The LCMS is blessed with a president who is greatly gifted by God. He is one of our leading theologians, a translating machine, an author, and he knows how to get things done. I have no hesitation in saying that in my 50 years or so of awareness of LCMS presidents, we are blessed now with the most well-rounded president to my knowledge. President Harrison is at his best when he is just plain talking to people. His latest synod-wide video is a great example of that very thing.
The video is a wish for a blessed Lenten tide for all. As usual, it includes a reference to the Church’s great liturgical heritage. That is because among his other gifts from God, Harrison is at home in the great 2,000 year old tradition of the liturgy. He cites the Great Litany as something that he prays and recommends it for us all. (In the parish I serve we use it on one of our three Good Friday services.)
The Great Litany gives Harrison a segue into one of his other great themes – building up and supporting pastors. In the Litany there is a petition that goes like this:
We poor sinners implore you to hear us Good Lord,
To rule and govern your Holy Christian Church; to preserve all pastors and ministers of your church.
That petition gives Harrison an opportunity to build up pastors and encourages the laity of the synod to do the same. President Harrison is well aware of the many short-comings we pastors have and is willing to call them out when needed but his over-arching message about pastors is that they are a gift from God and that we need to support and encourage them. I hear him say this more than any other LCMS president in my recollection.
From my recollection, President Harrison has the winsomeness of President Bohlman, the doctrinal commitment of President Barry, the leadership skill of President Kuhn, and the administrative ability of President Kieschnick.
President Harrison is far from perfect of course. My synod presidential recollections go all the way back to J. A. O. Preus. My first memories of LCMS politics are of my father and grandfather arguing the Seminex issue back in the 1970’s. My grandfather left confessional Lutheranism for a time. (He was one of the founding members of ELIM, Evangelical Lutherans in Mission, which was the formal group that left the LCMS and eventaully ended up in what is now the ELCA.) My father remained steadfast through it all. I mention this because the one thing that Harrison could use more of in his hall-of-fame-like confessional attributes is the political fearlessness and courage of J. A. O. Preus. The Newtown incident has led me to this conclusion.
But, you can’t have it all, as they say. The congregation I serve no doubt invented that phrase during the current pastorate they are enduring.
In the long view, the LCMS is very blessed these days in the Office of the President and the latest presidential video is further proof of that.