Gerald B. Kieschnick
|Gerald B. Kieschnick|
Kieschnick at the 2004 LCMS National Youth Gathering in Orlando, Florida
|Born||January 29, 1943
|Education||Texas A&M University (1964)
Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield (1970)
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (1977)
|Spouse(s)||Terry Lee Kieschnick ('nee Roos)|
|Church||Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod|
|Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Biloxi, Mississippi
Redeemer Lutheran Church, Beaumont, Texas
Faith Lutheran Church, Georgetown, Texas
Gerald Bryan Kieschnick (born January 29, 1943 in Houston, Texas) is the Presidential Ambassador for Mission Advancement at Concordia University Texas. Kieschnick served as the 12th president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He served three terms starting in 2001, re-elected in 2004, and again in 2007. He was defeated in his bid for a fourth term by the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison on July 13, 2010 at the 64th regular convention of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and his presidency ended on August 31, 2010.
Kieschnick and his wife, Terry, have two grown children and two grandchildren, all of whom live in Texas.
- 1 Early career
- 2 Opposition from Confessional Lutherans
- 3 LCMS presidential election and first term
- 4 Interfaith issues
- 5 Crisis in the Synod
- 6 Committee on Constitutional Matters
- 7 Reelection and second term
- 8 Margin of victory
- 9 LCMS constitution
- 10 Response to 2007 Vatican document
- 11 2008 radio program controversy
- 12 Misleading picture of the Synod
- 13 2010 election
- 14 References
- 15 Sources
- 16 External links
Kieschnick attended Texas A&M University, graduating with a bachelor of science in 1964. He is a 1970 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Illinois (now located in Fort Wayne, Indiana), obtained his Master of Divinity in 1977 at Concordia in Fort Wayne, and received an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1996 from Concordia University in Austin, Texas.
After his ordination in 1970, Kieschnick served as pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Biloxi, Mississippi until 1973; at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Beaumont, Texas from 1973–1981; and at Faith Lutheran Church in Georgetown, Texas from 1981-1986.
He served the Missouri Synod's Texas District as a circuit counselor from 1978–1981 and as director of public relations from 1977-1986. Kieschnick was director of development at Lutheran Foundation of Texas from 1986–1988 and then served as its executive director from 1988-1991.
In 1991, Kieschnick was elected president of the Synod's Texas District and served in that position until 2001. Under Kieschnick's lead, membership in the Texas District grew by approximately 12 percent, even as LCMS membership numbers slipped nationally.
Opposition from Confessional Lutherans
Polarization in the LCMS dates back at least to the Seminex controversy of the early 1970s. Kieschnick's first presidential term was stormy. He faced the opposition of more conservative members within the church hierarchy, including four out of the five vice-presidents and a majority on the Board of Directors.
During the 1990s members of the LCMS' "activist" wing (who align themselves with the goals of such non-Lutheran groups, such as the Church Growth or Megachurch movements) have been in conflict with the "traditional" wing (who often dub themselves Confessional Lutherans.) Both wings have established networks of internal caucuses, organizations, and news services to promote their viewpoints and to campaign for Synod leadership candidates.
Issues of disagreement range across the whole life of the church, including worship style, ecumenical fellowship with other church bodies, the role of women in the church, methods for training leaders and expanding congregations, approaches to scriptural interpretation, the proper relationship of the sacred and secular spheres, and the appropriate division of powers between the Synod and its constituent congregations.
LCMS presidential election and first term
At the LCMS' 2001 convention in St. Louis, Kieschnick was elected to his first three-year term as president of the church, which has 2.6 million members. He won by 18 votes out of 1,182 total votes in the fourth round of balloting, defeating four other candidates. One of his leading Confessional Lutheran opponents, Daniel Preus, went on to win the position of First Vice President.
Kieschnick spent much of his time in office under fire for his support of Atlantic District president David Benke. The controversy quickly became an emblem for broader, longstanding disagreements within the church. In September 2001, Benke had taken part in an interfaith prayer event at Yankee Stadium to commemorate the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. Daniel Preus and others in the Synod's "Confessional" camp argued that Benke, by participating in a prayer event alongside non-Lutheran clergy and leaders of non-Christian faiths, had engaged in practices that the Synod condemns as "Syncretism" and "unionism."
Crisis in the Synod
Meanwhile, Kieschnick and his supporters replied that Benke had given Christian witness in a permissible manner, and that the event was not a religious service. Along the way, several LCMS ministers moved to have Kieschnick removed as LCMS president, although the matter ended with Kieschnick surviving the ouster attempt and Benke being cleared of the charges against him. For several years, the Benke controversy left many LCMS members speaking of a "crisis in the Synod" and warning openly of the possibilities for a schism.
Committee on Constitutional Matters
Displeased that Kieschnick had used the LCMS' Committee on Constitutional Matters (CCM) to overrule them on several occasions, the LCMS Board of Directors hired a law firm in early 2004 to determine its authority within the church under the laws governing not-for-profit entities in the state of Missouri. The Kieschnick wing responded by engaging its own legal counsel. Several on the Board of Directors considered filing action against the Synod in civil court as a way to re-assert their authority within the church.
Reelection and second term
In 2004 Kieschnick won a re-match with first vice-president Daniel Preus, winning 53 percent of the vote to Preus' 32 percent, with two other Confessional Lutheran candidates placing third and fourth. A Kieschnick ally, Oklahoma District President William R. Diekelman, then defeated Preus for the first vice-presidential slot in a somewhat narrower vote. Although Kieschnick's allies won control of four out of the five vice-presidential slots, the Board of Directors remained narrowly in the control of Synod conservatives.
Margin of victory
Some LCMS traditionalists have charged that Kieschnick's margin of victory was provided only through votes cast by LCMS circuits that were granted exceptions to standard delegate accreditation rules, suggesting that the vote was "rigged" by the incumbent president. While Kieschnick's allies deny that charge, the interpretation of the 2004 convention results remains controversial within the LCMS.
Kieschnick and his supporters supported an effort to amend the LCMS constitution to address ambiguous language on the authority of the Board of Directors vis-a-vis the Committee on Constitutional Matters (CCM). Proponents of the effort, dubbed Amendment A, claimed it merely "clarified" existing constitutional language; opponents claimed it was part of an attempt to strip the Board of Directors of some of its powers. Amendment A was approved by the 2004 convention but failed to receive ratification by the two-thirds of LCMS congregations necessary for it to take effect.”
Response to 2007 Vatican document
In response to a 2007 document approved by Pope Benedict XVI and released by the Vatican July 10 that says, in part, “...other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and that only Roman Catholicism provides the true path to salvation,” Kieschnick responded that this declaration, with which Lutherans and other Christian church bodies obviously disagree, is nothing new. Kieschnick said “Similar statements and perspectives precipitated the 16th century Reformation nearly 500 years ago.
2008 radio program controversy
During Holy Week in 2008, the Synod-sponsored, nationally syndicated talk radio program Issues, Etc. was canceled, initially without explanation. Issues, Etc. was the most popular program produced by the LCMS owned radio station KFUO-AM and had been a regular part of the broadcast schedule for 15 years. Its cancellation, along with the firing of Host Pastor Todd Wilken and Producer Jeff Schwarz, created a firestorm of protest from traditionalists within the LCMS, including allegations of mishandling of radio station finances. Because KFUO-AM has never published financial information it cannot be held publicly accountable. In June 2008 Issues, Etc. returned as a listener supported program on a competing St. Louis station, and on-line through internet streaming and podcast downloads. Kieschnick has repeatedly turned down all requests by the Issues, Etc. producers to appear on the program.
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, journalist M. Z. Hemingway stated:
- “The program was in all likelihood a pawn in a larger battle for the soul of the Missouri Synod. The church is divided between, on the one hand, traditional Lutherans known for their emphasis on sacraments, liturgical worship and the church's historic confessions and, on the other, those who have embraced pop-culture Christianity and a market-driven approach to church growth. The divide is well known to all confessional Christian denominations struggling to retain their traditional identity.”
Misleading picture of the Synod
In a written response, President Kieschnick countered that the article presented a “distorted account of the reason for the discontinuation” and a “misleading picture” of the Synod “as a deeply divided church....” The fallout from the Issues, Etc. cancellation, and Kieschnick’s denial of discord within Synodical ranks, widened the gap between conservative and liberal factions, motivating many previously silent traditionalists to speak out against perceived Synodical heavy-handedness and doctrinal error.
In his weekly column "Perspectives" (Volume 1, Number 42) published in late July 2010 Kieschnick summed up his thoughts about the 64th Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He referenced the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians and described "a church in conflict, experiencing divided loyalty." This comment seemingly signaled a Flip-flop by Kieschnick on the issue of division within the LCMS and further confused his standing with Confessional Lutherans within the Synod.
- LCMS Responds to Pope's Statement on Nature of the Church
- Hemingway, M. Z. "Radio Silence". The Wall Street Journal (New York), March 28, 2008.
- Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
- Patricia Rice, "Missouri Synod Elects Moderate as President," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 July 2001.
- "Houston native takes synod helm," Houston Chronicle, 21 July 2001.
- Tom Heinen, "Lutherans' doctrinal clash builds," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 21 July 2001.
- Tim Townsend, "Church leader faces reelection fight," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11 July 2004.
- Adam Jadhav, "Embattled Lutheran president wins vote," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 21 July 2004.
- "Amendment A falls short of affirmation," LCMS Reporter, March 2005.
- LCMS Q-&-A document on Amendment A (PDF), 2004.
- Official Kieschnick biography from the LCMS website (old link which reverts to main LCMS homepage)
- LCMS homepage
- Concordia Historical Institute
-  Article from the Wall Street Journal regarding the cancellation of the Issues, Etc. radio program.
Commentary from "Confessional" LCMS members at:
- Brothers of John The Steadfast
- Reclaiming Walther
- Christian News
- Consensus Lutheran (old link)
- Alliance of Evangelical Lutheran Lay People (old link)
Robert T. Kuhn
Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Matthew C. Harrison