Glimpse Into the Post Election, Pre-Presidential Harrison Office is Revealing, by Pr. Rossow

On this Labor Day weekend it is appropriate to highlight the early labors of the Harrison team in St. Louis. Their chosen work setting and approach in the LCMS International Center (IC) prior to Harrison taking office last week is quite revealing. Rev. Harrison was elected on July 11, he officially became president on September 1 and the installation takes place a week from today. Prior to taking office he and his team made some choices for their work environment that provide an insight into the nature of what will be his on-going leadership style and also provides hope for healing for some of the divisions in the synod.

Before getting to the description of the work setting for Team Harrison let me offer a few thoughts on healing in the LCMS and the role of the synod president. The synod is advisory and has been primarily established by the congregations to provide efficiency in the sending out of missionaries and the training of church workers. That means that the synod president does not have the authority to directly change  what is happening in synod congregations. The authority to lead the administrative structure that is responsible for sending missionaries and training church workers is no small thing but the office does not have some sort of authority to wave its magic wand and change the synod. Beyond administrative leadership in missions and church worker education, there are also other significant ways the president can effect the synod. Here are two more as I see it.

First, the synod president has a pulpit, a “bully pulpit” if you will. I know of no other position in synod with as great of potential for communication persuasion as the office of president. That is not saying a whole lot since many congregations on both the left and the right will do what they want despite the president’s leadership. There are several folks in the middle however who are influenced by the directon set by the president. Secondly, according to the Synod Handbookthe president has doctrinal supervisory authority over all synod staff and district presidents. This is significant and I believe does reach into specific congregations. If a district president refuses to discipline a pastor or congregation for unscriptural doctrine or practice, it behooves the synod president to exercise supervision over that district president which should result in changed behavior in a congregation. So despite the congregational character of our polity, there are means by which the synod president can effect change.

Returning to the main point of this post, the manner in which the president-elect conducted his team suggests how he will conduct his business now that he is the president. Here are some details on how things were carried out in the weeks after the election and before September 1st beginning of the term.

These insights have been gleaned from various sources. First a decision was made to have the team meet in the IC. They could have met outside of the IC but they wanted to be with and around the IC staff. The team simply took over an open conference room in the IC. They also made it a point to keep the shades open to send a message of openess and cooperation with all. There were many indivuduals from the IC professional and support staff who made their way to the makeshift transition office and to great and positive effect. It is also worth noting that there is no great house-cleaning of support staff going on. We have no insights on professional staff but do know that where the Blue Ribbon cuts are not involved, an intentional effort is being made to maintain the status quo in support staff.

These chosen methods of transitional labors by the Harrison Team bode well for future healing of divisions in the synod. We would be fools to think that all divisions can be healed via the limited authority of a president in a denomination with such congregational autonomy. We are not foolish however, in asserting that the already demonstrated method of doing business by the Harrison Team is the best approach possible to bringing about as much healing as possible.

“Lord have mercy on us and grant us your peace.”

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.

Comments

Glimpse Into the Post Election, Pre-Presidential Harrison Office is Revealing, by Pr. Rossow — 21 Comments

  1. If a district president refuses to discipline a pastor or congregation for unscriptural doctrine or practice, it behooves the synod president to exercise supervision over that district president which should result in changed behavior in a congregation.

    While the Synod President does have doctrinal advisory authority, he also has the ecclesiastical supervisory authority (and responsibility) to suspend district presidents and order an investigation on whether they should be removed from synodical membership (and their corporate office) for deliberate failure to ecclesiastically supervise heterodox and unrepentant pastors or congregations in their districts.

  2. Carl,
    I have a tiny question…and if it is the District itself &/or the District President? The District itself who is doing/encouraging & publishing info, for heterodox? Water flows downhill Carl, not uphill, so what of Districts like SED or SW?

  3. President Harrison will no doubt carry out his responsibility to talk with a number of district presidents in meetings behind the synodical woodshed.

  4. It will be interesting to see how 8-08 is dealt with. Lord be with President Harrison, his staff, and the LCMS.

  5. I have been reflecting on the status of the families of the Bible and throughout the history of God’s people, I can not name one family united around God’s Word. From the very beginning of Adam and Eve after the fall, discord and division is a thread woven into the family tapestry. The solution to the problems they faced required recognition of the cause – sin, the very same problem we confront now in our family. While the temptation looms near to attempt solutions by our own efforts, the reality is we are part of the problem. That’s the bad news.

    The good news is we have elected a man named Pastor Harrison whose steadfast approach is through Christ with mercy to all. His ‘track record’ as head of LC-MS WR&HC bears witness to his unfailing efforts to bring healing to the wounded, comfort to the distressed and peace to God’s people with the application of the Gospel. This is the future of our Synod; not all will agree nor wish to be in accord with this course. After all, even Jesus very brothers did not believe until after his resurrection. If we cling to all that Jesus taught (confessionals call this “doctrine”) and proclaim this message throughout our Synod with mercy and love for our fellow Lutherans, we will be healed. We must approach all with the same mind and heart knowing fullwell some will not hear us nor see the joy of God’s grace offered to them. We can only tell what God has done and is doing for us – it is the “for us” which makes us Lutheran as opposed to those who choose “by us”. The “strange fires” among us will slowly ember; the By-Laws are just that – Laws which can not heal nor save; our unity will only be found in Christ and His mercy. This is the very heart of our new Synodical President and our Synod’s best hope.
    Peace,
    Dennis

  6. Two points here that must be reinforced. Yes, as Pr. Rossow explained the SP does have the authority to discipline DPs. That has not been as strongly excercised as it should be for a very long time. However, Rick (Carl Vehse) is correct in saying that for now that will happen privately. If that is not heeded, it is possible that stronger action could be taken, but here the parable of the wheat and the tares is opperative. Will the disciple do more damage than good? Pr. Harrison will have to weigh that as he decides how to proceed.

  7. Another headache for President Harrison is the continuing Missouri Synod cooperation (along with three LCMS pastors on the Board of Directors of this LSSNE debauchery.

    Maybe we need to send President Harrison a case of aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.

  8. Okay, I have a question, so please don’t take it as criticism. The DP’s are not “called” to their positions and are often not serving a parish as a “called” servant. They are usually administrators. The SP is not a “called” in his position, but is “elected.” I am not trying to promote episcopal polity, as we have seen from the Anglican Communion that our sin can screw this up as well. BUT, what kind of form of discipline, other than advisory, does the SP have at his disposal? I have heard more than once, “We don’t care what they do in St. Louis; we will ‘do our thing here at the congregational level.'”

  9. boogie,

    If you go to the link above to the LCMS handbook you will see that the Synod President is the supervisor of the DP’s. I do not know what sort of disciplinary action that entails but I assume it means things like suspension and what not.

    TR

  10. BUT, what kind of form of discipline, other than advisory, does the SP have at his disposal?

    163 years ago the Missouri Synod was founded with a congregational polity with the Synod being an advisory body. This means that the only power the synodical president (or a district president) has is to suspend an individual or congregational member during an investigation that could lead to expelling the person or congregation from membership.

    If a pastor is removed from membership, then the congregation would also have to depose the pastor (the synod cannot depose a pastor) or the congregation could also face expulsion from synod membership.

    The Missouri Synod has no authority to waterboard or apply any other corporal punishment to its members.

  11. @Carl Vehse #8
    Another headache for President Harrison is the continuing Missouri Synod cooperation (along with three LCMS pastors on the Board of Directors of this LSSNE debauchery.

    I don’t know how much territory LSSNE takes in, but didn’t Catholic Charities quit operating in one of these states rather than give up their principles? I agree that we should put our money where our mouth is on this issue, which would seem to be elsewhere than LSS. (I doubt they are different in other areas.)

    But all cannot be done in the “first 100 days”, so we will have to refrain from being a headache to Pres. Harrison and Co. He has enough without his friends adding to the burden.

  12. > They could have met outside of the IC but they wanted to be with and around the IC staff. The team simply took over an open conference room in the IC. They also made it a point to keep the shades open to send a message of openess and cooperation with all.

    This management style would do well in a secular corporation, too.

    So, the pushers of corporatism are right, in a way. They just have the specifics all bass-ackwards.

  13. mbw,

    Don’t mistake part of the “corporatism way” for all of it.

    There are certainly elements of good business practice that we need to apply in the church. The problem is when the church is seen as a business and not as a family. President Kieschnick’s “incessant” emphasis on program, change and leadership revealed an approach to church as a business instead of as a family gathered around the life-giving word and sacraments.

    TR

  14. @Helen #13
    In many states Lutheran Family Services came into being with LSS started doing their thing with abortion and adoption. Sadly, some would rather have on their resume’ the note that they were on a board of directors. Yes the LCMS men should remove themselves immediately from the LSSNE, but one has to wonder even more where the congregations in that local are in their theology!!

  15. @Helen #13
    “I don’t know how much territory LSSNE takes in, but didn’t Catholic Charities quit operating in one of these states rather than give up their principles?”

    I believe it was Massachusetts.

  16. Helen,

    There may be little choice but to take some kind of action soon. On May 2, 2006, the CTCR issued a response, “Placing Adopted Children into Homosexual Contexts,” to a request from the Board for Human Care (Rev. Bernie Seter, Chairman) in which the CTCR stated, in part, that “a policy of placing adopted or foster children into homosexual contexts would stand in opposition to the official doctrinal position of the LCMS.”

    As Executive Director of the LCMS World Relief and Human Care, Rev. Harrison, as well as executive pastoral assistant, the Rev. Albert Collver (now director of Church Relations–assistant to the president), would likely have been very familiar with the request as well as the CTCR’s response.

    Certainly President Harrison should have his new assistant schedule a meeting with the Rev. Carl J. Anton of West Hartford, CT, the Rev. James E. Keurulainen (ex-officio) of Dedham, MA, and the Rev. Robert F. Schipul of Cohasset, MA, regarding their continued involvement as LSSNE Board Directors. Also to be included at that behind-the-woodshed meeting would be the relevant district presidents, who would have to decide if a suspension of membership is warranted.

  17. @Carl Vehse #19

    In my opinion, the new administration does not need any public lobbying to do the most difficult things they are going to have to do. In many ways, the less said about the least desirable aspect of the office, the better. I do trust that this administration will heed the ‘wise-as-serpents’ part, and will take due note of cases in the OT where discipline was withheld contrary to God’s clearly stated will, and what happened. Just what I think, Dr. V.

  18. It’s not a problem, mbw. I don’t expect agreement on everything I post, now or in the future, including discussions about things relating to office of the synodical president.

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