Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why I Voted for Matthew Harrison for President of the LCMS

Three years ago I explained why I voted for Matt Harrison at the Synodical Convention in Houston. President Kieschnick had led the Synod for nine years and seemed likely to continue.  He complained that he didn't have the authority he needed to lead the Synod since he was hampered by the gridlock of program boards that opposed his agenda and sometimes stepped on each other. There was some truth to that. But the structural overhaul of the Synod that Kieschnick was pushing gave too much power to the president in my opinion.  To the amazement of many the Synod began to approve the overhaul and then elected a new president - Matt Harrison!  

Structural overhauls of organizations are needed from time to time, but the structure of an organization doesn't necessarily bring healing to its problems... especially when those problems are spiritual in nature.  What are those problems?  I'm sure there are many ways to approach this, but the one problem that really concerns me is the tension between maintaining correct theology and carrying out the mission of the church.  

Some say we spend too much time debating doctrinal issues and not enough time focused on living out the faith and proclaiming it.  Others are concerned that we are letting errors creep into the church, and, if left unchecked, our proclamation will be wrong and won't matter anyway.  President Kieschnick tended toward the former. President Harrison tends toward the latter.  

I have cautiously tended toward the latter when it comes to this tension.  In my mind all problems in the church are ultimately theological because all ministry arises from God's word (theo-God, logical-word).   I do value the resources we can find for ministry in the world of business, psychology, and sociology. I also want those on the other side of this equation to know that I am listening. I'm interested in your evaluations and criticisms. I work very hard for the ministry to which I have been called, and I am very concerned about fulfilling the mission the Lord has given us.

Unfortunately those criticisms (of the theological/confessional priority) are often vague or anonymous.  A few years ago I was involved in a meeting of our synodical leadership in which a ministry of our church was accused of being "divisive." I asked how so? I received blank stares. True Christian ministry must be divisive at times. The only question is whether or not it is unnecessarily divisive. To determine that we need to get to the specifics.

On the other hand I have seen how the title "confessional" can become a shield which some use to hide a lazy or limited ministry.  The first thing my father told me when I said I was thinking about studying for the ministry was, "Just make sure you work forty hours a week." I absolutely love to study God's word, and frankly I do have a temptation to do that instead of sharing it in the most effective ways. But this is also a theological problem, and it is one that we need to discuss in Christian truth and love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, my biggest fear of all is what I believe is the inevitable pressure of persecution coming to Christians in America.  I am fearful that some will be too willing to compromise with the world for the sake of the mission.  But I am equally fearful that we might be so slack in our labors of love that the world will dismiss us as hypocrites.

The Scriptures point us to the importance of both. "Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed" (Psalm 85.10).  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul... You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22.37, 39). In this election, like the last, I voted for Matt Harrison. Nevertheless I fervently pray that God will help us to have the priority of both, mercy and truth, at all times.