Ever since Rev. Matt Harrison got 600 more nominations for president that his closest rival I have heard, through the grape vine, some “reasons” why people might want to be careful about electing Matt for president. The first reason is this:
1. Look at who his friends are. They are all a bunch of strident right wing conservatives.
OK. I am a partisan and I count myself among Matt’s friends. I suppose that judging by me you shouldn’t vote for Matt Harrison. I’m pretty conservative. I hope I’m not strident or unsavory. But I’m not on the ballot for synod president. So you don’t have worry about me leading the church.
On the other hand, I suppose I could list some of Rev. Harrison’s friends who are considered partisans on the other side. He might even have liberal friends. And then you shouldn’t vote for Matt because of his other friends. Rev. Harrison may even have undecided friends in the middle of the political/theological spectrum of Missouri but that does not make Rev. Harrison undecided.
The problem with this type of logic is that ultimately you couldn’t vote for anyone because most people have at least a couple of unsavory friends. President Kieschnick, I’m sure, has some friends who themselves should not be president of synod – friends whom, if you judged president Kieschnick by them would reflect negatively on him. But I think it would be wrong to evaluate President Kieschnick by his friends. He should be evaluated by his own words and his own record.
More significantly the suggestion that you should judge Rev. Harrison – or anyone for that matter – by his friends is profoundly polarizing in the synod. I served on our district board of directors for nine years. In that process I became friends with people with whom I have serious disagreements. When we are at conferences I eat with these friends. I visit with them. I will not avoid them simply because we have serious disagreements regarding theology and church practice. If I were to stop associating with these guys for fear that people would judge me negatively by them, then the dialog in our synod – so much needed in our divided church – would cease. Believe it or not I also have friends who are actually a bit strident. But I will not abandon them as friends on that account. I don’t even intend to “distance myself” from them whatever that means.
So with Rev. Harrison. In his years he has, no doubt, made friends all over the political and theological spectrum of the church. Rather than being disqualified from service because some of these friends might be strident Rev. Harrison should be respected for being in a position to get both sides to the table – something that has not been done in the synod with any consistency for a long time.
When people suggest that you should be worried about Rev. Harrison because of his friends they are suggesting a behavior that is harmful to our synod.
I also hasten to add a little question: “What Would Jesus do?” He ate at the house of sinners. Of course he was accused of endorsing the sin when he loved, forgave and accepted the sinner.
I trust that Christ’s church has learned from our savior this lesson well enough not to judge a candidate for office by the company he keeps.