President Harrison’s Open Forum for the ANCA-LCMS Dialogue

Found on Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog:

President Harrison's Open Forum Address

President Harrison gave an address at the ACNA-LCMS Open Forum held at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne on Thursday, October 27, 2011. The video of President Harrison’s presentation is provided below in three parts.

– Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations–Assistant to the President


Following are comments from BJS:

2 minutes 16 seconds into the above .. A lot of the Missouri Synod’s dialog has been spent on the ELCA over the years all to no avail. Believe me, I’ve spent more time with the ELCA people than anyone in the Missouri Synod in the last 10 years.


5:10 into the above: “Our relationship with the ELCA is over. … We’ve ended a number of express joint work. We can’t just do it anymore with a good conscience.”

8:26: The Missouri Synod today, because of economics and because of a number of issues which are challenging among us, has excess seminary capacity. On my watch I’m just not going to be for closing institutions. We need to vastly increase the use of seminary capacity right now. Continue to listen here for his plan to start doing this.


0:26: The ordination of woman, I don’t believe has very much traction at all

6:00: It’s time for us really to work hard on the theology of mission

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


President Harrison’s Open Forum for the ANCA-LCMS Dialogue — 32 Comments

  1. This sounded almost like a “State of the (LCMS) Union” address. Many good points, and a nice overview of whre President harrison sees the synod right now……

  2. Further on in his talk in Part 2, President Harrison states:

    “The Missouri Synod today, because of economics and because of a number of issues which are challenging among us, has excess seminary capacity. On my watch I’m just not going to be for closing institutions. We need to vastly increase the use of seminary capacity right now.”

    What President Harrison proposes is to greatly increase the synod’s funding of the seminaries so that they can bring foreign students to the two seminary campuses so that those trained can return to their homeland with sound Lutheran training.

  3. Regarding our relationship (or lack thereof) with the ELCA, as mentioned by President Harrison.

    When I was serving in South Korea, I occasionally filled in for the International Lutheran Church in Seoul, which presently is shared by the ELCA-LCMS (they switch off pastors every 3-6 years, and are currently served by an LCMS pastor).

    My wife, who is native Korean, and I have discussed the possibility of serving there someday in the distant future (already knowing it would be a challenge to be faithful to the Lutheran confessions, given the church’s history and makeup).

    What might be the future of ILC-Seoul, or other such shared congregations? (From my understanding, ILC was started as a joint-ministry for military families around 60 years ago, or so).

  4. Praise God for President Harrison! We need to get together and promote the work of God under his leadership. He has a vision for spreading the true word to all the world through our Synod and its seminaries.

    Let’s speak up in our congregations in support of “our beloved Synod.” (Remember when those were common words?)

  5. @Vern Wendt #4
    I am not sure about the future of such relationships, but I will tell you that I was a regular attendee of the International Lutheran Church in Seoul during my Army overseas tour there from 1987-1988 (I left shortly before the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics). The church was located about 2 miles by foot from my Army barracks in Youngsan (I know because I had to walk the distance to and from the center every Sunday I attended there). Luckily for me, the pastor serving there at the time was LCMS.

    I do know that Youngsan Garrison and other “inner city” bases are being phased out by the US Army as they try to reduce their presence in the big cities in South Korea by moving their operations further back from the northern border to be more of a “reaction force” to any North Korean Attack (and to diffuse the inner city demonstrations that take place against the US presence there).

    If you go back there, I wish you well. I still have a medal presented to me by the church for my work there as a cantor and scripture reader, as well as other contributions to the congregation during my time there. Good memories…..

  6. Rahn, thanks for the response! I lived and served in Yang jae the past few years (I had small English speaking church alongside a Korean speaking church), but had a good relationship with the members of ILC — and always enjoyed filling in there when their pastor is absent. We had our American wedding there last July.

    They are exploring the possibility of planting another church closer to the new army base when that happens– whether that pan$ out or not, we’ll see.

    My understanding is that the LCK owns ILC’s building, since when it was built, foreigners weren’t permitted to own commercial property in that part of Seoul (or something like that — I’m not totally clear on the details…). I guess the future of ILC may also depend on the LCK’s relationship with the LCMS/ELCA.

    While, the LCK has some weaknesses, (e.g. membership with LWF, the majority of their churches use a Korean hymn book that lacks the historical liturgy and consists of mostly Methodist and Prebyterian hymns, etc.), at least at this point, they don’t ordain woman, and some of their pastors/leaders attended our LCMS seminaries. So, we’ll see…

    It will be interesting to see just what happens when the current pastor’s “tenure” is up — and whether ILC continues to follow the pattern of calling an ELCA pastor or not.

    IMHO, the current pastor is doing an excellent job of sharing God’s grace to a congregation of diverse backgrounds.

  7. @Wallenstein #6
    What congregation can afford NOT to have a properly trained pastor?

    Some expect more education for someone to teach elementary children algebra or for a preschool director -than for those who teach theology, minister to souls, and rightly divide law and gospel? We should be more comfortable if our heart doctor learned medicine over a few weekends and correspondence courses rather than if we had a pastor who studied the same amount. Why the low priority for the formation of theologians?

    Going to the seminary, going from no debt other than a mortgage to a large student loan debt is a blessing and cross pastors gladly bear for the sake of the gospel! I’ve heard pastors complain over many things, but have never heard a regret over the debt they incurred for going to seminary. It’s worth it and we gladly bear it. We knew it going in and the world, even people in our own church, think we’re fools. Thanks be to God for the seminaries of the church.

    What was our Lord talking about in Luke 9:57-62? This is not primarily about Christians in general but exegetically about full time church workers (ie “follow me” is the Call given to His full time pastors), to leave your plow in the field and go off to study. Doesn’t Jesus know they could have been better off finanically to keep plowing and learn to be a part-time student/part time pastor? But most think Jesus was a fool when He had His seminary of full time students.

  8. Here I thought perhaps given the locale he was announcing the merging of StL and FTW into the StL sem. This makes the most sense since the purple palace is in StL oh and the cardinals are there also. JMTCW

  9. Solid, Biblical, Christ-centered, Confessional Seminaries are the
    key to survival for the LCMS. St. Louis and Fort Wayne need
    our prayers, our financial support, and our young men to
    enroll in them. President Harrison is to be lauded for his
    endorsement of having 2 Seminaries, and thinking outside the
    box to get more seminarians from around the world.

    A resident seminary program is preferred over the alphabet
    programs like Delto and SMP, etc. Live classroom experience
    can not be duplicated nor can the bonds of fellowship that
    develop on campus.

  10. Frankly I’m confused. It was just about 4 1/2 years ago we endorsed the SMPP program for pastoral training. (I voted against it and still think it is aseriously inadequate pastoral training program.) Yet, now our leadership says we need to increase the work of our seminaries by bringing in foreign men to train. (Another great idea.) Does this mean that the SMP program will be cancelled?

    I think Pres. Harrisons attitude of ending cooperation with the ELCA is great. But, does that mean we will end all cooperative efforts, as in the military chaplancy. Does that mean the LCMS will ban all joint college campus ministries? Our President has the right attitude about the ELCA, but how will this translate into action??

  11. @mames #11
    The theological house cleaning must come from the local pastors and body of believers not from synodical bureaucrats. I would argue that the house cleaning is already going on one family at a time as they raise their voices and if they are rejected they leave heterodox pastors and congregations in order to join with more orthodox ones. These people support orthodox pastors, missions, missionaries, seminarians etc. by the grace of God. If the members of the synod are brought to repentance and led away from heterodoxy than thanks be to God. If LCMS pastors and congregations head down the road toward heterodoxy than thanks be to God for those who are saved despite the false teaching.

  12. Mames,

    The fact is that the future does indeed belong to those who show up. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is to say that the view of someone like Dort Preus about the chief work of a godly wife is indesputably more important than the view of, say, J. Johnson. No understanding, biblical or not, which encourages (even if only incidently) low or no procreation will endure de facto. (clipped) We have seemingly prevented women’s ordination but now have women as Elders, congregational presidents, and soon (apparently) presidents of CU’s etc. We seem, at least among our academic class, almost to have abandoned the household structure of mom, dad, and multiple kids. Whatever is thought of the Order of Creation, (or not), of birth control (or not), the future will belong to those who are there. The late 20th century model (2 jobs, 2 cars, 2 401ks, 2 houses, 2 carreers, and 1.5 kids) destroys itself in time. The future will belong to the babies of the mothers who actually had them. These women, of course, are the ones with the real power.

  13. @Jim Strawn #14 Not sure I fully follow but the women in the positions you mention are the camel’s nose under the tent. When Harrison says women should be involved it is easy to agree but in what manner and in what roles that is the question. I am not sure he knows himself or if he does he has not yet defined them. I would have liked definition rather than generic rhetoric. I would have expected it that setting. I am always suspect of generalities.

  14. The critiques mames made in #10 and #11 were specific to the President Harrison’s comments in the three videos. The first critique was on a comment in Part 1; the last two critiques were on comments made in Part 3, and the rest of the critiques were on President Harrison’s comments made in Part 2.

    Regarding the comment about preaching on the Missouri Synod to be fruitful and multiply its birth rate to meet or exceed that of Mohammedans, Missouri Synod growth was due to German immigration in the 19th and early 20th century and the baby boom in the post-WWII 20th century. The (legal and illegal) growth in the US since then has been nonLutherans from 3rd or 4th world countries and not Germany or Scandinavia.

    Regarding mames’ note about clergy who are not being disciplined follows from President Harrison’s admission of knowing of some retired clergys’ complaints about the Synod’s position on homosexuality.

    Preferably, thread responses should relate to what President Harrison stated in the Open Forum videos or discussions about it. Resorting to their ad hominem diversions by the usual suspects is not helpful. Thankfully such ad hominem posts are being deleted.

  15. Mames,

    Thanks for the response. I support President Harrison and pray for him regularly.

    Ever since the CTCR document of 1985, the women’s issue has been framed essentially for the (certainly good) purpose of preventing women’s ordination. Ralph Bohlman at the time said, “This is where we circle the wagons.” A full discussion of why the manner in which this has been done has been insufficient (distinctive functions argumentation) is too involved for this forum.

    But in my view, this has (inadvertently perhaps) conceded a secular view of the home (as though it were a partnership instead of a unit), and thus also a largely secular view of gender relationships (as though they were competitive). These are broad statements, I know. I say it “conceded” these not that it “promoted” them.

    One result has been that these homes now increasingly reflect a late twentieth century view of procreation and its relationship to marriage. Sex too. Now, while women’s ordination makes you heterodox, a lack of children makes you non-existent. I think you would enjoy Mark Steyn’s “America Alone.” If you read it thinking about the LCMS, a lot of gaps will fill in with tons of “ah ha” moments.

  16. @Carl Vehse #16 I am confused are you saying the way to grow the church is through birthing more children? How does this play against the means of grace, of predestination? I am being ad hominem? I believe I am sticking to the issues not the person

  17. So the number one issue, per Harrison, facing the Synod is the birthrate decline. This @ 9.50 onward in first video. His unnoficial suggestion was to raise it from 2.1 to 4.1 children per family.

    The question is, are you going to do your part ? 🙂

  18. @Rev. Weinkauf #9
    Seminarians should earn their M. Div degrees. They should be able to attend tuition-free. The only stipulation should be that they would have to work as full-time pastors at an LCMS congregation for at least 10 years after graduation.

    Have you ever calculated the monthly student loan payment on a $20,000 loan. A student can accumulate so much (non-dischargeable through bankruptcy) debt that he has nothing left in order to buy a house and start a family. Whoever said that the LCMS seminaries were immune from the Education bubble?

    Under such conditions, how can young LCMS couples (including married LCMS pastors) afford to have a large family? What about LCMS couples in their early 40s with only two kids because they married at a later age. They married late, as they had to take extra years to get their careers started and the student loans repaid. Should they have more kids? I hope such reflections were aimed at the 20-somethings.

    What was our Lord talking about in these passages:

    Exodus 22:25 Leviticus 25:35-36 Deuteronomy 15:7 Deuteronomy 23:19

    Deuteronomy 23:20 Nehemiah 5:7 Psalm 15:5

    Ezekiel 18:8 Ezekiel 18:13

  19. I challenge anyone to ask what the present personal decision-making path toward the small family is. Children are thought too expensive. Women (and men) perceive large families as low-class. People believe the world has far too many people as it is. It is very difficult to send more than two children to daycare allowing mom and dad both to work outside the home. But behind it all, multiple kids in the western world will not ever fit into the present view of the “ideal” family nor into the present understanding of the “ideal” relationship of the genders (sexes) in marriage. Marriage is not seen in terms of Ephesians 5. It is not even seen in terms of 1965 (pre-pill). It is seen as two people who want to enjoy one another. Maybe they will have a baby or two (or maybe not). The decision likely does not involve theology. (Disclaimer: We have five)

  20. God bless Pres. Harrison for his words! I will continue to pray for him and our synod.

    It is kind of contradictory, although few realize it, to promote increased childbirth on the one had, and then to encourage women in leadership roles on the other hand, since the latter naturally precludes the former.

    This is true unless we are speaking of the leadership women ought to have, as Paul instructs Titus (Titus 2:3-5),
    “…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”

    The antidote to women’s ordination is not allowing women to be “leaders,” as if our teaching the order of creation will be better accepted if we encourage our daughters to do what the world says they should do. The antidote is supporting the order of creation, which says that a woman is naturally a wife and a mother, and as such does not naturally lead men. The world rejects this and tries to fashion a woman different than the one God presented to Adam and named by him, and our culture especially mocks the virtuous beauty of Sarah who obeyed Abraham and called him lord. (1 Peter 3:6)

    Just as a man gains the form of his vocation by looking at what Adam was made to be, namely a father and a husband, and so even if he is not married he finds in the office of father and husband the beginning and end of love for his neighbor, so also a woman gains the form of her vocation by looking at what Eve was made to be, namely a wife and a mother, and so even if she is not married or has no children, she finds in the office of mother and wife the beginning and end of love for her neighbor.

    I think the problem is that, as Jim Strawn rightly points out, we have allowed the worldly view of creation into the domestic estate while our wagons were only circled around the churchly estate. How could this possibly be righted by having women in more leadership positions? How can we be teaching men to love their wives as Christ loved his church while at the same time promoting the unfortunate circumstance of a woman telling men in a synodical organization what to do? How can we be teaching women to submit to their husbands while at the same time we encourage women to tell other women’s husbands what to do?

    Am I the only one who thinks this is just a little bit crazy, or am I just young, naive and idealistic… ; )

    Mark Preus

  21. @Mark Preus #22

    > Am I the only one who thinks this is just a little bit crazy, or am I just young, naive and idealistic… ; )

    Not at all. Some of the very same churches that tout male headship at home have no concept of it in the church, while calling the church a ‘family.’ It is crazy.

  22. >>It was just about 4 1/2 years ago we endorsed the SMPP program for pastoral training.

    If you look at the history of DELTO, Alternate Route, and about a half-dozen other such programs in the LCMS you will find that all of them existed about that long before they were significantly modified or supplanted by another program, the latest being SMP.

    I do not think it is reasonable to consider SMP to be so perfect that it is the final, ultimate iteration, which will never need tweaking, or never be supplanted by another program.

  23. @mames #18 : I am confused are you saying the way to grow the church is through birthing more children?

    I previously noted that earlier Missouri Synod growth was associated with other factors than the Missouri Synod urging that “it’s a good thing to have a large Lutheran orthodox family” (11:10 in the Part 1 video). Even President Harrison stated (at 10:33) that he didn’t expect there to be any wholesale turnaround in the Missouri Synod birthrate.

    How does this play against the means of grace, of predestination?

    The means of grace applies to to all people, whether they are born to Missouri Synod congregational parents or not.

    I am being ad hominem? I believe I am sticking to the issues not the person

    My #16 post noted that your posts #10 and #11 “were specific to President Harrison’s comments in the three videos.” I don’t know why your posts were purged. My reference to ad hominem posts being deleted was in regard to a McCain post being deleted.

  24. It’s good to see a thorough, succinct, and candid perspective on the status and priorities of our Synod right now. Maybe it was candid to a fault in a couple of places–notably the rationale for a higher birthrate–but I appreciate the ‘speaking the truth in love’ aspect of the whole speech. And I would far rather have us err on the side of candor than on the side of secrecy.

    I was really taken aback that there was applause when he talked about having no relationship anymore with the ELCA. I think it’s a necessity, but I don’t think it’s something to cheer about.

    The strong support for both seminaries was very welcome. His realistic assessment of relationships with other church bodies was very clear and thorough. I liked his decided witness about women’s ordination, and also his clear commitment to women’s participation in every area where it is appropriate. I loved it when he said that it is the devil’s lie that there is no money in the Synod. True that!

    It wasn’t the time or the place to talk further about campus ministry in the LCMS. I hope that the time and place will come soon. We need more from him, I think, on that–although the 10/13 letter was really outstanding.

  25. I should add, I was also extremely impressed with his emphasis on missions.. Sharing our superb seminaries with the rest of the world, and also starting new churches here in the US–he’s right, we should do that and do it right. Nice to hear that from our SP!

  26. Old Time St. John’s :I should add, I was also extremely impressed with his emphasis on missions.. Sharing our superb seminaries with the rest of the world, and also starting new churches here in the US–he’s right, we should do that and do it right. Nice to hear that from our SP!

    Pres. Harrison’s emphasis on missions was tied directly to a bold proclamation of the Gospel. This is the “pure doctrine” or “unity of faith” that is our Synod’s #1 objective. At one point he was highly critical of preaching that proclaims neither plain in-our-face Law, nor Gospel that comforts those who have been confronted by such Law-preaching, but that preaches Gospel-as-Law (“we’re being preached to death”). Some time later, his emphasis on missions was connected directly with his emphasis on good Law-Gospel preaching as the motivator.

    It’s about time. And, in reference to another thread, I wonder what our DP’s are going to do about being “preached to death.”


  27. @Johannes #30
    Yes, that phrase ‘doing it right’ encompassed a tremendous amount of badly needed focus on pure doctrine and good preaching and worship. Very clear and very welcome.

  28. @Carl Vehse #27 As for me, other than profanity or name calling everything is up for grabs or else nothing is. Having the displeasure of having to privately and publicly confront some of our leadership and/or clergy I am used to their short fuse and obvious insecurity. Errant Pastors do not well tolerate correction or questions as to their reasoning from a layman whether in a very private setting or an open one. It is unfortunate that the mark of a Christian, confession/forgiveness, is often the last thing to be seen from these errant clergy. They often have a very hard time admitting when they are wrong.

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