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Issues, Etc.

Abstract: Brouhaha over cancellation of popular radio show at KFUO.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, a former member of the LCMS Board of Communication Services, writing in the Wall Street Journal reported on the precipitous cancellation of Issues, Etc., a much-beloved radio show on KFUO. Station KFUO is operated by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and is oldest continuously running religion-themed radio station in the United States.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, the show was abruptly terminated and its staff, host Rev. Todd Wilken and producer Jeff Schwarz, were dismissed without explanation. The program's Web site, with past episodes and issues of its magazine, was taken offline. It was as though the show had never existed.
LCMS officials in St. Louis were initially silent, and then claimed that the show had been canceled for "business and programmatic" reasons. Subsequently the synod cited low local ratings in the St. Louis area and the low number of listeners to the live audio stream on the Web site. The synod also claimed that the show lost $250,000 a year, which Ms. Hemingway asserted, is at odds with reports by others familiar with the operating budget of the station:
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 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."

By Good Friday, public outcry compelled the synod to repost the archived broadcasts on KFUO's Web site, and thousands of people had singed a petition calling for the show's return. A Facebook group has formed to share information about the fate of the show.

(Vol. II, xxii March 28, 2008 )

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