Archived Sections, National Lutheran News

Power struggle continues among LCMS leadership

Conservatives want to force President Kieschnick from office

The President of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) was elected illegally last year, according to conservative members of the denomination’s Board of Directors.
The LCMS re-elected Gerald Kieschnick as its national president in 2004. The margin of victory for the incumbent was more decisive than that which put the “moderate” into office in 2001. (The term “moderate” is relative in the LCMS, where all members are more or less conservative. Kieschnick is considered “moderate,” compared to the majority on the synod’s Board of Directors.)
Conservatives, who had controlled the president’s office and most leadership posts before Kieschnick’s victory, have made known their disappointment over the results of the past two elections for president. After Kieschnick’s second victory, the Board of Directors majority decided to challenge the result.
A petition is now circulating in the synod, which has been endorsed by 81 pastors, 13 congregations and seven commissioned workers. It asks a circuit court in the state of Missouri to set aside the 2004 convention elections of both Kieschnick and his first vice president, William Diekelman.
The petition claims Kieschnick illegally adjusted the way voting delegates to the 2004 convention were selected. LCMS allows exemptions to be made in voting circuits where not enough church members live to entitle them to elect delegates. Kieschnick allowed exemptions to 88 circuits, where 176 delegates were elected. Kieschnick’s predecessors in office have offered similar exemptions.
In an interview, the synod’s second vice president, Dr. Paul Maier, said he believes the lawsuit will fail. Said Maier, “Through careful politicization, our right-wing extremists have managed to control the LCMS for the last 30 years, or until the July 2001 convention. Since then, the vast conservative centrist majority has finally let its voice be heard.”
It is not clear when the circuit court will act on the petition.