National Lutheran News

LCMS president accused of unionism

Crookston, Minnesota, pastor wants him out.

The Rev. Steven Bohler, who serves Our Savior Lutheran Church (LCMS), Crookston, Minnesota, has filed formal charges against recently-elected Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick.

Invoking a denominational bylaw entitled “Commencing an Action to Terminate Congregational or Individual Mem-bership,” the Minnesota pastor is asking the LCMS Missouri District president to investigate Kieschnick’s participation in a “unionistic service” held Sep-tember 19 in New York City. ELCA then-presiding Bishop H. George Anderson was also present. The service was held in an ELCA worship center.
The two national Lutheran church leaders had completed a tour of “ground zero” where the World Trade Center towers had stood, and were at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan, where both helped brief area Lutheran pastors on what they had seen, and for a time of prayer, Scripture reading, and hymn singing.

The LCMS Missouri District president has 90 days from the time of the request to decide whether to act on it.
A second pastor, the Rev. David Oberdieck, who serves Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Missouri, has filed a similar request.

The actions by the two clergymen are intended to start a process which could terminate Kieschnick’s membership in the Synod.

Similar concerns have been raised by some clergy in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod about the participation of LCMS Atlantic District president David Benke in a nationally televised “Prayer For America” event at Yankee Stadium on September 23. Non-Lutheran Christian leaders, and at least one Muslim cleric, offered prayers for New York and the families of victims.

Although Synod president Gerald Kieschnick said, “The response of people and pastors in the Synod to the Yankee Stadium event has been enormous,” the overwhelming majority of comments positive, there have been dissenters.

Questions were raised in resolutions authored by pastors’ groups in Wyoming, South Dakota and Illinois. The South Dakota resolution said Benke’s participation, during which he offered a prayer for victims, “gave an appearance of unionism and syncretism.”

The resolutions will be considered by a gathering of LCMS district presidents in January.

Kieschnick has publicly supported Benke’s decision to participate in the Yankee Stadium event. He said, “Pastors may have honest differences of opinion about whether or to what extent it is appropriate or helpful to participate in … civic events. In these cases charity must prevail.”
Of the terrorist attacks, Kieschnick said, “The real tragedy is that in all likelihood many of those people who died in that atrocity are not in heaven today — they’re in hell — because they did not know or accept Jesus Christ as Savior.”
The LCMS president said, “Every chance we get, we will give a public witness to Jesus Christ.”

[This story was based on information provided by Reporter, a monthly leadership tabloid circulated to pastors and other leaders in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.]