Thursday, February 26, 2009

President Kieschnick: Unanswered Questions

President Kieschnick today released the following memo:

To: LCMS Council of Presidents
From: Gerald B. Kieschnick
Subject: Issues, Etc.
Date: February 26, 2009

Dear Brothers in Christ:

Grace and peace be with you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

In order to assist you in responding to inquiries and/or rumors about my involvement in an alleged lawsuit involving “Issues, Etc.,” I am providing this memo, which you may share as you deem appropriate.

As indicated during our Council of Presidents discussion of that topic earlier this week, contrary to allegations and rumors you and I have recently received, I have not filed, initiated, supported, or encouraged any lawsuit against Rev. Todd Wilken or Mr. Jeff Schwarz, nor have I ever had a desire to do so. Any allegations or rumors to the contrary are simply untrue. As an individual Christian, as a Lutheran pastor, and as President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I take seriously the Holy Spirit-inspired words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 regarding such matters.

Furthermore, the LCMS Board of Directors has not filed a lawsuit against these brothers in Christ and in fact has taken action that effectively ends any and all legal considerations regarding this matter and is designed to restore relationships with them through fraternal conversation, mutual respect, and genuine humility. A communication from the Board with additional information about this matter will be forthcoming.

It is my prayer that this memo will be helpful to you in responding to anyone in your district who has expressed concern regarding this issue. I know you join me in prayer that it will be resolved under the leading, guiding, and directing of God’s Holy Spirit.

The peace of the Lord be with you all!

Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, PresidentThe Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

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

C: LCMS Board of Directors

President Kieschnick seems to be washing his hands of the whole trademark affair, yet I’m not sure the soap he’s using is quite strong enough to wash away this particular stain, because he’s failed to answer all of the questions.

Pastor Todd Wilken released another Web Extra Open Mics today, available on the Issues, Etc. website, which asks a few pointed questions. I quote it here in its entirety:

We’re glad that the LCMS Board of Directors has reversed its November 2008 decision to oppose Harry Madsen’s trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name.

Regarding Dr. Kieschnick’s statement issued today to the LMCS Council of Presidents, we for our part haven’t accused Dr. Kieschnick of filing, initiating, supporting, or encouraging legal action against us personally. However, please note, that while Dr. Kieschnick denies that neither he nor the LCMS BOD have filed legal action against us, he doesn’t acknowledge, or even mention the threat of legal action against us, and most importantly, he doesn’t state whether or not he supported the November LCMS BOD decision to oppose Harry Madsen’s trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name.

We haven’t accused the LCMS Board of Directors of filing a lawsuit against us. We have stated that in a letter dated December 16th, 2008, legal counsel for the LCMS Board of Directors threatened to recommend legal action against us personally. Now a copy of this letter will be made available at our website, along with a complete timeline of the events surrounding the Issues, Etc. trademark.

Regarding Dr. Kieschnick specifically, we have stated that we have reliable information, that in November 2008 Dr. Kieschnick strongly supported the LCMS BOD’s decision to oppose Harry Madsen’s trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name. Please note, again, that Dr. Kieschnick’s statement today says nothing about this November LCMS BOD decision, or his involvement in it.

In our February 9th Web Extra open mics, the Issues, Etc. trademark dispute and LCMS legal threat, posted as an audio link at the Issues, Etc. website, here’s what we said:

"So in early December, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod did file a letter of opposition to Harry Madsen’s trademark application. That’s what we were talking about on Friday - that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is opposing the application for the Issues, Etc. trademark. We’ve since learned that the decision to oppose Harry Madsen’s trademark application on the Issues, Etc. name, was made in the November meeting of the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. And we’ve since learned that the pursuit of legal action at that meeting was being driven by Gerald Kieschnick, President of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Now look. When the show was canceled a lot of people speculated that President Kieschnick was somehow behind it. We never had any reliable information to that effect - linking him to that event, any more than what he’s stated publicly. But in this case, we do have reliable information that he’s pushing the legal hardball."

Now this is important. The LCMS Board of Directors November decision to oppose Harry Madsen’s trademark application, directly precipitated LCMS legal counsel’s December 16th letter threatening to recommend legal action against us personally. Without the BOD’s decision to oppose the trademark application, there would have been no threat of legal action against us personally. Again, please note, that Dr. Kieschnick’s statement today says nothing about this threat of legal action against us, the November LCMS BOD decision, or his involvement in that decision. So, our question has been, and remains, in November 2008, did Dr. Kieschnick support the LCMS Board of Directors decision to oppose Harry Madsen’s trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name. Dr. Kieschnick’s statement today leaves this central question completely unanswered.
This whole thing seems to be a throwback to the Watergate era doesn't it? Exactly how much did the President know? What were his actions?

Pastor Randy Asburry asks a few questions of his own on his Rasburry’s Res blog today, pointing out that President Kieschnick’s comments do not address the real issue:

I certainly understand how the rumors got rolling about a lawsuit against Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz personally. Evidently, on December 16, 2008 a letter from LCMS legal counsel was received by legal counsel representing Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz. In that letter LCMS legal counsel says to the attorney representing Wilken and Schwarz:

"Unless your client is willing to negotiate in good faith to finalize a mutually acceptable agreement in the near future, along the lines that were discussed last summer, we will be left with no alternative but to recommend that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prosecute the opposition against Madsen's application and take action against your clients to enforce its rights to the trademark." (emphasis added)

Your point is quite clear, President Kieschnick: neither you personally nor the LCMS Board of Directors has taken legal action against, nor do you intend to take legal action against Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz personally. Great! Good news! But that's not the real issue.

What about the above quoted threat of a lawsuit against Wilken and Schwarz? Fair enough, you personally did not file, initiate, support, or encourage any lawsuit. Fair enough, “the LCMS Board of Directors has not filed a lawsuit against these brothers in Christ.” I assume these statements are true enough on their own specific merits.

So what about that threat of a lawsuit made by LCMS legal counsel? From where did that come: merely the self-starting initiative of attorneys representing the LCMS or from some other source(s), or at the very least with the knowledge of some other source(s)? Perhaps we’ll never know, but I’m sure the Lord God knows.

It's great news to hear that the LCMS Board of Directors has decided to withdraw its
opposition to the Madsen application for the trademark "Issues, Etc." It's also great to hear of a planned meeting of members of the LCMS Board of Directors with Wilken and Schwarz with the purpose of resolving the dispute between LCMS, Inc. and Issues, Etc. once and for all. This news first aired on Feb. 23 and can be heard on the Issues, Etc. website.

Again, though, questions still remain and deserve to be answered, especially in the interest of laying this matter aside and fostering peace, unity, and reconciliation in the synod. Here are some questions I can think of:

-Why did this whole odd, messy affair of opposing Mr. Madsen's application for the trademark even come up in the first place?
-How much money has been spent on this petty endeavor, money which could have been better spent on more edifying tasks of proclaiming the Gospel and building up the Body of Christ?
-Who was pushing the opposition and why?
-And will the party/parties pushing this opposition give a public statement of apology - that is, will this sad affair be dealt with by means of godly repentance - so that Absolution may be given and steps toward reconciliation may be begun?
Pastor Tim Rossow also had a few relevant comments regarding President Kieschnick’s memo on The Brothers of John the Steadfast website:
Someone told me earlier this week that what President Kieschnick would do is plead innocent to something that no one has charged him with. That is exactly what he has done. He is using word games to try and excuse himself. No one ever accused President Kieschnick of filing a lawsuit against anyone. We and others have said that the attorneys that work for the Board of Directors (President Kieschnick is a member of this board) have sent a letter to Todd and Jeff’s attorney’s informing them that if Todd and Jeff do not come to the table to work out a compromise they will be forced to take further action. WE EVEN PUBLISHED THE LETTER FOR ALL TO SEE SO THAT OUR CLAIMS COULD BE JUDGED BY ALL THE WORLD. The Board of Directors (President Kieschnick is on this board) on the other hand, released nothing. It looks as though they are going to back down from the threats their attorneys made but this only after we all screamed and hollered on the internet, through e-mails to them, via the petition, phone calls to them, etc.

I do not like having a synodical president who plays word games! Say what you will about President Kieschnick’s church growth theology (we have said a lot about it here and will say much more about it in months to come), but that pales in comparison to this Clintonesque use of language.

This memo sadly squares with what President Kieschnick did at the Southern Illinois convention. He took a screened question (more on that below) about the trademark issue and then spoke dramatically about a scenario that was make believe. “There is no lawsuit, never was a lawsuit, there never will be a lawsuit, I wouldn’t wish a lawsuit on anybody” he exclaimed. No one ever claimed there was a lawsuit. What was claimed is what is described above: a threat to take further action by lawyers (we call that “legal action” in our common parlance). President Kieschnick is twisting language for his advantage.

Does it bother anyone else that President Kieschnick will not take questions from the floor of the conventions? President Barry did. He screened nothing. President Kieschnick will not face the members of synod squarely with their questions. He will only answer questions that have been handed in hours before the question and answer period and then he picks the questions that he will address. This is called spin-doctoring and it is based on fear of hard questions or fear of the inability to think on ones feet. This has been his practice for as long as I can remember. It is in keeping with the word games that he is playing with this memo. It is not rooted in trust nor in straightforward communication.

By the way, he also falsely claims in this memo that Christians cannot sue each other. He has to claim that because he decried lawsuits among Christians when he was sued for “stuffing the ballot box” (approving too many exceptional circuits) at the last convention. I know a lot of you have complained about Christians suing other Christians but we have a lot to learn on this matter. Stay tuned for a series by Klemet Preus on how and why it is OK for Christians to sue each other. The threatened legal action in the trademark case was wrong because it was unfounded but there is a time and a place for Christians to sue each other.

...To summarize, this memo is much ado about nothing. It knocks down a straw man. Real men, in the flesh, with real vocations and real families to support, Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz, have been tormented by the synod under President Kieshcnick for nearly a year now. We wish he would stop fighting the wind and join us here at the Brothers of John the Steadfast and start living, breathing and speaking the Lutheran Confessions as is done daily and faithfully on a great radio program, Issues, Etc.
Which brings us to the question of the petition. The petition does not accuse President Kieschnick specifically of threatening legal action. Nor does it make the blanket statement that all lawsuits brought by Christians are sinful, although that certainly would have been the case in this situation given the circumstances. The petition states:
Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully request that the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod immediately drop its opposition to the trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name, cease all consideration of bringing a personal lawsuit against Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz, and offer to them the Synod's blessing on their endeavors.
Has the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod met the wishes of the signers of the petition? Back in October, a statement was made in the Reporter that an agreement had been reached on the trademark issue, which was a complete fairy tale. Will this prove to be a fairy tale too? I pray not. Time will tell.

Of one thing I am certain. I’m tired of dealing with these sorts of issues. They have no place in the Body of Christ. And there is no one who “wins” or “loses” in this situation. We all lose. Kyrie Eleison.


Anonymous said...

How sad that these men have become corporate men instead of church men. It is time that the church's belonging to the LCMS spit this corporation out of their mouths.

Anonymous said...

If I could send a letter to the same people President Kieschnick sent his letter to I would say, "In order to assist you with my inquiry I just want to let you know that I don't believe President Kieschnick."