Fellow South Wisconsin LCMS pastor from my district, Rev. Dan Torkelson, has posted the following insightful thoughts regarding the sale of KFUO-FM radio station in St. Louis. (posted with his permission)
Today, word is out that my beloved church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, has finalized the sale of its historic radio station, KFUO-FM, in St. Louis.
KFUO-FM was sold by a church body which is, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt, and this in more ways than one. It is one of a growing list of symptoms of a cancer in my beloved church body which needs serious treatment. The leadership of the LCMS needs to feel "the burn" of what it takes to kill a cancer.
The symptoms of the LCMS' remarkable decline can be seen in the legacy of the past 35 years. Quite famously (some have said infamously), Missouri won a "battle for the Bible" in the 1970s when it ousted liberal professors at the St. Louis Seminary who were teaching higher criticism and denying fundamental teachings of the Bible. Pres. J.A.O. Preus, acting on initiative from the congregations of the Synod, handed down an ultimatum which effectively reclaimed the SL Seminary for the Bible and, thus, for a faithful church body.
Pres. Preus's action was indeed necessary, even if it was a political, authority-driven, action. Sadly, the legacy of his action has been that an entire generation of leadership has led the LCMS in a political, authority-driven manner. The bureaucracy of the LCMS expanded precipitously as a result. Contentious issues were settled by presidential fiat and not the earnest goodwill and input of the congregations.
And now, the LCMS is facing a $17 million dollar financial shortfall. Bankrupt. Hence, the sale of KFUO.
In recent years, the LCMS has become a pale shadow of its former greatness. The leadership complains about "incessant internal purification" by faithful members of Synod who only wish to see our confession rise to prominence once again. The truth is actually quite the opposite. The LCMS suffers from a generation which has engaged in "incessant political purification" and the legacy of this politicization of the church is the bankruptcy we now see.
Our current leadership is responsible for the pulling of the most missionaries from the field we have seen since the debacle of the 1970s.
To cover for this anamoly, the leadership forced a "mission movement" called "Ablaze!" down the Synod's throat at the 2004 Convention. Despite Ablaze's high and lofty rhetoric, five years later it has only managed to accomplish the goal of only talking a good game about missions. If has failed to actually do any significant missions.
Now, in a move which seems more and more like hubris every day, the same generation of leadership which has created this sad state of affairs is proposing to fix it through a set of restructuring proposals which seeks to disenfranchise the vote of the local congregation, pit large congregations against small congregations (the majority of the Synod in numbers and finances to this day), disenfranchise the lay voice at legislative conventions. The force of these proposals is that the congregations need to change. Meanwhile, there is little given in the way of specifics in these proposals for the changing of the bureaucracy itself.
In other words, the leadership of the LCMS clearly seems to be saying one thing: "It's the congregation's fault. They are not giving enough to keep the ship afloat. They are ones who do not engage the mission."
Never mind that the Synod cannot specifically account for how many cents on the dollar actually gets to a real mission and/or missionary. If congregations aren't giving, it's because the Synod has not given them a good reason to do so.
The sale of KFUO will offer only short term relief of the financial problems which beset the LCMS, but long term success will require a new generation of leadership. Once again we see the short-sightedness of our leaders. We have the best trained pastors and church workers in American Christianity, but our Synodical leadership has not yet trusted them enough to involve them significantly in re-righting the ship.
The only good long-term solution ahead of us is to clear the decks of our leadership and start over.
IT'S TIME for a change.
God bless this mess.
Rev. Dan Torkelson, Pastor
Zion Ev. Lutheran Church, Clyman, WI