Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gem from Pres. T. Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

On Anonymity and Pseudonymity (II)

One newly-sprung blog has a page to explain their pseudonyms:

These are dangerous times for Lutherans who have not signed onto Kieschnick's Purpose-Driven Ablaze Movement. The cancellation of the Issues Etc. radio program is proof enough for us that Kieschnick intends to use corporate take over tactics and informational subterfuge to destroy any and all who would dare to question and challenge HIS vision for the LCMS. Therefore, in order to protect ourselves while we shine the light of truth on Kieschnick's agenda so that there can be real debate regarding its merits or lack thereof, we have no choice but to write from behind a mask.
Their blog is important. Obviously they have some inside information. Much of what they write is investigative in nature. But one thing really bothers me: this page. Mind you, I'm not bothered by the New 95 Theses. For years I've heard Confessionals in parishes, offices, and Seminary classrooms wonder if we need a new Formula of Concord. Some have advocated it. I think I agree. If Lutheranism has any good in it, it can only be helped by such Confessional development.

No, I'm bothered that the Theses are anonymous.

So I was talking with Marjorie about this last night, trying to express exactly why it bugged me so much that the author of the New 95 Theses hadn't put his name on it. I couldn't quite put my finger on why the pseudonyms on their posts revealing financial documents didn't bother me, but this call for debate, this anonymous document of a confessional nature did.

Then I read Fr. Gregory Hogg's comment published elsewhere:
...those who think an issue is fundamentally *theological*--a matter of the truth--have no hesitation to die, if necessary, for the confession of the truth. Those who think that an issue is fundamentally *corporate*--a matter of opinion--do hesitate.
My dad once gave me this advice: Don't put anything in writing that you will later regret. Don't put it in writing if you don't want it to last forever. It's great advice. I haven't always followed it, and when I haven't, I've suffered.

In these days when the 8th Commandment is used as a weapon against those who express displeasure, we most certainly need to be honest about our identities. Hiding behind a false name while attempting "to shine the light of truth" all too easily degenerates into cowardice and defamation. But if one is convinced that they write the truth, and that others need to know the truth, then he should saddle up and sign it.

The defense of the anonymous activists is "fear of reprisals." I can understand that, especially if their paychecks read "LCMS, Inc." But what of fear? Christ our Lord reminds us: "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God." Likewise, "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psa 118:6) For those of us who are sole (or nearly sole) providers it is difficult. But when the truth is at stake and we believe the time is right, our Lord promises us His protection.

I write this not to condemn or judge him. I have personal opinions and beliefs that I do not share here or write anywhere else. I have opinions about national politics, local politics, about history and the nature of man that I do not publish. I have theological opinions. I have beliefs about truth that I do not share at this time. We all do. But when the time is right, when one is led to publish ideas, to spark debate, to act in the public arena, then fear must give way to courage.

My dear wife reminded me last night that courage and fear are not opposite qualities. As Ambrose Redmoon said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." Or as Mark Twain said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We're Different, But Don't Ask Why

Carl E. Braaten writes,

As a student at Luther Seminary, I would venture out on weekends to preach in rural congregations. In southwestern Minnesota, I preached in two congregations, twenty minutes part, with less than a hundred in attendance at each service.... I asked the church councils why we did not combine the two services and just have one. After all, the service was the same and the sermon was the same. The president of one congregation said that that would be impossible. I asked why. He said, 'We just don't agree on Lutheran doctrine.' I asked what the difference was all about. He said that it had to do with the election controversy earlier in the century among Norwegian Lutherans, which caused the two congregations to split. One side was in favor of predestination, and the other believed in free will. I said, 'Ya, I know about that. And what side was your congregation on?' He said, 'I can't remember. It's so long ago.'

(Carl E. Braaten, "Confessional Lutheranism in an Ecumenical World." Concordia Lutheran Quarterly 71 (2007), p. 228)

Church or Something Else?

Doorman receives an "A" for the assignment. The rest of you will have a one day extension in order not to fail.

But the point of the exercise was: those blogs have nothing to do with Church. Oh, they talk about their church enough, about the ministry all the time, but there was little about Christ, about the Holy Trinity, about prayer, fasting, almsgiving, about Sacraments and Scripture.

As Doorman gently reminded, it is obvious the intent is different. I have my own hidden agendas (we all do), yet one cannot talk about ministry without reference to what we minister: Sacrament and the Life of Christ. St. Paul wrote, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." (KJV)

I find it disturbing that these church leaders and "lead pastors" (is that like a lead guitarist?) speak only of their churches in business, sociological and/or Rolling Stone terms.

Well, actually I don't find it disturbing. I find it revealing of their heart and intent. And that is disturbing.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Your Assignment for Today

The pastors of Jefferson Hills Church--the allegedly LCMS congregation in the St. Louis area that has the "Sucks" billboards--have a blog and, like most blogs, provide a blogroll.

Your assignment for today:

1. Click on the links to the "blogs they read." Also provided right here:

2. Click on seven links from my own blogroll. Doesn't matter which seven (please note, not all are Lutheran--but they are friends and/or influences).

3. Compare and contrast the content of the jhchurch blogroll and the blogs on mine, answering the following questions:

A. Which blogs reflect the Church's life and confession?
B. Which blogs are most self-refrential, self-centered and which are most Christ-centered?
C. Which blogs provide the most jargon from the Church? Which blogs provide the most jargon from business theory, communication theory, psychological theory and social theory?
D. Which blogs share the Gospel best?
E. When you think of Christ and His Church, which blogs seem more representative?
F. Of the two blogrolls, which list would you rather have your pastor read (note: I don't read all the blogs on my own list--at least not frequently)?
G. Which set of blogs should be more representative for the LCMS, Lutheranism, or your denomination?
H. Which blogs are most helpful in your growth as a Christian?

4. Please respond in the comments section.

Please don't take this as boasting in the superiority of my blogroll. This exercise is designed to reflect the complete "andere Geist" that the consumerist churches operate with.

And ok, since you asked: I believe my list is superior, but not because I assembled it; rather, my links are superior because of the quality of those authors.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Christ Is Risen!

For my Orthodox Friends:

Though You went down into the tomb, You destroyed Hades' power, and You rose the victor, Christ God, saying to the myrrh-bearing women, "Hail!" and granting peace to Your disciples, You who raise up the fallen.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

OK, But Isn't the 8th More?

Keeping any commandment perfectly is impossible, and keeping the 8th Commandment more so, especially as one's "community" enlarges. "Putting the best construction on everything," and the extent Luther applies this in the Large Catechism is especially difficult. Here are two pertinent quotations:

For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his. But if you know it, do nothing else than turn your ears into a grave and cover it, until you are
appointed to be judge and to punish by virtue of your office.Those, then, are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but proceed to assume jurisdiction, and when they know a slight offense of another, carry it into every corner, and are delighted and tickled that they can stir up another’s displeasure [baseness], as swine roll themselves in the dirt and root in it with the snout. (LC 1.266-267)

Thus also among ourselves should we adorn whatever blemishes and infirmities we find in our neighbor, and serve and help him to promote his honor to the best of our
ability, and, on the other hand, prevent whatever may be discreditable to him. And it is especially an excellent and noble virtue for one always to explain advantageously and put the best construction upon all he may hear of his neighbor (if it be not notoriously evil), or at any rate to condone it over and against the poisonous tongues that are busy wherever they can pry out and discover something to blame in a neighbor, and that explain and pervert it in the worst way; as is done now especially with the precious Word of God and its preachers. There are comprehended therefore in this commandment quite a multitude of good works which please God most highly, and bring abundant good and blessing, if only the blind world and the false saints would recognize them. For there is nothing on or in entire man which can do both greater and more extensive good or harm in spiritual and in temporal matters than the tongue, though it is the least and feeblest member (LC 1.288-290).
At face value then, we are, essentially to ignore and "cover over" the sins of others. What an amazing gift this would be, if we were to mind our business so that we do not accuse each other of sin. This is the way of Christ, who says, "Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. (Mar. 4:24 NKJV). If we judge others, then, Christ our Lord judges. If we are harsh, He says that He is harsh. If you are gentle and overlook the faults of others, then with such generous measure Christ will pour out his forgiveness in you. This is beautifully good news.

In this light then, the injustices, sins and criticism we make of anything should be silenced. This would be easiest if we withdrew from the world and kept our community small; we would have less to know, and less temptation to speak about the wrongs around us. But the more we know, the larger our community, the greater our information, the harder this becomes. This indeed, is part of the reason why Christians fled to the desert in the 3-5th centuries (and still today). The Desert Fathers speak eloquently on this.

But most of us live in community--larges ones at that. And some of us especially have been given place to speak about the wrongs we see. And in public matters, there is even more reason to speak. The Large Catechism continues:
Thus you see that it is summarily forbidden to speak any evil of our neighbor, however, the civil government, preachers, father and mother excepted, on the understanding that this commandment does not allow evil to go unpunished. Now, as according to the Fifth Commandment no one is to be injured in body, and yet Master Hannes [the executioner] is excepted, who by virtue of his office does his neighbor no good, but only evil and harm, and nevertheless does not sin against God’s commandment, because God has on His own account instituted that office; for He has reserved punishment for His own good pleasure, as He threatens in the First Commandment,—just so also, although no one has a right in his own person to judge and condemn anybody, yet if they to whose office it belongs fail to do it, they sin as well as he who would do so of his own accord, without such office. For here necessity requires one to speak of the evil, to prefer charges, to investigate and testify; 275] and it is not different from the case of a physician who is sometimes compelled to examine and handle the patient whom he is to cure in secret parts. Just so governments, father and mother, brothers and sisters, and other good friends, are under obligation to each other to reprove evil wherever it is needful and profitable. (LC 1.274-275)
And most famously,
All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it. (LC 1.284)
Often our spiritual life would still be better if we were to refrain from speaking about scandals and sins and public stupidity and falsehood. There is spiritual danger in doing it--it leads to cynicism, depression and pride. That is pretty dangerous.

But it is not sinful per se. And some of us have the duty, especially in these matters.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The 8th Commandment

Lutherans love this commandment. Here's what the Small Catechism says:

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest possible way.
As you can see from the letters below, the main concern of the elected officials of the Synod is honoring this commandment. In fact, the CoP writes, "In this regard, the 8th commandment's focus on upholding the reputation of brothers and sisters in Christ is most important."

To be sure, there have been some pretty harsh statements about decision makers in the comments on other sites. The implication, though, seems to be, "Be careful what you nay-sayers say and write! Or better yet, stop altogether."

Yet I fail to see sin in criticizing a decision, in informing people about events transpiring in the Synod, and analyzing public statements.

For instance, this statement attributed to David Strand: "Strand also said the program's audience was too narrow. —'"Issues" was a strong show, but where we stand now in terms of listenership, it seems wise to try some news things to broaden our reach,'" (source). Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to say this statement belies the antipathy that he, or his bosses had toward "Issues, Etc."?

Or take this statement: "The new program, called 'The Afternoon Show,' is different from 'Issues, Etc.,' said Strand, in that 'it doesn't dwell largely on Lutheran apologetics at a sophisticated level. It still takes its Gospel proclamation seriously, but it finds new ways to capture attention'" (ibid.). Put these two together and you have Strand saying, in effect, "We don't want Lutheran apologetics, like the narrow-focused 'Issues, Etc.'

Did I just sin?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to draw attention the fact that canceling this radio show has silenced some Confessional teaching on the dangers of the consumerist mega-church model, the very same models that are being praised by the Synod's President, by many District Presidents and those in positions of power?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment when I write that the cancellation of "Issues Etc." is congruent with the "evangelical make over" that our Synodical President and others of influence are enacting?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to criticize the millions spent on the Ablaze! program when over 30 full-time missionaries have been cut off from funding and lost their jobs?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to call Ablaze! a program, when the leaders of our Synod insist that it is not a program, but a movement--though it has all the cups, posters, t-shirts, folders, memo pads, and press of a new program?

Is it breaking the 8th Commandment to note that while our Synodical President claims in the letters page of The Wall Street Journal that "there is no division" in the Synod, he is on record in various places complaining about forces within the Synod attempting "incessant internal purification" and his own Blue-Ribbon Task Force was composed to guessed it, Division in the Synod?

No, I don't believe so.

Pass Auf!

The Council of Presidents--an ad hoc "council" of all the District Presidents of the LCMS, which has no Constitutional basis, BTW--issued the following letter, followed by an accompanying letter from Pres. Gerald Kieschnick:

Statement from LCMS Council of Presidents—April 22, 2008:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

We, the members of the Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, greet you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the whole world.

We are fully aware of pain in our Synod over the discontinuation of the KFUO Radio program “Issues, Etc.” When one member of the Body of Christ hurts—for whatever reason—we all hurt. We are very concerned about how this pain has affected the church as it carries Christ's gifts to the world. Only the devil would rejoice over this disruption!

We encourage the whole church prayerfully to reflect and ponder on a few matters. We realize that in our understanding and application of the 4th commandment, this matter is not the responsibility of the Council of Presidents. The Synod has given the authority for oversight and implementation of KFUO and its programming decisions to the Board for Communication Services (BCS). We must regard with Christian charity and trust the judgment of our duly elected brothers and sisters in Christ on the BCS, along with its Executive Director, Mr. David Strand.

We regret the timing of this decision, which was implemented during Holy Week, one of the most important times of the church year. In response to the concern that the manner in which this decision was implemented lacked Christian compassion, it is important to note our belief that such was not the case. These matters are also addressed in the statement on this topic by the President of our Synod, attached hereto, which we commend to you.

The manner in which the church addresses, discusses, and resolves disagreements is as important as the disagreement itself. In this regard, the 8th commandment's focus on upholding the reputation of brothers and sisters in Christ is most important. We are all the baptized of Christ, washed in His blood, and we possess His image of blamelessness. Where there have been communications that have violated the integrity of a brother or sister in Christ, Christ calls us to repentance. Here, too, the devil would delight in divisiveness resulting from matters such as this. Let us walk with integrity, honesty, and humility, giving glory to Jesus Christ, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church. As this church goes forward in reaching unbelievers with the precious Gospel of our Lord, let us be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The peace of the Lord be with you all!

Council of Presidents
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Adopted April 22, 2008, without dissenting vote

+ + +

Statement from LCMS President—April 21, 2008:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and Lord of the universe, through whom alone we receive forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation!

A decision to discontinue “Issues, Etc.” on KFUO AM Radio was made March 18, 2008, Tuesday of Holy Week, for fiscal reasons described in statements issued after the decision became public. At the April 21, 2008, meeting of the Council of Presidents (COP) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, financial details precipitating this decision were discussed in executive session by Mr. David Strand, Executive Director of the LCMS Board for Communication Services (BCS), with specific fiscal information provided by the Vice-President-Finance—Treasurer of the Synod, Dr. Thomas Kuchta. The decision was made solely by Mr. Strand after consultation with the chairman of the BCS, Mr. Dennis Clauss, with whom I subsequently spoke over the phone regarding this matter. KFUO Radio is a ministry under the umbrella of the Board for Communication Services.

Prior to its implementation, Mr. Strand also informed me as president of the Synod of his decision. I regret that I did not counsel Mr. Strand to postpone implementation of the decision until sometime other than Holy Week. It is obvious that the timing and process connected with the discontinuation of the program have contributed to the disappointment expressed by listeners and supporters of “Issues, Etc.” in and beyond the Synod. Human Resources policies, compliance with applicable employment regulations, the process of implementation of reduction in force, accompanying severance and outplacement considerations, etc., do not allow the sharing of details about this matter. I am deeply saddened by the anxiety, worry, and consternation experienced in the Synod by those directly and indirectly affected by the decision.

Some have interpreted the decision to discontinue “Issues, Etc.” as being theological or political in nature or purpose. Such interpretations have no basis in fact.

As president of the Synod, I respectfully request and pastorally encourage all in the Synod to be patient and charitable regarding this matter, putting the best construction on actions and decisions connected therewith. I pray for the day when the financial resources of our Synod do not necessitate the reduction in force of radio personnel, the return of missionaries from the foreign mission field, or any other such difficult and painful decisions. And I pray for peace and harmony in our beloved Synod.

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

"Transforming lives through Christ's love ... in time ... for eternity ..."
John 3:16-17


HT: Augsburg1530

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How is it that Christ "is not able to do anything of himself, unless he sees the Father doing anything"?

For if the Father does not exist, neither does the Son. For the Son is of the Father and in the Father and with the Father, and not after the Father. In a similar way also what he does is of him and with him. For there is one and the same--not similar but the same--will and energy and power in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

St. John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith. 4.18

The Symptoms of Avoiding Vocations

I've been thinking and praying a lot lately about using our time and gifts well, and doing what God would have us do.

Evangelical and Charismatic Christians speak often about having a "call" to do this or that. They use this language sometimes to mean that they have a strong desire to do something, have prayed about it, and really want to do it. Other times they will say that they "are called by God," and this is an excuse not to do something you want them to.

In one sense these Christians have it right. God has given each of us gifts and a vocation--a calling, a situation, a place in which to serve Him and our neighbors. Working in our vocation is, truly, doing what God has called us to do. When they speak of their vocations in this lofty sense, they do all of us the favor of reminding us that our lives are for something, for other people's good and for His glory. There are questions that such an understanding raises, however. Questions like, "How do I know what my vocations is? How can I be certain it is from God and not from me?" and "How do I change vocations?"

But I've been thinking about another question: what happens when you don't do your vocation, when you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing? How can you tell you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing?

It is true that our enemy works to keep us from attaining God's will. The devil tempts us away from doing what we ought, and when we succumb, we suffer. So when you are not doing your vocation(s), life stinks. You feel guilty when doing other things, and they do not bring you much joy. You feel tired for no reason. These are symptoms similar to depression, but in this case, it is a spiritual phenomena, not biochemical.

Another symptom of avoiding your vocation is that when you cannot do it, you want to, but when you have time, our flesh and our enemy distracts you and keeps you from fulfilling it. For example, at work and on the way home you want to see your children and play with them, but when you finally arrive home, you find yourself tired from the commute and distressed that the house is messy and the children are loud, and all you want to do is get the house clean and the children eating, or in bed, or doing homework quietly. However, once they are all in bed, you talk to your spouse about trying to be a better parent, and find that you are telling each other stories about funny things the kids did and pining at how fast they grow up. Sound familiar? It does to me. Our enemy has spent another day keeping you from your vocation as parent and you and your children suffer for it.

We must arm ourselves against this. Recognize those symptoms of avoidance and pray for strength to overcome. Recognize what you spend your time thinking about, and pray that God will help you shift the balance from thinking to doing, from pining and thinking to acting and enjoying. In doing this, we are doing what God would have us do, living in the moment, living for today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

From the Archive: Merton and Me

I originally ran this on a previous version of my blog, and added it to the archives when I moved "This Side" here. I thought it worth reposting.


I read Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain last year. It’s got some really good bits. There is some nonsense about God rewarding the potential of the soul, but he’s also got some razor sharp diagnoses of our human frailties.

What stuck me most was his self-characterization before his voyage to America to study at Columbia:

“It did not take very much reflection on the year I had spent at Cambridge to show me that all my dreams of fantastic pleasures and delights were crazy and absurd, and that everything I had reached out for had turned to ashes in my hands, and that I myself, into the bargain, had turned out to be an extremely unpleasant sort of a person–vain, self-centered, dissoulte, weak, irresolute, undisciplined, sensual, obscene and proud. I was a mess” (Merton, pg. 132).
How does this not characterize most students today? Most people today? What Merton could detect in himself while still an outright pagan is lost on men today. It is on lost on many who would claim to be Christian and still cannot see themselves. Of course, Merton wrote this as a Christian and could very well have been analyzing his past while contemplating in his Trappist monastery. On the other hand, he writes this diagnosis as a large factor in his motivation to be a collegiate Communist.

His sins? Partying, drinking, gossiping, criticizing, staying up late, and skipping lectures. Yet beneath these outward sins, Merton had been given the eyes to recognize the source of these symptoms, the festering gangrene that began in his toes and worked its way out in his jaws, that filled his whole vile flesh from one end to the other.

That God would give us the eyes to see ourselves in such clear light! Grant it, Good Lord!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Newspeak from the Purple Palace

Some comments and questions regarding the Post-Dispatch story. Portions of the story in italics, my response in bold. The entire story is linked in a post below.

In an interview earlier this week, David Strand, the executive director of the church's communications board, said the station had lost $3.5 million in the last seven years.

Are we forgetting that "losing money" is what ministries do? My congregation has "lost" roughly $1.4 million in the last seven years, though the congregation would say they did not lose a penny, having paid a full time church worker (or two), part time church workers, utilities, outreach efforts, helped the poor and aided missions. Is using money for these things the same as "loosing" it?

Strand also said the program's audience was too narrow. —"'Issues' was a strong show, but where we stand now in terms of listenership, it seems wise to try some news things to broaden our reach," he said.

There it is. The statement we have all been waiting for. The audience for "Issues" was too narrow, though the show had been downloaded 480,000 times--in the last quarter it aired. No, "narrow" in Strand's statement could not been "small" or "few," but must mean some other kind of narrow. Narrow-minded? Narrow, as in not appealing to the evangelical masses enough?

Critics say the church's audience numbers don't include the large number of people who listened to the show online via podcasts. Strand said that "Issues, Etc." was downloaded more than any other KFUO-AM program, but that in order to succeed, the station needs "live listeners" and that "it's not accurate to say every download translates to a listener."

How must KFUO-AM "succeed" by live listeners? What measure of success are they using for this ministry? Generating dollars? KFUO-AM is non-profit. Being popular? "Issues, Etc." was syndicated to over 100 markets. I simply don't understand.

The church currently produces seven religious shows, one of which is a replacement for "Issues, Etc." The new program, called "The Afternoon Show," is different from "Issues, Etc.," said Strand, in that "it doesn't dwell largely on Lutheran apologetics at a sophisticated level. It still takes its Gospel proclamation seriously, but it finds new ways to capture attention."

So goes the LCMS.

Strand said politics had nothing to do with the decision to pull "Issues, Etc." "This was a financial decision. All 2.5 million of our members would call themselves confessional Lutherans, so I'm not sure where this idea of division comes from," he said. "Like most denominations, we have differences of opinion on things … but Dr. Kieschnick wants a deeper sense of peace throughout the church."

Again the finances. What is ominous is this denial of division, ("We're all confessional lutherans") coupled with the statement that Kieschnick wants "a deeper sense of peace throughout the church." What does that mean?

"Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, 'Peace!' when there is no peace -- and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar -- (Eze. 13:10 NKJV)

Funeral for Fern E. Heim

The Funeral for Fern Heim is this morning. She was a cheerful, long-time shut-in of this congregation who, despite her frequent and chronic health problems, died rather unexpectedly last week. God have mercy!

She leaves behind her three sons, Larry, Lonnie and Lynn and their families. Pray for them as well.

Post-Dispatch Article

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch featured an article about the LCMS on Friday. You can read it here if you haven't already found a link to it.

The author does a nice job with the sources he had--including Korey Maas, a stand-up, old school, Concordia Seminary buddy. Pay attention though, to what Mr. Strand says. My comments will come later.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Why This Won't Work, Part I

To my non-Lutheran and non-LCMS readers: I appreciate your patience with these "inside" posts, and thank you for your continued readership (who invented that word, anyway?).

For my congregation's members, other laity, and fellow clergy:

I am encouraged by seeing so many "Save the LCMS" style blogs and websites and so forth. I was delighted that M.Z. Hemingway has revealed the truth about what has been happening in our Synod. For the moment, there seems to be a general movement of folks who've had enough with what is going on. Some have written and said, "Perhaps the cancellation of 'Issues, Etc.' is the shot heard 'round the world for us." Perhaps there will be change!

I'm afraid not.

The divisions in our Synod go far deeper and longer than this administration, Barry's administration, Bohlmann's or beyond. The LCMS has been conflicted about its purpose and identity from the very beginning. We have always had pastors, professors and presidents who've been calling us to be mainstream Protestants, and those who have been more "Evangelical Catholic" style. Sometimes it wasn't too obvious. Now it is, at least for some who care.

Why have we had this tension? The Synod was established in conflict and has had a chip on its shoulder since the beginning. Couple this to an inferiority complex (why can't we be as famous as the Episcopalians1? We even outnumber them!) and pride and you have a church body that is dysfunctional. Scratch that. We don't even have a church body. The LCMS is a non-profit organization. The only churches in the LCMS are those that hold membership2.

The LCMS has never benefited from having a single identity. Take the Synod from the late 1950s to 1974. To oversimplify things, imagine there were several streams: those who desired to go mainline Protestant, those who wanted the esteem of liberal academia, and the 'bronze agers' who sought to keep the status quo (the Ev. Catholics may have been hiding in with the bronze agers). Sometimes our pastors and leaders found one foot in two streams--perhaps even all three.

The point is, the laity in our congregations were catechized in this schizophrenic atmosphere. Pastor Bronzezeit used the liturgy but never explained it. He taught with vigor the Small Catechism. Pastor Hauptstrecken next door emphasized that all denominations are Christian, and tried to build bridges between the local churches. Pastor Wissenschaftler was a wild card: he tried to build bridges, he used the liturgy well, but subtly questioned the "fundamentalist, anti-Lutheran tendencies" within the Synod. He wanted to broaden minds. None of these pastors were regarded as harmful, unless they had personality deficiencies. By themselves, what they emphasized was not necessarily bad.3 But in the larger picture, each was leading in a different direction, with different motives.

Meanwhile the same mix of messages are heard by succeeding Synodical Presidents, worship and practice is always called "adiaphora," and our pastors hid behind our congregational polity--our "ecclesiastical supervisors" have no episcopal authority. Every pastor could lead in a way he felt was truly L, truly C, truly M, and truly S. Successful pastors convinced their congregations to follow. Unsuccessful pastors were run off until they found a congregation to listen to them. Congregations were successful when they found a guy who would tell them what they wanted to hear. And since we had no oversight, everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

1 Not the Episcopalians of the last decade, but before the recent "unpleasantness." They have always gotten more press attention that Lutherans.

2 This is not a "composition" fallacy--if you know what that means and disagree, let's take it up in the comments.

3 We are not fundamentalists even theory.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's Bigger than Issues (Again)

I imagine there are a good number of people within and without the LCMS that believe the Issues Etc. controversy will all "blow over," and pastors just need to get back to tending their sheep. One hears this kind of advice often from those in authority in the Synod. To a certain extent, that is true, and would certainly be true if those who are upset would sit back and drop the issue. Wala! No more fuss, no more mess.

The reason that I am not letting this issue drop, however, is that it is symptomatic of bigger issues within the LCMS (and Lutheranism in general, I believe). The controversy is not about poor public relations, bad accounting, or a nice show that people will miss listening to. It is about the systematic re-positioning of the LCMS that many of us believe is happening. The LCMS is losing its liturgical and doctrinal identity right before our eyes, and Issues is a casualty of it.

Substitutionary Dissent?

On this day in 1521, the Monk Martin Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms and made his famous speech, concluding: "Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen." Luther had already been excommunicated by the Papal Bull Decet Romanum Pontificem, and the Exsurge Domine had been issued before that. What we tend to forget then, is how patient the Curia was with Luther. The 95 Theses had been published four years previous, and many, many writings had been published after that, each one ratcheting up the rhetoric and criticism Luther had. Yet, even after he had been excommunicated, the Emperor was willing to hear him, to give him a chance to renounce his errors.

With such a pedigree one would think that Lutherans would be quite adept and given to dissent and protest. Hardly. Protest is so unseemly to us. What's more, we have such a Triumphalistic spirit in the LCMS that finding fault with Mother Synod is rare. What do I mean by this? Simply that while we believe that the Synod is capable of erring, hardly anyone actually admits that she has, in fact, been wrong--even when our doctrine and practice has changed. Let's face it: if doctrine is changed and what we believe now is correct, then it must not have been correct before. One example of this is women's suffrage in voters assemblies, which was once denied for Scriptural reasons (so they said), and is now affirmed for Scriptural reasons (so they say).

What happened the other day at the International Center (LCMS HQ) --the silent protest regarding the cancellation of Issues Etc. was unique. I also think it was a tactical mistake for the following reasons:

1. LCMS people don't like dissent or acknowledging the LCMS is wrong. Seeing crazy pastors and laity protesting arouses suspicion in those people's eyes.

2. The LCMS is mostly composed of conservative folks. Conservative folks see protests and think of hippies, liberals and Cindy Sheehan, depending on their age. Additionally, LCMS folks of a certain age remember the "Walkout" of Concordia Seminary in 1974, with the signs and clergy collars and whatnot.

3. Many people, clergy included, tend to think that the LCMS is the Church, you know, what the Holy Spirit founded on Pentecost. They do not recognize that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is not a Church nor THE Church, but instead a non-profit corporation and association of pastors and congregations. We know that a Christian should not protest the Church. That is inappropriate, if not sinful. And they would be correct, if the LCMS was the Holy Church.

4. I wonder if, subconsciously, many Lutherans tend to think that "Luther protested and dissented so I don't have to." It's substitutionary dissent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A New Fan

I was showing Mrs. This Side the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss video below while she was getting Jack ready for bed. He insisted on watching the "mutick" three or four times.

Marjorie has incredible musical talent, I just a little. All the girls show great talent so far: Mikayla has a beautiful voice and is a natural at the oboe, so says her teacher. Olivia has a gorgeous voice which we heard in a solo at the Christmas program, but hadn't before nor after. She also teaches herself piano (long story). Eliana too, has a good voice. But sometimes I wonder if Jack is the musician. He can match pitch on the piano, and once, after Olivia was giving herself a piano lesson, he walked right up and started playing part of the same little tune she had just finished. Jack is 22 mos, BTW.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Censored? Not to My Knowledge!

I have removed this post for the time being until I do some fact-checking. Once I get some clarification, I may repost.

CMT, All the Time

Pr. Brown seemed surprised at my Pink Floyd reference in a comment on a previous post. But now it just gets even curiouser.

Click to see more on Can You Duet at

My niece (in-law) is on the show! She performs with her sig. other Tim as Bosco & Whiteford. Awesome. They describe their music as Pure Southern Illinois Country, which leads me to one of my favorite No-Depression, Southern Illinois bands, Wilco.

But the CMT discussion doesn't end there. On my mp3 player I use at the gym I have, featured prominently, Led Zeppelin as well as Alison Krauss (not best for working out, but beautiful music). Imagine my amazement when I saw this:

And there's a whole album of this stuff. Amazing. "When Worlds Collide" indeed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Thank You

I realized today that this blog has surpassed the 16,000 visitors mark. This is a small number for many, but I think it's astounding! I began this blog mostly for myself and for my members. That so many visit from all over the country is humbling.

There have been many more visits the last few weeks as well, and I want to thank all of you for visiting here. But I do have a couple of favors to ask of all of you:

1. Leave a comment and let me know who you are, and how you found this.

2. If you have a blog, let me know, and I will happily link to it, as appropriate--"Hail Satan Blogs" will not be linked :)

3. Do me the favor of linking to this blog in a blog post, as I have tried to do with my blogroll. This helps Google and other engines find your blog more easily --and gives your blog higher profile when searching on topics. In other words, if you blog about contraception and Lutheranism a lot, the more your blog is linked to (in the content area of posts), the more prominent it will be when someone googles "contraception" and "lutheran."

4. Let me know what kind of posts you like best. I can try to accommodate within reason. Perhaps.

Thanks again for visiting!

Welcome to Your Nightmare

Can you keep your head down and just wait for them to come for you? That's what some who blog and post to message boards seem to say. That's what I've heard from Confessional Types for years: "As long as I can preach the Gospel in my congregation, no worries. If they come to me and a kick me out, then I will do...." What? I'm not sure.

I do appreciate this sort of quiescence. Fear-mongering, conspiracy theorizing, protesting activities seem shrill to me at times. We all have enough worries for today, much the less worrying about Synod or whomever your own personal THE MAN is.

I used to think the same way, but I've come to a different understanding in the past four years. It is later than we first believed, and there is more at stake. There is more disease than we realized. To borrow a phrase from my philosophy days, we have a meta-theological problem, or as one blogger notes, a "Deep Theology Problem." (I'll post on this later.)

But a moment of reckoning may be coming soon. Save The LCMS draws our attention to the Task Force for Funding the Mission (2006). He/They quote from the report and comment:

The Task Force recommends that the Board of Directors and the Council of District Presidents convene a summit meeting of “respected leaders” to draft a unanimous statement that harmonizes our divisions into a “symphony.” Unanimity is presupposed; there is no place for a dissenting minority.

This Task Force believes the Council of Presidents and the Board of Directors are the elected “leaders” of the Synod that should be given the responsibility to initiate a specific plan to clarify for the sake of the whole church a strategy to restore harmony in our Synod. We encourage them to consider bringing together a representative group of respected leaders throughout this church for a summit. At the end of this summit these church leaders should author a unanimously adopted “symphony” that demonstrates how this great church body can provide a God-pleasing witness of our confession and practice.

Let them deal with current topics to define how narrow or wide is the road we “walk together” (SYNOD) must be when it comes to worship practice, the role of the laity, close communion, the role of women and our interaction with fellow Christians. But let the product of their coming together be to honor the Scriptures (including the Great Commission) and Confessions and dishonor the work of Satan that diverts us from the “way of the Lord”. (p.14)

Those who do not wish to "embrace the convention mandated mission of our church" are invited to leave the synod. However, the previous paragraph deals with a unanimous statement of harmony by a summit of respected leaders. Is this the same as the convention-mandate mission of our church? The Task Force is ominously ambiguous:

The generation long divisions among us have frustrated us all. Allowing for proper dissent through by-law allowed procedures, we also recommend that those members of this Synod that cannot embrace the convention mandated mission of our church should feel free to leave this fellowship with truth-filled integrity and find another association with whom they can partner. (p. 14) (see the whole post here)

Knowing the Synod as I do, it's premature to claim that they will be rounding up soon. But the machine is being built; the process is being established. When and if the dogs will be released, we don't know.

Playing to Tie in Marriage

Creative Minority Report features a lovely post about housework and parenting over here. The author is a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad and used to keep tally of how much he did versus how much his wife did around the house. Then he got wise...and I got wise reading the post.

Wisdom! Let us Attend

Find yourself growing bored with the liturgy?

Is it getting stale, saying the same things week after week?

Does every Sunday service seem the same?

Desire something a little different, you know, to mix it up a little bit?

There is a certain cure for this ennui: pay attention to what you are saying, and what is being said to you.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Battle Royale

I am already tired of the controversy. I think of men like Luther who wrote on the "abuses of the papacy" his entire life and I wonder how he kept up that feeling of righteous indignation that he seemed to have--that seems almost necessary to keep up a prolonged battle for reform. I think of journalists that have investigated wrong-doing for years in order to bring it to the light and compare them to my own two-post "Anti China" blog I started and abandoned.

It takes a certain strength of character to wage pitched warfare against an city you may never live to see destroyed. It requires an enormous amount of self confidence and pride--or tremendous faith in God--to see the Goliath before you and not give up the fight.

I suppose one could make arguments pro and con against such self-appointed investigators, reformers and "change agents." But in my mind, this discussion veers closely to the battle that all of us must wage against our sinful nature and our old enemy who tempts us. The battle against sin, that Goliath that threatens our souls, is a battle we dare not give up. The citadels of sin in our lives must be besieged, even if we die in the struggle. Not all men (for good or ill) are able to "fight the system" in this world, but all of us are called to fight the system in our own hearts.

We do have help in this. We have received the Holy Spirit, who even fights on our behalf. We have the Sacraments which sustain our lives and souls. But battle on we must.

Unsettling Questions

In a comment on a previous post, -C asked if attempting to reform the LCMS was worth the fight. Since Lutherans are, by definition, reformers, one may be led immediately to say "Absolutely!" But here is how I responded to her in another comment:

It is worth letting people know what is going on, as a lot of this is below the radar of the average layperson. Someone wise once told me, "If the house is on fire and you can't put it out, you exit it. If you are concerned with others, you run out yelling that the house is on fire."

I followed with a few questions, expanded here:

Is the LCMS a house on fire? Is it possible to quench this house ablaze?

Is it even possible to fight for Confessionalism within the LCMS or has the battle already been lost?

Is Confessionalism just an -ism? That is, are we fighting for ideology or for theology, or for faith? In other words, if our complaint is worth exiting the Synod if the ship cannot be turned, is it even possible to have what Confessional Lutherans desire?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beautiful Consolation

I just led a devotion at a Senior's Lunch which addressed how Christ has "swallowed up death forever" (Isa. 25). One member shared that she found great comfort in the words of the Te Deum, that Christ "has overcome the sharpness of death." Most in the room had lost close loved ones--some fairly recently. With these thoughts banging around, I ran across this, another gem courtesy Fr. Gregory Hogg:

St. Basil sets the context:

"The heir of an illustrious house, the bulwark of his race, the hope of his fatherland, the offspring of pious parents, a lad nurtured amid countless prayers, in the very flower of youth--he is gone, torn from the very arms of his parents..."

Then he applies the remedy:

"We have not been bereft of the boy, but we have given him back to the lender; nor has his life been destroyed, but merely transformed for the better; earth has not covered our beloved one, but heaven has received him. Let us abide a brief space, and we shall be with him whose loss we mourn. Nor will the period of separation be great, since in this life, as on a journey, we are all hastening to the same inn; and although one has already taken up his lodging there, and another has just arrived, and another is hastening thither, yet the same goal will receive us all. For even though your son has finished his journey first, nevertheless we shall all travel the same path, and the same hospice awaits us all. Only may God grant that we through virtue may become like to him in purity, that by the blamelessness of our character we may obtain the same repose as the children of Christ."

Our Truest Desire...

Nothing in this world but God can fill our heart or fully satisfy our desires. A fire cannot be put out with brushwood and oil, because only water will put it out. In exactly the same way, the desires of the human heart cannot be satisfied with the goods of this world, because only the Grace of God can quench the thirst of our desires.

St. Innocent of Alaska

HT: Fr. Gregory

Another Insight of our "Deep Division"

Here is an insightful post by Pr. Benjamin Harju of Paredwka:Dropping the Ball.

A quote:

Like I said, the main problem [with the LCMS] is a faulty Predestinarianism. However, the secondary problems go straight to the core of what Christianity is. The LCMS is ill in its carrying out of worship, preaching, and living out the Faith ecclesially. It doesn't get more fundamental than that. This is why people of solid liturgical parishes look over at their fellow LCMSers who are totally contemporary and see no compatibility, and then get really depressed and confused. We have in our Synod two entirely different Christianities (and here I believe I'm being overly optimistic). They may be able to tally up many of the same doctrines on paper, but the heart and soul of just who Jesus is - just what Christianity is - is fundamentally different. Ouch.

(If you think I might be on to something, please spread the word. However, giving this a third-time-over review, I expect I'll probably anger people from all sides of the fence with what I'm saying.)

The next question is: what do we do about this?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In the Interest of Full Disclosure

Having suffered through the flurry of posts and new blogs regrading the demise of "Issues, Etc.", I probably should have said upfront that I did not like the show. I found it hyper-critical at times, woefully inaccurate in others and, on occasion, more the bully pulpit of the personalities rather than an honest exploration of issues.

However, I've been blogging on all this because the show was also very good at times and served a good purpose in our Synod. It truly was the voice of 21st Century Confessional Lutheranism--the good, the bad, and the ugly included. That it was canceled--and canceled in such a slapstick way--I believe signals an end of everything the show represented.

Sadly, It's Probably Accurate

When I saw the results I was offended, which probably means it's dead on.

You Are Scooter

Brainy and knowledgable, you are the perfect sidekick.

You're always willing to lend a helping hand.

In any big event or party, you're the one who keeps things going.

"15 seconds to showtime!"

Monday, April 7, 2008

More Evidence

Here's a report that content, and not monetary considerations was definitely an issue for Issues, Etc.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Oprah's Religion

Watch this clip. The narrator is a little sensationalist, but the actual clips of Oprah espousing her religious beliefs are worth it. In the very first clip she denies that Jesus is the "way, the truth and the life," and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. She needs our prayers, and if you watch her show, you need to stop. Sermon over.

HT: Father Hollywood

Thursday, April 3, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Here's a story about an 11 year-old correcting a mistake at the Smithsonian.

An Accounting Scandal Too

The "Issues, Etc." scandal has taken on an added dimension. Many blogs have reported on the strange financial aspects of the radio show, and how that factored in with its cancellation.

Save the LCMS--which is apparently run by someone with some serious connections--has received a leaked copy of KFUO AM and FM's financial statement. It has some seriously fishy numbers.

What does this mean? There are several options:

1. There are unseemly accounting practices at KFUO, the BCS, the Board of Directors (or somewhere) of a criminal nature.

2. The economic reason was an excuse, and in haste to back that up, mistakes were made in reports. In other words, someone lied, and in covering up the lie, a worse appearance was given.

3. Someone has been cooking the books to make "Issues, Etc." look bad for some time, and this is the evidence. No actual criminal behavior is happening.

4. These fishy numbers were done out of ignorance, mistake, or out of asinine policy. It's bad accounting, and that's all it is.

5. These reports are evidence of a larger conspiracy to cover unethical budget expenses elsewhere. In other words, this is a piece of a much larger picture of cooking books to pay for other things in the Synod's budget. There is some evidence to this. See here.

Ok. Take a deep breath. As members of the Synod, we need to ask for the truth in this matter. As laypeople, you need answers to where your money is going.

Take another deep breath before you read the next sentence.

This is no big deal, and no reason to be mad at the LCMS. IF there is intentional, knowing unethical or illegal activity happening, it is simply the result of sin. This happens all the time. Those responsible need to repent and face the consequences. It is a scandal, a black eye on the Synod, on all of us, but it is sin. We all do it; we all face the consequences. With God's help, I will forgive them and be happy that they are sinning no more.

However, let us not forget what else we have learned in all this: There is little question that the "programmatic" reasons for canceling "Issues, Etc." were primary. That the show was canceled without the Board for Communication's approval, that the show angered some in authority, that the show ran counter to the "seeker-sensitive", consumerist church model that is being promoted throughout the Synod is fact. "Issues, Etc." did not represent the "Lutheranism" that the Synod is now promoting.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Confessionals Are No Better

"Transitioning" a congregation can be a minefield--"Transitioning" meaning taking an established congregation and completely overhauling it to make a modern, consumerist church on the Willow Creek/Saddleback model (there has to be a better word for all this). It is difficult work that some in the congregation will oppose, many will eventually accept, and some gladly welcome.

Most troublesome is the perception of what happens: a pastor, called to shepherd his people, begins his ministry in order to destroy and re-create. It makes the pastor an enemy of the congregation that called/hired him, for the purpose of making it into something new when all will be reconciled to the new way. Confessional pastors in the LCMS point out the harm such men do to congregations and wag our fingers at them. Skim through the pages at the link above. You'll find advice to stay connected with the older generation with the ulterior motive of making them part of the "change team." The author denies that he is advising manipulation, but that is what it is. It appears pretty slimy to me.

Yet one can read these steps to "Transition" a congregation and easily substitute a few words here and there and find that Confessionals do the same thing. Exchange "praise song" for "canticle," and "medley" for "Gospel Processional." All the advice and steps of transitioning a "traditional" congregation into the new "seeker model" can apply to good ol' Confessional pastors who arrive in a congregation that is not perhaps confessional enough, or who suffered some poorly done transition in the past. At Concordia Seminary I heard Professors on "both sides" giving us the very same advice on how to effect change in a congregation. It was up to the student to determine if he would change for praise choruses or away from them.

There is something very wrong with this picture. There must be a better way.

A Note to My Readers

This past week I've been focusing on matters internal to my denomination, and as I write this, it does not look like that will be changing much soon.

For those of you who are from other Traditions, I appreciate your continued patronage here, realizing that these "inside" posts may not be as interesting or edifying to you as other posts have been.

For my members and other folks who may not be interested in "church politics," I beg your indulgence. These matters are important for your congregation and for the sake of the Church. I have not given up on devotional and more edifying posts, but these are necessary for now.

For brother clergy and the laity who are interested in "church politics," let us remember that griping about the Synod does not grow our faith--and probably damages it. I remind you (and myself) to not read here or other places just to hear more complaints and scandal-talk. Our purpose should not be to moan and wail, but to seek the Truth and rejoice in it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lord of the Flies meets Mr. Chips?

WAYCROSS, Ga. - A group of third-graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job and assigning children tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward, police said Tuesday.

The plot by as many as nine boys and girls at Center Elementary School in south Georgia was a serious threat, Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said. (read the rest here)

On Compromising Principles

"It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. But if, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God."

--George Washington

Bad Publicity

I feel sorry for Pres. Kieschnick. Hemingway's piece is a publicity nightmare for him, especially in light of his motto: "One Mission, One Message, One People." That the WSJ would feature a piece exposing the deep division within the Synod completely undermines the rosy picture Kieschnick would have us believe. (Of course, one doesn't adopt a "tag line" emphasizing unity if there was unity in the first place.)

Pres. Kieschnick Responds

A piece in the Wall Street Journal is hard to dismiss, especially when it finds fault.

Pres. Kieschnick responds to M. Z. Hemingway's article:

As President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I express my extreme disappointment over the column “Radio Silence” published March 28 under “Houses of Worship.” Its author presents a distorted account of the reason for the discontinuation of the “Issues, Etc.” program on the Synod’s KFUO-AM Radio station. What is even more disturbing is the false and misleading picture she presents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as a deeply divided church regarding its mission and ministry.

First, let me say our church is happy to own and operate KFUO-AM, the oldest continuously operating religious radio station in the country, if not the world. We are proud of the ministry it has provided listeners for some 84 years, and we endeavor to continue this ministry. I must also note that all ministries of the church, of which KFUO-AM is but one, require financial support from their constituencies.

Here are the facts surrounding the termination of “Issues, Etc.” This program was cancelled by the Synod’s director of communications after years of attempts to keep the program financially solvent. In fiscal year 2007-08, KFUO-AM’s operating deficit was $620,000. Since 2001, the accumulated deficits of the station have been in excess of $3.5 million. While airing for only 18 percent of KFUO-AM’s programming week, “Issues, Etc.” in the last fiscal year accounted for more than 40 percent ($250,000) of the station’s total deficit. These figures are based on the audited financial statements of the LCMS. As of February 29, two thirds into the current fiscal year, KFUO-AM was on pace to suffer heavy loses again.

Listeners of “Issues, Etc.” have had nine years and countless invitations and opportunities to support the program financially, and some have, but not nearly enough to offset the show’s deep, ongoing losses.

More importantly, I wish to address the unfortunate comments in the column that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is deeply divided and that it is pushing “church marketing” over the historic confessions of the evangelical Lutheran Church.

In truth, last summer the LCMS had its most positive and unified convention in years. Our church remains faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions, an integral part of our identity as a church body. As stated in a resolution adopted last summer by the national Synod convention: “From the founding of our Synod 160 years ago, we have been blessed by unity in our common confession and the articles of our shared faith, such as the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, original sin, baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament, the inerrancy of Scripture and many others.”

In accordance with our unity in what we believe, teach, and confess, the Synod adopted the mission and vision of Ablaze!—a focused and concentrated effort to “share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who do not yet know him.” One goal of Ablaze! calls for the Synod to start 2,000 new congregations by the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in the year 2017. This outreach emphasis is not “marketing” as suggested by last Friday’s column; rather, it is one of many ministry endeavors developed to foster the mission of our Synod “… vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world.” (LCMS Mission Statement)

In summary, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is more committed than ever to proclaiming the one message of Jesus Christ and his love for all (1 John 4:9-11).

On behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I invite readers to visit our website at for more information on God’s grace and salvation in Christ.

Response (numbers refer to paragraphs):

#3: It is not Hemingway who's got the distorted picture. This Site has some alarming reports about re-allocating funds, the actual "loss" sustained by KFUO in comparison with other ministries of the LCMS, and a more accurate picture of just how popular "Issues, Etc." was, based on the number of downloads of radio programs. It also contains some nice charts and graphics :)

#4 Why is that "Issues, Etc." was required to have their own fundraising appeals when it is a "ministry of the LCMS" as Kieschnick reports in paragraph #1?

#6 Church unity is found in Conventions???? Even if, does our President forget the small margins which enabled his win, and the small margins on many other votes? Does he forget that that some candidates were singled out as "lawsuit signers" before every vote was taken? And mentioning one resolution does not unity make, especially when it is as vague as he quotes it.

#7 Ablaze! is not marketing, eh? What of the $2 million spent on mugs, t-shirts, posters, pens, mailings, stationary, staff members, advertising and so forth?