National Lutheran News

Synod president sees movement ot renew the church

LCMS president Gerald Kieschncik talks with Metro Lutheran

Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod President Gerald Kieschnick was the
commencement speaker at Concordia University, St. Paul, in May. While in the
Twin Cities, President Kieschnick agreed to talk with Metro Lutheran. He is
interviewed by Bob Hulteen.

ML: President Kieschnick, you are a year into your third term. What is different
about this term?

GK: Well, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is working hard in many
corners to turn the tide of the last 40 years. In the last four decades, we’ve
seen essentially a pretty steady — slow, but steady — decline in the total
number of baptisms in our congregations.

Like most major denominations, we can be a graying church body. So the
challenge that we face is trying to figure out how best to use the resources
that God has entrusted to our care as good stewards.

Our mission statement says it pretty clearly. “Vigorously to make known the
love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and
world.” In this particular term, there is a focus on the national or international
movement of Ablaze!, which has as its mega-objective to reach 100 million
people — 50 million in the U.S and 50 million in various other countries of
the world — with the gospel by 2017, the 500th anniversary of the
Reformation.

Lay people are very excited about objectives like starting 2,000 new
churches, revitalizing 2,000 existing churches, increasing by 50 percent the
number of missionaries in foreign lands, and increasing our support for
partner churches.

ML: In the Twin Cities, synod leaders are forming a chapter of LINC. Is this the
kind of program for congregations you were mentioning?

GK: Lutheran Intercity Network Coalition (LINC) started in Dallas-Ft. Worth
and spread to Houston when I was president of the Texas district. Now
there’s a LINC in New Orleans, the Twin Cities, and Baltimore.

LINC’s commitment to cross-cultural ministry in urban areas is the kind of
expansion that is consistent with, even though it preceded, Ablaze as a
movement. It’s exactly what Ablaze! is all about — trying to find ways to
encourage congregations to be creative in their mission. It’s not whiz kids in
the synod office telling congregations what to do and how to do it; it’s the
president of the synod and the mission board of the synod waving a flag and
saying “Hello, we have a mission to accomplish, and it’s proclaiming the
gospel of Christ.” People in various communities across our land are in a
much better position to figure out how best to do that in their communities.
People in their communities are in a much better position to figure out how
best to do that in their communities.

ML: It seems that Lutheran bodies are pretty established, with no serious
merger discussions. What is the state of inter-Lutheran interaction?

GK: Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Services in
America, Lutheran Refugee Services — these are the principal areas of inter-
Lutheran cooperation nationally.

We meet, we being myself and about five or six other leaders of our synod,
twice a year with our counterparts in the ELCA — Bishop Mark Hanson and
people that are similarly situated in their leadership echelons. We call that the
Committee of Lutheran Cooperation, and we meet together for one day to talk
about what I call “stuff.” And stuff would be the things that we have in
common like shortage of pastors, seminary developments, the challenges
that we face in terms of major issues, fiscal matters. It’s amazing how quickly
we discover how much we have in common. The “stuff” of our lives is pretty
much nonspecific to the theological differences between us.

Then we spend part of a day just focusing on theological discussion. And in
our particular case, we add a seminary professor and a parish pastor to the
officers on the day of theological reflection. We find that very interesting,
challenging, and I believe also helpful in terms of our ability to better
understand one another, and what makes our respective church bodies
unique, where the areas of differentiation are, how important those are, ways
that we might encourage one another to think differently about those
differences, and come to a closer understanding of how the scriptures are to
be interpreted.

Ultimately, the major difference, at the end of the day, is biblical authority.
That’s the major line of differentiation. So, I celebrate anything we can do to
work together with other Christians.

As a matter of fact, the first of ten objectives in our constitution says “The
synod under scripture and Lutheran confession shall conserve and promote
the unity of the true faith, work through its official structure toward
fellowship with other church bodies, and provide a united defense against
schism sectarianism, and heresy.” We intentionally work toward fellowship
with other church bodies; we take that seriously and don’t do it in a
lighthearted way.

ML: What do you want to say to Twin Cities Lutherans about the state of
mission and ministry in LCMS?

GK: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is alive and well, exclamation
point! We have our disagreements among us…good grief, we are Germanic,
Lutheran people! We always will be free-speaking, independent-thinking
people who don’t mind articulating what’s on our minds and in our hearts.
That’s the kind of people we are and the kind of people we always will be.

The synod occupies the role of trying to persuade pastors, people,
congregations on the basis of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran confessions.
What’s the right way to believe, teach, and confess? We do that, hopefully, in
the spirit of Christian charity and commitment, with passion and dedication to
find people who don’t know Christ and fill their lives with the gospel, so that
they too might enjoy the abundance of life that Christ came to give, here in
time, and hereafter in eternity.