Radio program Issues, Etc., a well-respected and tremendously helpful apologetics resource, is no longer available.
The show — formerly broadcasted via KFUO-AM, part of KFUO.org, the radio ministry of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod — has been cancelled. Issues, Etc. host, Todd Wilken and producer Jeff Schwarz have reportedly been summarily fired — without so much as an opportunity to say goodbye to the show’s listeners.
March 18, 2008, will go down in infamy for many in Lutheran circles, and, I imagine, in some other Christian circles as well. Today is the day when bureaucrats of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod exercised infamous wisdom and spurious judgment by canceling the popular and well-respected radio program Issues, Etc. The show’s host, Pr. Todd Wilken, and producer, Mr. Jeff Schwarz, were summarily fired (no, that’s not too strong a word!) with absolutely no reason given – even when they asked for one.[…]
Very little is known at this point about the whys and wherefores of this incredulous cancellation and callous firing. When others have called the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, they have received a nice little bureaucratic two-step that gave the most minimal information and no rationale for such a jolting development. So, we must wait and see what the story (spin?) turns out to be.
– Source: Day of Infamy – Call for Prayer, RAsburry’s Res, Mar. 18, 2008
On March 20, 2008, the archives for Issues, Etc. were restored to the KFUO’s website, along with the following statement:
For programmatic and business reasons, the decision was made this week to discontinue the “Issues, Etc.” program on KFUO-AM. We look forward to bringing you new programming in this time slot in the near future. Also, we thank “Issues” host Rev. Todd Wilken and producer Mr. Jeff Schwarz for their years of service on behalf of the station. Those interested may still download past “Issues, Etc.” programs from the “Issues” archive on this website. Thank you sincerely for your continued support of KFUO’s radio ministry.
– Source: KFUO, Mar. 20, 2008
On Mar. 27, 2008, a more extensive statement on the cancellation of Issues, Etc. was posted at the official site of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. This statement — by David L. Strand, Executive Director, Board for Communication Services — provided some figures. For instance:
Although some are under the impression that “Issues, Etc.” was profitable and self-supporting, the fact is the program lost approximately $250,000 in the last fiscal year. While airing for only 18 percent of KFUO-AM’s programming week, “Issues” accounted for more than 40 percent of the station’s total deficit. These figures are based on the audited financial statements of the LCMS.
– Source: An Updated Statement on “Issues, Etc.”, LCMS, Mar. 27, 2008
The statement also claims the actual number of listeners for Issues, Etc. was very small.
However, Lutheran pastor William Weedon, who has been following this issue on his blog, has posted some interesting download statistics for the show. They paint a vastly different picture than the one provided by Mr. Strand.
See also: What David Strand didn’t say
Stronger yet is is a blog entry titled, Obfuscation! Its author writes:
David L. Strand, Executive Director of the Board for Communication Services for the LCMS has posted an ‘explanation’ that he hopes will make the controversy surrounding the cancellation of Issues Etc. go away. However, as someone who is well connected to sources deep inside the Purple Palace I know for a fact that Strand’s official statement is full of half-truths and bureaucratic misdirection.
Here is just a sampling.
– Source: Obfuscation!
An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, written by a former member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Board for Communication Services, says:
The Rev. Michael Kumm, who served on three management committees for the station, said that the explanation doesn’t add up. ” ‘Issues, Etc.’ is the most listened to, most popular and generates more income than any other program at the station and perhaps even the others combined. This decision is purely political,” he said.
He may well be right. 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.
The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, the synod’s current president, has pushed church marketing over the Lutherans’ historic confession of faith by repeatedly telling the laity, “This is not your grandfather’s church.”
While “Issues, Etc.” never criticized Mr. Kieschnick or his colleagues, its attacks against shallow church marketing included mention of some approaches embraced by the current leadership. It opposed, for instance, the emergent church — an attempt to accommodate postmodern culture by blending philosophies and practices from throughout the church’s history — and the Purpose Driven Church movement, which reorients the church’s message toward self-help and self-improvement.
– Source: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Radio Silence, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 28, 2008
See also, LCMS Seeker Sensitive Take Over?
Given the way in which the show was canceled (and its host and producer were fired), many observers believe the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was forced to at least repost the show’s archives as, shall we say, another business decision.
After all, the backlash against the LCMS decision was predictably swift, especially online [see Blogosphere]
The best place to follow this story is the Bring Back Issues, Etc. blog.
The blog includes a PayPal donation button, set up by The Wittenberg Trail, for the financial support of Pastor Wilken, Jeff Schwarz and their families. While David Strand ends his ‘updated statement’ by saying, “I respectfully hope that all listeners will support the ongoing radio ministry of our beloved Synod”, fact remains that Wilken and Schwarz were summarily fired. They, rather than the LCMS, deserve financial support.
There also is an online petition protesting the show’s cancelation along with the termination of Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz.
Meanwhile, Issues, Etc. mirror sites have been set up:
- Issues Etc. Archive While the archived broadcasts of Issues, Etc. have been restored to the KFUO website, it is felt that it would be wise to have the shows available at a more neutral location.
- IssuesEtc.org mirror
Originally posted on March 19, 2008, this entry was update on Mar. 29, 2008.