April 30, 2008

When answers aren't

David Strand must love upstaging the church year. On the Eve of the Ascension, he finally begins to publicly answer why, on Holy Tuesday, he canceled Synod's best outreach and fired a pastor along with the producer of the popular radio program Issues, Etc. Unfortunately, his answers raise this perplexing riddle: How could it take the rest of Holy Week, and almost forty days of Easter, to come up with only 8.5 pages that simply repeat the same discredited figures? 


In attempting to explain the "programmatic" reasons, Strand dodges a bit, and then says in essence, "It was really about money." Yet, it appears that the figures cannot be trusted. How can we trust the argument that this was purely financial, when there are documents that suggest extreme accounting irregularities at KFUO? Where is the answer to that question? 

But even if the books haven't been cooked, there are strong allegations that the motive for canceling Issues was theological. An honest Q&A would address the questions that have been raised. A truly honest dialogue would acknowledge disunity in the synod, instead of pretending it does not exist. (And, I might humbly suggest a dialogue about my idea raised by President Kieschnick's question.)

After almost eight pages of not answering the questions, he then goes on the offensive: "Sadly and unfortunately for the church, some critics of the decision attacked the public statements and used the situation to criticize the Synod more broadly." This is Petersen's "Fourth Use of the Law" executed artfully: Do what you will, then call anyone who questions you unloving. Refuse to answer their questions, and then call the response of your critics "unreasonable" and "unanticipated."

When Mr. Strand says that "controversy was not inevitable," he may be right. But when he continues to not answer the real questions, he only fans the flames of the controversy he caused. To say there was no "shroud of secrecy" because "the decision was made and publicly announced" is simply inadequate.

Mr. Strand says he hopes that his answers bring reconciliation and peace. In both my pastoral and personal experience, reconciliation and peace cannot happen until people begin to be honest about their issues. On Day 16 I was waiting, but I suspect we'll have to wait a lot longer for the truth to come out. Until then, I pray sincerely and fervently that we can someday take a real step toward reconciliation and peace. 

1 comment:

Richard Townes said...

Here are my favorite lines:

1) "It might also be pointed out that downloaders don’t typically translate into donors"

* Everyone knows that we ought to pay in order to hear the Gospel (and receive the Sacraments for that matter).

2)"'Stewardship' implies much the same thing as 'business'—fiscal responsibility in managing one’s resources—without the potential negative connotations."

* Really? I thought it had a theologically significant meaning.

3)". . . there is no sign that 'Issues' or any other AM show has significantly climbed the charts in the St. Louis market."

* This was a nationally sindicated program (yes, I know you people don't want to talk about.... I mean don't have national statistics). Besides, when the most recent statistics you have are 3 to 4 years old, of course there is "no sign" of anything.

4)"The Synod’s policy and approach to displaced employees is rooted in Christian care and concern and may involve severance, healthcare, outplacement services, and letters of recommendation."

* They forgot to include gag orders in the list!

5) "We would respectfully disagree that there has been any secrecy about the reasons for the
cancellation."

* ......

6)"As all public statements previously made on this topic have
said, and as the responses in this document demonstrate, the decision to cancel 'Issues, Etc.' was based on financial exigency."

* That's their story and they are sticking to it.


Thank you Pastor for keeping us informed. Kyrie eleison.