The idea of the great, conservative Lutheran church organization, the LCMS, may exist in theory, but in practice it really doesn't. It's a bygone thing. It's over. You could continue to delude yourself that it does exist. But it doesn't. So, pack your bags baby. It's time to go.
At one time, you could travel the country, walk in to an LCMS church on Sunday and worship and receive God's means of grace, and hardly know you weren't at your home church, save for some bricks and some faces. We all know it ain't that way now. Because that LCMS is dead.
So now the LCMS has a class-action lawsuit filed against it regarding some 2004 synodical convention election hanky-panky. This mess is going to take years and years to resolve. Many more conventions and elections are going to come and go before then. I shudder to think what is going to be left of this once great association of churches before the dust settles.
Why is the LCMS leadership continually talking with the ELCA about finding common ground? What fellowship does light have with darkness? Prediction: in my lifetime, should I live to an average age for an American male, the LCMS and ELCA will be in full fellowship. I am now 41 years old.
Some friends I have say the WELS is only about 10 years behind where the LCMS is now. I pray this is not so.
And, at least in Central Illinois, most LCMS congregations have no idea what is happening in their synod. Their pastors haven't informed them.
Our pastor told us something yesterday you may find shocking. I did. But my congregation has been getting a family visiting since the spring that is not from our city. Or even our state. They have traveled on more than one occasion to our church to worship and also to meet with the pastors about what they should do. Because they do not know where to turn to in their neck of the woods- MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN. Not exactly the boondocks, huh? I kid you not. That's about a six hour drive.
The cracks in the LCMS foundation are now large. The earthquake to topple it could be this lawsuit. Or possibly something else. Of course I cannot guarantee this. But I predict there will be a something else coming.
Many pastors aren't speaking up and letting their congregations know what's happening. Or they are part of the problem, embracing syncretism, unionism, and non-biblical feel good church-growth ideals. Or they're too scared to say anything because, afterall, they have pensions and insurance benefits that they don't want to jeopardize by calling the synod's leadership in to question. So they stay quiet.
Or worse, they speak out, but take no action.
Thank God Luther didn't have a pension or benefits to worry about. But Luther was a MAN'S MAN. I doubt such things would have deterred him from action.
Or perhaps they "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
And many of the conservative leaders in the synod are all talk and no action as well. Before the 2004 synodical convention, several of the conservatives went on record saying this (2004) was the most important election the synod had faced. In fact, they even produced a video, I think it was called "Crisis At The Crossroads", or something like that, in which they stated the LCMS was at a crossroads at the 2004 convention. I know, I saw the tape.
Well, the LCMS blew right through that 2004 crossroads, my good buddies. And they didn't get on the conservative track. And these conservatives couldn't have back-tracked from their statements quick enough. "Well, we'll hold on and see how the next convention plays out." In other words, "we didn't mean what we said this time, but I'm warning you, we really mean it for next time." Or, I think better stated, "we ain't got no 'nads."
Si, amigo. I just questioned some people's manhood. As should most of those who call themselves confessional Lutherans.
Well, all you conservative cats, here's another prediction: the next convention will turn out the same or worse than this past convention did. Because Kieschnick and his boys hold all the cards. You have none. Game over. And I predict after it's over, you'll go nowhere then, either. I can hear it now- "Well, we'll wait around and see what happens, but if things don't change this time, then we really, really mean it this time- we're leaving- errrrr... probably."
And, perhaps most importantly, a good portion of what calls itself LCMS Lutheran laity doesn't want to know about the turmoil in their church. They just don't care. As long as they are comfortable, happy, and entertained, they don't care. Turmoil and controversy are for trouble makers. Leave me alone.
Or the laity that do know are not calling their pastors to account. "Pastor, what are we going to do in response to this disgraceful mess our synod is in? Lawsuits. Financial problems. Embracing those who practice unionism and syncretism. Disregarding those that care to be Lutheran. Trying to set the world Ablaze, whatever that means. How long are we going to be in fellowship with those who are ring leading the circus?"
Or, they're just "in love" with the label of being an "LCMS Lutheran." Whatever that means. It means nothing anymore. But there are a lot of those people out there.
"I'm an LCMS Lutheran. I don't care about anything else. Oh, did I mention I'm an LCMS Lutheran." Yes, you did. About a zillion times. And it doesn't mean anything anymore.
The "synod" that they are leaving for their children and grandchildren is a farce.
May I be proved wrong in my predictions.
I don't know how I feel about this lawsuit. On general principle, I think lawsuits are bad. Lawsuits are for the world. But I do commend those in the synod who actually do have brass cajones, and are actually doing something, not just sitting there and ignoring the elephant in the room. Or worse yet, acknowledging it's there, talking about how they hate it being there, and taking absolutely no action. They can talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, they conclude they're happy being an LCMS Lutheran, and they don't really want to lose that.
But ask yourself this question- if the "real" LCMS is not dead, why is there this mess?
Teddy Roosevelt is a hero of mine, and therefore I'm usually a man of few words. Sorry about the length of this. And if I generalized about the LCMS too much, I apologize. But make no mistake, the district I used to be part of is guilty.
When our congregation voted to leave the LCMS last fall, would you happen to want to guess the number of congregations that called ours, pointing out our error and requesting us not to leave? Or how many pastors pulled our pastors aside to show them, in private, and from scripture, where they have erred?
ZERO. So I conclude they did not do so because we weren't wrong to leave.
Here's the lawsuit's background, followed by a copy of the actual lawsuit filed with the St. Louis courts, with thanks to Reclaim News:
"August 27, 2005
"Class Action Lawsuit Filed In St. Louis against LCMS President"
A class action lawsuit was filed on August 12, 2005, in St. Louis County, MO against Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President, Gerald Kieschnick.
This internal struggle in the LCMS will ultimately determine whether the LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) or the LCMS President's appointees on the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) have authority over the Synod's five billion dollars in liquid assets.
This is the first class action lawsuit ever filed against the 158 year old LCMS, a not-for-profit corporation, registered in the State of Missouri.
The triennial LCMS Convention elects the Board of Directors. The suit claims that recent rulings by the President's appointees on the CCM have nullified portions of the LCMS Constitution, Convention resolutions, and resolutions adopted by the Board of Directors.
The class action lawsuit is signed by 101 pastors, teachers, and congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The suit accuses Kieschnick of voter fraud in the 2004 LCMS Convention; failure to follow the State of Missouri's laws governing not-for-profit corporations; and appointment of members to the CCM who refuse to interpret the LCMS Constitution correctly.
The 2004 LCMS Convention had been advised by the Synod's legal counsel that the Synod was in compliance with Missouri Law. However, the LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) purchased an opinion from the prestigious Bryan Cave Law Firm, which states that recent rulings of the CCM are opposed to Missouri corporate law.
The BOD changed the Synod's legal counsel after the 2004 Convention.
Kieschnick must hire separate legal counsel to defend himself. Five members of the 15 member Board of Directors have already voted to sue the LCMS in order to test the Bryan Cave opinion. This places a significant portion of the BOD in an adversarial relationship with the Synodical President in the current class action suit.
If the Bryan Cave opinion is upheld by the Missouri Courts, the plaintiffs will force the LCMS to be in compliance with Missouri law. If the LCMS is currently not a corporation under Missouri law, as the plaintiffs contend, all LCMS member congregations are legally responsible for the LCMS and all its entities.
At a recent meeting of the BOD, Kieschnick appeared surprised by the suit, even though he had just met with those filing the suit a week earlier, before the suit was filed. During that meeting Kieschnick, would not discuss the merits of the case.
Missouri law requires that a corporation, such as the LCMS, must be governed by a constitutionally elected Board of Directors. New authority assumed by the CCM has placed the CCM over the BOD. The plaintiffs claim, that in reality, the CCM is now the real BOD and Kieschnick has engineered a corporate coup' d'etat in the LCMS.
Attorney Robert Doggett of Cincinnati is planning extensive depositions of Synodical officials and District Presidents whom Doggett claims conspired with Kieschnick to commit voter fraud at the 2004 Convention.
During the 2004 Convention, Kieschnick kept review of all CCM rulings from the Convention floor. Any CCM ruling that is not reviewed by the Convention automatically becomes binding on all parties in the LCMS.
If Kieschnick wins the case, the LCMS will change from governance by congregations to direct governance by the LCMS President.
If the plaintiffs win their class action lawsuit, all actions of the 2004 Convention will be null and void, the CCM will once again become an advisory commission as was originally intended, and the LCMS Council of District Presidents may be dissolved.
Events culminating in this suit have developed in a predictable sequence for more than a year.
When Kieschnick signed the 176 exceptions for delegates at the 2004 convention, for a total of 14.2 percent of all the registered delegates, he assumed that there would be little if any objection.
When there were objections of voter fraud he assumed that nothing would come of it.
When there were threats of a class action lawsuit, he assumed that it would not be filed.
When the suit was filed he now assumes that the judge will decide that the suit has no merit.
If the suit does move forward to discovery and depositions, will President Kieschnick assume that the LCMS will not be concerned if he pleads the Fifth Amendment and refuses to answer questions?
Kieschnick's attorneys must now convince the court that the class action lawsuit involves the court in deciding matters of religion. However, the LC-MS has never claimed that it was church. Only the congregations are churches. In its own Constitution the LCMS claims that it is a not-for-profit corporation.
Actually the State of Missouri has already involved itself in matters of religion by granting the LCMS the status of a not-for-profit corporation. Does Kieschnick expect the State to recognize the LCMS as a not-for-profit corporation but exempt the LCMS from laws that govern not-for-profit corporations?
There is a strong possibility that the suit will never come to trial. Revelations from the depositions will be so damaging to the Synod that a number of District Presidents will not run for reelection in 2006 and Kieschnick will retire as will all the Vice-Presidents.
During all of this, Kieschnick will actively seek reelection at the 2007 Convention. He will most likely use the suit as proof that the Synod needs to reelect him, because he is addressing the real issues in the LCMS.
Thousands of LCMS pastors are keeping any information about the suit away from their members. They justify the wall of silence as a means of protecting their members from Synodical trouble makers.
What kind of response can we expect from the Synodical President and the "Jesus First" machine to the class action lawsuit?
1. A letter writing campaign has already begun against the 101 congregations, pastors, and teachers, who signed the class action lawsuit. "Jesus First" supporters are sending threatening letters and trying to convince the 101 signers to remove their names from the suit.
2. Members of "Jesus First" are already claiming that the prohibition against suing a fellow church member stated in 1 Cor. 6 prevents LCMS members from using the courts to enforce the Seventh and Eighth Commandments.
3. Kieschnick will claim that those who could not elect their candidate at the 2004 Convention will now ask the courts to defeat him.
4. Kieschnick will also claim that the 101 signers refuse to follow proper channels in the LCMS to address their complaints about the 2004 election.
5. "Jesus First" will send a petition signed by hundreds of LCMS clergy asking the Judge to throw out the suit because it seeks the courts interference in the affairs of the church.
At this time, the class action suit seeks to show that Kieschnick refused to allow any challenges on the recent CCM rulings on the 2004 convention floor and that he did not follow his own published guidelines for signing exceptions for Convention delegates.
In May of 2004, the CCM ruled that District Presidents were exempt from following proper channels in LCMS Congregational Constitutions. In view of this ruling, Kieschnick can hardly claim the necessity to follow proper channels in the LCMS constitution.
If maintaining honest elections in the LCMS is a matter of religion, then the same claim can be made for all elections in the United States."
"TYPED COPY OF THE LAWSUIT AS FILED:
CIRCUIT COURT OF ST. LOUIS COUNTY- STATE OF " MISSOURI
REV. DAVID L. ANDERSON, REV. JAMES W. ANTHONY, REV. BRETT BALFOUR, REV. PAUL
A. BARTZ, DR. FREDERIC W. BAUE, HOWARD P. BEHRENDT, REV. DEAN M BELL, REV.
LELAND D. BENDIX, REV. RICHARD E. BOLLING, REV. ARTHUR CHARLES BOLSTAD, REV.
CLARENCE BORN, REV. ORLETT D. BRACK, REV. STEVEN C. BRIEL, CHRIST LUTHERAN
, REV. CONRAD COYNERS, REV. TERRY H. DABERKOW, CHURCH OF MUSCODA, WISCONSIN
REV. FREDERICK E. DAVISON, REV. ROBERT DIBELL, REV. JERALD P. DULAS, REV.
LESTER DUMER, REV. JAMES M. ELMSHAUSER,
, REV. STEVEN FAITH LUTHERAN CHURCH
L. FLO, REV. PHILIP J. FOUND, DR. PAUL J. FOUST, REV. JEROME A. FREIMUTH,
REV. MICHAEL FRICK, REV. STEPHEN H. FUNCK,
FAITH LUTHERAN CHURCHOF , DENVER
COLORADO, REV. STEPHEN P. GILLET, GLORY OF , REV. CHRIST LUTHERAN CHURCH
GEROLD W. GOETZ,
, REV. WILLIAM C. GRAFE, REV. LLOYD E. GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
GROSS, REV. RICHARD F. GUGEL, REV. ROBERT H. GULLION, REV. HARLAN L.
HARNAPP, EDMUND HINRICHS, REV. ELMER M. HOHLE, REV. HORACE D. HUMMEL,
LUTHERAN CHURCH, , POWELL, WY., REV. IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CHURCH
MATTHEW P. JOHNSON, REV. KEN KEILY, REV. HAROLD HING, JR., REV. GEORGE A.
KRENGEL, REV. FRED M. KUTTER, REV. LARRY LA DASSOR, REV. THEODORE O.
LETZING, REV. A. J. LOESCHMAN, EDMUND R. MARTENS, REV. THEODORE A. MARTIN,
REV. DAVID P. MCDONALD, REV. MARK R. MEIER, SR., REV. JOHN V. MOYER, BETTY
HULHOLLAND, REV. RAYMOND NELSEN, REV. DREW A. NEWMAN, REV. RAY R. OHLENDORF,
REV. GERALD PETERMAN, REV. RICK PETTEY, REV. DONALD L. POHLERS, REV. CHARLES
H. POOL, REV. KLEMENT PREUS, REV. PETER E. PREUS, PRINCE OF PEACE LUTHERAN
CHURCH, REV. THOMAS J. QUECK, REV. ROBERT R. ROBERTS, REV. PAUL ROSNAU,
DAVID SAEGER, ST. JOHN'S LUTHERAN CHURCH IN WILLITS, CALIFORNIA, ST. JOHN'S
LUTHERAN CHURCHIN MAPLE GROVE, MINNESOTA, ST.PETER EV. , LUTHERAN CHURCH
DR. PAUL SCHILF, REV. NEIL R. SCHMIDT, REV. WAYNE E. SCHUMPE. REV. ARTHUR
SENN, REV. DAVID M. SPAETH, REV. THEODORE STAUDACHER, REV. JEROME R.
TEICHMILLER, DORIS I. TIMMER, REV. W. R. TIMMER,
ST., TRINITY LUTHERAN
OF THE TRIUNE GOD, REV. LARRY D. TROXEL, GARY LUTHERAN CHURCH
VOLBERDING, REV. JAY R. WHEELER, REV. HENRY C. WIED, CHARLES F. WILDAUER,
REV. ROBERT E. YOUNT, REV. OTTO T. ZEEB, AND REV. RODNEY E. ZWONITZER, on
behalf of the
- Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church
REV. GERALD KIESCHNICK,
1333 S. Kirkwood Road
Kirkwood, Missouri 63122
REV. WILLIAM DIEKELMAN,
Kirkwood, Missouri 63122
LUTHERAN CHURCH- SYNOD, as a MISSOURI
C/o CT Corporation System
120 S. Central Avenue
Clayton, Missouri 63105
PETITION IN EQUITY FOR EQUITABLE RELIEF AND FOR A DECLARATORY JUDGMENT
Come now the above Plaintiffs, individually and derivatively, on behalf of
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (herein called "LCMS"), and for their
cause of action state:
1. The Lutheran Church-
MissouriSynod ("LCMS") is a not-for-profit Missouri
corporation with its principal place of business at 1333
. This action is brought on its behalf. St. Louis County, Missouri
The LCMS is also named as a nominal Defendant in accordance with the
2. Plaintiffs are now, and at the time of the wrongdoing alleged in this
action were, members of LCMS and have the right to bring this suit under
355.221 and 355.141.3 of the
3. Plaintiffs have requested the LCMS Board of Directors to bring this
action and to remedy the wrongs set forth herein, but the Board has refused.
Plaintiffs did not have to make a similar demand on all of the other members
of LCMS because the acts complained of herein are illegal and ultra vires.
4. Defendant Rev. Gerald Kieschnick ("Kieschnick") is a resident of St.
and is currently President of LCMS although he holds that Louis County
office illegally for the reasons hereinafter stated.
5. Defendant Rev. William Diekelman is a resident of
, St. Louis County
and is currently First Vice-President of LCMS, although he holds Missouri
that office illegally for the reasons hereinafter stated.
6. Venue is proper in
St. Louis County
7. Commencing in 2003 or 2004, or before, Defendants and each of them, for
their own personal gain, embarked upon a scheme to perpetuate themselves in
office by evading and avoiding the official Missouri By-Laws of LCMS.
8. Article 3.1.2 of the By-Laws states that one pastor and one layman shall
be voting delegates for each LCMS electoral circuit, that each such pair of
voting delegates shall represent from seven to twenty congregations, and
that the membership for each such circuit shall total at least 1,500
9. In 2004, Defendants Kieschnick and Diekleman and each of them violated
Article 3.1.2 by splitting existing electoral circuits with constituencies
favorable to them into smaller circuits, thereby increasing the number of
electoral circuits with favorable constituencies and increasing the number
of voting delegates favorable to Defendants. One hundred and seventy-six
new delegates favorable to Defendants were present and voting at the 2004
LCMS convention held in
, and such new delegates voted for St. Louis
Defendants and thereby enabled Defendants to be elected to their respective
10. The new split electoral circuits created by Defendants did not comply
with Article 3.1.2 of the By-Laws. For example, 32 new electoral circuits
had fewer than the required minimum of seven congregations per circuit, and
65 of the new electoral circuits had total membership less than the required
minimum of 1,500 congregants per circuit. Of the aforesaid 65 new electoral
circuits, twelve circuits had less than seven congregations, and, in
addition, each of those twelve circuits had a total membership of fewer than
11. Defendants have tried to justify this wholesale violation of Article
3.1.2 of the By-Laws by contending that Article 3.1.2 allows the President,
on his own authority and in his absolute discretion, to make exceptions to
its requirements. The authority of the President to make exceptions,
however, has always been interpreted narrowly and pursuant to reasonable and
accepted guidelines and has always required that an exception be used solely
for the benefit of LCMS and not, as it was here, for purposes of
self-dealing, breach of good faith, breach of fiduciary duty, gross abuse of
discretion and for personal, rather than for LCMS, benefit. Furthermore, an
exception can be made only upon request of a District Board of Director4s, a
requirement which was either ignored by Defendants or was complied with by
soliciting sham requests. Never before in the history of LCMS has there
been what here amounts to the equivalent of an old-fashioned, secular,
stuffing of the electoral ballot box.
12. Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law except by this action and the
severe damage to Plaintiffs and LCMS cannot be measured simply in money.
The only fair and adequate relief here is for the elections of Defendants at
the 2004 LCMS convention to be set aside and for naught held. Demand has
been made on the LCMS Board of Directors to set aside such elections and
said demand has been rejected.
HWEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray that this Court declare that the 2004 3l3ctions
of Defendants are null and void; that the Court order new elections by
electoral voters who meet the requirements of Article 3.1.2, are not voters
by reason of illegal exceptions applied by Defendants; that Plaintiffs be
awarded their attorneys' fees and costs' and that the Court grant such other
and further relief as it deems meet, just and proper.
1. Plaintiffs incorporate by reference as if fully rewritten herein all of
the foregoing allegations of the Petition.
2. Section 355.316 of the Missouri Revised Statutes provides that all
corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the authority of the Board
of Directors and that the affairs of a corporation shall be managed under
the direction of the Board of Directors.
3. Defendants, and each of them, have repeatedly disregarded 355.316 by:
(a) Appointing a Commission on Constitutional Matters and have caused such
Commission to render opinions which have illegally usurped and limited the
power of the Board of Director with respect to, inter alia. (1) funding and
operation of radio station KFUO; (2) the allocation of unrestricted funds,
particularly with respect to LCMS seminaries and colleges; (3) the use of
funds allocated to particular programs; (4) restricting Defendant
President's use of funds; and (5) otherwise restricting the authority of the
Board to manage the corporation. Defendants have also caused the Commission
to issue opinions which consolidated their power and immunized them and
colleagues friendly to them from punishment, penalties or disciple for
law, LCMS Articles and LCMS By-Laws. Missouri
(b) Appointing a "Convention Committee" and causing said Committee to
present to a Convention of the Synod resolutions which illegally restricted
the power of the Board granted by state law, and particularly 355.316.
Defendants knew that said resolutions violated
law but they Missouri
misrepresented to their appointed Convention Committee the nature and effect
of such resolutions so that the Committee would entice convention delegates
to adopt such illegal resolutions. The effect of such resolutions was to
attempt to give a commission appointed by Defendant President authority over
matters specifically given to the Board under
4. Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law except by this equitable action
because the severe damage to Plaintiffs and LCMS cannot be measured simply
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray that this Court declare that the opinions of the
Commission on Constitutional Matters which limit the powers of the Board of
Directors given it by
law and the LCMS Constitution and By-Laws be Missouri
declared illegal and void and of no effect; that the members of said
Commission be expelled from the Commission; that the Convention Committee's
illegal resolutions, and the amendments to the LCMS Articles and By-Laws
which are the product of such illegal resolutions and in violating of
law, be declared illegal and void and of no effect; that Plaintiffs Missouri
be awarded their attorneys' fees and costs; and that the court enter such
other and further relief as it deems meet, just and proper.
Comes now Robert I. Doggett, and being duly sworn on his oath, states that
the foregoing facts alleged in this Petition are true as he verily believes.
Signature of: Robert Doggett
ROBERT I. DOGGET
Subscribed and sworn to be me for this 12th day of August, 2005.
NOTARY SEAL: Notary Public, State of
My Commission Expires,
May 2, 2010
SIGNATURE OF: Samantha J. Meek
My Commission Expires;
May 2, 2010
KOHN, SHANDS, ELBERT,
GIANOULAKIS & GILJUM, LLP
SIGNATURE OF: Alan C. Kohn
Alan C. Kohn #16015
Jeremy D. Shook #50412
St. Louis, MO 63101
(314) 241-2509 Fax
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
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