Friday, February 27, 2009

On Lawyers and Pit Bulls

A quote from Pastor Bill Cwirla's excellent post - I highly recommend reading the rest of his post at Blogosphere Underground:

"In a recent letter to the Council of Presidents (CoPs - Are Lutherans acronym-challenged or is this just me?) LCMS, Inc. CEO Gerald Kieschnick denies he ever personally threatened our boys Todd and Jeff with a lawsuit by saying '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.' I'll leave the thoughts and desires of the man to God who searches the heart. But let's parse that sentence. Of course Pres. Kieschnick didn't 'file, initiate, support, or encourage' anything. The lawyers for LCMS, Inc. did that. That's what you hire lawyers to do."

photo credit: This Year's Love

A Lenten Hymn



From depths of woe I cry to Thee,
In trial and tribulation;
Bend down Thy gracious ear to me,
Lord, hear my supplication.
If thou rememb’rest ev’ry sin,
Who then could heaven ever win
Or stand before Thy presence?

Thy love and grace alone avail
To blot out my transgression;
The best and holiest deeds must fail
To break sin's dread oppression.
Before Thee none can boasting stand,
But all must fear Thy strict demand
And live alone by mercy.

Therefore my hope is in the Lord
And not in my own merit;
It rests upon His faithful Word
To them of contrite spirit
That He is merciful and just;
This is my comfort and my trust.
His help I wait with patience.

And though it tarry through the night
And till the morning waken,
My heart shall never doubt His might
Nor count itself forsaken.
O Israel, trust in God your Lord.
Born of the Spirit and the Word,
Now wait for His appearing.

Though great our sins,
Yet greater still is God's abundant favor;
His hand of mercy never will
Abandon us, nor waver.
Our shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free
From all their sin and sorrow.

LSB 607
Text and tune by Martin Luther

Thursday, February 26, 2009

President Kieschnick: Unanswered Questions

President Kieschnick today released the following memo:

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:

2,000 Signatures on the Issues, Etc. Petition and Growing



The Issues, Etc. trademark petition has crossed the 2,000 signature benchmark - a significant achievement.

Up until there is a final resolution to all of the outstanding issues, please continue to sign the petition, and ask your friends to sign as well. If your fellow parishioners are like mine, there are plenty of people whom you can ask again to sign. Let’s keep the pressure up! If you've yet to sign, clicking on the white "Sign the Petition" box over on the right will take you directly to it. [Note: I removed the box on the evening of 2-26. You may still sign the petition.]

Here are a few of the many worthwhile comments left on the petition:


Stephen Griffin
Dear Bishop Kieschnick, Although I am a Catholic, I believe that Issuesetc and its staff do wonderful work in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all while also presenting a very favorable picture of the LCMS. I would request that you withdraw any attempts to interfere with the programming of the group. It makes you appear petty and vindicative. Sincerely, Steve Griffin


Prof. Dr John Warwick Montgomery, Esq.
I am thoroughly ashamed of the central administration of my church body for its actions in this matter. Orthodoxy of doctrine is one thing; ordinary decent treatment of others is another. Can you not exhibit a modicum of legal and ethical integrity in your relationship with Issues, Etc.--particularly after treating Wilken and Schwarz so shabbily in discharging them?


Rev. Craig Nehring
As a ELCA pastor who has found a refuge of orthodoxy in the Issues, etc show, I ask you to stop trying to take away this brand name. This is a name in which has only helped in spreading the Gospel because it has allowed people to gather under one place to receive Lutheran talk radio.


mark of brighton
What a waste of time and resources. This really does seem to be a personal vendetta against Pastor Todd and Jeff.


Rev. Ken Maher
Such bullying tactics are unbecoming any Christian, much less those in a position of authority. What a shameful black eye this gives not only to all of us who bear the name Lutheran, but to the very presentation of the Gospel to the world who cannot help but look at such distasteful antics and shake their heads!


Michael Horton
As a Reformed Christian, it is disappointing to learn that some leaders of a confessional Lutheran denomination are as embarrassed by their most effective evangelists as they are apparently enamored of the most non-confessional movements in our day.


Craig Parton
As a trial lawyer for the past 20 plus years, I plan on supporting Todd and Jeff in every way possible.....


Mollie Hemingway
This incessant bureaucratic bullying under the current administration must end. It was bad enough that the LCMS canceled its only nationally syndicated broadcast radio program and fired its host and producer without warning during Holy Week last year. That the persecution continues almost a year after the original act is an outrage.


Joseph Milligan
You condemn the men who note that you are excluding Christ from the LCMS, then prove them right with your actions. This is how to grow the Church? If Kieschnick is reinstated next year, the LCMS (or whatever you end up calling it) will be at least four members smaller. My family will go where Christ is.


richard grossman
Issues etc brought me such a fuller understanding of the Gospel! There is nothing like it. I am one of the orthodox Anglicans who left the Episcopal Church. I know about lawsuits by the "corporate church". LCMS leaders should stop acting like the liberal Episcopal leaders and suing their brothers in secular courts. I love my confessional brothers in LCMS, and am a "token Anglican" member of the Brothers of John the Steadfast. . You are in my prayers.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Restructuring Presentation Typed Out!

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Randy Bosch, who has prepared a current text version of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance restructuring PowerPoint presentation given at the Southern Illinois District Convention, and compares it with the previous presentation at the NDD Convention. Deletions are struck out, and additions are noted in red, for comparison purposes. The actual slide presentations, old and new, are available here and here, respectively.

His efforts alleviate a real bottleneck, since the Synod apparently sees no value in providing useful materials with which to study their proposals. Please pass this on and make it as widely available as possible, so that we can all get a good look and formulate appropriate responses at our district conventions.

Do You Believe This?


Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

John 11:25-26 ESV
photo credit: kimberlyfaye

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It’s Time


There’s a new web site devoted to Pastor Matt Harrison’s paper “It’s Time: LCMS Unity and Mission.” Besides the paper itself, there’s also information about his book Christ Have Mercy, a copy of his Vitae, a bio, and a link to his blog Mercy Journeys With Pastor Harrison.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Pastor Harrison is the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief-Human Care. If you take a trip over to his blog, you’ll get a good idea of who he is, since he provides a nice mix of theology and personal interest items on his blog. (If you like jazz as well as the banjo, Pastor Harrison plays a pretty mean banjo, which you can view as well.)

If I haven’t already mentioned it, Pastor Harrison would make an excellent choice for Synod President in 2010.

I recommend you read his “It’s Time” paper. The paper is a response to the suggestions of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance, which he wrote “as an alternative rooted in theology rather than the law to bring about positive change in the Lord’s church.” What’s really nice is that it’s available as an mp3 download, read by Pastor Harrison himself, so you can listen to the paper while you’re out on your run or driving to work. A study guide is also available for download.

It looks like the site will undergo further development as time goes on, so check back again later as well.

Monday, February 23, 2009

SID Convention Makes a Confessional Statement

The Southern Illinois District Convention finished up in grand style last week. Some of the issues that were covered:

1) A resolution was passed in which the SID told the Synod to quit messing with Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz regarding the Issues, Etc. trademark issue.

2) Numerous resolutions were passed advising that various aspects of the Synodical restructuring proposals be ditched.

3) A resolution was passed in which the SID “expressed its regret” regarding the continued practice of allowing “preaching and administration of the sacraments by men who have not been publicly called to and placed in the office of the ministry,” a practice which is clearly at odds with Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession Article. This would be an appropriate time to mention that some of the “men” out there who are consecrating the elements are vicars. This is a definite no-no. It’s been reported before on the web, but is generally kept quiet. Why is it kept quiet? Because the vicars are told by their superiors in the seminary who are encouraging the practice to keep it quiet, but to go ahead and serve communion, if you can do so without violating your conscience. Is this the new model for LCMS pastors? It must be from 1 Timothy 4:17: “Tim, as long as you can justify your pastoral practice by saying it doesn’t violate your own conscience, by all means, have at it!”

4) They rejected a proposal to help fund Fan Into Flame, the money raising arm of Ablaze!, and instead voted to be better stewards by spending that money on their own evangelism program.

For the details:

Weedon’s Blog

The Brothers of John the Steadfast

Pastor Henrickson's report on the restructuring proposals at The Brothers of John the Steadfast

Four and Twenty + Blackbirds

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Let It Be

The Big Map, Trademark Style, v. 1.0



And so it begins. The Big Map is back. You'll recall this map from less than a year ago, when district after district passed resolutions regarding the cancellation of Issues, Etc. Now we're doing it over again. Once again, Synod, Inc. is being taken to the woodshed for a little correction in its behavior. Apparently, the first whipping wasn't enough.

This time the districts in red represent those districts that have passed resolutions regarding the mistreatment that Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz have endured at the hands of the Synod over the Issues, Etc. trademark dispute. (See this post if you're unfamiliar.) I'd encourage other districts to speak up as well. I hope this map is short lived, but until the ink is dry on all the legal documents regarding the Issues, Etc. trademark, with a just "resolution" for the Issues, Etc. team, the map lives on.

The Southern Illinois District is leading the pack. Here's a little of what they had to say at their District Convention:

RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District gathered in convention at Collinsville, Illinois, this 21st day of February, in the year of our Lord 2009, give thanks and praise to God for the ministry of Issues, Etc. and the hard work of Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Southern Illinois District direct the District President to admonish the Synodical Board of Directors to cease and desist all legal action regarding the Issues, Etc. trademark and legal action against Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz; and be it further

RESOLVED, that Synodical Board of Directors be admonished to be better stewards of donated congregational dollars to be used toward the proclamation and spreading of the Gospel rather than frivolously engaging in legal matters; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Synodical Board of Directors adhere to their published and carried resolution of August 2008, and withdraw its opposition to Mr. Harry Madsen’s application for the trademark “Issues, etc.,” and release the archived programs, and related materials to Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that these actions by the Synodical Board of Directors will bring the recent programming issues to a positive conclusion for all.

Thanks to Pastor Randy Asburry for reporting on this at his blog RAsburry's Res. Thanks to Pastor Michael Kumm for writing the original overture. You can also read the whole thing at The Brothers of John the Steadfast.

Don't forget to sign the petition!

Friday, February 20, 2009

I've Never Been Interested in Synod Politics... but, "It's Time!"


Find more videos like this on The Wittenberg Trail


To the Reader:

This blog is not about Synodical politics, which I really don't particularly enjoy. At the same time, involvement in politics is not a sin. It is a necessary part of the way the left hand kingdom operates, even within a synod. The above video highlights a little of where our Synod has been headed, not just under President Kieschnick's tenure, but before that as well. It would be unfair to say that the Reformed theology which has influenced our Synod so dramatically wasn't already around long before Rev. Dr. Kieschnick was elected President of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. At the same time, he has done little to prevent the problems to which the video alludes, and at times has encouraged them to progress.

While the video is an oversimplification, it does make a good point. It illustrates a disturbing trend in our Synod. We are being slowly overtaken by a flood of ideas that are contrary to our Confession. The Purpose-Driven Life, for instance, should rightly be titled The Law-Driven Life. The historic Liturgy, which has served God's Church for centuries, is being replaced by entertainment and "whatever works." These sorts of little "incursions" into the life of our Synod, over time, gradually erode the truth until one day, we'll wake up, and there will be none left. And nobody will have noticed.

As Luther points out:
Everything depends on doctrine. Where doctrine is right, everything is right: faith, works, life, suffering, good and evil days, eating, drinking, hungering, thirsting, sleeping, walking, standing, etc. Where doctrine is not right, everything is in vain, everything is lost, and everything utterly condemned.
The video ends with the statement "Save The Synod." Obviously, it is only God who can save our Synod, a point with which I'm sure the author of the video agrees. It is He who will do with our Synod as He wishes. To believe for one minute that it could be any other way is to fall into the trap of a theology of glory. Synods come and go, but we can rejoice that our heavenly Father does not change, no matter what the plans of sinful men might be.

Yet we must do our best to be good stewards of that with which God has blessed us. We must strive to protect the Church from threats within and without. We must seek to nurture a right doctrine. I believe that, from what I've seen, Pastor Matt Harrison is an individual who shares these same beliefs. My use of the video is not meant to disparage or show disrespect for our current Synodical President, but to ask you to consider a man whom I believe is a much better choice for President in the 2010 election. You can visit Pastor Harrison's personal blog here. Visit the Harrison for President website here.

Thanks for reading.

Yours in Christ,


Scott Diekmann

A Direct Question Deserves a Direct Answer



We, the people of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, deserve to know what is going on behind closed doors in our Synod. What cannot be spoken out in the open, perhaps shouldn’t be spoken at all.

When the Rev. Dr. Kieschnick is answering questions at your District Convention, ask him a direct question. One that is clear and unequivocal, and demand an unequivocal answer. A question like this would be in order: “President Kieschnick, did you speak in favor of, or in any way support, continued legal action regarding the Issues, Etc. situation at the November Board of Director's meeting?"

Another question that deserves an answer, that should be asked of LCMS Chief Administrative Officer Ron Schultz, is how much money has been spent on a specious legal quest directed towards the Issues, Etc. trademark morass. You can follow my lead and ask him that question yourself by emailing him at ron.schultz@lcms.org.

photo credit: dullhunk

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Comments from the Petition

If you haven't signed the Issues, Etc. trademark petition, you can click on the "Sign the Petition" graphic box to the right, and it will take you to the petition.

The petition, in less than 24 hours, has gained more than 1,000 signatures. Here's a few comments from those who have signed:

"'Issues, Etc.' has been a God-send for ELCA clergy who depend on it for a life-line of sanity and clear theology, and a boon to LCMS laity throughout synod who are looking for such relevant Lutheran programming. The content of 'Issues,' and the effort it has made to live up to its name, deserve a humble thank you and a 'bless you' from the LCMS Board of Directors, not opposition and dispute."

"Leave my daddy, Jeff, and Craig alone! They have done you no wrong. I find it interesting that at 17 I can see the simple solution to this issue while a group "Christian" of men three times my age cannot."

"I find myself being more ashamed of my beloved LC-MS each passing month. This use of lawyers to "handle" Christian issues is unforgivable and the synodical president is personally responsible by virtue of his office."

"This is hypocrisy, pure and utter hypocrisy. Someone needs to use the 'Keys.'"

"I have no intentions on leaving the Synod, but the Synod seems to be leaving me. I wish to stand and fight."

"This action by the LCMS Synod saddens me. It runs contrary to the interest of serving our neighbor. This action leads me to think LCMS is only concerned with the preservation of self rather than the Gospel."

"Martin Luther valued and translated Aesop's Fables, so Lutherans should understand what "dog in the manger" means."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Please Sign the New Issues, Etc. Trademark Petition

Dear Readers,

I've begun a new online petition to help defend Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz in their dispute with the LCMS over the Issues, Etc. trademark. You can view and sign the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/trademark/. Note: When signing the petition, it asks you to donate to iPetitions. There is no need to donate to register your vote. If you don’t want to contribute, just hit your back button or close the page. Your signature has already been recorded at that point.

Pasted below is a letter which explains in more detail what this dispute is all about. I hope you'll give all this a read, sign the petition, and spread the news.

Yours in Christ,

Scott Diekmann


Dear Brother in Christ,

Nearly one year ago, Issues, Etc., the LCMS apologetics talk radio program, was canceled. Host Todd Wilken and Producer Jeff Schwarz were unceremoniously fired without explanation during Holy Week. Since that date, many things have changed. Issues, Etc. has been resurrected, now broadcasting as a private entity completely independent of the LCMS on Pirate Christian Radio.

One thing that hasn’t changed at Issues, Etc. is the show’s enduring Christ-centered cross-focused ministry. The Gospel is proclaimed clearly day in and day out to listeners all over the world. Since their comeback the number of on-demand listeners has increased by three to four times over its pre-cancellation levels, affording many more people the opportunity to hear Law and Gospel, to be catechized, and to be warned about false doctrine. Yet the show still needs our help.

After Todd and Jeff were figuratively yanked from their studio chairs and booted out the back door of the International Center in March of 2008, the relationship with LCMS, Inc. has been a tenuous one. For instance, they weren’t allowed to return to retrieve personal effects from their offices for weeks. But there did appear to be one bright spot in an otherwise cloudy sky. The Board for Communication Services and the Chief Administrative Officer of the LCMS were willing to permanently transfer ownership of the Issues, Etc. name and other materials to Todd and Jeff. As things played out however, that break in the clouds quickly closed. The Synod did an about face, offering to grant them permission to use the trademark, but without ownership, and with strings attached. That permission came at a price Todd and Jeff were unwilling to pay -- a gag clause, plus a restriction that waived the right to a jury trial if the agreement was breached. Agreeing to those restrictions would have been the equivalent of being bound by duct tape and handcuffs. Because of their refusal to cut a deal, Todd and Jeff walk the streets with their Christian freedom intact, and their ability to speak the truth unfettered. But there may yet be an even bigger price to pay.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Quotable Blog Quotes #6


Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

Cyberstones-A Lutheran Blog
Pastor David Petersen

We find it awkward to say things like "The Holy Communion is the beating heart of all our life in Christ, the center of our faith, defining everything we believe." We still have this hang up of scholastically numbering the sacraments and setting up equalities. So that we are afraid to speak so highly of the Sacrament of the Altar. We are afraid that to do so is to somehow lessen the importance or richness of preaching or Holy Baptism. The problem here is that when we try to hold these things equal, communist-style, we lower all of them. People who "come for the sermon" miss the point of the sermon. Preaching and the Holy Communion are misunderstood when they are understand as separate things.


Mercy Journeys With Pastor Harrison
Pastor Matt Harrison quoting LCMS Pastor Wilhelm Sihler

"It is certainly of great necessity that the inexperienced minister of the Church already begins to live and move in the highly valuable and highly important article of justification. Otherwise he is merely a doctrine machine [Lehr=Maschine], an orthodox watch mechanism, a lifeless and loveless clanging cymbal, and a ringing shell. He is like a wooden figure pointing the right direction, but which cannot go that way itself. Thus the faith of the Church proceeds from his mouth, but his heart is far from it."


Cyberbrethren
Pastor Paul McCain

Over the years I've come to realize that is is precisely a Christ-less Christianity and a No-Good-News Gospel that is truly at the heart of every crisis, challenge and problem facing the Christian Church. We are at war against sin, death and the devil, and without the actual good news of Jesus Christ, we may as well be using sticks and stones against the principalities and powers of this age, whose only goal is to crush and destroy our faith, and the Christian Church. We forget that with "might of ours" we can not prevail and soon will be undone.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference, Day 2

To parallel the last post, this post begins the day after the Conference ended.

Driving back from Naperville to Mequon, on that really swell I-294, we hit a boulder-sized piece of concrete that had apparently been knocked out of one of the spacious chuck-hole denizens that populate this particular interstate, and blew out the right front tire. I’ve been on four-wheel drive roads in Colorado that were smoother than this thing. So we again made an emergency pit stop, this time at a nearby truck stop to have them repair the tire (hopefully). Turns out truck stops don’t repair passenger car tires. Who would have known? So I changed the tire with the wimpy jack and the wimpy wrench and the wimpy spare and off we went. Unfortunately, we were now way too late to make it to the Divine Service in The Chapel of Christ Triumphant at Concordia University in Meqoun.

Previously, Day 2 started with “A Man’s Breakfast” (sorry ladies). This was no ordinary breakfast, even by Confessional Lutheran standards. Not only was there plenty of food, but we were also privileged to sing a couple of rousing songs written by our very own brother Pastor Charlie Henrickson – and led by him as well. It’s a good thing I’m a layman, or I’m pretty sure I’d end up on somebody’s list, just for repeating these (I’m sure Pr. Henrickson is already on the list, so I’m not worried about him). Incidentally, I’ve just got this strange feeling they’re going to create a special list just for me by the end of this week, kinda like “double-secret probation”:

ABLAZE DISGRACE
Tune: “Amazing Grace”

Ablaze disgrace, the heat profound
That makes it rest on me
I’ve won the lost, but more abound
It’s high anxiety

Ablaze has taught my heart to burn
Ablaze my guilt increased
What pressures did Ablaze apply–
Statistics never ceased!

Through many programs Synod shares
The kingdom surely comes
‘Tis doctrine that gets in the way
And causes us speed bumps

When we’ve filled up ten thousand pews
Igniting every one
We’ve no less days to stay ablaze
Till Jerry says we’re done

One mission, mission, Mission One!
One mission, Mission One!
One mission, mission, mission, mission!
One mission, Mission One!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference, Day 1

Note that these posts are a day behind, because I didn’t have time during the Conference to get them done.

Beg your pardon. In my previous blog post I said we were attending the Brothers of John the Steadfast National Conference, when it is actually the International Conference.

These Conferences are not without their challenges. Paige had class until early Friday afternoon, which meant we had to fly down the highway to get from Mequon, Wisconsin to Naperville, Illinois in time. There was the added challenge of eating lunch in the car while driving. That didn’t turn out quite so well since Paige got ketchup on her pants and shirt, precipitating an emergency pit stop at the roadside A&W to do a little in-sink laundering. That created a modest line of women waiting for the bathroom. Then there was the matter of me getting chocolate on the seat of the car, which of course got on the back of my pants. I guess we all bear our crosses.

We did manage to make it to the hotel, get the chocolate out of my pants, and still make it to Bethany Lutheran Church with time to spare. From there on out, we had a wonderful evening. Pastor Tim Rossow, the head of Brother’s of John the Steadfast, is the undershepherd at Bethany. Thanks to the good people of Bethany for all their warm hospitality.

Chris Rosebrough, the man behind Pirate Christian Radio, author of the blogs Extreme Theology and A Little Leaven (plus a couple of others), and host of the radio show Fighting for the Faith, spoke to the group about his escape from Evangelicalism. While I knew Chris’s story well, his presentation was still very moving, as he described the rat wheel of self-sanctification that he ran until he met up with Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, who helped Chris see the truth of the Gospel. If you’ve never heard Chris speak, in person, or on the radio, you’re missing out.

Then it was on to the Vespers service. NID District President Rev. Dan Gilbert offered the sermon. I love Vespers. What more can I say?

After a great pizza dinner, we all headed out to various “No Pietists Allowed” parties. Dr. Fritz Baue layed down tunes on his guitar at a private residence. Pastor Rossow’s wife Phyllis led one group out to Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge, and another group headed to two authentic Irish Pubs. Paige and I were the guests of Elaine and Tom Gavin, along with honored guest Chris Rosebrough and a bunch of other people as well. Chris, Tom Gavin, and several others of us managed to discuss theology until the early hours of the morning. Was it worth it? You bet!


Apparently, my photographic skills must have been clouded by the wine though. I messed up a setting on the camera, and these photos looked blue, so I attempted to digitally rescue them, with limited success. Tomorrow's pics should be better. That's Chris Rosebrough on the top and Elaine and Tom Gavin on the bottom.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Road Trip!"

I'm hopping on the big jet for a road trip to the Windy City, and I'm bringing you along. That's right, Chicago, home of the national Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference. More properly, it's actually in Naperville, which is a suburb to the west of Chicago.

Guest Speakers include Chris Rosebrough and Pastor Todd Wilken. It should be a great time hanging with the brothers. As an extra bonus, my daughter Paige, who attends Concordia University Wisconsin, is coming along with me. This should be a great way to "break her in" to the concept of the Lutheran conference/symposium/convention circuit without putting her to sleep.

Hopefully I'll get a break in between speakers and "No Pietists Allowed" parties to let you know what's happening.


photo credit: fabbio

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wilken & Schwarz on the Trademark Dispute

Host Todd Wilken and Producer Jeff Schwarz (hereafter Jeff and Todd) of Issues, Etc. fame today released a WEB EXTRA OPEN MICS titled “The Issues, Etc. Trademark Dispute and LCMS Legal Threat.” Following below is a synopsis of what was said:

The LCMS abandoned it’s trademark on the name Issues, Etc. in 1999.

“Shortly after the cancellation, the Board for Communication Services that oversaw the program when it was at KFUO passed a resolution recommending to the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod that the Issues, Etc. name and other materials like journals and mugs and tee shirts and things like that be offered to me and to Jeff should we desire to have them. At that same meeting the Executive Director of the Board for Communication Services stated that he had no future plans to use the Issues, Etc. name.”

Mr. Harry Madsen, a private individual, upon discovering that the LCMS no longer held the trademark made application for the name Issues, Etc. with the knowledge of Jeff and Todd. Jeff and Todd informed Synod of their intent to start up the show again and of their use of the name, and the LCMS made no objection.

The LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) proposed an agreement in which the LCMS would release the trademark, which Jeff and Todd rejected for the following reasons:

1) They would have had to concede that the LCMS still held the trademark, which it didn’t.
2) Mr. Madsen would have had to abandon his application for the trademark.
3) They would have had to submit to a non-disparagement gag clause.
4) They would have had to waive their rights to a jury trial in the event the agreement was breached.

In November, the trademark application was approved and an announcement was made soliciting any comments (a normal step in the trademark process). In early December the LCMS filed a letter of opposition to the trademark application.

The decision was made in the November meeting of the BOD to oppose the trademark, and the pursuit of legal action was being driven by President Gerald Kieschnick.

In mid-December the attorney for the BOD informed Jeff and Todd of their opposition and threatened legal action against them.

Jeff and Todd do not intend to meet with the LCMS legal representation because:

1) The LCMS still opposes Harry Madsen’s trademark application – a dispute in which Jeff and Todd have no standing.
2) The BOD is still threatening legal action against Jeff and Todd personally. They do not want to enter into any legal negotiations under the threat of a lawsuit.
3) The BOD hasn’t proposed anything new compared with their previous proposed agreement, and their previous position is unacceptable.
4) The meeting which the LCMS’ legal counsel is requesting would be very expensive, and Jeff and Todd prefer to spend their donor’s money on the broadcast of the Gospel, and not on attorney’s fees.

Jeff and Todd’s proposed solution is for the LCMS to drop its opposition to the trademark, an solution which will cost nothing and end all of the problems.


That's a quick synopsis of what they had to say. Now for what I have to say. What type of Christian sues another Christian? Is our Synodical President, the Rev. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, so steeped in the business world that he has forgotten that he is the ecclesiastical leader of a Synod? What kind of a message is he sending? I am embarrassed for our Synod, and disgusted by his behavior and the behavior of those who are encouraging and cooperating with him.

Right now would be a good time to drop our Synodical President an email and let him know how you feel: LCMSPresident@lcms.org. Tell him Scott sent you. And while you’re at it, an overture on this topic for your upcoming District Convention would be a nice touch too.

Email addresses for the LCMS Board of Directors:

Rev. Victor Belton: Victor.Belton@lcms.org
Mr. Walter Brantz: Walter.Brantz@lcms.org
Mr. Kermit A. Brashear: Kermit.Brashear@lcms.org
Dr. William Diekelman: William.Diekelman@lcms.org
Dr. Betty Duda: Betty.Duda@lcms.org
Dr. Gloria Edwards: Gloria.Edwards@lcms.org
Rev. Raymond Hartwig: Raymond.Hartwig@lcms.org
Mr. Tom Kuchta: Tom.Kuchta@lcms.org
Dr. Robert Kuhn: Robert.Kuhn@lcms.org
Chaplain Donald Muchow: Donald.Muchow@lcms.org
Mr. David Piehler: David.Piehler@lcms.org
Mr. Curtis Pohl: Curtis.Pohl@lcms.org
Mr. Roy Schmidt: Roy.Schmidt@lcms.org
Rev. Jeff Schrank: jeff.schrank@lcms.org
Dr. Kurt Senske: Kurt.Senske@lcms.org
Mr. Walter Tesch: Walter.Tesch@lcms.org
Mr. Ron Schultz, Chief Administrative Officer: ron.schultz@lcms.org

You can listen to the whole thing here:

Long Supply Lines

Have you heard the big news? The LCMS is partnering with Blackbaud, Inc. “on a multi-year project to change the organization’s [I think that mean’s the ‘Synod’s’] strategic approaches to constituent relationship management, financial management, and online collaboration.” On another LCMS front, “a collaboration of LCMS entities is seeking a staff ‘catalyst’ to identify and coordinate resources for existing congregations and for starting new ministries in rural areas and small towns.”

While some people way smarter than me, like Dan, Mollie, and Frank, seem to be all worked up about these new moves of the Holy Spirit, I’m really excited. It allows me to brush up on my bureaucratese, plus it means new acronyms!

CRM = Constituent Relationship Management

NMCRSTM = The National Missionary Catalyst for Rural and Small-Town Mission

WMNMT = LCMS World Mission-National Mission Team

NRSTTF = National Rural and Small-Town Task Force

SPIFE = Saint Paul Institute for Education

And who couldn't be excited about another task force! I am a little disappointed though that the NRSTTF (National Rural and Small-Town Task Force for you slow learners) didn't make the "Blue Ribbon Task Force" cut, and will have to languish in relative anonymity. Maybe they'll get the nod for Blue Ribbon honors at their next annual review.

I do have one serious concern though: With this many task forces running around, supply lines will be stretched to the breaking point, and the risk of friendly fire will be greatly increased. I’m going to suggest to headquarters that they appoint a high level ultra-blue-ribbon task force to thoroughly examine the logistics of this complicated situation and attempt to coordinate acronyms, before the command and control structure becomes hopelessly entangled in dead links, competing bureaucracies, overtaxed consultants, turf wars, and Reformed theology. Hopefully, with the oversight created by this new supervisory ultra-blue-ribbon task force layer, all of our task forces will march together as one mean, lean, ├╝ber-missiological fighting machine. We won’t have much time for teaching and learning with all the fund raising going on, but at least we’ll be marchin’.

Monday, February 9, 2009

LCMSpolitics.org

The Brothers of John the Steadfast have created a website called LCMSpolitics.org, which is designed to be your one-stop clearinghouse for all things related to the upcoming District Conventions, and the National Convention in 2010.

The site is in its infancy right now, and you can help by offering suggestions on what you'd like on the site, as well as volunteer your expert services in design, maintenance, writing, and information gathering.

Either already existing, or on the drawing board, are Convention dates, a beginners guide to LCMS "politics," reports on individual District Conventions, useful resources that relate to past LCMS conventions and resolutions, articles on LCMS polity, forums, polls, and more.

There's been a need for someplace where we can all get together and "brainstorm" on the convention(s), and I think this is it. I hope we will all utilize this site to pool our resources, and learn from what others have said as we head towards the 2010 Convention.

Blocked Overtures from the NDD Convention

At the recent North Dakota District Convention four overtures regarding the Synodical restructuring were prevented from reaching the floor of the convention. For those of you that have asked, here are those overtures. Hopefully, these overtures will stimulate conversation in your own congregations and circuits and help in the formulation of overtures for your upcoming district conventions.


Suggested Overture for 2009 ND District Convention #1


Whereas, The Synod is an association of Congregations and pastors and teachers who are bound together, not by an overarching organizational structure which exercises power and authority over its members, but instead are bound together by agreement in the doctrine of the Gospel, and

Whereas, the Synod is not over its congregations, neither is it under its congregations, and

Whereas, the Synod is its congregations walking together, and

Whereas, the only power and authority which is to rule and govern in the Synod is the Word of God, and

Whereas, the constitution of the Synod provides freedom for its members from any coercive kind of power exercised by elected officers of the Synod, (Constitution, Article VII.1) therefore be it

Resolved, that the North Dakota District Convention requests the 2010 Synodical Convention to reject the proposal of The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG) under “Congregations and Districts”, where it proposes “involve the district president in the selection of circuit counselors.”, and be it further

Resolved, that the North Dakota District Convention requests the 2010 Synodical Convention to reject the proposal of the BRTFSSG under “Congregations, National Conventions, and Representation” where it states: “Determine each district’s number of delegates according to that district’s exact percentage of the total number of congregations and communicates in Synod.” because it removes the doctrine and promise that, “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20), and be it finally

Resolved, that the North Dakota District Convention requests the 2010 Synodical Convention to reject the proposal of the BRTFSSG under the same heading as above, where it states: “Elect national convention delegates at district conventions (where all congregations are represented) from a list of congregational delegates to the district convention that immediately precedes the national convention. Allow each district to determine how these candidates would be selected and elected, involving all congregations within the district and based upon criteria established by the national Synod.”

**********************************************************

Suggested Overture for 2009 ND District Convention #2

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Overture Warning

If you're planning on submitting an overture to your district convention, time is rapidly running out. For example, overtures for the NOW District, whose convention is June 18-20, are due February 15th. Texas overtures, with a June 25-28 convention, are due February 18th. The last convention ends on July 7th. Speak now or forever wish you had!

Overtures on the Synod restructuring are appropriate. Also appropriate, (hint, hint), are overtures regarding LCMS, Inc.'s continuing harassment of Issues, Etc. Host Todd Wilken and Producer Jeff Schwarz, and the threat of a lawsuit against these two guys who are just doing what they're supposed to be doing. I've dusted off The Big Map, which you might recall from when I marked those districts who passed protest resolutions on the cancellation of Issues, Etc. last year. Now's the time to put your district on the map!



photo credit: Totoro!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Drama Continues

Yesterday’s Issues, Etc. show included this conversation between Host Todd Wilken and Producer Jeff Schwarz:

TW:

I marvel as well at the fortuitous and good, quick, return of the program, and the continuation of the program. It’s not that we’re, we’re not without our difficulties still with regard to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I mean, Jeff mentioned last week I think that the application for the trademark on the name Issues, Etc. is being opposed by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod Incorporated. Actively, legally opposed. And along with that news of the opposition, also came a letter informing us of the opposition and that we, Jeff and I personally, are being threatened with legal action. They haven’t initiated any legal action against us that we know of but they have threatened to do so. So, even though the story is over, the show is back, the drama as my daughter would say, the drama of all of it continues.

JS:
In some ways I think the drama has just begun.
TW:

If this is going to be the second act, it looks like it. I mean, if the invincible stupidity of the church Corporate is true to form and plays its part well, it’s just the beginning of the second act. By the way, we will be posting a web extra at our web site, in the next couple days, explaining in detail, kind of the latest, and I won’t say the greatest, the latest and the saddest news, having to do with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod’s opposition to the Issues, Etc. trademark name, and their threat to sue us personally. We’ll be posting it at our website, issuesetc.org.

It looks like we’re once again going to be forced to mobilize the troops. I’m guessing there’ll be more news forthcoming in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 6, 2009

LCMS Ablaze!



It's the last day of Ketchup Week. We're nearly kaught up. This last post is one that Pastor Benjamin Harju posted on his blog Paredwka: Dropping the Ball last April. I know some of you will remember it, and it's definitely worth a second look. In it, Pastor Harju explores some of the fundamental theological problems confronting the LCMS today, problems that are deep-seated and manifest themselves in such programs as Ablaze!. Reprinted with permission.


I was attending a presentation by Dr. Mark Mattes (Religion and Philosophy Department Chair at Grand View College in Des Moines) on Easter Thursday. Dr. Mattes is an incredibly learned and insightful person, and I enjoyed his presentation a lot. Near the end of his presentation, this ELCA pastor helped we in the LCMS get 'clued in' to one of the critical problems we are facing. He suggested that the LCMS is in the midst of a Predestinarian Controversy, and to illustrate his point he referenced Uzzah's attempt to steady the shifting Ark of the Covenant. For these two insights I am indebted to Dr. Mattes, for this seems to be the missing piece of a puzzle for me. I mention all of this so that no one thinks that I arrived at the Predestinarian Controversy conclusion on my own, nor did I come up with the Uzzah and the Ark analogy in the least. These two points are from Dr. Mattes. The rest I am attempting to run with on my own

PEOPLE ARE PERISHING ETERNALLY AND WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING

What do the Lutheran Confessions teach about Predestination? (My Orthodox friends may find this view rather different from theirs. It might make for an interesting side-post.) Simply put, Lutherans (are supposed to) believe that the entire race of humanity is lost in sin and death because of Adam and Eve's transgression, but that God - in His own particular wisdom and secret counsel - has determined to save certain individuals by grace, through faith, for Christ's sake alone. The Lord knows who are His. He will accomplish their salvation through His own appointed means. While God cannot be blamed for humanity's rebellion, He is credited for showing mercy on a remnant. Jesus dies for all, but not all are elect. Yet the elect (read: those specifically chosen by God before the foundation of the world) will be saved through His ordinary means. The question for missions is this: will God save them with us (as servants of His will), without us, or in spite of us?

It seems that in the LCMS a different model of Predestination is at work. The salvation of the elect is not dependant on God's secret decision from before the foundation of the world. Otherwise, why does our leadership illustrate the Ablaze! missions agenda by rapid finger snapping (snap, snap, snap, snap, etc.) and then say something to the effect of, 'This is people dying without knowing Jesus, and we need to do something about it.'?

Now for Dr. Mattes' Uzzah analogy: what happened when Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark? He died. Why? Because of his lack of faith. The Ark was not his to steady. It belonged to God, and it was the sacramental vessel of God's presence among His people. God had provided means for its care. Uzzah looked up and saw how the Ark was unsteady, and he attempted to rescue God. His faith was not in God's word, command, and promise, but like St. Peter who sank in the water when he experienced the wind and waves, Uzzah's faith became distorted and misplaced. And what happened to Uzzah? He died.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Power of Persuasion

Quoting the dialogue between caller Steve and Host Todd Wilken from a February 2008 Issues, Etc. program:

Steve:

“Let me ask you this question. Are a lot of Christian preachers putting more faith in our ability to quote ‘Make a decision,’ than in Christ’s Word to convert us?”

Pastor Todd Wilken:

“Yes. Thank you Steve. I think of course almost all the faith is being put in the power of persuasion. I don’t even think it lies in man’s ability to make a decision to be persuaded. I think it’s gone far beyond that Steve. I think it’s gone to the point now, especially in the seeker sensitive movement, or whatever it’s calling itself nowadays. It’s far from the power of God’s Word to convert, and it’s not even in man’s ability to be converted, or to be persuaded, or to make a decision. It is now totally in the packaging of the message. It’s all totally in the ‘buzzwords,’ following the right process, taking the right steps, overcoming the right obstacles. The power to convert has been taken from God and even really from the person who makes the decision, and placed totally with the persuader. The great preacher, the guy who knows how to tweak the message and repackage the message just so to catch people, to get them, to bring them in - in the end to convert them. Which is odd because St. Paul makes it quite clear that it was not with the power of persuasion or persuasive words, or wisdom, that he presented the saving message. But he says God not through wisdom but the foolishness of what we preach, Christ and Him crucified, shows both His wisdom and His power."


photo credit: CS Muncy

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What’s Heaven Really Like?


We got onto the subject of heaven this evening at dinner and had a rousing discussion on what heaven will be like. The first question was would you know other people, particularly your relatives. Hmm. What about half-brothers and people who’ve been married more than once? How would you ever sort all that out? (See Matt. 22:30 for part of that answer.)

Zach wanted to know about the transportation system. I thought it would be a monorail. He then wondered if you could long board [skateboard] in heaven. That’s definitely out, because it would mess up the gold streets. Now that I think about it though, that’s what would happen in our fallen world; it’ll probably be just fine in heaven.

He also wondered about breaks in between all the singing and worshiping. Would there be time for sports? I think there’ll be cloud jumping, the softest eight seconds in sports (a reference to Professional Bull Riding for the uninitiated).

Then there’s the problem of so many people to accommodate. How does everybody see and hear God. I thought Zach had a great idea – the earth could be flattened out so you wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to see over the horizon, and thus could see the “stage” (except of course the stage is in heaven, not here). No, it’s more like Joel Osteen’s church. Really huge with a gigantic jumbotron. The apostles and really important people (DP’s and such) would get their own luxury boxes. You’d be able to see all the camera flashes going off in the background. Quite a spectacle.

Okay. That sounds a little bit like a theology of glory. I can’t wait to see what it’ll really be like. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27 ESV)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Spilled Ink

Pastor Todd Wilken, discussing Christian vocation on the July 14th, 2008 Issues, Etc. program:

How much ink is spilled, how much time is spent, frustrated Christians looking for God’s will for their life? They’re worried that they’re out of God’s will, that they’ve lost God’s will, that they need to somehow find that bulls-eye that God draws on the floor, and stand back in the center of it. It is much simpler than you’re given to believe by all of the, I should call it “modern monasticism,” that we find in pop American Christianity today. It really is as simple as “where has God put you, and who has God put in front of you, and what are their needs?” And guess what? That’s what God has given you to do. And you can worry about things one thing at a time.

photo credit: Darren Hester

Monday, February 2, 2009

Saving Private Ryan



Welcome to Ketchup Week. All this week I’m posting things that were written or quoted/transcribed a while back but got lost in the stack, and have now been reinvigorated.

This post was written during the first part of last year, when our previous Vicar was still here – one in a continuing stream of storied and distinguished Vicars, or something like that:

I was passing by a T.V. at the airport and caught a glimpse of a scene from the movie Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks. In the scene, a French family is living in the remnants of their bombed-out house, with little roof left to shelter them from the downpour and hopelessness of their situation. The village had been overrun by the Germans. The French father begs an American soldier to take his daughter, to save her from the threat of starvation and German occupation. No parent could watch that scene without being torn. It was a moral dilemma.

Cut to now. In my church we’re starting a Bible study on The Theology of the Cross. I’m really excited about this class, which truly gets to the heart of Lutheranism.

So far we’ve had one class. Part of teaching The Theology of the Cross is to contrast it with The Theology of Glory, which is often seen in Evangelical circles. I patiently bit my tongue on several occasions, avoiding comment on the Theology of Glory manifesting itself in our own circle, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (through such programs as Ablaze!). Our pastor did allude to the false theology oozing in under the door at a couple of points, and I suspect he will delve into the seemy underbelly of confused theology in the LCMS at some point (if not, you have my assurance that I’ll give him a little “nudge”).

After class, I was talking with our Vicar. Somehow the conversation meandered toward apologetics, and we discussed the quandary of whether he would tell his flock-to-be about the theological battle(s) that currently rage in the LCMS. This is a dilemma not unlike that faced by the French father. Should the Frenchman attempt to hold on to his child at the risk of starvation and mistreatment at the hands of the Germans, or, out of love for her, send her away with the American troops? The French father’s decision and the Vicar’s decision seem a little alike. But where the father’s decision was a moral grey area, the Vicar’s really isn’t, if you listen to what St. Paul has to say to Timothy: