Quo Vadis, LCMS?


That’s the title of a presentation I offered this past week at the Best Practices for Ministry Conference in Phoenix. Hosted by Christ Church Lutheran (that’s their correct name), this conference is now the largest single conference in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Christ Church provides the venue, meals, atmosphere, and opportunity for over 2,200 people, pastors and educators to gather and to share ideas and best practices for mission and ministry.

My presentation, subtitled: Wine, Women, Worship, Witness, Warfare, was based on the question “Where are you going, LCMS?” Here are a few excerpts:

Introduction: During the past 52 years I’ve served The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in numerous capacities. Throughout those years I’ve experienced its strength, beauty, and weakness. Today I share my heartfelt perspectives on matters that hinder the health and growth of our beloved synod. I pray this offering will stimulate healthy, responsible, evangelical conversation among us, to the glory of God and the building of his Church on earth.

Wine: [In our Synod] the Lord’s Supper has become a source of division and offense rather than the expression of unity and powerful force for conversion and spiritual sustenance it is intended to be. Unless and until we resolve the issue of what is called “close” or “closed” communion among us, the LCMS will continue to be seen as a group of separatistic sectarians and will continue to bring unnecessary offense to repentant Christian sinners who hunger and thirst after the miraculous and life giving blessings offered in this precious gift of God.

Women: I’m not arguing for a de facto reversal of our Synod’s position against ordination of women. I’m simply saying that women in Holy Scripture appear to have been entrusted with greater responsibility than our Synod has given to women today, e.g., the role of prophetess. We cannot ignore the exodus from our church body of spiritually gifted women who see our position of limiting the role of women as, at best, not clearly supported by Scripture and, at worst, misogynistic.

Worship: Some in our Synod maintain that the only true and pure worship must come exclusively from officially approved Synod hymnals. Others obviously disagree. Congregations utilizing a variety of worship formats are experiencing an amazingly high percentage of all new adult confirmations in the Synod. The implications of such objective facts cannot be ignored.

Witness: There must be no compromise, no apology, no confusion about our Christian witness whenever we have the opportunity to share it by “offering prayers, speaking, and reading Scripture” in public gatherings. Unless and until we in the LCMS get over our reticence and reluctance to give witness to Christ anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance, using testimony, dialog, prayer, preaching, or any other means of communication, we will fail to demonstrate the boldness and compassion so desperately needed by people in our country and world who live in darkness, desperation, and despair.

Warfare: When the unbelieving world sees and hears how disrespectfully we treat one another, they want nothing to do with us. All the insistence in the world about pure doctrine pales into insignificance when outsiders fail to see what we proclaim … that we love one another.

My Best Practices presentation was a slightly revised version of an article published by Lutheran Society for Missiology in the May 2017 edition of Lutheran Mission Matters, available at https://www.lsfm.global/LMM-5-17.html.


Special Women


“Ruth and Naomi” by William Blake (1795)

Today’s quote is from an Old Testament woman named Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16

Ruth was speaking to Naomi, her mother-in-law. During a time of famine in Israel, Naomi had moved to the country of Moab with her husband and two sons. After Naomi’s husband died, her two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later Naomi’s sons also died.

After Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, she heard that the famine in Israel was over and decided to return to her home country of Israel. Initially her two daughters-in-law began the journey with her. But soon Naomi advised them to turn back and stay in their homeland.

At this crossroads in all their lives, Naomi strongly urged Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  Orpah decided to follow Naomi’s advice. But Ruth chose to go to Israel with her mother-in-law. In the midst of this decision, Ruth spoke the words quoted above.

Ruth went back to Israel with Naomi and married a man named Boaz. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. All were ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-16.

Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law was used by God to make her a very important woman in the history of the world and of Christianity. She is one on a long list of such special women.

Today’s topic of special women is not an accident. Beginning today, three of the special women in my life have birthdays in April. In descending order of chronological maturity, here they are:

  • Elda Maria Sophia Hellman Kieschnick is my mother. God willing, on April 10 she will be one hundred and one (101) years of age! My dear mother is known and loved by many!
  • Terry Lee Kieschnick is my wife. God willing, also on April 10 she will be … well let’s just say exactly a few decades younger than her dear mother-in-law. The two of them share a special bond of love that goes beyond being born on the same day in different years!
  • Angela Lynn Keith is our dear daughter. On April 6, which is today, she turns … well let’s just say several decades younger than her dear grandmother. Angie is also the mother of our sweet granddaughter Kayla Rae Keith, whose birthday we celebrate in August.

In addition, my sisters Carol Ann Wheaton, Karen Lynn Newman, and Debra Kay Zachary have birthdays in March, February, and November. No way I’m saying anything about their ages!

Happy birthday to each of these special women, all of whom have brought indescribable joy to my life and to the lives of many! I love all of you so very much and thank God for each of you!

Marys & Marthas

pulpitThat’s the title on the cover of the September 2016 edition of The Lutheran Witness, a monthly publication of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Although a number of articles in that periodical are worthy of note, today I focus on the one titled “Women Pastors?”

While time and space do not permit a lengthy review of the article in its entirety, I’ll address briefly the one sentence subtitle of the article: “Christ calls suitable men to teach, while women hear and receive the Gospel with humble joy.” That sentence is rephrased a bit and repeated toward the end of the article: “Men teach and give. Women hear and receive.”

The article deals specifically with the topic of women serving in the pastoral office, which is not permitted in our church. However, the impression might be given that in all circumstances the rubric of men teaching and women merely receiving the Word of God applies to all situations and circumstances. Not so, according to Holy Scripture. A couple examples should suffice.

Luke 2 announces the birth of Jesus and tells also of a prophetess named Anna, an 84 year-old woman who had been a widow for many years. “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

It seems clear from this section of Holy Scripture that Anna not only heard and received the good news of the birth of Christ, she also spoke that good news to many, in the temple.

Another biblical reference has always intrigued me. Acts 2 tells the story of the reception of the Holy Spirit by many who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost. After they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they began “to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Some who heard this miraculous speaking accused the speakers of inebriation.

But Peter put that perception to rest by announcing that because it was only 9:00 a.m., it was too early for them to be drunk. I’ll make no further comment on that explanation.

Peter continued: “This [what they saw happening] is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy … even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.'”

It sounds to me like Holy Scripture is saying, at least in these two instances, that women may and should do more than simply “hear and receive the Gospel with humble joy.”