. The Synod in convention has no say in who sits on this commission.

The Nominations Committee is composed of men who were also directly appointed by the President of Synod. The Synod in Convention also has no say in who sits on this committee.

Something smells very rotten here!

The complaint from the supporters of President Kieschnick is that the BoD is “power-hungry”. Yet we see here just the opposite. The BoD is merely attempting to exercise the authority to manage the business and legal affairs of the Synod, which authority it has been given by the Synod in Convention, yet it is thwarted from doing so by the nominations committee and the CCM, all the members of which are directly appointed by the President. Not only that, but the President attends the executive sessions of the CCM before it votes on the issues!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Missouri District critical of current adminstration direction

The Missouri District passed a series of resolutions demonstrating a critical concern with the direction the current adminstration has lead the Synod in recent years. Again we find another district with grave concerns regarding the growing authority of the synodical president and CCM and the growing trend of endorsing practices that dismiss Biblical teaching as being currently relevant in today's world.

From their News Synopsis

Resolution 2-04A was proposed to the convention: “To memorialize Synod to create a procedure for Synodical review of CCM opinions.” The resolution passed.

Resolution 2-07A was proposed to the convention: “To memorialize Synod to review the role of women in the Church.” The resolution passed.

Resolution 2-05A was proposed to the convention: “To memorialize Synod to amend bylaws on dispute resolution.” The resolution passed.

Resolution 2-06 was proposed to the convention: “To memorialize Synod to direct the CTCR to restudy guidelines for participation in civic events.” The resolution passed.

Resolution 2-03 was proposed to the convention: “To memorialize Synod to overrule CCM opinion 02-2296.” The resolution passed.

Resolution 2-02 was proposed to the convention: “To memorialize Synod to specify Synodical president’s duty to ‘call up for review.’” The resolution passed.

Resolution 2-08 was proposed to the convention: “To encourage the Missouri District president, pastors and congregations with regard to church discipline.” The resolution passed.

Resolution 2-09 was proposed to the convention: “To affirm congregations to use Synodical guidelines for worship.” The resolution passed.

Rev Dr. Preus spoke regarding being Christian in a postmodern world. Perhaps the challenge facing us can be summed up with this description of a section of his address.

The Church is apostolic and must continue proclaiming Christ and teaching God’s Word in distinction from the permissive diversity of other “truth claims.” As Christians, we cannot have a changing, unauthoritative message that caters to the American craving for novelty. The message is God’s, it remains apostolic in its authority, and He has bestowed it upon the Church to live and give.

Iowa West District Calls for Change

Resolution 5-02 to require overtures and resolutions questioning CCM opnions to be address by synodical conventions was passed.

The Synodical position of closed communion was reaffirmed with an emphasis that the synod "require" Presidents, District Presidents, Circuit Counselors, and Pastors carry out supervision and discipline related to incorrect practice.

Read more here about these and other actions

Minnesota South calls for change

From their convention reports:

A separate adopted resolution calls for Synod in convention to overrule a CCM opinion pertaining to the Synod president’s duty to “call up for review” the activities of officers, executives, and agencies of the Synod. The resolution quotes a Synod Bylaw specifying that the president shall “call up for review” within the administrative sphere of his powers and duties, not in the ecclesiastical sphere, any action which may be in violation of the Constitution, Bylaws and resolutions of the Synod.

Delegates also approved memorializing the Synod convention to overrule CCM opinion 02-2296 and 02-2309. Those opinions have to do with actions taken by a member of the Synod based on the full knowledge and approval of the member’s ecclesiastical supervisor.


Two adopted resolutions speak to worship in the Synod. One of those receives new worship material in the Synod’s Lutheran Service Book with“with thanksgiving” and calls for congregations to consider using the new resource and to participate in an introductory process that begins with workshops this fall.

The other resolution urges Minnesota South congregations to follow worship practices
in line with the Synod’s doctrine. It calls for the Synod president, Council of Presidents, colleges, universities and the LCMS Commission on Worship to explore ways for those with diverse viewpoints about worship to hold discussions “for the purpose of building greater understanding of our theology and worship.”

Wyoming District calls for change

Recognize the President appoints the members of the CCM and that their rulings are binding on all -- hence enabling a President to stack the deck in his favor if he so chose, the Wyoming District is calling for the election of CCM members by the convention to reduce the possibility of manipualation of the Synod.

READ RESOLUTION

The District would overturn CCM rulings which shield members behind the permission of ecclesiastical supervisors. They seek instead accountability based on faithfulness to God's Word "...so that no erring confession be allowed to stand among us."

READ RESOLUTION


They are calling for cessation of licensing of laymen for Word and Sacrament ministry. READ MORE

They are alleging the Synod has fallen into error with recent synodical resolutions that were passed and they seek restoration based on common confession as the basis of fellowship READ RESOLUTION HERE

Read all their resolutions here

RIM to close?

This from the "final edition" of the Newsletter for Renewal in Missouri with the headline "RIM to Close"

Is this a sign after almost 20 years of theological controversy that disagreements can be satisfactorily resolved through coming to agreement and unity in common confession? Or is this about something else?

Say Rev. Del Rossin, editor of the Newsletter in the final article, "Our dialogues with Synodical leaders resulted in agreement in all theological areas where there had been disagreement." Under the Kieschnick administration an agreement has been achieved that was not achieved under previous District Presidents and administrations. What was the breakthrough?

For all the talk of agreement RIM still sounds as if it believes there is a "second baptism", that adds something that people without it don't have.

Says Rossin, "The Charismatic Renewal was a sovereign world-wide movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The movement has waned somewhat in this country, but many positive blessings continue. The Holy Spirit is still moving in Christ’s Church! There is now more worship and praise in the churches. Millions have been “baptized
with the Holy Spirit” to receive power to share the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ
through word and wonder in a world in desperate need of Jesus."

Nor does this action of the Holy Spirit appear to be bound (by God's choice) to the true proclamation of God's Word. Is this world-wide movement found in Christian faiths which deny the power of baptism as a means of grace, who suggest that a personal decision or act of free will is necessary for salvation, who deny the real physical presence of Jesus in the Lord's Supper?

Has Rim come around to the Lutheran position that God has voluntarily bound Himself to the Word and the Sacraments to bestow the Holy Spirit (READ MORE)

Consider these additional nuggets of insight to where RIM still stands from there "last" newsletter:

"But God had moved on his heart, and his worldview changed dramatically. So did the
paradigm of millions of others after Pentecost started hitting mainline churches in the sixties."

Really? Word and Sacrament not good enough?

"Pastoring is a gift, not an education. That means there are more pastors around than we may be aware of."

Really? What about the Lutheran belief no one should publiclly preach or teach without a divine call?

"...not an education." "A gift". So am I hearing that pastoring is not about getting the Word out and getting it out right but rather about special gifts of the Spirit that the "pastor" has?

Once again the Confession have something to say in talking about the power of bishops (or pastors). "This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling either to many or to individuals.For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (http://www.bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.html#article28)

Is this an example of coming to common consensus or giving up and just tolerating positions which may be divergent from our official positions and the ancient confession of the church (Lutheran and otherwise) because we need numbers to sustain our organizational system as it currently exists? What is driving the agenda? Real concern for a genuine confession or real concern that there will not be enough people or dollars to sustain health plans and pension and salaried positions or even pastorates?

Why is success in our Synod today measured not on the basis of how faithful we are to true Lutheran understandings or how strongly we are giving a common witness but rather by how many numbers we are bringing in? Why is the stress of our leadership about obedience and not disagreeing publically with their agenda or administration of their authority/responsibility rather than on resolving very real differences and keeping a common confession? Using organizational authority to create an imposing environment of silence and acceptance of institutional rules may give the appearance of commonality -- but what is holding us together in common? Why are we really together as a Synod? Because we stand for a belief in common? Or because we want the seminaries, the Concordia Plans, our Pension plans, or programs, and so forth and so on?

What Jesus First Sees

Writes Jesus First in their 50th edition describing why they formed their policial organization to set the direction of the Synod.

"Here is what they were reacting to: “We see disturbing displays of diminished mission urgency, increasing legalism, disrespect for the priesthood of all believers, exaggerated pastoral authority, misplaced uniformity, resistance to cultural diversity, avoidance of other Christians, overstepping the advisory nature of Synod, and a growing spirit of fear and intimidation.”

I have to concur.

1. diminished mission urgency -- while we have this emphasis on Ablaze our numbers continue to shrink. Lutherans understand that people are converted and nurtured through proper proclaimation of the Good News of Jesus (Law and Gospel) and proper administration of the sacraments (they work as God designed them to work). Yet we have diminished stress on Word and Sacrament as means of grace for the work of mission and an increase on personal church growth types of methods.

2. increasing legalism -- again have to concur. CCM judgements are binding. Discipline is threatened against pastors or congregations who would disagree with the administration. There is a difference between upholding Biblical principles and creating and upholding human made traditions and agendas through the use of institutional and social rules and norms.

3. disrespect of the priesthood of all believers -- I see this too. We seem more worried about numbers and money than genuine nurture of the people in our church. I hear alot about we need more people and more money but not so much any more about helping our people grow in their spirituality and understanding of God's Word. I also see said disrespect playing out when we offer smaller and rural churches less trained laymen instead of ordained clergy because of financial reasons.

4. exaggerated pastoral authority -- again have to concur. In fact, though I doubt this was the intention, for all practial purposes we are on the road to creating a heirarchy in the pastoral office instead of holding the Lutheran position that all called servants are equal in authority. Now we have an office of president with greatly expanded authorities and protections which make accountability a more difficult process to enforce. He is supported by a CCM which rules on what is in and what is out for the church and has the final word and their decisions must be obeyed unless overturned in convention -- but by then they have traction --and the President has huge influence over what comes to the floor of the convention. Congregations and pastors can no longer bring concerns about practices or beliefs of members of Synod forward for examination, but all ecclesiastical supervision is now initiated and conducted by our District Presidents.

5. misplaced uniformity -- I again confirm. Uniformity is now based on social and organizational norms and values rather than a common confession of Scripture. What unites us is misplaced. While there is an element that tends to legalism, there is also a very vibrant and powerful element that tends toward anarch -- both driven by human preferences rather than biblical foundations.

6. resistance to cultural diversity -- Rome was a very diverse place where all were welcome as long as they would accept anyone or anything. I may concur here too, probably more in light of their original intent, in that I have seen prejudice and boundaries of congregations so tight they excluded people who were different. Open to people but not open to every teaching or belief or practice that comes in with them. We are all transformed by the truth of Scripture.

7. avoidance of other Christians -- are we avoiding each other? ARe our Districts becoming more and more harbors of people who think like us? Our congregations? Are we talking to each other? Are we really working out our issues?

8. overstepping the advisory nature of Synod and a growing spirit of fear and intimidation? Hmmm. I let these quotes speak for themselves:

From the BOD report on the resolution of the lawsuit (what do you hear between the lines here?)

"No disciplinary action for participation in the lawsuit will be taken
against plaintiffs who sign the Agreement."

And here:

You are free to disagree, everyone is free to disagree, but let me say this: You, pastors, are NOT free to publicly teach or preach that Synod is wrong on ANY given issue. I'll say it again, you are NOT free to teach in a bible class or preach from the pulpit that Synod is wrong on any issue. -- Gerald Kieschnick, President of the LCMS to the Texas District Convention (Source Reclaim News)

Monday, July 31, 2006

CID calls for pulling back from current adminstration's positions

CID in convention pass resolutions to rescind two important decisions of hte 2004 convention which were pressed through by the current administration.

1. Rescend 2004 resolution 8-01A which placed much more authority into the hands of District Presidents for ecclesiastical oversight while limiting the authority of pastors or congregations to be involved in holding each other accountable to God's Word, in effect creating a hierarchy of authority on supervision and

2. Seeking to rescend 2004 3-08A which liberalized the Synod's position on women in functions related to service in the church. CID is requesting a return to the previous position and further study to be sure we are on biblical grounds.

Read more here

CID continues to call into question (as it did in 2003 along with many other districts) certain decisions of the CCM

Including 02-2296 and 02-2309 (the so called - immunity rulings which say that a pastor or teacher is exempt from charges, even if their action or practice was contrary to Scripture, as long as they have permission from supervisors.) CID would like these rescinded which would once again create full accountability to God's Word.

CID also is calling for recension of 2004 Resolution 3-06A (Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events) and asks for the recision of the practice of licensing lay people for doing functional tasks of the Pastoral Office.

So obviously, we are not "one voice, one mission, one people" as our President would declare. The issues hear prior to the 2004 convention continue to be important and undecided. And it is important to note that those with concern regarding the current direction of our Synod are not just some rogue hard nosed legalistic small minded pastors out in the hinterlands who don't really count. Once again, entire Districts are saying there are problems with what the current administration and leadership stand for and the agenda they are driving and the problems rise beyond personal preferences to a question as to the Scriptural validity of some of the positions. Second, many of the individual voices are coming from church men and women throughout the Synod who have an excellent reputation for being faithful men and women of God.

The question is will the President of the Synod encourage the committees to actually have conversation on these issues and differences and examine them in light of Scripture, or will they again be glossed over with an emphasis on obedience and submission to our "synodical authorities"? Next summer will tell.

Another question is this? Will the laity and pastors who are the people of our church care? Will we care enough to be informed about the issues? Will we care enough to talk to one another and fully understand each other's positions? Will we care enough to study the positions and see which stand and fall in light of God's Word? Will we care enough to change, if we are wrong? Will we care enough to be faithful even if it is not popular? Will we care enought to grow if we find that God is calling us to grow in our practice (but a genuine calling based on careful study of God's Word and the Confessions and not just some felt need or felt calling)? Will we care enought to be "Lutheran"? Do we care what the word "Lutheran" means anymore? Will we care enough to do what is necessary or will we turn a blind eye, retreat into our indivdual parishes, cave in to organizational and social pressure, or just give up and split? Our forefathers in the 70's facing great division did the hard and necessary work to retain unity on the basis of confession grounded in God's Word and our Synod was retained. Can we do it again? This time, can we resolve the issues, or have we all become so stubborn, so sure we are right, so entrenched and close minded in our self-righteousness that conflict is inevitable and division desireable?

SID recognizes the Synod can make mistakes

Southern Illinois is calling for the rejection of the CTCR's recent study on "In Statu Confessionis". Do I hear in this a response to those, including our Synodical President, who say members of Synod cannot publically disagree with the Synod?

From the overture:
"
Article VII of the LCMS Constitution is careful to not assume that the Synod will be error free. “Accordingly, no resolution of the Synod imposing anything upon the individual congregation is of binding force if it is not in accordance with the Word of God or if it appears to be inexpedient as far as the condition of a congregation is concerned;"..."

Also, this editor hears within the historic context of the resolution evidence for a double standard. In the 70's as the Synod addressed the issue of the authority of Scripture, many liberal pastors and congregations were opposed to the conservative approach that our Synod took. Now today, we have a more moderate to liberal administration. Ask yourselves which has the more pastoral heart to those in disagreement? Who has more trust in the truth winning the day vs. having to bring force to bear?

From the overture:

the CTCR in the April 15, 2005 document, “In Statu Confessionis: A Response
to Questions from the Praesidium of the Synod,” completely contradicts a previous CTCR statement. The CTCR in April 2005 stated, “The suspension or withholding of Communion to fellow members of the Synod is by definition a severing of church fellowship,” while the CTCR in April 1970 stated, “…the declaration that one is in statu confessionis is not tantamount to the breaking of fellowship;”

the CTCR in the April 15, 2005 document, “In Statu Confessionis: A Response to Questions from the Praesidium of the Synod,” completely contradicts a previous CTCR statement. The CTCR in April 2005 expects ecclesiastical discipline, when it says, “…the approach taken in dealing with those who declare themselves in statu confessionis with the Synod and refuse to commune district or synodical officials should be the same approach taken in dealing with those who ignore or oppose the Synod’s position on close(d) Communion and thus choose to practice open Communion in violation of their commitment to Synod. (Note: A District President could and should discipline those who practice open communion.); while the CTCR in April 1970, stated,
“That congregations and individuals who are in a "state of protest" remain entitled to all benefits and privileges of synodical membership;”

Close Communion Still an Issue

Ok, clear question:

Do we in the LCMS still uphold the historic and traditional understanding of close/closed communion? Offically our documents say yes. But what of our practice? It is not in this editor's opinion, a witness with integrity to say we believe one thing and obviously practice or tolerate / ignore the practice to the contrary.

Are we going to be Synod and walk together because we agree in common confession or are we walking together with a blind eye or a wink and a nod because what we have in common is our Concordia Health Plan, our educational system, our Pastors have their pension plan, and we have the crown jewel of the purple palace?

Southern Illinois has recognized the problem with this overture to the upcoming Synodical Convention.

"that the Southern Illinois District in Convention (2006) memorialize the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod to direct her District Presidents to initiate a visitation of
every congregation and pastor in their respective Districts: 1) to determine
whether those congregations and pastors are administering the Sacrament of
Communion according to our synodically approved teaching on Closed
Communion, which is founded on the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions;
2) to guide, exhort and teach so that the practice and administration of the
Sacrament of the Altar in our congregations be brought into harmony with our
historic teachings & Confessions; and 3) where there is persistent
disagreement and unwillingness to teach and practice in harmony with our
synodical teachings and confession to correct, exhort and rebuke so that souls
may be strengthened, sins forgiven and faith abound. (Note: The District
President always has the right to direct his vice-Presidents and Circuit
Counselors to assist him in the endeavor)."

(You can read the overture and all their overtures here:

Licensed Deacons an Issue in the Synod

Many districts are now using licensed laymen to do Word and Sacrament ministry in congregations. A variety of reasons are often given.

1. finances -- congregation can't afford pastor due to increasing health care costs and decreasing attendance.

2. maximize ministry -- idea is that more people have preaching, more can be accomplished

But there are some problems.

First, there is debate about whether such is an office as it is being practiced is Biblical or not.

Second, there is concern about the level of competency and training. Pastors fall under supervision of district presidents and must have ordination and a Masters Degree in one of our seminaries. Students are ordained only after close scrutiny. The amount of and quality of training and the standards for admission to this new office of licensed layman are unclear.

Third, there is a concern that as this office grows and becomes a substitute for the ordained ministry, that the quality of teaching and confession will decline within the Synod.

Fourth, there is concern that said office will engender conflict between pastoral leadership and lay leadership. For example is a pastor is proclaiming God's Word faithfully, but a congregation holds opinions contrary to that Word, they could be tempted to run the pastor out and elevate a licensed layman into his place.

The Southern Illinois District has called for the 2007 convention to place some limitations on this office. Other Districts have called for having a standard understanding across Synod at to the responsiblities and authority associated with the office as well as its limitations, providing appropriate supervision, and finally making sure that appropriate training is provided and standardized.

However, there are those who feel that said office, if it practices Word and Sacrament ministry, is operating with an unbiblical mandate.

The SID resolution includes the following: (Resolution 2-02)

"RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District in Convention (2006) memorialize the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) 2007 Synodical Convention to rescind the
1989 convention Res. 3-05B (establishment of licensed lay deacons to
provide pastoral services), AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Southern Illinois District in Convention (2006) memorialize the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) 2007 Synodical Convention to direct that all programs mentioned in the 2004 convention Res. 5-09 (to affirm district programs that equip laity for ministry) maintain the clear distinction between the service of laity and the Word and Sacrament ministry given to the pastoral office AND BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District in Convention (2006) memorialize the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) 2007 Synodical Convention to direct Synod’s
congregations to a number of programs for training men for the office of Pastor,
including not only the M. Div seminary program, but also alternate routes and
especially DELTO (Distance Education Leading to Ordination), DIT (Deaf
Institute of Theology), EIIT (Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology), and HIT
(Hispanic Institute of Theology)."

You can read the full resolution here including the reasoning:

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lawsuit against President Kieschnick on again

Some time ago, several pastors and congregations of the Synod brought suit against the Synodical President and the CCM claiming they had overstepped their bounds of authority violating not only our church consitution, but the laws of incorporation under which our church body was incorporated in the state of Missouri. The suit was supposedly settled in past months. But now, according to Reclaim News, the lawsuit is on again because some member of the Board of Directors are convinced these issues need resolution. Reclaim News approaches issues from a very right wing conservative approach, and its commentary reflects such, but usually the information content is factual. Reclaim is headed by Rev. Jack Cascione, a former LCMS pastor, who has a history of being at odds with the moderate and liberal elements of the LCMS. From the story it would appear the divide between the LCMS Board of Directors and the President and his CCM continue to grow. It is this editor's opinion that said divide reflects a divergence of two methodologies for synodical union. Either union based on common agreement in doctrine and practice (including a common understanding of where there is liberty for unique practice and where the practice should be common) or union based on agreement to disagree and practice as each congregation and pastor sees fit as long as two things are in place: 1. we are not disagreeable and 2. we do not criticize the Synod or claim that another's practice is in error when examined in light of Scripture and Confessions.

For what it is worth, this editor knows Rev. Balfour and believes him to be an honorable dedicated churchman whose heart is in the right place. A man who leads by service. He reflects the spirit of the late Dr. Barry who held that we should focus on two complimentary stresses in our church -- sharing the Gospel and making sure the Gospel we share and uphold is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Rev. Balfour is taking such a drastic step, I would be very suspicious that something must be very amiss and in need of dramatic attention.

The story from Reclaim follows:
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July 29, 2006

"Four Directors Sue LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick"


Four Directors of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body of 2.5 million, have filed suit in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Missouri against Synodical President, Dr. Gerald Kieschnick.

This is the first time in the history of American Lutheranism, (and perhaps any nation-wide American church body) that duly elected members of the Board of Directors have filed suit against their president.

The four plaintiffs are Rev. Edward Balfour, Elizabeth Fluegel, David Hawk, and Christian Preus who represent four of the current 13 board members. The seating of two more board members, by direction of the CCM, will now be suspended until the suit is settled.

Prior to the 2004 LCMS Convention, the LCMS Board of Directors purchased an opinion from Bryan Cave (a firm of more than 500 lawyers) stating that rulings by the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) violate Missouri not-for-profit corporate law by claiming authority over the LCMS Board of Directors.

Missouri law states that ". . . all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the authority, and the affairs of the corporation managed under the direction of, its board." Section 355.316

President Kieschnick's appointees on the CCM, after the 2001 Convention, decided that their rulings have authority over the LCMS Board of Directors (BOD). These rulings have resulted in the overthrow of LCMS government in a conspiracy perpetrated by the LCMS President, his appointees on the CCM, and the LCMS Council of District Presidents. The LCMS has more than 5 billion dollars in its pension, church extension, and foundation funds.

During the 2004 Convention, LCMS Legal Council, Leonard Pranchske assured the delegates that it was common practice in the State of Missouri for unelected commissions, such as the CCM, to have authority over Corporate Boards of Directors. Pranchske gave no examples. Shortly after the Convention, Pranchske's contract was not renewed by the BOD.

The directors intervened in an already existing class action suit filed by more than 100 plaintiffs in August, 2005. Many LCMS "conservatives"
including Attorney Robert Doggett of the Lutheran Concerns Association and "Consensus" claimed they won and settled the suit in May of 2006. The plaintiffs are to sign a statement of apology and withdraw all claims in the suit.

However, the four directors have intervened in the suit and seek action on Count II of the original class action suit.

There have been numerous objections throughout the Synod to CCM rulings since Kieschnick took office in 2001. Kieschnick kept review of all CCM rulings from the triennial 2004Convention.

The court's agreement with the four directors will result in numerous suits being filed against Kieschnick, and the Council of District Presidents (COP).

The 2004 Convention re-wrote the LCMS rules on Dispute Resolution recommended by the COP. Now, the removal of an LCMS President can no longer be initiated by any LCMS lay person, congregation, pastor, or District, but requires a 75% majority vote of the COP.

Formally, the LCMS had more than a 150 year history of congregation polity with the authority for church government residing in supreme congregational voters' assemblies. However, a long series of CCM rulings and district and convention resolutions have usurped all authority from the lay members. The LCMS is currently under the authority of the LCMS President and the Council of District Presidents.

Petition to intervene in points 8-10 state:

"8. Since 2002, CCM has engaged in the practice of issuing directives or orders which, although couched as 'opinions', are in reality mandates to the Board of Directors requiring the Board to manage LCMS in the manner directed by the opinion.

9. Interveners have questioned the legitimacy of CCM and its encroachment on what Interveners had always understood to be the prerogative of the Board to manage the corporation. Interveners have raised their concerns with other Board members. The majority of the Board, however, have refused to take action to address CCM's exercise of corporate governance.

10. Through CCM's gradual assertion of control, the Board of LCMS has been subordinated to the will of the five appointees who constitute CCM. Allied with the President, CCM's widening arrogation of authority has operated to shift the governance of LCMS from the elected Board and to place it in the hands of an officer of the corporation and his surrogates acting on their own and unresponsive to the authority of the Board. In essence, a super-board of directors has been created."

The LCMS has been shrinking by more than 25,000 members a years, every year that Kieschnick has been in office. While claiming to promote evangelism 38 missionaries have been recalled.

(Copy of actual filing is here)


Below is a summary of the issues pertaining to the lawsuit from the BOD website. (Read more here)

SUMMARY REPORT (5/24/06)
A lawsuit that was filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Mo., in August, 2005, by approximately 80 LCMS members against President Gerald B. Kieschnick, First Vice- President William R. Diekelman, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as a
necessary nominal defendant has been resolved with all claims dismissed.
The plaintiffs initiated the suit based upon their beliefs that the number of exceptions made for delegates to the Synod’s 2004 convention by the President of the Synod upon request of district boards of directors was excessive and not in compliance with the Synod’s Bylaw 3.1.2, and that certain official opinions of the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) unlawfully restricted the authority of the Synod’s Board of Directors. The President and Vice-President denied all allegations of wrongdoing and moved to dismiss the claims. The Synod also filed a separate motion to dismiss the suit. The questions raised in the lawsuit regarding the exceptions were based upon the increased numbers of exceptions made for the 2004 convention compared to exceptions made for the Synod’s 1998 and 2001 conventions and upon incomplete information from an early report published by the Secretary of the Synod. Following the initiation of the lawsuit, an updated report was prepared by the Secretary and posted on the Synod’s website. The concerns regarding certain CCM opinions that address or impact the authority of the Board of Directors had been raised before and during the Synod’s 2004 convention and were the subject of a convention resolution (Res. 7-02A) that directed the President and the Board of Directors to appoint a committee to conduct a study and to report and make recommendations to the Synod’s 2007 convention. In January of this year the Synod’s Board of Directors adopted a resolution, “consistent with Matthew 5:25, in the best interests of the Synod, and with a desire for peace and unity,” to establish a committee of the Board to meet with representatives of the plaintiffs to
see if the matter could be resolved out of court. Accordingly, a committee of four Board members was appointed which, along with President Kieschnick and Vice-President
Diekelman, met and conferred with a committee of the plaintiffs until an agreement to
resolve the claims was reached. The Agreement includes a dismissal of all claims against President Kieschnick, Vice- President Diekelman, and the Synod. It also includes an expression of regret by the plaintiffs for the pejorative language contained in and resulting from the filing of the lawsuit and an apology to the Synod, the President, the First Vice-President, and all others offended by the lawsuit. No disciplinary action for participation in the lawsuit will be taken
against plaintiffs who sign the Agreement.In the Agreement the President commits to reaffirming his communications to the district presidents of the Synod regarding the implementation of bylaws governing visitation and electoral circuits. In the spirit of Bylaw 3.1.2, he will first direct individual visitation circuits not meeting bylaw requirements for electoral circuits to the remedy provided by the bylaw (to combine with an adjacent visitation circuit to form an electoral circuit). The Agreement also includes provisions related to the issue of the CCM opinions and the authority of the Board of Directors, the subject of Resolution 7-02A adopted by the 2004 Synod convention. The President will give priority to the Resolution 7-02A Committee
created by the 2004 Synod convention by referencing the committee’s work in his
convention report, by including it in the Convention Workbook, and by allowing ample time for the convention floor committee to which the committee’s work is assigned to present its report and resolutions to the convention. He will also recommend to the convention the approval of a standing rule that will allow 90 minutes of continuous consideration, presentation, and debate of the resolution(s) pertaining to the 7-02A Committee’s report and will schedule the floor committee’s report for presentation in a session of the convention early enough to allow for proper consideration of and action on its resolution(s) regarding the Resolution 7-02A Committee’s report.
In the interest of peace and harmony in the Synod, neither the plaintiffs nor the defendants will request of the other or of the Court payment of their attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the lawsuit. The resolution of this lawsuit was made possible by the recognition by all involved of the need to approach the task as fellow Christians intent upon resolving the matter for the good of the Synod and its proclamation of the Gospel. The parties to this matter support the agreements that have been made and the measures that will be taken to satisfy the concerns that have been raised. They have pledged to work together to effect the terms of the agreement.

Texas District calls for addition to Lutheran Confessions

RESOLUTION A-03-06 Referred to the CTCR

OVERTURE 03-02-06

SUBJECT: CALL FOR 21ST CENTURY "FORMULA OF CONCORD" ADDENDUM

RESOLVED, that Overture 03-02-06 be referred to the Commission on Theology and Church Relations for further consideration.
____________________________________________________

From the overture:

WHEREAS, Lutherans in the 21st Century are often finding themselves in disagreement over many teachings and aspects of what it means to be "Lutheran" (such as authority of the Scriptures, office of public ministry, fellowship, etc.), resulting in a variety of doctrines and practices...RESOLVED, that the Texas District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, gathered in convention, memorialize the 63rd Convention of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to call for the preparation of an "Addendum" to the Formula of Concord of 1580; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that this "Addendum" to the Formula of Concord of 1580 seek to address the additional questions of doctrine and practice that currently divide the Evangelical Lutheran Church such as (but not limited to):

* To what extent are the Scriptures authoritative and efficacious regarding the faith and life of God's people?
* What is meant by "pure teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments in harmony with the gospel of Christ" (Apology, VI & VII, 5)?
* What is the role of God's people in terms of the ministry of the gospel as preachers, teachers, and the priesthood of all believers (and subsequent questions such as the ordination of women, auxiliary offices, etc.)?
* What are the biblical definitions of marriage and family, and what do those definitions teach regarding such things as divorce, homosexuality, abortion, etc.?
* What is meant by the church universal, the mutual consolation of the saints, and fellowship among Lutherans, fellowship among Christians, and relationships of people of other religions?

RESOLVED, that the Synodical Convention call upon the Presidium of Synod, in consultation with the faculties of the Seminaries of Synod, to appoint a select group of theologians to begin the initial development of a draft formula addendum; and be it further

RESOLVED, that each District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod appoint two pastors, two commissioned ministers of the gospel, four lay members, and (where applicable) two members of the faculty of any higher educational institution located within the district, to be a part of a Synod-wide convocation to be convened prior to the 65th Convention of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (2011) to adapt and recommend this addendum to the Formula of Concord for adoption by the Synod; and, be it finally... (read entire overture here)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A District asks what do the numbers mean?

One of our Districts, Mid-South, asks in its recent newsletter what declining numbers mean.


Synod’s 2005 statistical tables are not completed yet, but the 2004 tables give us some insights, also of our Mid-South District:
  1. 29 congregations (22 %) had pastoral vacancies, often times of plateaus or declines in membership.

  2. Baptized growth was a meager 13, while confirmed membership declined 81, in states of increased population growth.

  3. 72 less children were baptized, 31 less children were confirmed and 89 less adults were confirmed. Losses are across the board. (As a Synod, we had 25,189 fewer baptized and 14,620 fewer confirmed members than in 2003.)

  4. As a District, we had a net loss of 21 confirmed members (children and adults confirmed, reinstatements and professions of faith and members received from other congregations versus deaths, defections and releases to other congregations).

  5. We received 132 from other Lutheran church bodies, but released 187 to them.

  6. In our schools, Pre-K gained 261, Grades K-8 declined 1,247 and grades 9-12 gained over 1,117 pupils in comparison to 2003. Other avenues gave us more outreach, as full-day child care grew by 741 and Before/After School Care grew by 558.

  7. Our average congregational size is 258 baptized and 204 confirmed members, ranking 31st of 35 districts. Putting it another way, 45 of our congregations have 0-99 confirmed members, 49 have 100-299 confirmed members, 23 have 300-499 confirmed members, 8 have 500 or more confirmed members.

  8. We have 936 in weekday religion and confirmation classes, of whom 233 are not members. Unfortunately, the latter figures are not available for children Sunday school classes or adult Bible study groups.

  9. Our Mid-South District ranks 3rd for total per communicant contributions (work at home and at large), and 5th for work at large.

Discuss these figures with leaders of your council, boards, etc and ask: 1) What do these figures tell us? 2) How do our congregation’s figures fit into this picture? 3) What areas of outreach to non-members and ministry to members need our prayers and increased efforts? 4) How can we encourage one another and also other congregations? Each figure represents people important to our Lord and to us.



I would suspect the answers
will depend on the framework one brings to bear on answering the question:


If for example the onus is
put on people and their efforts to convert others to the Gospel then the
conclusions may flow in one vein.  But if we remember the Lord's parable of
the seed and the sower and remember that faith comes from hearing the message
(Romans 10:17) and remember our Confessions stress on conversion being the work
of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace as God creates faith in what He
did at the cross (Augsburg Confession Articles 4 and 5), then perhaps we might
draw a different conclusion as to what it all means. 


In the first -- that we are
being ineffective.  In the latter that either the ground is hardening or
perhaps we are not focusing enough on  the very seed for sowing fruit into
that ground.  If the church is loosing mass perhaps its not because of how
we are preparing our meals but maybe because of what we are feeding people. 
What do you think?