President Harrison at His Best – A Lenten Video, by Pr. Rossow

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.


Comments

President Harrison at His Best – A Lenten Video, by Pr. Rossow — 13 Comments

  1. “the political fearlessness and courage of J. A. O. Preus.”

    Preus, at the time and even today, was accused of simply being political in both his motivation and how he handled the situation at the seminary. But underlying all of his actions was a deep concern and conviction about what the Bible was.

    During those days, many in the church and media saw Jack Preus as a cold and calculating leader. He stood firm under fire and, according to some, seldom showed any anger over things that were said about him. Even today the actions of Jack Preus still have emotional power.

    Warrior of God — Man of Peace
    The Life and Times of Jacob Preus
    LCMS, 1995

  2. LCMS Quotes,

    Thank you for the illustration.

    Jack Preus did not get angry when people criticized him because he knew that his life was in Jesus, not himself. He could get angry, but that was primarily when the Gospel was at stake!

  3. J. A. O. Preus III: I remember one particularly difficult day. It was during the time of the conflict. Somebody had come to our house and burned, I think, with chemicals an obscene word in our lawn. They had spelled out in large letters an obscene word and it had burned the grass and made it die. So it lasted quite a while. I remember vividly how this event seemed to really disturb him. And he was not angry as much as sad.

    He did what he felt he needed to do. And he may have presented to the public a strong exterior, but he was very soft on the inside. And when he had to make these hard decisions, when he had to fire somebody or something like that, that was never something he did easily but only with great anguish. Was he a warrior? We’ll leave that for history and everybody has their own angle.

    History is a funny thing. They say that history belongs to those who record it. This is the stuff, obviously, of which history is made. But we have the opportunity now to add to that story, to the story of a great man and a great leader and one who influenced the direction of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. We have the opportunity to add to that story this simple but profound insight, which has always been true of history but not always recorded: these great men are also men, they’re human beings.

    I would like for people to remember that he was more than a church leader, controversialist, a church politician. But that he was a loving husband, a dear and generous father. And it seems so obvious, but in the long scope of things, at least as far as my perspective is concerned, an obvious fact that we should not and dare not overlook: in my memory of him, in my recounting of the history of him, the greatest space in my memory is devoted to Dad.

    But behind him is the story of another person, a person whom my father tirelessly and without regard for his own personal reputation desired to proclaim, and that’s the person of our Lord Jesus. And I think that’s what the story of Jack Preus is all about. If our real story, if our real history is the story of the people in our lives, of the persons, then our story is the story of the person who is most influential: our Lord Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for us.

    Warrior of God — Man of Peace
    The Life and Times of Jacob Preus
    LCMS, 1995

  4. For a man whose experience was as varied as J. A. O. Preus’s, one should not expect one descriptor to capture the entire man. The web of each of our lives is far messier than that. Still, as God’s people, God accomplishes his will through inconsistent people like you and me — and J. A. O. Preus.

    Lawrence R. Rast Jr.
    CTS FW Symposia
    January 2009

  5. With reference to the third use of the law, this has shown up in the matter regarding the ordination of women. I have nothing against women. My mother was a woman. So is my wife and most of my children. The reason we had so many daughters is we always thought the next one was going to be a boy. But the point is that to argue as some have that the matter of ordination of women does not impinge upon the gospel and does not affect the gospel and, therefore, it’s wide open, is not a biblical argument. The argument of Scripture is what does the Scripture teach.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    Address to Springfield Laity on St. Louis Seminary Problems
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    February 6, 1974

  6. “the political fearlessness and courage of J. A. O. Preus.”

    There are two or three people in Synod who do not agree with me, so I’m used to it.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    President Speaks to Faculty and Students
    Concordia Senior College
    Concordia Theological Seminary
    Fort Wayne, Indiana
    December 10, 1976

  7. “the political fearlessness and courage of J. A. O. Preus.”

    “when he had to fire somebody or something like that, that was never something he did easily but only with great anguish.”

    The Missouri Synod neither conceived nor bore nor baptized nor confirmed Seminex. I don’t know any particular reason we have to give it a state funeral. I think it will peter out. We cannot legally put them out of business. If you and I want to start a seminary and hang out a shingle, nobody can stop us. The Springfield seminary couldn’t come down there and put a bomb in the building; they might feel like it. It’s that kind of thing. But the point is they want us now to recognize them, to which I say, “No, thanks.”

    There’s no question that if these district presidents will not give stated compliance, they will have to be removed from office. There’s no argument on that. The problem isn’t over and it will have to be dealt with.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    The Synodical Situation
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    March 1976

  8. “a translating machine”

    Delpha and Jack Preus first met as classmates at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. She presently assists her husband in translating Coena Domini (The Lord’s Table). Dr. Preus has been commissioned to translate this work, and Delpha is using her own knowledge of Latin to help with reference research.

    Delpha
    The Lutheran Witness
    December 18, 1977

    “I blow off a lot of steam to Delpha,” Preus said of his wife while Synod president. They also studied the Bible and prayed together, and she was his right hand even in working on his translations of 16th century Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz.

    ‘Remember Your Leaders…’
    The Lutheran Witness
    October 1994

  9. “he knows how to get things done.”

    I have written, I would say, a thousand letters to draft boards throughout the country relative to the drafting of Lutheran parochial school teachers. Whether you call it protection or not, we managed to keep every single one of them out of the draft.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    Address to Springfield Laity on St. Louis Seminary Problems
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    February 6, 1974

  10. “the political fearlessness and courage of J. A. O. Preus.”

    I said to the entire ALC in their convention, “Since invitations are being issued to dissidents in Missouri and all kinds of support is being offered to them, I want to say that Missouri issues to anybody in this church, who would like to belong to a more conservative church, the cordial invitation to join us.”

    J. A. O. Preus II
    Day of Theological Reflection
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
    1978

  11. “the political fearlessness and courage of J. A. O. Preus.”

    I had the pleasure of siring eight children. And if you’ve ever tried to take eight kids to Yellowstone park in station wagon, you know what noise, feuding, spitting, fighting, and yammering is. And, finally, about a hundred miles east of the Black Hills, you get out of the car and you take one of them over your knee and you give them a real good whomping. And it’s amazing how well all of them behave.

    I think that the mood of the church — I’m not just speaking of spanking somebody — but I think the mood of the church is we’re sick and tired of this. And if you fellows continue to harass and impede the progress of this church, nobody is going to feel sorry for is somebody finally has to say it’s gone far enough.

    People will say, “Well, we tried, we tried, we tried, and we tried, and we tried. So, finally, you’ve got to stop the car.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    The Synodical Situation
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    March 1976

  12. “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.”

    We had Franz Pieper at St. Louis who was both president of the seminary and president of the Synod, which is not too bad an idea.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    Convocation Hour Address
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    February 7, 1974

  13. “a translating machine”

    It was my pleasure and honor to spend about seven years in the company of Martin Chemnitz as I translated his Two Natures in Christ. I think I know him about as well as any human being that ever has lived in the last century. And I’m now translating his work on the Lord’s Supper; 785 pages in an edition printed in 1592, and it’s hard to read. But I think I know the mind of at least one of the men who wrote a major portion of the Lutheran Confessions.

    And you study a book quite differently when translate it than you do when you just sit down and read it. You work your way into that man’s mind. You learn his vocabulary. I’m at the point with the second work where I can read it page after page without a dictionary because I know what he’s saying. Just like a man knows what his wife is saying even if she doesn’t open her mouth. Sometimes they say much more that way.

    J. A. O. Preus II
    Convocation Hour Address
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Illinois
    February 7, 1974

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