July 2004

The convention and the board
President Kieschnick’s official report to the Synod (June Reporter, p. 11), in my view, clearly establishes that actions of the Synod’s Board of Directors have plunged the Synod into a serious constitutional crisis.  Not only must the July convention correct the board’s violation of two bylaws and the Constitution by voting to set aside eight official and binding opinions of the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM), but the convention must also deal with the board’s mistaken notion of its own authority — a notion that led it to take actions involving two other boards and the president’s office that were challenged and then corrected in five of those eight CCM opinions. 
Not to correct these matters will have serious consequences for our time-honored doctrinally based system of governance and will jeopardize the well-being of the Synod and its mission.  At risk are the effectiveness of our judicial system, the continuation in office of our elected officers, the governance of our educational institutions, actions of the president’s office, the integrity of our periodicals, and the work of virtually every board, commission or agency of the Synod. 
Because months of efforts by the president and others to have the board withdraw or modify its actions have been unsuccessful, additional discussions are not likely to help.  Nor will we resolve the problem by attempting to sort through contradictory legal opinions, or by treating it as a purely secular matter, thereby increasing the possibility for it to wind up in civil court.  No, we need to trust that our convention, under the blessing of God, has the resources, authority and will to resolve this problem. 
The convention, I believe, must (1) reaffirm the validity of the challenged CCM opinions and the continuing judicial authority of the CCM; (2) reaffirm the extent of board authority as stated in those CCM opinions; and (3) adopt changes in our Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation (and possibly our Constitution) in order to reduce the likelihood of this sort of thing happening again.  The convention must then ask the board to acknowledge that it was mistaken and to assure the Synod that it now accepts and will act on the basis of the constitutional understanding of board authority reiterated by the convention.  No one should be permitted to serve on this important board who cannot give the Synod such assurances. 
May the Lord guide us to do the right thing, help us do it in a loving manner, and again focus our attention on bringing His saving Gospel to the nations.

Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann
St. Louis, Mo.

Bohlmann is president emeritus of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. — Ed.

The task force survey
The results of the “online survey” featured on the front page of the May Reporter and now reprinted in at least one district paper require qualification.  For a survey to be valid and reliable, the sample must be both numerically significant and carefully selected to be representative of the whole.  However, the respondents were self-selected — that is, only those who were aware of the online survey and took the initiative to respond are represented.  There is no indication of an attempt to achieve a representative sample.
That the survey corroborated the research of the Mission 21st Century Task Force (which sought “ideas and observations from  former LCMS leaders, including pastors, seminary and university faculty, national and district staff, and experts from outside the Synod”) is not surprising.  Nearly half the respondents were professional church workers.  Even if the larger study in the Convention Workbook is generally reliable, one must take great care in drawing conclusions from an informal, anecdotal survey of self-selected respondents.
As for what some call “infighting” (referenced by some survey respondents), internal strife resulting from a Biblically mandated concern for sound doctrine and practice will always be with us in the church militant (see Paul’s epistles).  The respondents who counsel us to be more “flexible and inclusive” must be ready to define those terms with great precision (cf. the ELCA and the Episcopalians).  That concern for sound doctrine and practice does not conflict with evangelistic outreach is buttressed by the article’s reference to Dr. Wallace Schulz, former associate “Lutheran Hour” speaker, whose strong record and ongoing work in evangelism are undergirded by a clear and public commitment to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).  Therein lies the power of the Gospel.

David O. Berger
Olivette, Mo.

What are ‘lesser things’?
The LCMS convention soon is upon us.  Thus, it is fitting to acknowledge the greatness of the issues that face our Synod.  It’s not organizations or synodical structures or even the Synod that’s Number One on our list — it’s the Gospel itself, and the truth of God’s Word.  These go hand in hand.
In the June “Letters,” Warren C. Puck writes, “We have so much ‘truth’ that we do agree upon.  Let us put aside our disagreement concerning ‘lesser things’ and go forward together.”  My question is, what are the “lesser things” being spoken of?  Do these concern doctrine and what is believed among us?  If so, then these are not lesser things, for Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:23-24).  If the “lesser things” concern the words of our Lord, then they are not lesser things at all, for our Lord also says, ” teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).  Vigilance is not only for our tireless proclamation of the Gospel, but for all of God’s truth.
What is agreed upon by us might be much, but if we disagree on essential, fundamental truths, we can’t move forward together until agreement comes to fruition.  If we were all in complete agreement on God’s Word — not only on what it says, but also on what it means — there would not be so much strife as we currently know in our beloved Synod.  One should wonder why there is so much tension and conflict in the Synod if we all completely agree with one another on God’s Word and the Confessions of our church. The question then is, do we?

Rev. Thomas N. Reeder Jr.
Platteville, Wis.

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