Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do Nominations Really Mean Anything?

Recently results for presidential and vice presidential nominations were announced for the upcoming synodical convention. In a surprise turn Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care surpassed the incumbent president, Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, by 577 nominations (See all nomination results here). Since his election almost a decade ago, President Kieschnick has always received a majority of nominations from congregations. According to one site the number of nominations this time around represents the lowest ever for an incumbent, while Harrison's represents the highest ever for a non-incumbent. To many observers this nomination turn around appeared to show a certain level of dissatisfaction with the current administration and a desire for change.

When the numbers were released I was most curious to know how Jesus First would interpret the results. This group more than any other has been a true political reelection organization for Kieschnick. I distinctly remember their efforts at the 2004 convention in St. Louis which left no doubt of their single-minded intentions that year. Well, their reactions are now on line. Predictably, their interpretation is that such nominations are not at all representative of how the Synod thinks. In fact, they are quick to point out that a mere fraction of the congregations of Synod actually sent in a nominations, and on top of this a concerted effort was made to push nominations in many of those places. By contrast, Jesus First made no real push and their candidates still easily made the cut.

That being said, one might well note that only in a few cases, historically speaking, has an incumbent received less than the majority of nominations, and in many of those cases (if not all!) it spelled the end of his presidency in the election at that convention. Note well the transition from Bohlman to Barry, or Harms to Preus. They may wish to 'spin' this in a way favorable to their wishes, but history often speaks louder. The end result, of course, will not be known until this summer in Houston when the actual delegates speak with their votes. However, I would venture to say that the nominations already give a sizable hint of what may be coming just over the horizon!

Side note: One of the Jesus First writers decried the negativism and lack of proper decorum of those who called for Kieschnick's defeat as synodical president. The impression given is that Jesus First is, by contrast, always above board and never negative about others in Synod, whether it be individuals or groups - certainly never of our elected leadership! To evaluate that seeming claim, one might want to look carefully at the archive of their articles over the last decade and assess whether they have always been so peaceful and uncritical of others in the Synod. One glaring example that ought to be reread in this context is the article by Dr. Stephen J. Carter, entitled "A Time for War and a Time for Peace," posted seven years ago this month. In this article Dr. Carter spares no words in his sharp criticism of those within Synod he sees as abusive and seemingly downright evil. His self-righteous anger comes through with a clear call-to-arms of a holy war against the enemy at hand. -- Along these lines one should also consider their criticism of members of the Board of Directors with whom they disagreed ("Synod's Board of Directors Far Afield" - June 2003), Concordia Publishing House and its leadership ("CPH Goes Out of Step with Mission Word in LCMS" - May 2002, or "What Is Happening at CPH?" - May 2002), or even Dr. Wallace Schulz, then Second Vice President of the Synod in his actions regarding the suspension of Dr. Benke ("Reactions to Suspension Reflects Real LCMS" - August 2002). When one approves of the current office holders it is easy to be supportive. Yet when those "in power" act in ways they disagree, the public chastisements certainly are not held back. Before one criticizes the opposition to the current presidency too harshly, it might be helpful to take stock of the actions of your own household!

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