I just returned from Fargo, ND attending the Joint North Theological Conference (Minnesota North and North Dakota Districts). While the weather barely cooperated (snow and ice), the conference was outstanding. The teacher for the conference was President Harrison, who taught the whole crowd of clergy and laity (close to 300 in attendance, double what was expected). The subject was the new LCMS emphases, Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. In order to get home and take care of my other vocational responsibilities, I had to miss the last question and answer session. Here are some thoughts related to the teaching sessions:
President Harrison is certainly a gifted teacher. He is a gift to the Church. The only resources he had in front of him were some notes and his Greek New Testament (which he translated on the fly). The teaching was soundly biblical. In his presentation he mentioned Greek words, German words, Hebrew words, and maybe even some Latin – but he taught them in an understandable way with great explanations. He taught using the Confessions, Luther, Walther, and others which he cited from memory. The teaching was clear cut, including the application of Scripture as both Law and Gospel.
Here are some other interesting points:
President Harrison used anecdotes and stories from his own experiences which helped to teach certain points. He would only depict himself in a poor light while speaking well of others. A fine model of respectable conversation was had by all.
You couldn’t keep him behind the podium. Much of the time he was right among the tables of the conference room, teaching in the midst of the people.
Questions were allowed at any point during the teaching time, and ample time was allowed for them to be asked. I did not have to fill out a card with my questions first (this is a first for me).
I heard the word “by-law” mentioned once only.
President Harrison taught with Law and Gospel to all. He chastised clergy and laity alike without respect of persons or “political” affiliation. He encouraged us with the Gospel in each situation.
President Harrison was respectful of all that has gone on before. He praised the motivation and commended what was good.
It is the first time I saw a Synod President laying across a table (depicting Lazarus in the tomb) in order to teach (man’s spiritual abilities as a corpse).
It is the first time I saw a Synod President picking away at a banjo (he plays a good “A Mighty Fortress”). He was joined by many gifted people from the two districts for post-supper entertainment. The entire room sang the first two stanzas of A Mighty Fortress along with the bluegrass band.
President Harrison was available during breaks. He entertained personal conversation with a number of different people.
The whole atmosphere of the conference was lighthearted and yet the subjects were taught in all seriousness. We were enjoying studying the Scriptures as two Districts being taught by their Synod President. There was a certain joy in things.
President Harrison both commended the work of CPH but also encouraged the laity to make sure their pastors have copies of Luther’s House Postils and also copies for themselves. He encouraged the laity to read the sermons and learn from them about good preaching so that they could help their pastors become better preachers. He encouraged preachers to return to sound law-gospel preaching that uses the word “you”.
The good things of the LCMS were praised, but without the arrogance of the past.
Both District Presidents offered about 15 minutes of devotions to the conference which consisted of wonderful sermons. Thank you to Presidents Fondow and Baneck.
This is not meant to put President Harrison on any pedestal as he once again maintained and confessed his status as a sinner often in the teaching. He has great gifts, and hopefully we can all pray that they would be used to glorify God.
I had the honor of being a delegate to this summer’s convention. I am gladdened to see that our Synod is going to be studying the Scriptures as both clergy and laity together, leaving behind the “party spirit” and relying upon the work of God through the Holy Spirit. Lord, have mercy.
Now onto the holy city of Fort Wayne for Symposia.
Thanks to Rev. John F. Wurst for the following recordings of the sessions (comment # 22)
Mercy: January 13, 2011:
Life Together: January 14, 2011