24 April 2008

An Answer? Maybe? Kinda? Sorta?

The President of the LCMS, Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, has posted another statement regarding the untimely cancellation of Issues, Etc. and the unseemly firing of Pr. Todd Wilken and Mr. Jeff Schwarz. You may read the entire statement on the LCMS website.

Here let me comment on portions of the statement. First, I cite from Pres. Kieschnick's statement, then I give my response to that quote.
GK: "A decision to discontinue “Issues, Etc.” on KFUO AM Radio was made March 18, 2008, Tuesday of Holy Week, for fiscal reasons described in statements issued after the decision became public."
Yes, Mr. President we are well aware of the officially given reasons thus far, but they're still not making sense and they still lead to more questions, such as:
  • Why was one show, with its host and producer, made to suffer the "financial ax" while other, less profitable (if that should even be considered in a radio "ministry") shows continue?
  • Why was Issues, Etc. made to be the sacrificial victim at the altar of "fiscal reasons" when KFUO management should have been?
  • What about those finances? Just how are they working out between AM and FM sides of the KFUO operation? What *is* the real fiscal picture?
We are still waiting for answers to these and other penetrating questions.
GK: "At the April 21, 2008, meeting of the Council of Presidents (COP) of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, financial details precipitating this decision were discussed in executive session by Mr. David Strand, Executive Director of the LCMS Board for Communication Services (BCS), with specific fiscal information provided by the Vice-President-Finance—Treasurer of the Synod, Dr. Thomas Kuchta."
Thanks for sharing, Mr. President, but keeping answers and details "in executive session" will not quell those of us who want real, substantive answers. In fact, keeping the cloak of secrecy only adds to the suspicion of back room deals, especially when dropping names of individuals who are known to be on opposite sides of the issue, their respective official positions notwithstanding.
GK: "Prior to its implementation, Mr. Strand also informed me as president of the Synod of his decision. I regret that I did not counsel Mr. Strand to postpone implementation of the decision until sometime other than Holy Week. It is obvious that the timing and process connected with the discontinuation of the program have contributed to the disappointment expressed by listeners and supporters of “Issues, Etc.” in and beyond the Synod.
So, the decision to cancel Issues, Etc. was good, right, and salutary, even approval-worthy, in and of itself? It was just the timing that should have been different? Mr. President, I know that some have made a big deal of the unseemly firing being carried out during Holy Week, but honestly, that's not the biggest issue. It would have been unseemly no matter when it was carried out! No prior notice given so that the employees could prepare? No chance to say goodbye to their listeners on the air? No reasons given at the time of firing? (Isn't that something like termination of employment without cause?)

Yes, I would hope for more from a corporation that claims to be somewhat ecclesiastical. Is this the best kind of answer we can expect? This sounds like drawing our attention more to the wrapping paper than to the contents of the package.
GK: "I am deeply saddened by the anxiety, worry, and consternation experienced in the Synod by those directly and indirectly affected by the decision."
With all due respect, this should have been the response *before* the untimely cancellation and the unseemly firings! Also, from a pastoral perspective, it should also have been the cause for reigning in Mr. Strand and saying, "No, don't do it at all. That cancellation and those firings will only cause 'anxiety, worry, and consternation' from people in the Synod."
GK: "Some have interpreted the decision to discontinue “Issues, Etc.” as being theological or political in nature or purpose. Such interpretations have no basis in fact."
"Such interpretations" are only natural, Mr. President, when no substantive reasons or explanations to the contrary have been proffered. If I may ask: Who was your favorite guest on Issues, Etc., and what theological topic did you enjoy hearing the most? If "such interpretations have no basis in fact," would you, the head of our church body, mind telling us some of the many good things that Issues, Etc. did to proclaim the Gospel around the world? This single radio program must have had many "critical events" of speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who hadn't yet heard it!

"Such interpretations" are only natural when the B-string replacement show, "The Afternoon Show," highlights and promotes a mission start such as "The Alley," as I believe it did in the program from Monday, April 21, 2008. (Be sure to click on and check out the "About Us" tab.)
GK: "As president of the Synod, I respectfully request and pastorally encourage all in the Synod to be patient and charitable regarding this matter, putting the best construction on actions and decisions connected therewith."
That would be much easier if we could have more satisfactory answers and stories that do not change from week to week or posting to posting.
GK: "I pray for the day when the financial resources of our Synod do not necessitate the reduction in force of radio personnel, the return of missionaries from the foreign mission field, or any other such difficult and painful decisions."
Perhaps that would sound more sincere, if the salaries of synodical and district executives were reduced to be more in line with those of parish pastors and Lutheran school teachers, who work where the real "ministry" takes place--in the congregations. Perhaps it would sound more sincere, if real, concrete steps were being taken to minimize airfare, lodging, and dining expenses for various board meetings, commissions' gatherings, conferences and retreats throughout the synod. Perhaps that would sound more sincere, if the synod at large truly knew what might be happening with money that's donated to districts and synod.
GK: "And I pray for peace and harmony in our beloved Synod."
I join you in that prayer, Mr. President. However, I must also say that events such as canceling the most popular radio show and the best radio outreach that the synod has offered in some time only undermine such peace and harmony. I too pray for peace and harmony in our synod, and I do so because it is painfully apparent that we have too many vying and competing versions of doctrine and practice within our ranks. I pray that, by God's grace and wisdom, we may one day address these issues in theological and substantive ways.


Dana said...

Good points! I wonder how long it will take them to come up with the usual corporate cya responses.

Family of Michael & Jen-Yi Paul said...

Thank you, Pastor Asburry, for keeping up-to-date on this and for taking the time to post your clarifying analysis. It saves me (and others) time tracking and analyzing a lot of data and helps keep the foci clear.

George Naylor said...

Thank you, Randy, for the insightful dissection of the President's letter.

Things like this are very depressing & it's no wonder that people think all hope in this particular synod is lost & they look elsewhere. Not that elsewhere would be any better. It's just that one wonders how long this particular church body called the LC-MS can survive when everyone does what is right in their own eyes & our leadership cries 'Peace, Peace' when there is no peace. And who knows, this synod could go belly up financially before it does so theologically.

Anyway, things like this drive me to do more maintenance ministry, relying on the Lord's Word & Sacraments.

Anonymous said...

If Kieschneck really wants peace and harmony In the Synod, then WHY ON EARTH DID HE LET TODD AND JEFF BE FIRED AND CANCEL A VERY POPULAR RADIO SHOW??? HELLO!!!


John W. Augustin said...

Thanks Pr Asburry for your thoughtful comments on Pres. Kieschnick's latest
statement. I really liked your last comment. It reminds me of someone long long
ago ( close to 500 years ) making similar comments. Which brings me to my
point ... You are drawing attention to yourself ( out of necessity )
as well as drawing a neon target on your back.
How do we as lay people back you up and protect you? I just had a
conversion with another LCMS pastor who could not understand why the 35 members
of COP could be united in their support for canceling Issues, Etc. His question was
why did not one member have a dissenting opinion given the supposed diversity
among the members. I responded with "what diversity".

Anonymous said...

There are only two ways to affect change in the LCMS.

1. Through the convention. Good luck with that.

2. Through funding.

As funding goes away, more and more programs will be cut. Eventually, Dr. GK will be left with only his pet programs and a bankrupt synod. The synod will stand no matter how much or how little money comes in.

As for Dr. GK, let the fruits of his labor show. If Ablaze is going to be a success, it should be able to do so without ANY money at all.

The Word of God has been doing so for centuries. If Dr. GK thinks he can do better, take away his funding and lets see what happens.

That is about as confessional a statement that I could ever make.

Anonymous said...

interesting that The Alley is associated with the church of the 4th VP of Synod.

Charles said...

You all are just jealous of the effect that the New Measures have on the dull-minded laypeople! If you want to succeed, then you must convert-
Charles Finney


Ross Wardenburg said...

Rev. Asburry,

Thank you for standing up to defend the Gospel and its servants. Your boldness through faith in Jesus Christ is inspiring to laymen like me. It is reassuring to see gifted Pastors like you who are not afraid to stand up for Christ's truth in the Church. It is obvious that you know our Lord Jesus will guard and protect you.

Kevin in Indiana said...

Thanks to you Pastors(Asburry, Cwirla, and Wheedon etc.) with the courage to speak the truth and keep the laity informed.

I am very glad we have you working "where the tire hits the road". I get discouraged, but I am still confident that all things will eventually work for the good of the Church.

I would never have imagined this fight with the Synod. Could I just pose one question? If this were really all about the money, then why isn't the Synod quick to come back with a proposal to all the outraged to pony up the cash to reinstitute the program? Did this one cut really solve any/all of KFUO's financial difficulties? The thought appears ludicrous.

Keep up the good and faithful work!

Kevin in Indiana

Just Plain Huck said...

Y'all leave my buddy GK 'lone, now, y'hear? Sounds like y'all semi-Catoliks are a-setting on the anxious bench already, like brother Chuckie sez yo' will, sho nuff. Yee-haw!

-- Huckleberry Finney

And now, the rest of the story:


Randy Asburry said...


"If this were really all about the money, then why isn't the Synod quick to come back with a proposal to all the outraged to pony up the cash to reinstitute the program? Did this one cut really solve any/all of KFUO's financial difficulties? The thought appears ludicrous."

Very good question, Kevin! You hit the nail on the head: it's not exclusively about the money! That's the excuse they have put out, thinking that it will be sufficient for the laity. However, you know it's not true, and many do. There's more to it than just the money. It's about differing views of what the Church is and what's purpose and mission are.