Gerald B. Kieschnick
Gerald B. Kieschnick
|Born||January 29, 1943|
|Education||Texas A&M University (1964)|
Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield (1970)
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (1977)
|Spouse(s)||Terry Lee Kieschnick ('nee Roos)|
|Church||Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod|
|Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Biloxi, Mississippi|
Redeemer Lutheran Church, Beaumont, Texas
Faith Lutheran Church, Georgetown, Texas
Gerald Bryan Kieschnick (born January 29, 1943 in Houston, Texas) is the Chief Executive Officer of Legacy Deo (formerly known as the Lutheran Foundation of Texas). Kieschnick served as the 12th president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), being elected to three terms in 2001, 2004 and 2007. He was defeated in his bid for a fourth term by the Rev. Matthew C. Harrison on July 13, 2010, at the 64th regular convention of the LCMS, and his presidency ended on August 31, 2010.
Kieschnick attended Texas A&M University, graduating with a bachelor of science in 1964. He is a 1970 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Illinois (now located in Fort Wayne, Indiana), obtained his Master of Divinity in 1977 at Concordia in Fort Wayne, and received an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1996 from Concordia University in Austin, Texas.
After his ordination in 1970, Kieschnick served as pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Biloxi, Mississippi, until 1973; at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Beaumont, Texas, from 1973–1981; and at Faith Lutheran Church in Georgetown, Texas, from 1981-1986.
He served the Texas District of the LCMS as a circuit counselor from 1978–1981 and as director of public relations from 1977-1986. Kieschnick was director of development at Lutheran Foundation of Texas from 1986–1988 and then served as its executive director from 1988-1991.
In 1991, Kieschnick was elected president of the Synod's Texas District and served in that position until 2001. Under Kieschnick's lead, membership in the Texas District grew by approximately 12 percent, even as LCMS membership numbers slipped nationally. In addition, from 1998 until his election as LCMS president, Kieschnick chaired the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations and served on the program committee of the LCMS Council of Presidents.
LCMS presidential election and first term
At the LCMS' 2001 convention in St. Louis, Kieschnick was elected to his first three-year term as president of the 2.6-million-member church. He won by 18 votes out of 1,182 total votes in the fourth round of balloting, defeating four other candidates. One of his leading opponents, Daniel Preus, went on to win the position of First Vice President.
Kieschnick's first presidential term was beset by controversy. On many matters, he faced the opposition of more conservative opponents within the church hierarchy, including four out of the five vice-presidents and a majority of the Board of Directors. Polarization in the LCMS dated back at least to the Seminex controversy of the early 1970s, but over the course of the 1990s, members of the LCMS' more conservative wing (who often dub themselves confessional Lutherans) and its more activist wing (who sometimes dub themselves "evangelicals" and who were somewhat aligned with the Church Growth and Megachurch movements) had both established a plethora of internal caucuses, organizations, and news services to promote their viewpoints and to campaign for Synod leadership candidates. Issues of disagreement ranged across the whole life of the church, including worship style, ecumenical fellowship with other church bodies, the role of women in the church, methods for training leaders and expanding congregations, approaches to scriptural interpretation, the proper relationship of the sacred and secular spheres, and the appropriate division of powers between the Synod and its constituent congregations.
Kieschnick spent much of his time in office under fire for his support of Atlantic District president David Benke. The controversy quickly became an emblem for broader, longstanding disagreements within the church. In September 2001, Benke had taken part in an interfaith prayer event at Yankee Stadium to commemorate the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City. Daniel Preus and others in the Synod's "confessional" wing argued that Benke, by participating in a prayer event alongside non-Lutheran clergy and leaders of non-Christian faiths, had engaged in practices that the Synod condemns as "unionism" and "syncretism", respectively. Kieschnick and his supporters replied that Benke had given Christian witness in a permissible manner, and that the event was not a religious service. Several LCMS ministers moved to have Kieschnick removed as LCMS president, although the matter ended with Kieschnick surviving the ouster attempt and Benke being cleared of the charges against him. For several years, the Benke controversy left some LCMS members speaking of a "crisis in the Synod" and warning openly of the possibilities for a schism.
Committee on Constitutional Matters
Displeased that Kieschnick had used the LCMS' Committee on Constitutional Matters (CCM) to overrule them on several occasions, the LCMS Board of Directors hired a law firm in early 2004 to determine its authority within the church under the laws governing not-for-profit entities in the state of Missouri. The Kieschnick wing responded by engaging its own legal counsel. Several on the Board of Directors considered filing action against the Synod in civil court as a way to re-assert their authority within the church.
Reelection and second term
In 2004 Kieschnick won a re-match with first vice-president Daniel Preus, winning 53 percent of the vote to Preus' 32 percent, with two other Confessional Lutheran candidates placing third and fourth. A Kieschnick supporter, Oklahoma District President William R. Diekelman, then defeated Preus for the first vice-presidential slot in a somewhat narrower vote. Although Kieschnick's supporters won control of four out of the five vice-presidential slots, the Board of Directors remained narrowly in the control of Synod conservatives.[additional citation(s) needed]
Reelection and third term
At the 2007 convention of the LCMS, Kieschnick was elected on the first ballot, receiving 52.3 percent of the total vote.
2008 radio program controversy
During Holy Week in 2008, the Synod-sponsored, nationally syndicated talk radio program Issues, Etc. was canceled, initially without explanation. Issues, Etc. was the most popular program produced by the LCMS-owned radio station KFUO-AM and had been a regular part of the broadcast schedule for 15 years. Its cancellation, along with the firing of host Todd Wilken and producer Jeff Schwarz, created a firestorm of protest from traditionalists within the LCMS, including allegations of mishandling of radio station finances. Because KFUO-AM has never published financial information, charges could be neither proved nor disproved. In June 2008, Issues, Etc. returned as a listener-supported program on a competing St. Louis station, and on-line through internet streaming and podcast downloads.
In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, political commentator Mollie Hemingway wrote:
The program was in all likelihood a pawn in a larger battle for the soul of the Missouri Synod. The church is divided between, on the one hand, traditional Lutherans known for their emphasis on sacraments, liturgical worship and the church's historic confessions and, on the other, those who have embraced pop-culture Christianity and a market-driven approach to church growth. The divide is well known to all confessional Christian denominations struggling to retain their traditional identity.
In a written response, President Kieschnick countered that the article presented a "distorted account of the reason for the discontinuation" and a "misleading picture" of the Synod "as a deeply divided church...." The fallout from the Issues, Etc. cancellation, and Kieschnick’s denial of discord within the LCMS, further widened the gap between conservative and moderate factions, motivating many previously silent traditionalists to speak out against perceived synodical heavy-handedness and doctrinal error.
On March 1, 2011, Concordia University Texas announced that it had hired Kieschnick to fill the newly created position of Presidential Ambassador for Mission Advancement, a position he held until 2015. In January 2016, Kieschnick returned to the Lutheran Foundation of Texas, becoming its CEO on January 1, 2017. In January 2017, under Kieschnick's leadership, the Lutheran Foundation of Texas changed its name to Legacy Deo.
- "Staff". Legacy Deo. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
- "Rev. Dr. Jerry Kieschnick". Mission of Christ. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
- "Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick". Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "Gerald B. Kieschnick". Concordia Historical Institute. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "Synod re-elects Kieschnick, elects Diekelman first vice president". Reporter Online. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "About this site". Crisis in the LCMS. Archived from the original on February 7, 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
- Plowman, Edward E. (July 31, 2004). "Missouri motioning: Conservative Lutherans lose elections and power in the LCMS". World Magazine. Archived from the original on October 12, 2004. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
- Heine, James. "2007 LCMS Convention: One Message—Christ!". Lutheran Witness. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
- "'Issues, Etc.' cancellation draws responses". Reporter. Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. June 5, 2008. Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
- Townsend, Tim (April 11, 2008). "Missouri-Synod Lutherans protest cancellation of radio show". St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Archived from the original on April 18, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
- Hemingway, M. Z. (March 28, 2008). "Radio Silence". The Wall Street Journal. New York.
- "Pres. Kieschnick responds to M.Z. Hemingway". The Wall Street Journal. March 31, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2018 – via RAsburry's Res blog.
- "Election Results". LCMS. Archived from the original on December 30, 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "Concordia University Texas Names Rev. Dr. Jerry Kieschnick Presidential Ambassador for Mission Advancement". PR Newswire. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- "Our Story". Legacy Deo. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
- Patricia Rice, "Missouri Synod Elects Moderate as President," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 July 2001.
- "Houston native takes synod helm," Houston Chronicle, 21 July 2001.
- Tom Heinen, "Lutherans' doctrinal clash builds," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 21 July 2001.
- Tim Townsend, "Church leader faces reelection fight," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11 July 2004.
- Adam Jadhav, "Embattled Lutheran president wins vote," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 21 July 2004.
- "Amendment A falls short of affirmation," LCMS Reporter, March 2005.
- LCMS Q-&-A document on Amendment A (PDF), 2004.
- Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, "Radio Silence", Wall Street Journal 28 March 2008.
- Official Kieschnick biography formerly on the LCMS website
- LCMS homepage
- Concordia Historical Institute biography
Robert T. Kuhn
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Matthew C. Harrison