Thinking Theologically and the LCMS Presidency, by Pr. Rossow

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.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Thinking Theologically and the LCMS Presidency, by Pr. Rossow — 13 Comments

  1. Pr. Rossow,
    I would prefer our Synod be lead by a Pastor with a MST (Masters of Sacred Theology) rather than a MBA degree. Our Synod can afford to hire MBA’s and/or other business graduates to assist in our administration. Our leadership should (must?) be trained primarily in theology – this is our reason for being. If we lack a clear understanding of the message we communicate (prayerfully the gospel), we have little hope of accomplishing the great commission. Our mission is the message and the message must be pure.

  2. All that matters is that Kieschnick and his allies be defeated in the next election. Without that, the LCMS is doomed to see itself become something like “JeffersonHills Church” which to me represents a sort of singular, microcosm example of the direction Kieschnick and his allies would like to see every church in the synod go.

    Matt Harrison seems an ideal candidate from all that I have seen, heard and read about him. The confessional, conservative movement cannot afford to split again. If they don’t unite around one candidate and rally for him, then this synod is lost. We’re on on our way to becoming just another ELCA. Women pastors, open communion, rainbow flags, you name it. That’s my opinion.

  3. The Synodical constitution regarding the duties of the synodical president reads, in part:

    The President has the supervision regarding the doctrine and the administration of
    a. All officers of the Synod;
    b. All such as are employed by the Synod;
    c. The individual districts of the Synod;
    d. All district presidents.

    How can a man carry out this duty if he is “no theologian” and is either unable or unwilling to think theologically?


  4. I was always of the opinion that as soon as Kieschnick said, “I’m no theologian,” he should’ve immediately been thrown out of office & pelted with dung or Books of Concord. But hey, what do I know?

  5. Perhaps during this election, we could play up the Kieschnick quote “I’m no theologian”. Maybe print out flyers with the words, in context, and the date of the quote. Then, bold the quote. If these were passed out at convention, maybe that would help.

  6. Would that all presidents, pastors and laymen in the LCMS think and live the theology of the cross everyday.

  7. I am no longer a member of the LCMS or WELS. i have since moved to a smaller and overall theologically thinking Lutheran body. My previous comments however, exclude you gentlemen and ladies who do think theologically.

    I agree with my fellow my Fellow Left Coast Confessional about what could happen in Missouri and think that there are some who would like to see that happen. For that matter ,I think all Lutheran Bodies who want to remain in Scripture and in Confession.

    It is because of Gospel Reductionism,desertion of Scripture and Confession, and the happy clappiness of WELS and LCMS that I left and found a smaller body.

    I applaud the efforts of many who are trying to take Missouri back for the truth and rescue it from the Baby Boomer and clap trap pyschobabble that seems to have taken root in these synods. I am afraid though it could be too late.

  8. Larry #6,

    Is “happy clappy” prevalent in WELS? I guess I thought WELS was all liturgy.

  9. David B,

    Sadly the WELS is having as much of a problem with “happy clappy” as the LCMS is. Check out their “Church and Change” section on their website and you will see what I mean.

    It is sobering to see the LCMS and the WELS denominations chase after the culture like this.

    Pastor Rossow

  10. When I read that Kieschnick said, “I’m no theologian!” my immediate question was, “Then *what are you doing in **this job?”

    To at least one of my friends, Kieschnick’s declaration was good news. This person changed denominations to get married and never has “gotten” the Lutheran emphasis on doctrine.

    Luthernas need to keep teaching what they believe with joy. I do pray that a man will be elected who will make this possible again.

  11. I think rehearsing the “I’m no theologian” quote is non-productive. Best construction tells me that this was simply an expression of humility – akin to saying, “I’m no seminary professor” or “I’m sure there are others who could answer better”. To continually bring it up might make us seem like jerks even if we are making a valid point about qualifications for the office.

    Better, I think, is to “talk up” those we see who are well-suited to the task, and Rev. Harrison seems foremost. He has, in my mind, an excellent blend of theological qualifcation AND – let’s call it – “talent for presentation”. And it seems important to him to emphasize our Lutheran distinctiveness.

    No need to bash. Sometimes more is said by what is left unsaid.

  12. I don’t think you will have any questions about whether Rev. Harrison thinks theologically if you read his book, “Christ Have Mercy.” Everything that he has done with LCMS World Relief and Human Care has had a solid theological base to it. I would love to have him for president but would also miss him as director of LCMS WRHC. He truly understands Christ-centered mercy and makes me proud to still be LCMS.

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