Barry Meets with PLI
A news release from Synod and our response.
No. 42 -- August 14, 2000
Barry meets with PLI representatives
LCMS President A.L. Barry says that a Board for Higher Education (BHE) plan adopted in April for considering a BHE-Pastoral Leadership Institute (PLI) relationship "was the correct way to go in addressing the PLI issue."
Barry made that observation in a statement he released last month concerning a meeting he had May 16 in St. Louis with PLI leaders. Based in Santa Ana, Calif., PLI was created by several LCMS pastors to provide leadership education to help other Synod pastors with large and growing congregations.
"I very much appreciated the time we were able to spend together and the open and candid manner in which we shared with each other various observations and concerns," Barry says in the statement.
In April, the LCMS Board for Higher Education (BHE) announced it was setting up a study group to propose by October one or more models for including PLI "under the administrative umbrella" of the BHE. Earlier, PLI had applied to the BHE for Recognized Service Organization status.
PLI Executive Leader Norbert Oesch said the PLI board applied for RSO status "in order to assure the Synod that PLI exists to assist the LCMS." Oesch was among those at the May meeting.
Barry said that at the meeting, he listed for PLI leaders "numerous concerns that I have heard out in the Synod relative to PLI. These concerns and perceptions ranged all the way from -- all PLI is a rehash of erroneous church-growth principles -- to the perception that PLI lacks a clear commitment and emphasis on distinctly confessional Lutheran theology. The PLI leadership took careful notes of these concerns and perceptions, and responded to them indicating that this is not really the case.
"They then shared with me a list of Synodical leaders, many from the International Center, with whom they had consulted prior to the initiation of the PLI emphasis," Barry's statement continues. "They once again responded at length to the numerous perceptions and concerns that I had shared with them from across the Synod."
"Without a doubt," Barry says in his statement, "there are basic concerns in this connection that our Synod may need to address at its 2001 Synodical convention. Examples would be the funding approaches used in the initial stages of PLI, and the concern about districts initiating programs that would impact the entire Synod.
"Over the past few months, there has been considerable turmoil in Synod over PLI. Hopefully, this procedure, which the Board for Higher Education has now initiated, will fully address the concerns that have been raised and bring a satisfactory resolution to this entire matter."
Oesch said that the PLI board "shared the appreciation Dr. Barry felt about the time spent together in May. We are grateful for the articulation of the concerns some people expressed about PLI," he said, "and also for the opportunity to affirm the strong positive responses of so many others in the field, especially of the 117 pastors who are enrolled in this continuing-education program.
"PLI was formed in part out of a concern that many LCMS congregations and pastors, especially among large and/or growing churches, have expressed the need for additional leadership training," Oesch said.
He added that such training has for the most part been available only from sources outside the Synod, "containing theology not consistent with that of the LCMS.
"In answer to that theological concern," Oesch continued, "PLI was formed to provide excellent advanced training fully consistent with our confessional and Biblical faith."
"We are hopeful that the BHE study group will be able to create a way for PLI to relate to the Synod, since PLI was formed only to serve the pastors of the LCMS," Oesch said.
PLI representatives at the meeting with Barry included, in addition to Oesch, board members Rev. Vernon Gundermann, Kirkwood, Mo.; Rev. John Kieschnick, Houston, Texas; Col. Carol Reineck, Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Rev. Greg Smith, St. Louis; Dr. William Thompson, San Antonio, Texas; and Dr. John Kuddes, Leawood, Kan. (by speakerphone).
Also representing the Synod were Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, Texas District president, for the LCMS Council of Presidents; and Dr. David Mulder, for the LCMS Board for Congregational Services.
In behalf of the Pastoral Leadership Institute, (PLI) Doctor Norbert Oesch states that, "We are grateful for the articulation of the concerns some people expressed about PLI."
However, we note that as of this time, PLI has not made its curriculum available to the general public. It is difficult to gain specifics about the PLI program if you are not a student. Parts of the www.PLI-Leader.org website are locked to the general Lutheran public.
Two ladies from Orange County, California, mailed information relative to PLI to all of the delegates and alternates of the Pacific Southwest District Convention. They requested that the delegates carefully and prayerfully read the enclosed letter and documents about PLI before making their decision to endorse PLI to the Synod's Board for Higher Education (BHE).
However, the delegates voted 169-109 to encourage the BHE to grant PLI Recognized Service Organization (RSO) status. The ladies believe that had the delegates not been informed about PLI the vote would have been nearly unanimous.
Readers may receive a copy of the 23-page mailing about PLI sent to the delegates by sending their home address by way of e-mailing to email@example.com.
Once RSO status is achieved it will receive little if any oversight by the Synod, according to A. L. Barry.
After being criticized for sponsoring "Cross-Denominational Training" events PLI has now changed it to "Multi-Ethnic Events." We hope this will not lead to cultural and creedal diversity at the Communion rail.
The study group appointed by the BHE is "stacked" with PLI supporters. If members of the LCMS are going to prevent RSO status being given to PLI, there must be a concentrated effort to communicate their concerns to the BHE and President Barry. The next meeting of the BHE is scheduled for October.
Even though PLI was incorporated in the State of Missouri on January 23, 1998, PLI made NO EFFORT whatsoever, to present the program and give the delegates to the LCMS Convention in July, 1998 any information to discuss it or vote on what PLI calls "this God ordained program."
Delegates at the 1998 LCMS Convention received a copy of a book titled, "Reclaiming The Gospel in the LCMS," by Rev. Jack Cascione. The first chapter was critical of PLI. However, no "conservative" organizations heeded Cascione's warnings about PLI's thinly veiled effort to turn LCMS congregations into Willow Creek clones. There was no support from "Affirm," "Balance," or another group to bring the issue to the floor of the Convention.
Barry also stated "PLI had shared with him a list of Synodical leaders, many from the International Center, with whom they had consulted prior to the initiation of the PLI emphasis." Please keep in mind William Meyer, Ex. Director of the BHE is one of the four who spearheaded the effort to create PLI. PLI has yet to post on their web pages the names of the people at the International Center with whom they had consulted before the initiation of PLI.
Reverend William Mulder, who was assigned to Congregational Services, writes in a letter, "For the record, you are also correct in questioning the term 'God-ordained' in reference to PLI. I picked this up from one of their early brochures. It implied too much. The Congregational Services website reference to PLI was not approved by the Board for Congregational Services. It was my decision and was intended to inform and not to indicate any type of endorsement. I now understand that the reference was understood by some to be a type of endorsement and therefore, the web page has been deleted."
We agree with President Barry when he states, "Without a doubt, there are basic concerns in this connection that our Synod may need to address at its 2001 Synodical convention. Examples would be the funding approaches used in the initial stages of PLI, and the concern about districts initiating programs that would impact the entire Synod."
The 1998 HANDBOOK of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (Synod), Bylaw 3.19b states "Reports and overtures must be submitted in triplicate to the President of the Synod not later than 18 weeks prior to the opening date of the convention."
August 15, 2000