Nomination Numbers: What Does This Mean? By Rev. Martin Noland

The number of nominations for synodical president and vice-presidents were released last week.   The most significant datum was the difference in nominations between the incumbent, President Gerald Kieschnick, and the leading candidate, the Rev. Matthew Harrison.   The former received 755 nominations and the latter 1,332 nominations.   That is a difference of 577 nominations; or put another way, Harrison obtained 64% of the Kieschnick/Harrison nominations (1332 divided by 755+1322).   What does this mean?

Most simply and directly, it means that out of the congregations nominating these two candidates, close to two-thirds nominated Harrison.   I am not aware that any synodical convention has seen an incumbent challenged by that big of a difference in nominations by the next closest candidate.   Mollie Hemingway has reported on the recent numbers here:

Besides Harrison’s two-thirds lead, what does this mean?   We won’t know for sure until the elections in Houston, but I think it means the passing of a generation of Lutheran pastors and their allied lay leaders.   If I am right, I will stand at attention and salute them, for they carried on the Gospel during troubled times in our society and our church.   They deserve all of our respect and honor.

Here is why I think it is the passing of a generation.   Let us say that pastors retire at age 75 from full-time service and activity at the synodical level.   I know many retire earlier, but let’s use that figure as an outside number.   Let’s also assume that these pastors were ordained and began ministry at age 25.   I know a few started younger back when there was only a B.Div., and many have started later due to second-careers.   But let’s use that as an outside number.

Here we are in the year 2010.   Pastors retiring this year at age 75 were born in 1935 and began their ministry in 1960.   These men, who are the most senior pastors active in the synod today, bore the brunt of the synodical controversies in the 1960s and early 1970s.   Let’s call them the “troubled generation.”   Most of them were torn between their allegiance to their friends and liberal seminary professors, on the one side, and their allegiance to the Lutheran faith and the LCMS, on the other.   They endured fifteen years of conflict in the synod, at synodical conventions, district conventions, and circuit meetings.   Then the whole thing “blew up” in 1974-76.

Starting with ordinations in 1976, younger pastors entering into ministry were neither trained by liberal-oriented professors nor had to deal with the old synodical conflicts.   Let’s call them the “loyal generation.”   That means that there presently are 16 years (1960-1976) worth of pastors who were from the “troubled” generation and 33 years (1976-2009) worth of pastors from the “loyal generation.”   Doing the math, in a general way, this means that two-thirds of the pastors in our synod are from the “loyal generation” and one-third from the “troubled generation.”

The nominations match the split in generations.   It means that the pastors of the “loyal generation” now outnumber the “troubled generation” two to one.   That will see significant results in the 2010 and future conventions.

If this thinking is correct, i.e., that nominations approximate the split between generations of pastors in the LCMS, then why didn’t the “loyal generation” of pastors and their lay allies “take the helm” when they were in the majority.   That would have happened, by the same calculations, in the year 2001.   In that year, the “troubled generation” had 25 years worth of pastors (1951-1976) and the “loyal generation” had 25 years worth of pastors (1976-2001).

The completely unexpected death of President Barry was certainly one reason.   The “loyal generation” was expecting his re-election and had not vetted a candidate to replace him, as became obvious when they put forth several candidates—against each other!   The other reason may be that there were no candidates in the “loyal generation” (ordained 1976 or thereafter) who had sufficient administrative and synodical experience to be qualified for synodical president.

Comes now Matthew Harrison, fully qualified in every area.   He was ordained in 1991, which makes him younger than 15 years worth of pastors and older than 18 years worth of pastors within the “loyal generation.”   He is old enough to remember hearing about the conflicts in the LCMS, but young enough to not have become involved in those battles personally.   Like most of his generation, he would rather engage people in dialogue and discussion rather than doctrinaire lecturing or accusation.   His approach and manner is winsome and personal, not pedantic or officious.   In other words, he appeals to the “loyal generation” and this is why he has become the leader for the present “loyal generation” of LCMS pastors and laymen.

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.


Nomination Numbers: What Does This Mean? By Rev. Martin Noland — 11 Comments

  1. An excellent post and insight, Pastor Noland. Several years ago, after Pres. Kieschnick’s first re-election, a few members of the congregation I serve expressed concern about the liberal direction that the Synod was taking AGAIN. As far as these members were concerned, it was Seminex all over again. I tried to assuage their anxiety in a much similar fashion, calling this an “echo,” a period of time when those who were trained by professors who were clandestine in their liberalism were reaching that age of assuming key positions of power and authority. “Just ride out the echo,” I told them. “It won’t be as long or as strong.”

    If I am right, I will stand at attention and salute them, for they carried on the Gospel during troubled times in our society and our church. They deserve all of our respect and honor.

    Thank you, Pastor Noland, for reminding us to show this respect. As one who has the blessing of hindsight, it can be all too easy to judge these men too harshly. While their positions seem quite liberal now, they earlier held the line against much greater liberalism in their day.

  2. Great Post, Pastor Noland.

    Thinking about what you wrote, you could almost extend the “troubled generation” back to the signing of the 44. I believe also that the conservatives in that “troubled” generation were the ones most affected by it. Just look at all the infigting that has taken place among conservatives from that generation, and for the most part the majority of it is was personal.
    I personaly think of Pastor Herman Otten, look at all the crap that was thrown at him and also what he has thrown back. He’s simply a product of all that mistrust and backbiting that was caused by the allowance of liberal/progressive thought in our seminaries. I ask myself, if I would have been through all that, would I be any different? So I’m personaly going to thank, Christian News, Balance, Affirm, Cat 41 and others who stood and fought in that mess and were battle hardned, scared and forever affected from it.

  3. What Pr. Noland has presented is quite insightful; however, there remains the problem of those laymen catechized/taught over the years by the “ELiMites” and “Seminexer’s” who were allowed to return to the LCMS during the years following the walkout. Remember that half the voting delegates are laymen. So I think there could still be a problem with this convention.

  4. It all goes back to the catechisis of the laymen or the lack thereof. My wife was a Baptist until we married. She took adult catechism, but did not really receive a very good background in what it means to be Lutheran. She has probably learned more about Lutheranism in the last ten years then in all the years preceeding. That also applies to me. We have taken Adult instruction at least three time in the last ten years and learn more each time we attend. My Pastor says we should all retake catechetical instruction every three to five years to retain our understanding. The old saying of, “Use it or loose it”, does apply to this.

  5. @Rudy Wagner #4

    @Bill Kope #5

    You gentlemen are absolutely correct. The 50 years of poor catechesis is an albatross around the synod’s neck. It won’t be fixed overnight.

    Thanks for Dr. Noland’s post, and for your comments. Ya done good!


  6. What did Mark Twain say about statistics?

    Back in my days as an engineering student, we did labs in chemistry: qualitative analysis and quantitative analysis. I think Pastor Noland did a fine job of the former. I cannot tell if his conclusions are correct unless there is a way to count the numbers of pastors in each group. You can count graduating classes in each group, but the sizes of those classes could be quite different. Graduating classes of pastors from both seminaries from the “troubled” years were quite large compared to the last couple of decades, I’m thinking. To conclude that 2/3 of current pastors are from the “loyal” years cannot be determined just by counting the number of graduating classes and assuming that class sizes were similar to those before then.

  7. @Anthony Bertram #8

    “To conclude that 2/3 of current pastors are from the “loyal” years cannot be determined just by counting the number of graduating classes and assuming that class sizes were similar to those before then.”

    The more recent men may be from the “loyal” years, but they have had to serve under the “troubled” adminstrative men and get along or find themselves out of a job (or out of synod).
    IMnsvHO, the currently popular sport of telling the Pastor to resign or be fired is too widespread to be accidental in a church which historically had very strict rules about such travesties.
    [Whatever happened to those rules, besides most laity and not a few pastors being illiterate in the Confessions?]

    Some of the recent grads may have learned to like entertainment services or at least ‘go along’ if that’s what the congregation was talked into by the glib district “facilitators”/high schoolers back from NYG. (Subversion of Lutheranism is what NYG is all about).

    LORD, have mercy!

  8. As usual, Martin Noland makes some great points. What worries me, however, is that we may be setting ourselves up for another Al Barry Administration. Al Barry was a fine churchman, but he was sent, virtually alone, to the International Center, where he struggled unsuccessfully against a bureaucratic apparatus that was controlled by Liberals and Church Growthers. Over at WELS, Mark Schroeder is doing a pretty good job at struggling against the church growthers that control WELS Headquarters in Milwaukee. He has won some victories, but the final outcome of the battle is still very much in doubt. Confessional Missourians must make sure that Rev. Harrison not only wins the synodical presidency but that the church bureaucracy be cleansed like Jesus cleansed the temple.

  9. “…that the church bureaucracy be cleansed like Jesus cleansed the temple.”

    I, too, think the LCMS bureaucracy needs an overhaul, but the image of Pastor Harrison as “Matt the Messiah with a whip” is nothing I want to see. I don’t know what he might think about being described like a modern-day messiah with a whip, but if it were used of me, I would be offended and embarrassed.

    Before painting with such broad strokes about a large number of people seeking to serve God in their various vocations, let us consider God’s Word in 1 Peter 3:13-17. Let us not turn into what some have accused “those confessionals” of being.

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