by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
April 2, 2008
St. Louis, MO (LifeNews.com) — Listeners of the popular radio show "Issues, Etc." are still in the dark after the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, owner of the show’s home station KFUO AM, pulled the plug on the show on March 18. In addition to other topics, the show regularly covered and discussed pro-life issues and current events.
The LCMS is one of the protestant denominations with the strongest pro-life positions on abortion and bioethics issues, but the sudden cancellation of the show sparked a flurry of activity from bloggers and listeners.
The move also included the firing of Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz, the show’s host and producer, and the removal of the show’s web site and archives with only a brief statement that the show had been canceled for "programmatic and business reasons."
It was more than a week before executives broke the silence and issued a statement, citing financial reasons for the show’s cancellation. The show’s archives were then made available on the station’s web site once again.
"Sadly, very difficult financial conditions sometimes require decisions that are not popular among all affected," said David Strand, Executive Director of the LCMS Board for Communication Services in a March 27 statement.
"In the case of KFUO-AM, the time had come when good stewardship of the church’s funds required a decision that meaningfully curtailed the deep, ongoing losses at the station. Ending the costs associated with ‘Issues, Etc.’ was the only viable option, and the decision to do this was prayerfully and contemplatively made."
Listeners, as well as some past and present officials of the LCMS, do not appear to be buying into the Synod’s reasons for the show’s cancellation.
The use of statistics from four years ago and failure to include data from the show’s popular podcast format in Strand’s statement have given rise to questions as to whether the decision was political, and not financial in nature.
An online petition has gathered thousands of signatures from listeners across all 50 states and 25 countries.
Blogs and social networking sites like Facebook are ablaze with discussion of concerned listeners who are trying to piece together information about the show’s demise.
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, former member of the LCMS Board for Communications, says the radio show may have been a "pawn" in ongoing friction among factions in the Lutheran church.
"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,’" said Hemingway in a piece in the Wall Street Journal.
"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," added Hemingway.
While Strand and other officials from the LCMS were unavailable for comment, Vicki Biggs, Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations for the LCMS told LifeNews.com the LCMS would continue to offer its other pro-life resources to the public.
"The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) has not moved from its historical pro-life view," Biggs told LifeNews.com.
"As always, we are committed to proclaiming God’s love and mercy while serving those imminently affected by sanctity of life decisions," she said. "Our life ministry is housed in LCMS World Relief and Human Care, the mercy arm of the church charged with reaching out to people in need both domestically and globally."
"Our work to uphold the sanctity of life is indeed global," added Biggs.
"For example, we sponsor two pregnancy resource centers in Russia and currently are in the planning stages of developing another one in Asia."
Biggs added: "In addition to the extensive work the Synod does in support of the sanctity of life, we work with and support a number of pro-life service organizations, including Lutherans for Life and Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri. Also, the LCMS remains an active member and holds a board position on the National Pro-Life Religious Council, an affiliate of National Right to Life."
ACTION: Email your thoughts on the show’s cancellation by going to
https://stage.citizenspeak.org/node/1250. You can sign the petition protesting the cancellation of Issues, Etc online.. A fund has been set up to provide financial support for the show’s staff that was suddenly terminated.