I am interested in learning more about Matt Harrision who many are saying would make a great LCMS president. One of the things that I look for is someone who thinks theologically. I am impressed that Rev. Harrison has a Masters of Sacred Theology degree. That suggests to me that he thinks theologically. Reading a bit of his written material and hearing him speak the one time that I did, also impresses me that he thinks theologically.
One can think theologically without a Masters of Sacred Theology. As I recall, President Al Barry did not have an earned degree beyond the Masters of Divinity. (Please correct me if I am wrong on this.) But unlike President Kieschnick, President Barry made doctrine number one which is evident in his oft stated theme referring to the Gospel: “Get it Straight Missouri and Get it Out Missouri.” Unless we have a pure Gospel, we are working against ourselves to do mission work. Mission work with an impure Gospel is counter-productive and not in keeping with what the Scriptures prescribe.
For sure, we need someone in the presidency who can lead and administer staff and programs but those things alone do not make a good LCMS president. The LCMS is admired by church leaders from other denominations as the church of doctrinal truth. We need a leader who upholds this reputation. More importantly, the Scriptures make doctrinal purity the number one duty of the church. Our first synodical president C. F. W. Walther thought theologically. When there were theological debates in the church he was front and center and led the charge for maintaining doctrinal purity. President Kieschnick on the other hand criticizes the need for doctrinal purity as incessant purifying. Rather than upholding or furthering our reputation as the church of doctrinal truth, under his leadership we have become more like the denominations who do not have such great respect for doctrinal integrity.
I have heard many people who have worked closely with President Kieshcnick state that he does not think theologically. His wrtiings bear that out. In his regular glossy insert in the monthly reporter, he consistently touches on a-theological subjects such as leadership, change, the reconciliation process in synod, etc.
President Kieschnick’s highest earned degree is a the Master of Divinity which is the base requirement for the office of the ministry. As mentioned above, Matt Harrison has a Masters of Sacred Theology. This is the next degree up from the Masters of Divinity. It is a hard core theological degree. When I was completing my Masters of Divinity as a seminary student at St. Louis, I had several occasions to view the graduate students and their classes and was struck with how intense the program was. I noticed the same thing while completing my Doctorate in Ministry at Fort Wayne. We shared some classes with the students in the Masters of Sacred Theology program and sat in on some of their classes as well. These guys think theologically.
Over the next year and a half we will learn more about the office of presidency and what characteristics a holder of that office ought to have. We will not let this political discussion sidetrack us from our main purpose as the Brothers of John the Steadfast but for sure, the matter of who leads our synod is very important to a society like ours that is dedicated to furthering knowledge of the Lutheran Confessions.