25 March 2008

God Bless David Berger!

Easter 2008

An open letter to the Praesidium of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

Dear Brothers in Christ,

There are times when one must step back and be willing to admit a mistake. This, I am convinced, is one of those times. It offers, however, also a window of opportunity. On Tuesday, March 18, a widely syndicated, web-cast radio program on KFUO-AM dedicated to Lutheran apologetics and getting out the Gospel message was effectively cancelled by terminating the employment of its host and producer, ostensibly for “programmatic” and “business” reasons. The lack of specific information, because employment issues are involved, has led to much speculation concerning other possible reasons for the action of a staff member of the Board for Communication Services.

According to information supplied by a district president, the president of Synod has given his permission to acknowledge that “The KFUO decision transpired with my awareness but neither by my order nor at my direction.” And, we are compelled to add, neither was the action prevented. Thus, it is difficult to attach sole responsibility to any one person. It might well have been expected that the abrupt termination of two prominent staff personnel at KFUO during Holy Week, as well as subsequent actions, such as the initial removal of all traces of the Issues, etc. program from the web (with archives later restored) and the lack of explanation on the air regarding its absence, would cause great division within Synod and offense to many in our church body and beyond. That has clearly been the case. It has not been Synod’s finest hour.

Although we cannot change what is past and done, we can focus our attention on what remains to be done. Even from the dismal perspective of this week, we see a window of opportunity. As you know, a petition circulating on the world wide web has garnered to this writing nearly 4000 signatures – pastors in the parish, Lutheran lay people, other Christians, and those who credit Issues, etc. with steering them or their acquaintances to the saving Gospel. I encourage you to go to the site and see for yourselves. The number has grown hourly.


http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?Issues

On the site, you will find a wealth of testimonials to the benefits of Issues, etc., from witnessing to the Gospel to defense of the faith. The program has clearly been spiritual and substantive theological sustenance for Lutherans and a powerful witness to the Gospel to Christians and non-Christians alike. Below is a random selection of signers and comments. None of the names is familiar to me. I trust that no privacy is violated, as all names and comments are publicly posted.

As a Christian apologist who has spent many years defending the faith, I would ask that you please restore the Issues, Etc. program. I am not a Lutheran, nor have I always seen eye-to-eye with Todd. And yet I can only view this dismissal as a true loss for the entire Body of Christ, regardless of denomination affiliations. Todd Willken has consistently dealt with crucial issues affecting the church in general, paying careful attention to exposing error wherever error might be found in the cults, the occult, and world religions. He has been a faithful servant and a dedicated voice of truth in the ever-growing din of false teachings throughout our culture. Please reconsider your actions. In Christ, RICHARD ABANES

I am very saddened about the abrupt removal of this program from KFUO. It has been a wonderful learning tool for my personal spiritual growth. Whether you are of the liberal or conservative persuasion we are all to be focused on Jesus Christ our Savior and not on "politics" of the church. In this case the devil has won. Micki Horstmann, Concordia Lutheran Church Kirkwood, MO

I am a Baptist General Conference pastor who has benefited greatly from the Issues, Etc program. I am very dismayed and disappointed that you have discontinued this fine program. Does the LCMS not care about truth, the gospel, and its own confessions? I have told my wife that if I keep listening to this show I might end up becoming a Lutheran! Your decision to remove a program that so clearly promotes the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was a careless one. Even as a non-Lutheran I was greatly impacted by this program and its confessional approach. In my opinion, you have cut one of the best things you had going. What a shame. Rev. Scott Eaton, Calvary Community Church, Schaumburg, IL

We have often used the discussion points and contents of Issues, Etc. as a jumping off point for our Topical Men's Bible Study. We have found this program to be of great value. Please return this program to the public. Rev. Michael Wenzel, Trinity Lutheran Church, Olympia, WA

I found Issues Etc. to be very insightful and unwavering in its analysis, especially of current events. It helped me by being a shining example of thoughtful and respectful analysis of issues from the Lutheran Christian perspective, while always preaching Christ and Him crucified. Olivier Calle, Messiah Lutheran Church, Marysville, WA

[The following comment is included in view of the reason given for Tuesday’s action. To protect the privacy of the signer, the name has been deleted, although it is on the petition.]
The $750,000 LCMS beneficiary of my policy is in [jeopardy] here. Council Bluffs, IA

I converted to the Lutheran Church largely because of Issues, Etc. Adam J. Roe, Trinity Lutheran Church Worden, IL

One observer has also noted the demographics of the petition signers. I have not personally verified them. Ages range from 7 to 84. All but one state has been represented. Ten vocations have been listed, including pastors, missionaries, chaplains, military personnel, professors, and students. Twenty denominations have been listed other than Lutheran, including Presbyterian, Baptist, and Roman Catholic. Most significant is that signers represent 21 countries. Issues, etc., is truly an international program. In addition to the above are the hundreds (possibly thousands) of e-mail messages that representatives of Synod have received, individually and corporately.

No survey conducted at great expense to Synod could have provided any more valuable information on the importance of KFUO radio and its related web ministry – truly a providential byproduct of Tuesday’s action. It is most unfortunate that it took such action to reveal the esteem in which the program, Issues, etc., is held and how effective LCMS radio ministry has been and can be. What a unique opportunity we have, with God’s help, to convert a sow’s ear into a silk purse!

Are we ready to retrace our steps, brothers? Is it possible, in a spirit of Christian humility and regret, to admit the error and to take steps to redress it? Let me be the first to confess any sin of commission or omission that may have led to the action. As an elected member of the Board for Communication Services, I have pledged to conduct church business in an open and honest manner. In two weeks, I will be meeting as a member of a joint BOD/BCS committee. We are to deal with two charges or “scenarios.” Below is the relevant excerpt from the February 2008 Board of Directors meeting minutes:

Resolved, That the LCMS Board of Directors establish a committee of three members of the Board of Directors (appointed by the chairman of the Board of Directors) and three members of the Board for Communication Services (appointed by the chairman of the Board for Communication Services), plus the Synod’s Vice-President–Finance–Treasurer as a non-voting resource person, to present two scenarios for consideration at the May (or August) 2008 Board of Directors’ meeting:

Scenario 1: A comprehensive operations, programmatic, and financial plan for engagement of KFUO AM and FM in support of the mission of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod “vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world.”

Scenario 2: A comprehensive communications, programmatic, and financial plan for allocation of net assets realized from the sale, realignment, joint venturing, or other type of divestiture or reallocation of KFUO AM and FM assets in support of the Synod’s mission.

My first thought following the announcement of Tuesday’s action was that the timing could not have been worse. But our God is a God of paradox, even a God of surprises. Within days of our first meeting, He has provided an unexpected gift: living, breathing evidence of the value of radio and web ministry for The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He has demonstrated that we need more, not fewer, programs like Issues, etc. to support the mission of the LCMS. And so, in working on Scenario 1, we do well to examine carefully the responses found in the petition to help us understand the value of Lutheran radio and web ministry as a source of spiritual nourishment for our members and an effective means of outreach to the world at large. We have been given an unexpected gift. Let us accept it, learn from it, and build on it. In recent years, access on the world wide web, both to live call-in radio programs and to program archives, has increased exponentially the ability of the LCMS to “get the Word out.” That availability needs to be maintained and expanded.

Now that we have concrete evidence of the protean values of such programming, as well as evidence of its international reach, we also have opportunity to re-direct resources to this ministry. We can, for example, consider such sources as Fan into Flame funding. Is there any more appropriate use for these funds than Gospel-centered, Spirit-powered Lutheran outreach on radio and on the world wide web?

Our work initially, however, must be to repair the breach of trust in those who have seen that trust broken. Readiness publicly to admit the error is the first step. It will go a long way in re-establishing that trust. Since personnel issues are involved, I can make no concrete proposal for initial action, but I have no doubt that means to initiate it are within the purview of your respective offices. It may be that no overture will be able to bridge the deep divide caused by the termination, but every effort must be made to re-instate the program, Issues, etc. Changes in personnel or format will be viewed with great suspicion. If the injury to the two men was too great to expect a return to business as usual, then we will have to learn from our mistake. I pray, however, that with God’s help and the sincere good will of all involved, the error can be re-dressed. Let the world see how the church can really work.
Brothers, it is time to move forward with all urgency in positive directions in LCMS radio and world wide web ministry.

May our Risen Lord forgive us our errors, help us to labor together in love, and continue to support us in our efforts to carry His Word by all means to the ends of the earth.

In Him,
David O. Berger


A postscript of concern: It would be a sad irony indeed if the cancellation of one of the most widely listened-to programs on KFUO-AM – a program supported locally in other metropolitan areas and broadcast nationally, and a program with a long record of donor funding – were to lead to a financial crisis at the station, forcing the committee to consider Scenario 2 immediately. We pray fervently that that will not happen, but rather that generous donors will look past the unhappy circumstances of the past few days and see the value in radio and related world wide web ministry and continue to support it. Once a license is given up, it will not be regained.

[This open letter is a personal communication from the keyboard of the above-signed. While I have noted my membership on the BCS, I speak neither for the Board for Communication Services nor as a faculty member at Concordia Seminary.]

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yay Prof. Berger!

The Unknown Lutheran said...

God Bless You David Berger - please make our voices heard!
Jon Townsend

Geek Girl Blonde said...

Finally! Someone has his head screwed on straight.

Nevertheless, I'm now tempted to wonder if Issues, Etc. needs to be out from under the synod umbrella and free as an independent program.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I, too, commend Professor Berger for his fine letter. At least we know Issues, Etc. has one friend on the board. But, unless I am misinformed, he is in the minority on the board. The presence of a minority, however vocal, however valid and righteous the cause, will very rarely change anything. Folks like Prof. Berger and the rest of us are in the minority in our synod. Otherwise we would not have Jerry Kieschnick for our President, and Issues, Etc. would never have been canceled. So much for the protective power of democratic polity.

This sad affair is but another symptom of the greater problem we have had for a long time in the LCMS that has led to virtually all our synodical woes. Our synod has long been lax in practicing church discipline and now does not have the votes to do it. This is what has led to a ruling majority in the ?CMS of "Lutherans" who are Lutheran in name only. These nominal Lutherans are now the ruling faction in our synod, and their numbers continue to grow. Meanwhile, our numbers continue to decrease as those who can no longer stomach it leave the synod.

I see no way of turning this around now short of a miracle from our Lord.

On the upside, Lutheranism is alive and well wherever faithful pastors continue to preach and teach the truth of God's Word in all its purity and administer the Sacraments rightly - that is, in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. That includes my pastor, Rev. Roger B. James, as well as Pr. Matt Harrison, who continues to reach out to the world.

Support your local pastor! Support LCMS World Relief and Human Care! Support the seminaries - especially Fort Wayne! And support whatever Jeff Schwarz and Rev. Todd Wilken decide to do with Issues, Etc.!

If you do not want to be complicit in what the synod at large is doing, then work with your congregation on their budget to reduce (or eliminate) funds sent directly to district or synod and send your contributions directly to the entities you believe should be supported. There are local, national, and international concerns which have lost synodical support and are otherwise in need of our help. Perhaps it is right to send enough directly to synod for them to keep the lights on if you're going to remain members of synod, but that's about it.

I call for an end to our blind financial support of the Purple Palace's tyranny. You can't reduce the size of big government in the U.S. because they have the power to tax us as much as they want. But, as of yet, the LCMS does not have that power. Don't reduce your support of the important work our synod is doing, but be selective in how you send it.

Anonymous said...

I am now simply waiting to learn of Mr. Berger's removal from the BCS.

His comments will simply not be tolerated.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

BTW, the original "Programmatic and Business reasons" have mysteriously changed to "Business and Stewardship Reasons".

See KFUOam.org

Anonymous said...

I'm not naive enough to think that Issues etc. will be brought back. Synodical decisions are seldom reversed. I will say that Issues etc. was the only reason I would log on to listen to KFUO, everything else I on their program list I can get from my local Christian radio station, i.e., Focus on the Family, cheesy pseudo Christian music, and I'd sooner listen to a local AM talk radio for drive time than the morning shows on KFUO.
Congratulations BCS, you just killed KFUO, there's nothing to set it apart from any other cookie cutter Christian station in the country.

Anonymous said...

Apparently our President and synodical leaders are willing to bankrupt the Synod over politics and
evangelical gruel.

I thought they had more brains. Apparently not.

CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION.

Anonymous said...

Be careful --

It's "Jerry Orwell" at the helm.

Chris said...

Dr. Heidenreich,

I gave some thought to the change in wording, and unless KFUO is going to put reruns on during the time-slot (which according to the bang-up letter I got from Mr. Strand's office with my name cut and pasted into the heading is not going to happen..."new" program is what I got), they are contradicting themselves. You don't dump your most popular show for "stewardship" reasons and get a new one that you are unsure of...that's just stupid.

Also, since Fr. Wilken and Mr. Schultz were unaware of the firing, I highly doubt time was an issue with regard to programming...I'm betting my sweet kitty that it was a content related issue.

Why oh why do people who think like businessmen try to stem the tide of accusations and rumors by NOT telling people who are already suspicious of their motives the truth? It's just so anti-everything they are trying to do.

Is it really just too hard to come out of the closet and say the truth? Honestly!

Chris

Anonymous said...

Oh, happy clappy day
Oh, happy clappy day
When Jerry washed
When he washed
Yes, Jerry washed
He washed Issues, Etc. away

sam said...

Erich, please don't single out Fort Wayne. St. Louis is an excellent seminary with many excellent professors who were, and still are, supportive of Issues, etc (including professors like Mr. Berger, Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, Dr. James Voelz, and Dr. David Adams).

If my understanding is correct, Dr. Gibbs actually walked over to the station on Holy Tuesday, preparing to record an Easter broadcast of Issues, etc., only to find out the show had been canceled.

Steven said...

"I see no way of turning this around now short of a miracle from our Lord."

It is exactly for that miracle I am praying.

"God Bless You David Berger!"

My thoughts exactly, thank you Father for men like Rev. Prof Berger, Rev. Wilken, Mr. Schwarz, and all other pastors and laity who are by you Spirit willing to stand up to those who wish to suppress that Gospel of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ through that self same Jesus Christ give us the strength to follow their example. Amen

I am reminded of Jesus' words that He is sending His Apostles as sheep among wolves. Truly those wolves wear a clerical collar.

pete the dumb layman said...

I am just a stupid layman so I guess this is a stupid question.

If the President of the synod stated this was done with his awareness, but wasn't his decision(or something like that; it was a confusing statement). And, this gentleman was on the Board of Communication and supported the show...

...then who actually made the decision to kill it and why?

I apologize if that is dumb question.

David said...

"Be careful -- It's "Jerry Orwell" at the helm."

"Oh, happy clappy day
Oh, happy clappy day
When Jerry washed
When he washed
Yes, Jerry washed
He washed Issues, Etc. away"

I would remind the anonymous poster(s) about the 8th Commandment. God's Word concerning a good reputation does apply to Synodical leadership.

Words and thoughts like these make me shudder to think how some might act at any sort of public protest concerning the decision. This is why I said in an earlier response to Pr. Weedon's post that there could be a public relations nightmare for those who support the return of Issues, Etc.

David said...

I rejoice at reading Mr. Berger's words. I pray the truth may come from this mess.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Pete,

David Strand, Exec. Director of the Board for Communication Services, has not denied responsibility. Other members of the board, like David Berger, have denied responsibility. Dennis Stortz, Director of Broadcast Operations at KFUO, told me that the decision was made at the "management board level, the Board for Communication Services." Since the board did not do this collectively, that leaves this as an action of David Strand, the executive director.

I do not know what administrative powers the "executive director" of the board has, but he must have some.

Pete the informed layman said...

Thanks Erich.

Anonymous said...

I greatly appreciated Dr. Berger's thoughtful, insightful and thought provoking open letter. May God grant these men the Gift of the Holy Spirit to hear words of rebuke and repent of their sin.

One thing that concerned me a bit about his post though was in the post script... specifically,

It would be a sad irony indeed if the cancellation of one of the most widely listened-to programs on KFUO-AM – a program supported locally in other metropolitan areas and broadcast nationally, and a program with a long record of donor funding – were to lead to a financial crisis at the station, forcing the committee to consider Scenario 2 immediately. We pray fervently that that will not happen, but rather that generous donors will look past the unhappy circumstances of the past few days and see the value in radio... etc

Is this not playing directly into their hands? Give more money, pray they do the right thing, to save a radio station that, for all intents and purposes has violated the trust of those who donated preciously?

Also, will it not allow them to continue in their current sin, no need to repent and "make things right" if I am continuing to send my money to support the radio station.

What kind of programming will be aired on a Lutheran radio station that has already demonstrated it is not interested in a Christ Centered, Cross Focused message? What will they flood the airwaves with if I keep giving them my money?

Also, I am curious... since ... and correct me if I am wrong, but I have read, heard, been told that Issues was the only entirely publicly funded program on KFUO... implying that it did not get synodical funding to operate? So where is the stewardship, financial, budgetary reason for their action?

Lastly, i assume that a great number of folks have donated funds in the past to Issues Etc... by sending money directly to that program, participation in reformation club etc... soooo what happened to all that money when Issues was taken off the air? What is KFUO or Synod doing with funds that were originally sent and intended for a very specific ministry?

I for one, would want my money back.

I don't see myself supporting KFUO... to keep a radio station and license "just so I have one" is not of much use as far as I can tell.

If they are not going to air Christ Centered, Cross focused messages, I will not be listening, much less funding them.

Just my two cents.

Matt Bowers

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Pete,

You're welcome, but let me add a postscript. I have spoken with someone who knows a bit about what powers the executive director has. From what I'm told, David Strand did NOT have the authority to do this. He has no powers given him to act except those the board gives him directly. If he was the acting official, as all indications point, this abuse of non-existent power needs to be addressed at the next Board for Communication Services and Board of Directors meetings.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

As a significant Reformation Club financial contributor to Issues, Etc., I ask the following important questions. IF the reason for the cancellation of Issues, Etc. and the firing of Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz was FINANCIAL, then…

1) Why isn’t the revenue generated by Issues, Etc. underwriters, church sponsors and ALL Reformation Club income included in Issues, Etc.’s total revenue figure?

2) Why would the most listened-to program produced by KFUO-AM be the first budget cut of 2008 at KFUO?

3) Why was Issues, Etc. the only KFUO-produced program required to raise and account for its own funds?

4) Why was Issues, Etc. the only KFUO-produced program that generated major financial underwriters like Concordia Seminary-St. Louis, Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, Concordia Publishing House and LCMS World Relief?

5) Why cancel all of Issues, Etc.? Why not first cancel the more expensive Sunday night nationally, syndicated edition of Issues, Etc. and continue to do the three-hour weekday local broadcast of Issues, Etc.?

6) Why not make cuts at top-level, higher-paid management at KFUO?

7) Why were the audio archives of Issues, Etc. initially removed? This doesn't cost KFUO any salaries and benefits?

8) Why fire the only Lutheran Pastor on staff, of the more than 20 full-time employees at KFUO?

9) Does the LCMS Treasurer, Tom Kuchta, think that Issues, Etc. was the cause of KFUO’s financial woes?

10) Does KFUO management think that Issues, Etc. was the cause of KFUO’s financial woes?

11) Why cancel the show just as it was launching a major development initiative (Issues, Etc. 300)? This campaign had the potential to eliminate the entire fiscal year deficit for KFUO-AM.

Jon Furgeson said...

Important things to keep in mind: 1. The FM station of KFUO is worth 40-65 MILLION dollars.
2. Issues Etc. is, as I understand, the show that brings in the most revenue for the AM side.
3. If our Lutheran side of KFUO becomes a financial disaster, then why keep either station? Instead,sell them off for that pretty price and use that toward whatever new programs are fancied.
4. So, by saying that we will no longer support KFUO, who had no say in the firing, and saying we will no longer listen to KFUO, we are actually playing into the hands of the bigger scenario, which is to get rid of the whole thing and take the millions to fund something that will be (quite possibly) less Christ-centered & cross-focused.
5. So be vigilant. Continue to support The Bible Study, Law & Gospel, and the radio reach-out at KFUO. But also continue lines of protest, emails, real mail. Call upon your elders in your church to file a formal protest with the Synod, and put their Hancocks on it. Moreover, as has been said, we pray and read the Scripture and go to Church and continue to do what the Church has always done. "Through the Church the song goes on."