Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Corporation

Fr. Gregory Hogg is right whether you like it or not. The LCMS is a non-profit corporation as it identifies itself in its Constitution. The only "church" in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are those congregations which are members thereof.

He also wrote, "Toward his own people, a man may function as minister; toward the broader group, he is a field-office manager." I recognize the rhetoric here, and he may not be far off. To Redeemer, I am their Pastor. But I also belong as a member of the Synod, and if not a "field manager," then some position of responsibility in the Synod.

The background of his post is the cancellation and termination of a popular radio show on KFUO. In many senses it was the voice of Confessional Lutheranism in St. Louis. Since it was syndicated and available on the Web, its voice was also heard around the world. The show didn't pull many punches, and sometimes the rhetoric was pretty thick. But it reflected a certain strain within the LCMS--the "Conservative" side if you want to call it that. The host and producer were employed by the Synod and now the corporation has removed them this week, without warning. Why? We don't know. Who? They are not saying.

I don't know the specifics, but I do know the radio show expressed a version of Lutheranism that is not reflected much in the Official Publications of the LCMS (That's safe to say, I think). The pastors of the LCMS are also under authority, and as members of the Synod, expected to toe the company line, to some degree--perhaps not as much as if your check has "LCMS, Inc." on it, but some nonetheless. I cannot be fired from the Synod, since they don't pay my wages. Most of us are not high-profile enough to be noticed. Maybe.

Here's some wisdom for those who aren't used to answering to corporate bosses. The article was entitled "Four Things You Should Never Say to the CEO" by Bill Lane:

2. Making fun of a corporate program.

Yes, there are lots of vapid initiatives trotted out by marketing or PR or HR people: "Year of the Customer," or "Zero Mistakes," or "Zero Inventory," or "Zero Drinking at Lunch." And sadly enough, bad CEOs often buy in and pay these goofy ideas half-hearted lip service. Feel free to make fun of this stupid stuff--as long as you're willing to leave the company the next day.

Once at GE, the chief financial officer poked gentle, martini-fueled fun at a Welch initiative, from the podium at a company dinner. Welch fired him shortly thereafter.

I ran with most of what Welch promulgated, because it made sense to me. As a communicator, my job was to take it to another level -- often to the point that Welch had to rein me in, calling me crazier than he was. This might sound like butt-kissing, but not to me. I believe in "signing on or signing out." If you don't believe in the corporate mission, either keep your mouth shut or leave.

This kind of advice is a bitter pill to swallow these days.


  1. Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

    Pr. Hall,

    I hope it's understood by you and all Lutheran readers of my blog that I mean no offense by what I posted wrt the recent "Issues, Etc." debacle. I remain grateful for all that the Lord gave me in the years I was a Lutheran. I have great sympathy for those in the Lutheran camp who are trying to preserve what they can of the historic Christian faith.

    My point is this. What happened in the case of "Issues Etc." is simply a case of trans-parochial Lutheranism acting as it is in fact: a corporation. When the trans-parochial visibility of the Church is let go, as it was in the 1530's, something else has to hold parishes together. Then it was the princes. Now, in our business-oriented, success-driven America, it is a corporation. I wish it weren't, but it is what it is. Forgive my bluntness. It comes with being raised in a blue-collar, steel mill town.

    May God bless all western Christians as you journey through the Triduum! Christos aneste!

  2. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    I don't think what was said was offensive - the LCMS is a corporation, it is a business. If someone bucks the trend or direction the leadership is going, you can't expect that to simply be ignored.

    I think one of the flaws in the LCMS is that all too often we expect Synodical headquarters or District headquarters to operate like a Church - but they aren't. They work like businesses administering funds, not the Word and Sacraments -- and that's what they are designed to be. Whether that is ideal or not - that's how they are established. . . and it's when we want Synod to be something other than it is, a clearing house for cash, we get disappointed.

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    No offense at all, Fr. Gregory! I hope I didn't imply that I took offense--on the contrary.

    But many don't seem to get that, and it is difficult. On one friend's blog, he objected to a "demonstration" outside the Purple Palace on the grounds that a demonstration does not befit the Church...but they aren't Church. I agree that it would not look good and so forth, but when you have no Church but only congregations, it makes being good churchmen difficult, to say the least.