This week veteran leaders in the LCMS, including former Presidents of a seminary, districts, universities, colleges, and Lutheran World Relief, sent an open letter to voters in the LCMS. They called for congregations and delegates to elect new leadership — and gave solid reasons to consider their advice. You can download their “Open Letter to The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod” here and read it below.
In the end, these veteran leaders endorsed the candidacy of Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry as a leader who can bring about the kind of change the LCMS needs. Pat Ferry, they believe, can lead all of us in Synod into a positive future with fidelity to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions, transparency and trust, and, above all, a plan to lead the kind of change needed in the LCMS to fulfill Christ’s mission among us.
You can learn more about Pat Ferry at www.patferry.com and in Our Congregations, Our Synod articles “Here I Stand — Here We Go,” “When The Church Is At It’s Best,” and “Confront and Bring Calm: A Good Leader Responds to Chaos.”
It’s Time for Change
Just existing as a Synod until the demographics turn around is not a plan to reach our families, our communities, our nation, and our world with the saving message of Jesus and His love. Don’t you agree?
Together with fidelity to God’s Word and our Confessions, can we again become the Gospel-centered, evangelism-focused, willing-to-do-anything-to-help-someone-meet-Jesus church we were known to be in the past? These leaders think we can again “become known as people of God who engage others winsomely and compassionately so that our witness to the love of Christ might, by all means, win some!”
Do you believe our current leadership team has the interest and capacity to lead that kind of Synod? Do they have a track record that indicates they can?
It’s Time for Us to Act
Lay people and pastors will want to share this letter with their congregation’s voting representatives in the election for Synod President later this month and with their circuit delegates to the Synod Convention in Milwaukee. The advice of these veteran leaders will help them make choices when voting on vital issues — and when choosing who will lead boards and commissions to effect the changes necessary for our Synod to do our Kingdom of God work today.
Our Synod and our congregations need new leadership if that’s what we want to do.
An Open Letter to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
As we approach this year’s election for the office of president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the question is, “Is it time for a change in our national church leadership?”
The current president, while possessing theological convictions and a strong personality, has had 13 years to lead our Synod to accomplish its stated mission “… vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities and the world.”
The past 13 years have been less than fruitful.
Here are some realities that currently describe our beloved LCMS:
- Large percentages of our congregations are dying, slowly but surely.
- Baptized and confirmed membership numbers continue to decline.
- Many congregations have difficulty finding and keeping a pastor.
- A dire shortage of pastors has accelerated with historically low seminary enrollments.
- Our Synod was recently identified as having the oldest average age of any Christian church body in America. Too many of our children and grandchildren are no longer in our pews with us.
- Of our ten historic colleges and universities, three (Selma, Bronxville, Portland) have closed their doors in the past five years. Others are publicly criticized by our president.
- Our Synod and Lutheran Church Extension Fund are defendants in a $300 million ascending liability lawsuit intensified by questions of institutional control.
- Our Synod’s talented and motivated lay women and men are being kept in the shadows by leadership’s hyper-clerical aggrandizement of ordained clergy.
- Lutheran Hour Ministries, LWML, and other parachurch organizations provide missional leadership on many fronts while our national church body remains focused on the past. National leadership fails to inspire Lutheran Christians today to a bold, transforming witness in an increasingly secular world. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors! (II Cor. 5:20)
Though a leader is not totally responsible for everything that occurs in an organization, what a leader says and does — his voice and vision — contribute greatly to the organization’s success.
Facing significant election opposition, our current president is asking for one more term. The question “For what reason?” is begged. What meaningful initiatives are underway that would be accomplished by maintaining the current administration for an additional three years?
We need a leader who is not only committed to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, but one who is also attentive to the huge challenges facing our congregations and church workers and is dedicated to strengthening and encouraging our congregations, institutions, and organizations.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had an effective national leader who …
- Keeps the Gospel at the forefront of everything, including all social and ecclesiastical issues.
- Encourages and advocates for our workers and ministries to walk together in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
- Empowers and encourages local congregations to reach out into their communities with the love of Jesus for all people.
- Is a collaborative communicator who uses the District Presidents and other national, regional, and local LCMS leaders to work through issues and move Christ’s Church ahead in mission.
- Shares and implements a mission vision for the church, with a strategic vision, to reach the mission goals.
- Trusts God, and the priesthood of all believers, to appreciate and celebrate the diversity God is giving us in the church and lets the Spirit lead.
- Is truthful and transparent, even-tempered, evangelical, personal, and professional.
- Is as humble and graceful in personal relationships as he is in public appearances.
- Is inspirational and visionary, respectful of the past yet focused on the future.
- Demonstrates by words and actions his commitment to Christian witness and evangelical proclamation of God’s love in Jesus.
Under new leadership, what could be different?
- A welcome change in leadership—style, tone, personality, and, more substantially, a change in priorities, approach, and outlook as we go forward together.
- In spite of the decline of Christianity in the US, our priority would still be to bear witness to our unchanging hope in Christ with an unbelieving world.
- Our approach would be not merely to complain about all the things in our broken world that we are against but mainly to proclaim who we are for — Jesus, who is for us, and who came to seek and save the lost.
- Our support for Lutheran education at all levels would be an excellent priority. An approach that reflects confidence in educators serving in our schools and trust that these colleagues are best able to connect faith and learning within their setting would be a welcome change.
- The Church would do well to embrace this opportunity and become the staunchest champion of Lutheran education rather than its sharpest critic.
- Division and factionalism would be replaced with a willingness to work together with mutual respect, trust, and support — to have each other’s backs rather than talking behind them. We need different kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.
- Ours is a Church body known for our commitment to the truth of God’s Word. Ours could also become known as people of God who engage others winsomely and compassionately so that our witness to the love of Christ might, by all means, win some!
Given the critical challenges facing the LCMS, is it time for a change in our national church body’s leadership? Many believe it is! May the Lord of the Church bless the future efforts of the Synod we so dearly love, vigorously to make known the love of Christ!
As leaders and former leaders in The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, we agree with the above concerns and endorse Pat Ferry for our next synod president.
Ray Mirly, President Emeritus, Missouri District
Tom Ries, President Emeritus, Concordia University, St. Paul
Viji George, President Emeritus, Concordia College, New York
Anthony Steinbronn, President Emeritus, New Jersey District
David Buegler, President Emeritus, Ohio District, former LCMS Vice President
Gerald Kieschnick, President Emeritus LCMS
Roy Maack, President Emeritus, Southeastern District
Warren Schumacher, President Emeritus, Northwest District
Orville Walz, President Emeritus, Concordia University, Seward
Ronald Meyer, President Emeritus, South Wisconsin District
Tom Cedel, President Emeritus, Concordia University, Texas
Will Sohns, President Emeritus Wyoming District, Former Chair of CCM
Kurtis Schultz, President Emeritus, Southern District
Gerhard Michael, President Emeritus, Florida-Georgia District
Ken Hennings, President Emeritus, Texas District
Keith Kohlmeier, President Emeritus, Kansas District
Kurt Krueger, President Emeritus, Concordia University, Irvine
Larry Stoterau, President Emeritus, Pacific Southwest District
Dale Meyer, President Emeritus, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Jon Diefenthaler, President Emeritus, Southeastern District
John Nunes, President & CEO Emeritus, Lutheran World Relief and President Emeritus, Concordia College, New York