20 March 2008
Letter to my congregation
Here's the letter that I have written to my congregation informing them of the Issues, Etc. fiasco. It will be inserted in the Sunday bulletin so that I will not have to detract from the joyous solemnities of celebrating our Lord's Resurrection.
Holy (Maundy) Thursday
20 March 2008
Pastoral Letter – Urgent Information
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings as we celebrate the most sacred mysteries of our Lord’s Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. As I write this, we celebrate our Lord’s Passover of His Body and Blood and His command to love one another. As you read this, we celebrate our Lord’s glorious Resurrection from the dead and His victory over the grave. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
However, this pastoral letter really concerns something quite different. Many of you have listened to the radio program Issues, Etc., whether regularly or occasionally. Issues, Etc. has been a great blessing to many people because of its faithful and bold proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its consistent approach of looking at contemporary issues with a Christian worldview. Hope congregation itself has supported Issues, Etc. and has welcomed Pastor Todd Wilken (host) to preach on a few occasions. Not only have I had the privilege of being long-time friends with Pastor Wilken, but I have also been privileged to be a guest on the radio program on several occasions.
Sadly and regretfully, I must inform you that on Tuesday, 18 March 2008, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod cancelled Issues, Etc. and terminated the employment of Rev. Todd Wilken and Mr. Jeff Schwarz (producer). This is quite a shocking development, especially because Issues, Etc. has been such a strong voice of the Gospel over the radio and Internet airwaves. Actually, Issues, Etc. has developed a nationwide following of listeners and has been successful from a financial standpoint. So this decision is just plain sad and confusing!
On Wednesday, 19 March, KFUO-AM finally posted an explanation for this cancellation on their website. It reads:
For programmatic and business reasons, the decision was made this week to discontinue the “Issues, Etc.” program on KFUO-AM. We look forward to bringing you new programming in this time slot in the near future. Also, we thank “Issues” host Rev. Todd Wilken and producer Mr. Jeff Schwarz for their years of service on behalf of the station. Those interested may still download past “Issues, Etc.” programs from the “Issues” archive on this website. Thank you sincerely for your continued support of KFUO's radio ministry.
As you can see, the “official statement” does not give much of reason for canceling the most popular and successful program on KFUO-AM – a program that was doing exactly what the Church is called to do: proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I mention this for three reasons. First, because many of you have followed Issues, Etc., have supported it over the years, and have enjoyed listening and learning. I thought you should know what’s happening.
Second, I want to alert you to a need and an opportunity to give to that need. With this sudden and mostly unexplained cancellation of Issues, Etc. the lives and families of some dear brothers in Christ are being adversely affected. Now Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz are without means – salary and benefits – to provide for their families. Not only that, but the Schwarz family has an especially unique need as Jeff’s wife, Beth, suffers from a nerve disorder, and is in the process of getting into the Mayo Clinic to see what can be done. A standard severance package has been offered to both Wilken and Schwarz, but it comes with the string of a “gag order” attached. (That is, they are being asked to sign a document stating that they will not discuss the conditions of their termination of employment.) The Issues, Etc. team is seeking legal counsel before they accept the conditional severance package.
So, I do encourage you to show compassion for and give support for two men who have given so much of themselves and, most importantly, of God’s Truth to us. If you would like to give some money to help both the Wilken and Schwarz families, here are two ways you can do that:
a. Send a contribution to “Wilken/Schwarz Fund”
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Hamel IL 62046
b. If you’d like to give online, you can donate via “PayPal” at the website for “The Wittenberg Trail” (http://wittenbergtrail.ning.com/).
The third reason I mention this travesty of canceling Issues, Etc. is to encourage you to take some action, as I already have. Of course, please pray for Pr. Wilken, Mr. Schwarz, and all listeners of Issues, Etc. that God will bring good out of this sad situation. Also, as you are so inclined, please contact the folks at the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and tell them how disappointed you are over this decision. Also, ask that they reinstate Issues, Etc. Here’s some contact information:
LCMS: 888-843-5267 (or 314-996-1200)
Email for David Strand
(head of LCMS communications office): David.Strand@lcms.org
Street address of the LCMS (for postal mail):
1333 S. Kirkwood Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295
LCMS Information Center: email@example.com
If you are so inclined, you can also sign an online petition that seeks the reinstatement of Issues, Etc. to the airwaves and of Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz to their positions. (As of about 12:00 noon on 3/20/08, there are 1224 signatures. And the petition just began on the evening of 3/19/08!) You can view and sign this petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/Issues/ .
Of course, please keep reading my personal “blog” at http://rasburrysres.blogspot.com and join the discussion of these and other matters.
In Christ’s service,
Pastor Randy Asburry