Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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 www.lcms.org 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?


  1. Dixie said...

    Since I am a regular reader of Pastor Weedon’s blog I have been following this situation. What truly shocks me is the lack of planning and execution of crisis management strategies. The length of time to get out the first message, the different messages (low ratings, budget, allusion to personnel issues) emphasized in different communications, the absolutely terrible decision to provide partial information (not including downloads in listener numbers)...all give the appearance that the truth is a bit too uncomfortable to reveal. Further, it seems the leaders were so cushioned by their own supporters that they couldn't see this kind of backlash coming from the other stakeholders. Surely if they did they would have had their messages well thought out and ready to go! Especially since the situation involved the “Communications” department!

    Or it is possible the trigger was pulled prematurely for reasons as yet unpublished.

    Either way, what we are seeing is a good case study in how not to manage a crisis.

    The company I work for has weathered crises that make this one look like a playground spat. What we have learned (thanks to the excellent example given by McNeil Laboratories and the Tylenol recall due to cyanide deaths in 1982) is to be fully transparent and truthful. To assume we could keep information from any of the stakeholders would be utter suicide. It is much easier and wiser to be fully transparent from the get go.

    While I was never a fan of Issues, Etc., even when I was Lutheran, I am sad to see this happen to the LCMS. I hope something good can come of it.

  2. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Thanks for adding your perspective, Dixie. But this is a problem with many church bodies. For some reason, though we are in the "forgiveness business" (to be crass), we seem to be afraid of doing anything that requires forgiveness. Take the OCA mess--same hesitancy to be transparent and upfront.

    It's funny that as humans we do everything to hide our sin, to hide our motives, desires, and so forth, whereas major Corporations have discovered that transparency works.

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    BTW-- I was not much a fan of "Issues, Etc." either. Go figure.

  4. Dixie said...

    You are absolutely correct, Pastor Hall. In fact as I was responding I thought about not only the OCA's money scandel but also the RCC and their various sex scandels. Church organizations seem to struggle with this.

    However, I would have thought the LCMS to be a little more savvy. Perhaps it is the branded polo shirts, pens, mugs and other paraphernalia that let me think that! ;)