Saturday, May 31, 2008

Who Said It?

The Law is the shadow of the Gospel. The Gospel is the image of the blessings held in store. The Law checks the actualization of evil. The Gospel brings about the realization of divine blessings.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Duty in Worship

And, indeed, emphasis on worship as a duty to God ought to be the priority for all of us. It should supersede any specious notions of "attracting" men and women to a place of worship as though it were a place of entertainment.

Harry Blamires, The Post-Christian Mind (p. 15, 2003 ed.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ask Not For Whom...

Pr. William Weedon wrote the following, regarding the LCMS's fascination with contemporary, consumerist Evangelicalism:

How'd it happen?... Doesn't make the least bit of sense of to me at all. I don't understand why anyone would prefer to sing "Shine Jesus Shine" to "Lord, let at last Thine Angels Come." Maybe it came about when Lutherans forgot that our joyful task is to prepare people to die the blessed death instead of vainly teaching them to live their best life now? A shift from the true treasures of the Church to methods of coping with the present?
As we've been singing the "Lutheran Standards' the past few years I've noticed something extraordinary about the hymns written in the 17th century and beyond. Many include stanzas of the following stripe:
Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abr'ham's bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glroious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend
And I will praise Thee without end.
("Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart," M. Schalling, 1532-1608
Text: Public Domain)
Or take this one:
Yea, when the world shall perish
With all its pride and pow’r,
Whatever worldlings cherish
Shall vanish in that hour.
But though in death they make
The deepest grave our cover
When there our sleep is over,
Our God will us awake.
("From God Shall Naught Divide Me", Ludwig Helmbold, 1532–1598
Text: Public Domain)
And this one:
Let us also die with Jesus.
His death from the second death,
From our soul’s destruction, frees us,
Quickens us with life’s glad breath.
Let us mortify, while living,
Flesh and blood and die to sin;
And the grave that shuts us in
Shall but prove the gate to heaven.
Jesus, here I die to Thee
There to live eternally.
("LetUs Ever Walk with Jesus," Sigismund von Birken, 1626-81
Text: Public Domain)
All these texts speak frankly about the grave--and not just any grave, but the grave of the singer. Contrast this with about any hymn written in the last century. Hardly any of those address the stark reality of what is coming in our lives. I'm sure there are historical and sociological reasons for this. We know that mortality rates have decreased significantly since the 15th and 16th Centuries and life expectancies have increased.

Yet death is the final enemy we will all face. But we deny this, it seems, in more contemporary hymns and praise songs. Death is not an issue for whatever reason. And when death is no longer on the table, all we have is this life, making the most of it--or as Pr. Weedon writes, making it the best now.

This impacts modern evangelism and missions as well. If remaining faithful to Christ until death, indeed, attaining salvation after my last breath is not the priority for life and for Christian living, then why are we here? Well, to make more Christians, it seems!

While we can be sure that God is loving and merciful and desires our salvation, indeed, that Christ has atoned for our sin, this world and our lives are uncertain. It is possible to fall away, and the grave beckons with irresistible force. When we recognize this, the present comes into clear focus: the present purpose of our life is to glorify God in faith and in our deaths.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why This Won't Work Part IV

This part continues the previous post, exploring the objection that minimalism is a good thing. Part III maintained that two distinctions were necessary and addressed the first, that of aesthetics. The second distinction (below) speaks of pragmatism.


When speaking of art, design, engineering and other arts, theories of minimalism do relate to theories of aesthetics: “Minimalism is efficient, and that is beautiful.” However, when we speak about religious matters, minimalism is not an aesthetic as much as it is an excuse for pragmatism and efficiency.

As a philosophy, pragmatism is grossly misunderstood and simplified to be mean, “Doing what works and no more”-- a synonym for practicality. The Good, the ideal activity is that which works for the effect one wants—and no more. This view sees little value in activities for their own sake.

Take, for example, the act of planing wood. The traditional method was to give a piece of raw lumber to an apprentice, who would take the hand plane to it. He would begin with the scrub plane which would eventually be traded for the jack plane, and that for the smoothing plane. When the apprentice had a square, flat board of the required thickness, his job would be done. This was the job for an apprentice because it was back-breaking, sweaty work.

When power machinery was invented, the traditional hand planes became unnecessary. An apprentice could place the lumber in a power planer and immediately have one or two smooth, flat faces. A power jointer would square the edges, and the board would be ready. Most of us would say the power method is superior, taking less time and work. After all, what value was there in the apprentice scrubbing a board for hours?

There is extraordinary value, though. The apprentice planing a board several hours learned about the wood. He learned how wood grain can change direction half-way through the length, and then change back. He learned which direction to plane to emphasis the burl in walnut, and how to bring out the curls in maple. He learned to appreciate the value of that one board and how much work it would take to find another if the board were ruined somewhere down the line. He learned how to work. He learned patience. He grew stronger, more muscular. He learned how the tools affected the wood, and how the wood affected the tools. He learned the importance of tool maintenance and care, the value of a sharp planing iron and the method of getting a tool sharp enough to use. Later, when he was assigned the task of cutting dovetails--an exacting job, he had the fundamentals of woodwork from the years spent with the handplanes.

How does this work out in the LCMS?

In the Small Catechism, Luther writes, “Who receives this Sacrament [of the Altar, i.e., the Eucharist] worthily? Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: 'Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.'

In the LCMS the emphasis many of us seemed only to hear the words “But...truly.” Luther does not deny that fasting is good preparation. But he miminalisticly determines that faith is a necessary and sufficient condition for receiving the sacrament. In other words, if one has faith in the words, that is enough, that is sufficient. Fasting is neither necessary nor sufficient; one may receive the sacrament “worthily” without it.

Would the Reformer agree that is is beneficial? No doubt—he says it is good preparation. Would he have gone so far as to say that one who despised fasting for preparation was despising the Sacrament itself? Perhaps. Did he himself fast before receiving the sacrament and at other times? Most likely. Yet this minimalistic definition, heard as minimalistic as possible.

So we hear what is sufficient and make this the standard. In this scheme, fasting before the Sacrament is neither sufficient nor necessary, and so it need not be done. It is extra, and therefore unnecessary. Schooled in the way of minimalism and practical considerations, Lutherans today blanch at doing something that is unnecessary. Why take the extra step? What's the value in doing something that is not necessary?

My answer, and the answer of Christianity going back to the Didache and to the word of Christ itself is, “Fasting is good for you and is basic for spiritual preparation.” Asking if it is necessary is missing the point. It is good and beneficial, even as Luther admits.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Punny Stuff

For my Father-in-law, whose pun-ishments are extraordinary:

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. The winners are:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an ah.
3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation a bout yourself for the purpose of getting lucky
7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
9. Inoculatte: To take coffee! intravenously when you are running late.
10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
12. Karmageddon: It's when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes, and it's a serious bummer.
13. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you
14. Glibido: All talk and no action.
15. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
17. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosqui t o, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
18. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

There's another list of alternate definitions over at: Big Papelbon

Berger on Ablaze!®

My congregation is not Ablaze!®.

Last year the Oklahoma District pushed to have an Ablaze!® presentation at every circuit (grouping of 10 congregations). The purpose of this was not so much to inform the congregations of the Ablaze!® movement; rather it was to get them to commit to the fund-raising side of the program, entitled Fan Into Flame!®. You see, the goal of Ablaze!® is to reach 100 million people by 2017. In order to meet that goal, the Synod has also set the goal to raise $100 million.

But money was not coming in. The books are not open, but it appears from recent reporting that the Synod is millions in debt from the program right now. Hence, the Districts are pressured to sign congregations up to contribute 10% of their budget in over-and-above giving to send to Fan Into Flame!®

The scheme was presented to my congregation in a voter's meeting. The congregation declined to participate.

But why is Ablaze!® so bad? David Berger, Associate Professor and Director of Library Services at Concordia Seminary wrote an essay describing the un-Lutheran foundations of Ablaze!® here. Please note: there is no direct link to the essay, but you must click the essay title ("'Ablaze!®- the Movement' by David Berger")

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
John 15:13

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For Contemplation...

Fr. Jonathan Tobias' blog, "Second Terrace," is one of the more intellectually stimulating blogs I read-and at times the strangest. The man has been gifted with a staggering intellect and creativity (which sometimes blows right past me). Here's an excerpt from a post some time ago:

Q: What is blasphemy?

A: Saying, humanly speaking, any of the following:

"I am what I am."

"It is what it is."

"I tell it like it is."


"God really messed up. This is God's fault. Inshallah."

"That's your problem."

"What can I do?" or it's cognate "What can you do?"

-- to be accompanied with the ritual shrugging of shoulders, about the only secular liturgical gesture there is -- a physical devotion, if you will, to the abyss of totality, or the nihilist horizon

"Oh well."

-- ditto

"Oh well, that's just me."

-- who else can it be, pray tell?

"I speak my mind."

"I say what I want."

-- note the opportunistic ambiguity that conflates the two possible connotations: "I say whatever is passing for thought in my cerebral apparatus," or "I am committed to the expression of my wants, and I have substituted my true logos and telos with the acquisition of my demands ... I have become a Ferengi in my soul"

"My feelings are important."

"Me time."

"Celibacy is the cause of scandal."

-- celibacy, by definition, cannot ever be the cause of pedophilia: there are other reasons, but not celibacy, and female ordination will not help, either.

"Chastity is impossible. Asceticism is impossible. Effectuality and righteousness and sacrament are all unrelated. Prayer is just, you know, an intrapsychic epiphenomenon within a closed biological and predictable system."

-- what matters today is not atheism so much, nor immorality, nor wahhabist sharia, nor even globalized idiot quotidianism: what matters today is today's complete renunciation of Christian prayer -- for prayer is, after all, predicated on the union of the Divine nature with the human, the intersection of eternal predestination with psychic freedom: if there is no prayer, there is no remembrance of the Incarnation, and the spirit of antichrist will coalesce into identity and cultural power: "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith?"

"We need progressive religion. We need church to meet our felt needs."

-- the single greatest heretical challenge against apostolic, Nicene Christianity. It is the slogan for the establishment of autonomy in opposition to ecclesial authority.

"We all worship the same God."

-- uh, no, we don't.

"We all worship."

-- uh, no, we don't.

"I feel that ..."

-- the conflation of feeling and thinking is one of the great strategic triumphs of the dark age.

"I am entitled to my opinion."

-- well, yes, but what of it? The road to hell is NOT paved with good intentions, because goodness is never oriented to hell, or present in hell. Dr. Samuel Johnson (blessed be he) and St. Bernard are wrong in saying so, because hell admits no goodness, not even in mere intentional form.

Hell, rather, is paved with opinions, and the "road to hell" (i.e., its rehearsal in history and eschatological anticipation) is asphalted black with opinion. The devil started his comet-like career with opinion, not good intention. Heresy starts with opinion. Liberal Christianity starts with opinion, not reality or vision. Materialism (capitalism and marxism) starts with a blinkered, prejudiced and jaundiced opinion that excludes all metaphysics.

So yes, you can have your opinion, and you're welcome to it. But heaven doesn't rejoice at your having an opinion. Even rocks and snails have an opinions, but they are not too interesting (although they would probably get a lot of votes). Human nature, though, ought to gain knowledge of reality that stretches beyond perception. When examined in the light of day, opinion is of a rather lower, more pedestrian, quality. The freedom to foster opinions is like saying, "Yes, Adam, you can sin, but it sure as hell isn't good for you." But to know the truth, the gospel truth -- as opposed to mainline opinion -- is to be set free.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why This Won't Work, Part III

To the Reader:
Part II introduced minimalism as a problem why reform in the LCMS will not work. This post continues on the same theme. The long delays between installments are due to my thinking these issues through myself. Therefore, please read these in such a light.


But isn't minimalism a good thing? Isn't it efficient? Does not minimalism have a certain beauty of its own, when one recognizes that everything is in its place, that nothing extra has been added to it, that the piece before you has the elegance (aesthetic) of everything necessary but nothing more?

It could have such beauty, and does for many. But there are two distinctions here. First of all, when we make assertions as to what is necessary in worship, or, God forbid, aesthetically pleasing, we become judge over the things of God. Our notions of excess and necessity become the criteria for judging worship instead of receiving the Word of God and what has been handed down for us. There is no substantial difference in determining that, say, in Holy Baptism making the sign of the cross is an unnecessary action and is not intrinsic to Baptism and saying that John 3:17 is unessential to the Gospel, indeed, offensive and need not be read. In both instances—in every instant of judging necessity or aesthetics in worship—we place ourselves, our views, inclinations, logic and judgments over the things of God.

But suppose one says, “Yes, but the New Testament describes baptism only in terms of water and the Word of God, that is, ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’ and makes no mention of signing the cross. In determining that the sign is not necessary we are not placing ourselves over God, but over a man-made tradition.”

For the sake of argument, let's grant that making the sign of the cross is “man-made.” The objection remains valid. What makes the man who says it is unnecessary judge over what others have done in the past? On what basis does he suppose himself better, or better suited to determining the value of making the sign of the cross? Does he think it is wise or Christian to say that he finds this sign empty or unnecessary or an inelegant accretion of human tradition—and by implication—that it should never have been ‘added’ to the necessary minimum of the Sacrament in the first place?

I’ll answer that question: it is hubris to suggest that you have a greater knowledge of aesthetics and necessity than others, especially forefathers (and mothers) in the faith.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Garfield Minus Garfield

No doubt you've seen it elsewhere by now, but just in case, here's the link:

From the website:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

Health Update

Marjorie is feeling much better. After some initial tests, it appears Crohn's Disease is not a cause of her suffering, though he may order a few more down the line. Thanks be to God for that.

I started an antibiotic and felt better within half a day. Could be it was still a virus, but regardless, I'm finishing the course and definitely getting back to normal.

Thank you for the prayers and well-wishes.

Willow Creek Changes...But Will it Be Real Change?

Some time ago I blogged about the "Reveal" survey conducted by the Ueber-mega-church Willow Creek. The results of their survey found that the "seeker-sensitive" model wasn't working to grow disciples.

Now we have this story, which describes that Willow Creek is following through, re-tooling their worship services for believers. It will be interesting to see how "deep" they make their services and how much they might still resemble pop/consumerist models of "church."

Here's an excerpt:

After modeling a seeker-sensitive approach to church growth for three decades, Willow Creek Community Church now plans to gear its weekend services toward mature believers seeking to grow in their faith.

The change comes on the heels of an ongoing four-year research effort first made public late last summer in Reveal: Where Are You?, a book coauthored by executive pastor Greg Hawkins. Hawkins said during an annual student ministries conference in April that Willow Creek would also replace its midweek services with classes on theology and the Bible.

Whether more changes are in store for the suburban Chicago megachurch isn't clear. Hawkins declined CT's interview request, and senior pastor Bill Hybels was unavailable for comment.

Since 1975, Willow Creek has avoided conventional church approaches, using its Sunday services to reach the unchurched through polished music, multimedia, and sermons referencing popular culture and other familiar themes. The church's leadership believed the approach would attract people searching for answers, bring them into a relationship with Christ, and then capitalize on their contagious fervor to evangelize others.

But the analysis in Reveal, which surveyed congregants at Willow Creek and six other churches, suggested that evangelistic impact was greater from those who self-reported as "close to Christ" or "Christ-centered" than from new church attendees. In addition, a quarter of the "close to Christ" and "Christcentered" crowd described themselves as spiritually "stalled" or "dissatisfied" with the role of the church in their spiritual growth. Even more alarming to Willow Creek: About a quarter of the "stalled" segment and 63 percent of the "dissatisfied" segment contemplated leaving the church....

"It is a huge shift," Pritchard said of the church's planned changes to its services. "But they're still using the same marketing methodology. Willow appears to be selecting a new target audience with new felt needs, but it is still a target audience. Can they change? Yes, but it will take more than just shifting their target audience."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sick Again

Can't tell if it's just a new form of allergies (asthma too?), or upper respiratory crud, but whatever it is, it's no good.

Marjorie has been ill too. We thought it was appendicitis Saturday night, but her blood count wasn't elevated--apparently the only indication that it wasn't. She's better now, but they're doing tests on her to figure out what is happening in her gut. Two of her nieces have Crohn's Disease, which may be what's going on with her, God forbid.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stay Tuned

I'm working on the next installation of "Why This Won't Work," which is a continuation of Part II. Expect it in the next week or so. Sorry for the delay.


I've blogged before about the Rev. James May, who was "recalled" from the mission field recently. That means fired, and is now without a call. We heard how he had to raise his own funds, despite the fact that thousands of congregations believe a portion of the checks they send to the LCMS go to world missions. Regardless, the official reason for Rev. May's termination is insubordination.

A serious charge. A legitimate reason to fire someone, even if the boss is a fool. So what did Rev. May do or not do? Here's what he said1,

I was sent to Ouagadougou to learn French. There are no Lutheran churches here. I was directed to take my family and worship at non-Lutheran churches. I was forbidden to plant Lutheran churches in Ouagadougou.

In my daily life I was often encountered by locals asking who I am and what I am doing in Burkina Faso. I explained that I am a Lutheran pastor and am learning French. Many people wanted to know more. In a country that is 80% Muslim and animistic, I was happy to confess my faith in the savior Jesus Christ. People wanted to know more.

So he began a Bible study. He became even more insubordinate as he relates the following:
My regional director had expressly told me that if someone wanted to be baptized I should send them to the Baptist church and NOT baptize them. Again I was insubordinate and preferred to disobey that order rather than break a relationship by insulting him and refusing to baptize his son. The father, Etienne Sam, has used his tailor shop to publicize and distribute Good News magazines.

The son was sick with dysentery and the family was afraid the boy would die. The Catholic church wanted $15 for a baptism (the man couldn't afford a $4 tuition charge even), and the boy was too young for the Baptists to baptize. So Rev. May did it, and the next morning the boy no longer had dysentery.

The final outrage:
Finally, Rev. Dr. Anssi Simojoki, the Vice President of LHF2 and director for the Africa region, was making a trip through West Africa and contacted me. His son is the godfather of two of our children. I offered our house for him to stay in. I received an email from Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller in which he stated that he had not given me permission to have Anssi stay in my house. I was not aware that my personal home is ruled by World Mission. Again I was insubordinate and allowed Anssi to stay at our house.

He admits his insubordination. And granted, beginning Bible studies and doing baptisms in a temporary locale, where the locals may persecute Christians for being baptized may be good reason not to do those things. I'm sure there is a thoughtful reason for these prohibitions.

But remember this story?
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:27-31)

Perhaps I am being dramatic.

1The entire letter may be found here.

2LHF is Lutheran Heritage Foundation. They mainly publish Lutheran materials in countless languages. They also employ Wallace Schulz, formerly a Synodical VP who adjudicated the Benke case which found Benke guilty of syncretism. Benke was exonerated by the Synodical President, and Schulz was fired from Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Self Delusion

An older pastor said the other day, "I went to the Springfield Seminary. Back when it was good."

(The seminary once located in Springfield, IL is now in Ft. Wayne, IN)

Somehow I suspect that it wasn't the faculty and curricula that changed at Concordia Theological Seminary as much as it was the man who said it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

...And These Guys Are Considered to be "Light on Sin"

Those who seek humility should bear in mind the three following things: that they are the worst of sinners, that they are the most despicable of all creatures since their state is an unnatural one, and that they are even more pitiable than the demons, since they are slaves to the demons. You will also profit if you say this to yourself: how do I know what or how many other people’s sins are, or whether they are greater than or equal to my own? In our ignorance you and I , my soul, are worse than all men, we are dust and ashes under their feet.

- St Gregory of Sinai

Church Growth the Old Fashioned Way

I performed a wedding at a neighboring sister congregation on Saturday--one of the older congregations in the area, founded by Germans a few years after the land run. Pictures adorn their parish hall--past confirmation classes, the "rogue's gallery" of previous pastors, and in the hallway leading to the sanctuary, family portraits of the founding members. And those portraits were full. Most of them included a half-dozen or more children--the nearly adult children in the back, the smaller ones on either side of mom and dad.

There were about ten families in total--but nearly 100 people in the pictures. It's no wonder Zion Lutheran grew in the first half of the 20th Century. This congregation was by no means exceptional, either. This was the way life was. And a church established with 10 families could grow to a church of 60 families in 20 years-- without any suburban sprawl.

Natural church growth.

With What Measure Ye Mete

I've been thinking about the Golden Rule. Am I treating others on this blog the way I want to be treated? What if some unknown blogger out there started scouring my written words for inconsistencies? What if someone got a hold of my congregation's minutes and looked for ways that I allegedly deceived others?

The man inside says, "Nonsense! They would find none!" But I know that's not true. I am a great and terrible sinner. I'm sure if someone looked, they could find instances of me speaking out of both sides of my mouth, or at least giving the impression of that. Lord have mercy!

I must remember these words, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matthew 7:2 KJV). I do not condemn Pres. Kieschnick, David Strand or any others involved in the current mess for their sins. I cannot, lest I condemn myself. I pray they repent of any and all sins they have and will commit, and I hope they pray for me too. I don't even care if they repent privately and we will never know.

But I do have the duty to speak about what is happening. Public actions need public response. I have the duty to my parishioners who read this. I have the duty to others who read; I have been called to speak the Truth, and my congregation encourages me to broadcast in whatever fashion is available to me. People who have vested interest in the LCMS need to know what is happening.

So, if you're debating beginning a series of posts decrying and denouncing the Rev. Christopher D. Hall and all I do and stand for, exposing any lies and my hidden agenda, well, I suppose I deserve it.

God have mercy on us all

... and good luck with that. Send me a link.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Lies Exposed

Remember that press release Mr. Strand from the Board for Communication Services issues? The one where he attempts to lay to rest the criticisms on the canceling of "Issues, Etc."?

M.Z. Hemingway shows us some of the lies and deceits of that document (original in italics, her analysis in standard font):

“Issues,” on the other hand, had two dedicated, full-time staffers devoted exclusively to “Issues.”
Todd and Jeff had extended duties beyond Issues, Etc. (KFUO production, hosting Sharathon, scheduling Sharathon hosts and guests, preaching KFUO Sundays, etc.) Ask KFUO General Manger Dennis Stortz ( and KFUO-AM Program Director Chuck Rathert ( if this is true.

KFUO operates with a lean management structure.
KFUO-FM doesn’t have a “lean management structure.” They have a General Manager, an Operations Manager/Production Director, a Program Director, a Music Director, an Assistant Program Director, a Sales Manager, a Promotions/Development Director and a Traffic Manager. Eight people seem like plenty of management for the 18th-ranked radio station in St. Louis ( In fact, when my Board for Communication Services conducted a management audit of the radio station, the radio professionals who helped us all pointed to the bloated management structure as a problem.

“Virtually all program hosts, along with other staffers, participate in the station’s annual Sharathon”.
Didn’t this include Todd and Jeff? However, Mr. Strand stated earlier that they were “devoted exclusively” to IE.

“All donations specifically earmarked for ‘Issues’ including Reformation Club income, were credited to ‘Issues.’”
The funds generated by IE Reformation Club members within a 100-mile radius of St. Louis were counted toward the KFUO general fund. You can verify this with LCMS Treasurer Tom Kuchta ( or KFUO Development Director Dorothy Kaestner (

The only “Issues”-related support that does not figure into the equation are the funds given by congregations directly to radio stations in their locales.
How come Issues, Etc. underwriter and advertising revenue from church sponsors totaling approximately $80,000 went to a KFUO general advertising fund and not to IE?

“Issues 300” was not a formal, sanctioned fundraising effort being done in cooperation with the LCMS Foundation; rather, it was an effort by Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz to raise funds for the syndication of the one-hour Sunday-evening broadcast. There were no ads, publicity, direct-mail materials, telemarketing strategies, or donor visitations poised to be set in motion by the Foundation.
Mr. Strand should check out the “What’s New” section of the IE website ( that he ordered removed. You’ll notice a downloadable flier on how to join the IE 300 Club. IE also aired live and recorded announcements for the IE 300 Club since the beginning of 2008.

In this case, if we had waited until early April, we would have been obligated to pay another $5,500 in monthly Sunday-night syndication fees.
Mr. Strand claims that the firings took place during Holy Week in order to save $5,500. However, KFUO was going to pay $5,500 in airtime and satellite costs no matter when the show was cancelled. Stations require a 30-day written notice of cancellation. The 30-day period begins the date of the written letter of cancellation. This is obfuscation on the part of David Strand. By the way, KFUO did pay the $5,500 in airtime and satellite costs after the show’s cancellation. KFUO management informed affiliates that there would be no show effective Sunday, April 23. Affiliates informed KFUO management that the contract agreement required a 30-day written notice of cancellation. KFUO management informed affiliates to “just bill us for the remaining weeks.”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"That we do not lie or deceive..."

Here's what Kieschnick wrote in his letter to The Wall Street Journal:

What is even more disturbing is the false and misleading picture [Mollie Hemingway] presents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as a deeply divided church regarding its mission and ministry.
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.”
But here is what he presented to the Council of Presidents on April 21, 2008
Having said that, I am also painfully aware of areas of disagreement in our Synod about which I have spoken and written over the years. Allow me at this time to repeat a portion of my report to the 63rd Regular Convention of our Synod in 2007:
“The Synod’s history reminds us that there have been theological and doctrinal disputes both inside the Synod and between the Synod and other bodies, generating fervent argument and resulting in bitter divisions and fractured fellowships. Yet our Synod has endured in remaining true to our Scriptural and Confessional principles.
“While most of the issues mentioned above [The doctrine of the church and ministry, the nature and authority of the pastoral office, the doctrine of election, the role and function of extra-confessional doctrinal statements in the life of the church, and the authority of Holy Scripture] are no longer in contention, we nevertheless continue to experience in our Synod today disagreement and divisiveness regarding numerous other issues, mostly regarding the practical application of our doctrinal principles."[emphasis added].
So he has "written about" the divisions within the Synod for years? Why then did he write to The Wall Street Journal that we are not divided?

Helpful Post on LCMS Financial Matters

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife posts this good summary of the financial situation in the LCMS and where your congregation's monies are going.

UPDATED: link provided now.

Unbelievable Gall!

Check this link out, an advertisement for a new radio host at KFUO.

If the firing of Rev. Wilken was for financial reasons (see here), then why in the world are they hiring another radio host?

HT: Augsburg1530

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Where Do Mission Dollars Go?

Not to missionaries. At least not to keep this one.

M. Z. Hemingway tips us off to Rev. James May, a full-time missionary in Burkina Faso and Togo, West Africa, who is being pulled from the mission field.

What's even more alarming than missionaries being sent home, at the same time that Ablaze! is so fervently promoted in the Synod--along with the goal of raising $100 million dollars--is what he reports in this comment:

It was not a funding problem. During the last 21 months supporters had sent in $248,000 to keep us on the field. A new program by World Mission requires that career missionaries raise $120,000 per year or risk being sent home to raise more support. It was not easy but we tried our best to find supporters. It should be noted that $120,000 is FAR more than what was spent to pay our field costs.
Why are missionaries required to raise their own money?

Why are missionaries required to raise more than their expenses?

Where is the money going?

HT: Augsburg1530

Monday, May 5, 2008

Why This Won't Work Part II

The problem of disunity is the problem of minimalism. Minimalism is the school of thought that “less is more,” or that which asks what is the least required for the purpose at hand.

Minimalism therefore is revolves around the questions, “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for x to be true?” A necessary condition for x is a condition that, without it, you wouldn’t have x at all. A necessary condition for being a father is to have a child. No child, no fatherhood. A necessary condition for being a human is to be mammal. If you’re not a mammal, you might be many things, but you would definitely not be a human. A sufficient condition, on the other hand, is a condition which, if met, guarantees the truth of x. For example, a sufficient condition for being a father is to have a son. If I have a son, I am, by definition, a father. Having a son is not necessary for being a father, for I could be—and was—a father without having a son. I had a daughter.

When minimalism is applied to religion, to the faith received through the Apostles (2 Thes. 3:6), it asks, what is necessary to be a Christian? What is a sufficient condition for having the True Church, the true faith? What is necessary for baptism? Such questions may have their place. But such questions are asked and answered throughout the Lutheran Confessions. For instance, in the Augsburg Confession (AC) Article XI, the reformers write, “1] Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches, although in confession 2] an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Ps. 19, 12” (AC XI.1-2). Again, the Augsburg Confession asks what is sufficient for Christian unity, and answers, “2]And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3]the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6 (AC VIII).

One problem with a minimalist understanding of the Christian faith is that we are lazy sinners. If we are given the option between doing something as minimally as we can, versus doing something with “all the bells and whistles” we will often choose the lesser path, the minimalist path. We ask “what is required of being a Christian,” rather than “how much can I do?” We ask, “What do I have to do to be saved,” rather than “What all can I do to be a Christian?” We ask, “Do I really have to do x,” rather than, “Will doing x help my faith, my sanctification, my worship of God?”

What these minimalists fail to remember is that our faith is not about a contract with the Holy Trinity but a relationship with Him. In contracts, it is appropriate to ask, “What are the minimal standards to keep this relationship binding?” Asking this question about a relationship is foolish. Would a husband be wise to ask, “What is the least I can do to keep my wife?” If he loves her, he will ask, “What can I do for my wife?” or “What all can I do to be a good husband?”

Furthermore, minimalism leads to conflict. Now it is obvious it leads to conflict when minimum standards are not agreed upon, but it also promotes conflict when not every parish is equally minimalistic. It is but a small step to go from saying that x is unnecessary to saying that therefore, x is wrong or harmful.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Blessed Ascension Day

Press Release

David Strand, the Executive Director of the Board for Communication Services of the LCMS issued a press release in the form of a FAQ regarding the "Issues, Etc." brouhaha. The preamble states, "It is hoped that this document will be a step toward reconciliation and peace."

My initial response is, "Why didn't they do this sooner?" If something like this would have been released on Holy Tuesday--the day of the terminations--things might have been different. Hindsight is 20/20, however. And apparently they weren't aware there would be any questions to answer.

My question is, does this document satisfy you? Does it answer your questions?