New interview with President-elect Matt Harrison

From, of all places, the LCMS. It’s a great interview with solid questions:

What is your reaction to your election? You will now serve as the 13th president of the Synod. (Dr. C.F.W. Walther having served in the office twice.)
What is your assessment of the convention and of the restructuring it has mandated?
Going forward, what will be your biggest challenges?
How do you believe the national church can best serve the local congregation, and what implications might the 2010 Synod convention’s actions have for the local congregation, if any?

So if you’re curious about the answers to those — and other — questions, you can check it out here.


New interview with President-elect Matt Harrison — 26 Comments

  1. I read the entire interview as presented by Reporter. Seem like we have a pastoral man in office despite those who feel he is a politician. The months ahead will show us even more!

  2. Pastor Harrison makes an interesting point I hadn’t realized. The first order of business is to implement the structural changes the Convention just voted on. It’s a monumental task and may take the majority of his first(?) three-year term. I imagine that it would be difficult to move the machinery of the Synod forward toward any sort of goal if a complete overhaul is needed.

  3. Pastor Harrison knows meekness is not weakness. Rather, it is strength under control, power used to build up rather than tear down.

  4. @Matthew Gunia #3
    Pastor Harrison makes an interesting point I hadn’t realized. The first order of business is to implement the structural changes …

    I hope “all y’all” will be supportive and not expect too many of your own ‘plans’ to be implemented for awhile!
    It would be a crying shame if Harrison did all the “heavy lifting” to reorganize and some petty squabble took him out again when it was done!

  5. Hmm. I have a hard time imagining J.A.O., Ralph, Al, or Jerry commenting on the state of his garage–or even having a messy garage and needing to get home to clean it up.

    Matt Harrison, a synodical president like we’ve never seen before.


  6. If Pr. Harrison finds himself in a position where he must “herd cats”, I would suggest the advice of Pr. Wilken who has great knowledge in this field of expertise. In the meantime, I’ll be content with praying Father deliver us from this evil.

  7. If the only result of Pastor Harrison’s election is getting to read interviews like this, I need nothing else. Just to hear pastoral words coming from our presiding pastor is enough for me. Anything else he might be able to do in service to the Gospel is a bonus, in my opinion.

  8. @Matthew Gunia #3

    I don’t see how it would take most of three years. While the task is great there are definite procedures that must be followed. I would hope that it would take no longer than one year at the most. If three years are spent in re-organizing than we have lost two good years of mission and ministry work that would have been done. We would have also lost the best time for us to work on the words in “It’s Time.” I am not advocating haste but I would certainly be disappointed if it took the whole three years.

  9. According to a title that Todd Wilkins had previously lets have honesty and PATIENCE.. I for one do not like to drag my feet but this is a challenging change that is to come about..However, i’m just not stating a everyday fact, and I know all of you are doing this, just keep our new Pres. in our prayers. On this website the praying that was going before the election at the convention was astounding. The Almighty allowed the changes to come to fruition,and he also allowed all the following to become the v.p’s. This is where we have faith and trust and I thank my God for that.

  10. I smell too much moderation. Of course we can cut loose of all interaction with the ELCA and we should. They are neither Christian or Lutheran; they are more properly a pagan group with a “lutheran” veneer. We know how the Lord feels about the lukewarm. Harrison and the LCMS must take some swift action supporting our doctrine and fellowship guidelines before many of us will believe anything has changed.

  11. Dear Mollie,

    Thanks for reporting on this and sending us the link.

    Jim Heine did a good job of reporting on his new boss.

    The way that the synod restructured means that the old Communications staff now report directly to the President (well, okay, directly via the Chief Mission Officer whom Harrison will appoint). That means KFUO reports directly to Harrison, too, in that way.

    President-elect Harrison did a superb job of communicating what he needs to do, and how he feels about it. It is obvious that he is taking his “marching orders” from the convention, which is the way it should be. It is obvious that he understands the bureaucracy, respects its officers and staff, and knows how to work with it.

    It is also obvious to me that he is just an Iowa boy at heart. He talks “Main Street Midwest,” which is part rurual and part townfolk, but not stupid in any way. This means he understands the Missouri Synod people (85% of whom live in the Midwest). And that is a blessing!

    It has been awhile since the Missouri Synod has had a president like this.

    Kieschnick was a native of the Houston metropolis, with its explosive-growth international corporations, fabulous oil wealth, Johnson Space Center; and a career as an energetic district administrator and district president.

    Bohlmann was a native of the Chicago metropolis, the city of “Big Shoulders,” a consummate theologian, professor, and theological administrator; and a career as a seminary president.

    JAO Preus was a native of the Chicago and Twin Cities metropolises, another consummate theologian and professor, a Latinist (!!), a man with a deep understanding of church politics, and a career as a seminary president.

    Oliver Harms was a former district president, First VP, and pure synodical administrator and bureaucrat. No doubt about it; these have all been brilliant and capable men!

    Of the recent Presidents, Barry was closer to Harrison, being from Iowa, and close to its people. Barry had long terms as district administrator and district president, and worked at the synod level in missions after the formation of Seminex. He reminded everyone of their favorite pastor; and many of the church bureaucrats didn’t like him, because he wasn’t one of them.

    Having read many of the essays, sermons, and interviews of these presidents over the years, I would say that Harrison actually comes closest, in his ability to communicate to the Missouri Synod people, to:

    John W. Behnken

    And he served for twenty-seven years.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  12. Speaking form personal experience, its amazing how much you can get done once the garage is cleaned up:) The more people read this man’s heart and mind, they more they will wonder why they ever thought of voting for anyone else. There is no doubt in my small mind that Pr. Harrison and team will move through relatively unimportant things like bylaw changes much more efficiently and quickly than anyone suspects. That’s one of the beneficial side-effects of focusing on the Gospel.

  13. Pastor Noland, your post was very nice. I especially liked the comparison of previous presiding pastors. That was very interesting.

    PE Harrison is a midwest man at heart yet has demonstrated tremendous theological acumen, is a world traveler (but not in the tourist sense), and is extremely pastoral. When PE Harrison talks about his midwest roots, it reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw down on the Eastern Shore of MD- “We’re from the Eastern Shore. We’re not stupid.”

    I was very happy with what I read in the Reporter online.


  14. @Martin R. Noland #12

    Marty, you describe a former LCMS president as “a native of the Chicago metropolis,” as though that were a bad thing. Hey, I resemble that remark! I was born and raised in the city of Chicago.

    And you know what? A good case can be made that CHICAGO is the “capital” of the Missouri Synod! There are more LCMSers living in the state of Illinois than in any other state, and there are more LCMSers in Cook County (i.e., Chicago) than in any other county!

  15. Dear Pastor Henrickson (comment #17),

    Sorry! I didn’t mean to imply anything negative about Chicago or its residents. “Big Shoulders” means someone who can take a lot of abuse and is not easily rattled. At least that is how I had it explained, so I always thought it was a compliment and spoke to someone’s character in a positive way. If it means something else, then I retract that statement about “Big Shoulders.”

    Chicago has some claim on me, though not as much as you. I served two congregations for a total of 13 years in the Chicago metro area. I went to college at River Forest. And my three daughters were born in Oak Park, in a birthing suite whose window looked out on Austin and the West Side, with the Sears Tower in the background.

    Besides all that, I still root for the Cubs! Do you Charles? 🙂

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  16. @Martin R. Noland #12

    As far as I can tell, Matt Harrison is the fourth president of the LCMS to have a Texas connection. The other 3 (Behnken, Harms, and Kieschnick) were DPs of the Texas District, but Harrison did his vicarage in that district. So far people with a Texas connection have presided over synod for 43 of its 163 years.

    I know that Bohlmann’s father was out in a suburb of Chicago (I think a southwest one), but I thought that Bohlmann had been born and raised for the most part in Nebraska. The biographies of the LCMS presidents don’t seem to say much about the childhood of Bohlmann or any of the other presidents. Does anyone have any more specific information?

  17. @Charles Henrickson #18

    > The population center of the Missouri Synod would be somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis, maybe around Springfield, Iliinois.

    That sounds a lot better than that other thing you said 🙂

  18. @James Kellerman #20
    Bohlmann’s father was the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Ravenna, Nebraska where I formerly served. The town has about 1,300 people in it now. It might have been a little large during Bohlmann’s time before small rural towns started dying off. I talked to Ralph about it one time at a pastor’s conference. He still remembered a lot of the names from that era.

  19. Marty,

    You’re right. The movement of Communications essentially “into the president’s office” is extremely important —especially for the long term (or should I say number of terms in this case).

    Pastor Harrision is one of the most able communicators in the LCMS. He understand how the media (old and new) work and where they are going. The addition of Adriane Dorr, though not a Harrison decision, it a change in the right direction. I hope to see many more like it.

    Harrison can move Communications from the party-line, circle-the-wagons mentality, to an honest and unapologetic confession of Lutheran doctrine and practice. I hope he does.


  20. mames :I smell too much moderation. Of course we can cut loose of all interaction with the ELCA and we should. They are neither Christian or Lutheran; they are more properly a pagan group with a “lutheran” veneer. We know how the Lord feels about the lukewarm. Harrison and the LCMS must take some swift action supporting our doctrine and fellowship guidelines before many of us will believe anything has changed.

    While I am most thankful for our newly elected President Matt Harrison, I, too have concerns about any connection with the ELCA. It’s great, that Pastor Harrison has had experience working with them and others, however, a lot has changed since last August (ELCA Church-wide Assembly, Minneapolis). One can say they have been unraveling since they were formed in the merger in the 1980’s, but things have reached a critical level where it is difficult to find even a veneer of Lutheranism, at times. What happened with their social statement “Gift and Trust” was not primarily about homosexuality and ordination, but rather their continued disdain for the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. How can light work with darkness (I acknowledge there are some believers among them, but the structure of the ELCA has chosen apostasy despite being warned by many prior to their assembly. May God guide President Harrison and the LCMS on how to best make this break with a church that wants nothing from Lutheranism but the name.

  21. Todd Wilken :
    , to an honest and unapologetic confession of Lutheran doctrine and practice. I hope he does.

    I smiled when I read “unapologetic confession” as I see you, Pastor Wilken, as foremost a teacher of Scripture and also as teacher of the apologetics. 🙂

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