Monday, April 28, 2008

Where Were the District Presidents?

There seems to be a disconnect here. To date, five dauntless LCMS districts have come out with official resolutions voicing their displeasure over the cancellation of Issues, Etc., and requesting the show’s reinstatement. They are the Central Illinois District, Iowa District East, South Dakota District, the South Wisconsin District, and the Southern Illinois District. All five of these resolutions are worded strongly enough that it’s reasonable to conclude that they are in opposition to the statement adopted by the Council of Presidents (The COP, which is composed of the President of each of the Synod’s districts) on April 22 “without dissenting vote.”

So where were the District Presidents when their districts formulated their resolutions, and when the COP statement was formulated? Note that the COP response was signed “without dissenting vote.” Was that a disingenuous statement? If my football team finishes 13-0-1, I can claim it’s undefeated, but it’s still a disingenuous statement, because there was one game I didn’t win. Did all the District Presidents sign the COP statement? If so, some of them must be sulking in a corner somewhere, because their district went over their head, either before or after the fact.

The COP statement said “We must regard with Christian charity and trust the judgment of our duly elected brothers and sisters in Christ on the BCS [Board of Communication Services], along with its Executive Director, Mr. David Strand.” That trust hasn’t panned out so well for all five of the dissenting districts, since they all requested that Issues, Etc. be reinstated. Both Southern Illinois and South Dakota stated “official explanations for the show’s cancellation have not satisfied or answered the concerns of many.” Southern Illinois said brothers Wilken and Schwarz were dismissed for “undocumented reasons,” and Iowa District East claims “for widely-disputed reasons.” Where’s the trust? They also had this to say:
Resolved, That the Board of Directors of Iowa District East of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod requests, for the sake of trust and unity, that Mr. David Strand and the Board for Communication Services make public all internal documents and memos concerning this cancellation, and, in addition, allow for a complete, independent, and publicly documented audit of KFUO finances, including directly comparable financial performance of all of the station's programs.
The COP also stated that they didn’t agree that “the manner in which this decision was implemented lacked Christian compassion.” The South Wisconsin District doesn’t seem to share the COP’s view, saying things like “This could have been done by giving the Rev. Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz two month notification of the cancellation of their employment,” and “express with a united voice their displeasure with both the cancellation of the program and the way it was handled.”

The COP statement ends with a pious sounding plea for unity. Their closing sounds a little different than the closing of the Southern Illinois District:
RESOLVED, that Pastoral Conference of the Southern Illinois District officially petition the Board of Communications Services to revisit the decision by its Executive Director, David Strand, to cancel Issues, Etc. and also petition the Board to reinstate both Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz to their positions, restore the ministry of Issues, Etc., and make a public apology for the offense this cancellation has caused.
While you may not be able to point to any one spot in the COP statement and say it’s wrong, taken as a whole, it seems to be a carefully crafted document designed to squelch dissent, not one of pastoral wisdom.

I assume that the majority of the District Presidents of the five districts above were in favor of those resolutions, and were likely instrumental in their execution, and I commend them for those resolutions. But the question remains, if they were, why did they sign the COP statement, assuming they did? The two seem mutually exclusive to me. If they believe that the truth was somehow maligned, whether they signed the COP statement or not, I hope they and other Presidents like them will personally speak up for the truth. Of course that’s easier said than done. It’s not easy speaking out when your job may be threatened, but as Christians, we’re called to defend the Truth at all times and in all places. Unity is only achieved by real agreement, not by covering up the truth.

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