By David L. Mahsman
As he stands on the cusp of a new triennium and a second term in office, LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick says three broad areas of synodical work are going to get a lot of his attention: missions, higher education and human care.
“These are big. They all have to do with Ablaze!,” Kieschnick told Reporter a week after the close of the 2004 Synod convention, which gave him that next three years as president. He was re-elected on the first ballot with 52.8 percent of the vote over four other nominees.
The convention, which met July 10-15 in St. Louis under the theme, “One Mission–Ablaze! To the Ends of the Earth,” heard a lot about Ablaze!, LCMS World Mission’s initiative to reach 100 million unreached or uncommitted people worldwide with the Gospel by 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.
Kieschnick said that he hasn’t laid out the specifics, but that he soon will meet with staff to set priorities that relate to missions, higher education and human care — “to tie the three together in a way so that they complement one another and that aligns resources for the sake of the mission.”
“Missions has to be strong,” Kieschnick said. That goes without saying if the saving Gospel is to be proclaimed through the Missouri Synod at home and around the world.
“We rely on well-educated and evangelically spirited pastors and church workers,” he continued. In higher education, he said, the “What a Way” effort to recruit and retain more church workers is “critical.” Also a high priority is finding the right men for a number of current and pending vacancies in the presidencies of Concordia University System schools.
“Human care is the major avenue where faith active in love is demonstrated,” Kieschnick continued.
The president said that he will “try to pull together all the threads of the Synod — 66 corporate entities, 6,000 congregations, thousands of workers and millions of people. When we walk together, when we move together, we are like a mighty army taking on Satan, sin and death, making a difference in the world.”
“We have a mission zeal. It’s in the hearts of our people,” Kieschnick said. “Combined with a solid foundation in Scripture and the Confessions, what can keep us from being that city on a hill, representing the Light of the World? We can provide bold, aggressive leadership in worldwide Christianity.”
Looking back on the convention that had just ended, Kieschnick acknowledged the differences that were apparent there.
“Certainly, as always, it was an opportunity for diversity in this church body to make itself known,” he said. “But we also saw the solidarity that’s at the core of this Synod.”
Proposals that attracted considerable debate included those dealing with the Board of Directors and the Commission on Constitutional Matters; ecclesiastical supervision; guidelines for participation in civic events; and other matters related to high-profile issues of the past three years.
While saying that “we do have disagreement on some important issues,” Kieschnick recalled a portion of his report on the convention’s first day of business, where he read from a list sent him by a pastor friend.
Kieschnick’s friend wrote, “We aren’t fighting about: gay marriage or gay rights; the ordination of homosexual pastors; abortion; the Trinity; the doctrine of Christ; the inspiration of Scripture; the nature of the Gospel; the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament; the historicity or validity of the Resurrection; the third use of the Law; the doctrine of the Church; predestination; creation; justification; sanctification; charismatic issues; the descent of Christ into hell; the Apostles’ Creed; the Nicene Creed; the Athanasian Creed; and so much more!”
Kieschnick said that at the convention, “I wanted to do what is in my nature to do — to let people speak. My job is to be sure they get all the information and facts and get an opportunity to discuss them in a way that honors the assembly.”
What didn’t get done
This year’s convention acted on 63 resolutions, by Reporter’s unofficial count. When they met in May, the convention floor committees prepared 115 resolutions for convention consideration. The 2001 convention, by comparison to this year, acted on more than 100 resolutions.
The 2004 convention was a day shorter than the one three years ago. But even at that, the average number of resolutions handled each day was less this year than in 2001.
Synod Secretary Raymond Hartwig, also re-elected by the convention, told Reporter that in addition to being a day shorter, this convention “got stuck on some major issues.” And while it sometimes seemed that more time than usual was taken with parliamentary interruptions, Hartwig said, “Conventions are always plagued with points of order and points of this and that. Whether it was more this year, I don’t know.”
Hartwig and Kieschnick alike identified two areas where significant matters were left without being acted upon:
- higher education, and
- the “omnibus” resolutions.
Kieschnick also noted that the floor committee on structure, planning and administration was left with a large number of resolutions not acted upon — an even dozen, by Reporter’s count.
In the area of higher education, both men cited proposed changes to the structure of college/university and seminary boards of regents as significant items that were not acted upon. In all, 18 resolutions prepared by the floor committee on higher education remained without action when the convention closed.
As for omnibus resolutions, several of these generally are adopted at each Synod convention. These pull together into one large resolution many proposed resolutions — such as to thank or commend someone, or to say that an issue raised has already been handled adequately by a previous convention, so it need not be considered again.
The omnibus resolution cited by Kieschnick and Hartwig was one that would have taken various issues raised by congregations, pastors conferences, districts and others who are authorized to propose resolutions to the convention and refer those matters to appropriate boards, commissions and others for action over the next three years.
For example, the omnibus resolution would have referred to LCMS World Mission and the Synod’s Board of Directors an overture from Iowa District East that calls for missionaries to get priority in funding before administrative or support staff is added. Another example