Monday, September 01, 2003

I received this e-mail today. It explains more about the money we are spending as a synod.

[Ed. One week ago I posted information about President Kieschnick's high paid outside consultants, J. David Schmidt and Associates ( I have yet to hear back from their office in Wheaton, IL as to their involvement with the LCMS. In the meantime, the interest in learning more about this organization and its relation to our Synod (and specificially the Office of the President), has continued to increase. While many have asked me directly about this, one individual has now provided information that not only confirms the use of this high-priced non-Lutheran consulting firm by the Synodical President, but moreover, demonstrates the incredible effort that pastors and congregations of the LCMS must go through to get the Office of the President to provide full disclosure about their activities on behalf of the pastors and congregations of the Synod. This information also helps to bring clarity to what this firm is actually being used for in the first place. To that end, I would like to publically thank President Kieschnick for his eventual involvement in what is described below, and for his stated desire to lead the Synod in "a spirit of complete openness." Our love for the Gospel and each other, especially at this time of unprecedented crisis, makes such openness all the more essential.]

You may recall the following resolution in the minutes of the May 15-17, 2003, LCMS Board of Director's Meeting:

"Resolved, That the Board observes the large increases in the President’s budget for travel, entertainment, and consulting fees, most of which will be covered by restricted gifts, and encourages the President in these days of financial stringencies to reconsider the large increases in these areas."

After reading the above minutes, Rev. Jay Wheeler of Osceola, IA, decided to simply ask about these consulting fees in lieu of Bylaw 3.72 regarding synodical "full financial disclosure." (the pertinent bylaws will be available in a separate upcoming post). Being referred to the President's Office by LCMS Chief Administrative Officer, Dr. Brad Hewitt, Pastor Wheeler asked regarding "... (1) the amount of the funds being used by our Synodical President, (2) to whom and (3) for what purposes."

One would have thought that such would have been a simple question to answer. However, Pastor Wheeler found himself repeatedly questioned about his purposes for desiring such information and what his plans were once he obtained it. He was even asked, "Can the President’s office be assured that, in using this information, you will not break the 4th, 5th, or 8th commandments?" Pastor Wheeler tells me that he continually replied that he simpled wanted "to be able to know and tell the truth about this matter."

Eventually, Pastor Wheeler was referred by the Presidents's Office to Mr. Charles E. Rhodes, Executive Director of Accounting. Mr Rhodes asked Pastor Wheeler to have his congregation directly ask for such information from the LCMS Board of Directors in order to follow the "letter" of the bylaw. They did so.

Once this matter was finally brought to the attention of the LCMS Board of Directors and was placed on their agenda at their recently concluded August meeting (minutes not yet available), President Kieschnick finally issued a memo copied, among others, to the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Iowa West District President, requesting that such information be made available by his Office, "because I desire to lead the Synod in a spirit of complete openness...."

Thankfully, though after an excessively lengthy two month period of correspondence, Pastor Wheeler finally received the following information on August 8, 2003 from Kieschnick assistant, Rev. Jon Braunersreuther. Pastor Wheeler, in the spirit of the openness expressed by President Kieschnick, believes that this factual information should be made available, especially given the wide-spread questions being asked at present about the use of this consulting firm:

"In the fiscal year 2003, $60, 877 was spent on consultant fees – all for J. David Schmidt and Associates of Wheaton, Illinois. Thus far in fiscal year 2004, $8,452.36 has been expended for consultant fees, also for J. David Schmidt and Associates of Wheaton, Illinois. At this juncture, J. David Schmidt and Associates of Wheaton, Illinois is the firm that we intend to continue to use for consultative purposes. This firm is working with the Office of the President in an overall effort to reverse the thirty year decline in baptized membership of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and in the process to coordinate and align the boards, councils, commissions, entities, institutions, agencies, auxiliaries, and partner churches of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod."

Special thanks to Pastor Wheeler for making this information available so that the truth on this matter may be made known, and so that future discussions on the role of J. David Schmidt and Associates can proceed on such a foundation of factual information. Hopefully, the above information will help set aside any confusion.

However, this whole situation raises a great number of foundational and critical questions:

1) Why is it so incredibly hard to receive such basic information from the Office of the President in the first place? Also, why can't the CAO of the Synod provide such information?
2) If President Kieschnick desires to truly lead the Synod in "a spirit of complete openness", why is a pastor of the Synod continually questioned about why he even desires to receive such basic information that should be readily available to members of the Synod? Moreover, should members of Synod be asked to make promises to not commit sin in order to receive such information? Is full disclosure, full disclosure, or not? And what ever happened to "let charity prevail"?
3) If there really is a "thirty year decline in baptized membership" (see upcoming separate post), is the answer to be found in paying outside consultants who have no commitment to the Lutheran Bibilical and Confessional Perspective anyway? Is this not at least an indirect admission that the proclamation of the Gospel simply doesn't work, or needs to be supplemented in some way? Is this the origin and genesis of the whole "Ablaze" program?
4) What business does an outside consulting firm have in helping to "coordinate and align the boards, councils, commissions, entities, institutions, agencies, auxiliaris, and partner churches of The Lutheran
Church - Missouri Synod?"
5) Do all of the above listed "councils, commissions, entities, institutions, agencies and auxiliaries" of Synod have a say in any of this? Have they been informed of what plans are being developed to "coordinate and align" them? After all, are they not already "coordinated and aligned" by virtue of our present Synodical Constitution and By-laws (which we are always hearing so much about by the President's Office and the Commission on Constitutional Matters)?
6) Further, and most importantly, did we as the Synod ever ask the President to do this anyway? Is such "alignment" and "coordination" the responsibility of the Office of the President to begin with? What does the Board of Directors have to say about this? And don't we have a Commission on Structure for such purposes? Why are they not being engaged in what appears to be a plan to provide an "overhaul" of the Synod and the way it works together?
7) Why are we seeking to "coordinate and align" our partner churches? Do they not have a say in this? Is this what "partnership" is all about? Would we like it if we knew that they were working to "align" and "coordinate us?
8) Since these enormous consulting fees are being paid by "outside" gifts to the Office of the President, are these funds being used appropriately if one of the goals in engaging this firm is to do what is described above in #4? Should not "synodical monies" be used at "syondical direction" to help with such a project as large in scope as this?
9) Do we really want outside groups/individuals consulting the Synod about what it should do to realign itself, all while having their activities paid by outside money?
10) Why is what amounts to such an "overhaul" of the Synod's structure deemed so necessary to begin with, and if it is, why does J. David Schmidt and Associates know more about it then the Synod itself?

I see an endless field of red flags!

Kyrie eleison,
Pr. Marcus Zill

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