On March 18, the “Issues, Etc.” radio program on LCMS-owned KFUO-AM Radio was discontinued and, as a result, the employment of the program’s host, Rev. Todd Wilken, and its producer, Jeff Schwarz, was terminated.
“Issues” had been on the air for about 15 years, with Wilken serving as host for the past 10 years. The program dealt chiefly with Lutheran apologetics (defense of the Lutheran faith) and was appreciated by many for its in-depth, sophisticated discussion of confessional doctrine.
According to David Strand, executive director of the Board for Communication Services (BCS), which oversees both KFUO-AM and -FM, the decision to cancel “Issues” was based on financial reasons. “Over the past several years,” he said, “our AM station has required synodical subsidies totaling into the millions of dollars. Facing its own financial challenges these days, the LCMS cannot afford to continue covering such shortfalls.”
Although the BCS and KFUO, according to Strand, have worked hard to cut expenses and raise revenues at KFUO, “the problem has persisted. For several reasons,” he said, “the discontinuation of ‘Issues,’ clearly the most expensive program at the station, was the only viable option for making significant headway toward balancing the budget at KFUO-AM.”
Disappointment over the elimination of the program manifested itself in various ways. Numerous e-mails were sent to Strand, to BCS members, to district presidents, and others within the Synod. An online petition netted more than 7,000 signatures, including not only Lutherans but signors from other Christian denominations. On April 14, a peaceful demonstration was held outside the LCMS office building in St. Louis to protest the decision to cancel the program. Meanwhile, several district pastoral conferences or boards of directors petitioned the BCS to revisit the decision. These appeals were answered individually by the chairman of the BCS.
In response to the campaign to reinstate “Issues,” the BCS, during its April meeting, issued a statement saying it “deeply regrets the cancellation of the program, ‘Issues, Etc.,’ owing to the financial realities facing KFUO and the Synod at large.” The board said it recognized the value of the program to a number of people and would seek ways to develop more cost-effective programming that, like “Issues,” deals largely with Lutheran apologetics.
“This program had a loyal core of listeners — no question about that,” said Strand. “It is sad when difficult financial decisions are so disappointing, but sometimes tough decisions, even in the church, must be made.”
As a means of answering a variety of questions of those critical of the decision, the BCS instructed Strand, in conjunction with two BCS board members, to prepare and publish a comprehensive “Q&A” on the subject. This statement is posted on the LCMS Web site at www.lcms.org.
Further statements concerning “Issues” — from the LCMS Council of Presidents and President’s Office — also are available on the Web site.
Posted June 5, 2008