President Harrison Takes Questions Directly from the Delegates and Builds Trust, by Pr. Rossow

It has been three district conventions cycles since delegates got to ask questions of the synod president without his handlers working them over, the questions that is. In recent memory questions for the synod president had to be written out, turned in well before the Q and A question and then the president would pick and choose ahead of time which questions would be addressed.

That is what made it very refreshing to see President Harrison simply call delegates to the microphones and ask whatever question they had on their mind. That sort of approach builds trust and helps to demonstrate that the synodical president is confident in his doctrinal and bureaucratic positions and policies. It also suggests that he personally practices the principles of his Koinonia project, i.e. be willing to listen to others and have true and open discussion on the matters that divide us.

Here is a paraphrase of two the questions and answers: (delegates to the convention are welcome to fine tune these paraphrases in the comment section below or share other questions and answers that they recall)

Question: Now that you have been in office for a while, what do you think of the Restructuring Proposals that you originally opposed? Answer: Who told you I originally opposed them? (chuckle from the delegates). The synod convention approved the proposals and so it is my duty to carry out their wishes. These proposals give the synod president ten times more authority than he had previously. This authority has allowed us to get much further along in realizing our vision for the synod. I am committed to handling that authority with humility. In the long run, it will be the synod who will decide if I have properly handled this authority or not.

Question: Is there a pastor shortage in the LCMS? Answer: No. However, over the next 10-15 years we face large retiring classes of pastors so I encourage you young men to go to the seminary.

I was surprised that there were no really hard questions. I can think of a few reasons that might be the case. Harrison has been careful in his first year and a half to build trust and confidence and not rock too many boats. He has also been consumed with working out all of the details of the Structure Proposals. They were broad-ranging and sweeping but they were not well thought through and were not necessarily consistent with each other. It has been yeoman’s work to systematize them and get them ready for the real world. It also strikes me that critical questions of Harrison and his confessional approach would be hard to come by. It’s hard to imagine someone going to the mic and saying “Mr. President, why is it that you oppose opening up the communion rail for non-Lutherans?” (By the way, President Harrison made it a point to call it “closed” and not “close” communion.) Or “Mr. President, why have you completely cut off the LCMS from doing joint mercy projects with the ELCA?” Those and other critical questions would just seem out-of-place.

As I listened to President Harrison take questions and answers directly from the convention floor I saw one of my brothers from the other side of the LCMS political fence watching him with curiosity. Moved by Harrison’s Scriptural teaching, energy, humor and charisma, I thought to myself, this guy must be thinking something on the line of “It’s going to be a long time before we get the synod presidency back.” Or maybe he was thinking, “This guy just may be able to lead us to greater unity in the Gospel.” I hope it’s the latter.

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

President Harrison Takes Questions Directly from the Delegates and Builds Trust, by Pr. Rossow — 91 Comments

  1. Lumpenkönig :

    It is ironic that those generic (non-denominational) churches that operate Christian grade schools feel no need to have high theological standards. Why are so many people content with watered-down theology and mediocre schools.

    Sometimes even Lutheran schools end up going that route because they do not want to scare off the non-Lutheran families. I try to be aware of the beliefs of non-Lutheran students, but teach Confessional Lutheran stuff all day every day in the classroom. If something comes up that I do not know I know I can rely on my pastor to step in. The Lutheran stuff on the web is really quite useful as well and as a plug to Pastor Fisk sometimes if the topic is right WE might even make an appearance.

  2. Pastor Scheer told me the comments on this post were steering toward matters educational, and that’s why I was invited to post on BJS. I’m going to be writing a lot about my experience with my congregation’s school and other great things around in the world of Lutheran education — there is actually quite a lot to be praised. Look for a post in the next day or so, and feel free to ask questions or add to it in the comments. I love how many Lutherans are becoming passionate about ensuring our children receive quality education, both theologically and in other areas.

  3. Seriously, can’t we praise instead of comparing and drag a individual through the mud who is no longer in office?

  4. @Jon #53

    Confessionals seem unhappy most of the time.  They would probably be more convincing if they would lighten up.

    “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2)

  5. @John Rixe #54

    Here’s a convincing Confessional addressing the erring “pastors” of his day:

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)

    (Lighten up, John, that was a joke! See — here’s a smiley-face: 🙂 )

  6. John,

    You got it way wrong. Do you hang out with any confessionals? Confessionals are very fun, daring and enjoyable people.

    You are mistaking our seriousness about the Gospel and our zeal for the Lord for being uptight.

    Check out the “No Pietists Allowed” section of this website and you will see that confessionals know how to enjoy the fruits of the earth given us by our God.

    You actually have it backwards. As in our national politics, it is the conservatives who do not not take themselves too seriously and who overall play the political game in the open and fairly. Because they are open, blunt and direct they accused of being mean. Mean is the approach often taken by the liberals beacuse it is done sneakily. It is the liberals who masquerade as nice (PC) and yet are vicious, hardly ever smile, and take themselves way too seriously. It is also the liberals who have thier socalled liberal policies but are the least tolerant people you will ever meet.

    Conservatives are able too have it out with much zeal and commitment on a blog like this and then go get their guns, shoot a few animals, come back in from a nice day out in nature, smoke a few cigars, have a couple of shots of whiskey/Scotch, drink a few beers and tell several fun and off-color jokes. Those are the fun people of the world. (And because many of them have advanced degrees there is usually a smattering of cutlural critique included in the beer drinking.)

    The favorite story I have ever heard told about me was on the convention floor in Houston in 2010. The snarky, liberal head of one of the synod boards was aquaintances with a well known conservative blogger who was also an aquaintance of mine. They got to talking about BJS and its editor. This guy said – “You know Tim Rossow? He must be a very unhappy and mean person to be around.” The blogger looked at him and said, “Tim Rossow, he is one of the nicest people I know.”

    You hang around this blog enough to know that much of what we say is tongue in cheek and that in the end, we are not taking ourselves too seriously.

    Man oh man have you got it wrong and the evidence is right in front of you on this blog. You need to spend more time hanging with the dudes we fellow confessionals hang with.

  7. Jon :
    Seriously, can’t we praise instead of comparing and drag a individual through the mud who is no longer in office?

    Did you have to ruin a decent thread?

    Note upstream that Rev. McCain did a fine job comparing the leadership styles of several past presidents. If I were to state that Jimmy Carter was a worse president than Dwight Eisenhower, would that upset you too? Would it ruin your day if most of the people who visit this website prefer the policies and leadership style of Pastor Harrison over those of his predecessor. A frame of reference is needed when describing the qualities of a person, place, or thing.

  8. John Rixe :
    @Jon #53
    Confessionals seem unhappy most of the time.  They would probably be more convincing if they would lighten up.
    “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2)

    Reading the articles by the same three people was getting stale, boring, and too predictable. I therefore appreciate the recent addition of many pastors and laymen/laywomen to the Brothers’ Cafe. How do you like the variety of topics with confessional Lutheranism? This is a positive change, don’t you think?

    Issues, Etc. helped Matt Harrison, albeit in an indirect way, get elected. Would you consider the people on that radio program unhappy complainers. What about Pirate Christian Radio. Are Chris Rosborough and the people who host the various programs on PCR unhappy people. How about the other pastor at Pastor Rossow’s church: Rev. Fisk? Is he crabby, too?

    The LCMS has a lot of problems. Should they not be exposed and discussed on an Internet forum such as this one. If not on this forum, then they will be addressed on the other forums mentioned above. Confessionals could be perceived as complainers ONLY IF the seemingly endless chatter resulted in inaction. I would like to believe that confessional Lutheran blogs and podcasts function as change agents in getting synod to quit ignoring decades-old problems. Does it bother you that Confessionals have a general consensus regarding the need to preserve and/or revive a genuine Lutheran identity in our churches.

    Willow Creek Lutherans, ie “Missionals” feel threatened most of the time. Three common responses of Missionals when confronted by Confessionals: Leave us alone; Synod is only advisory; and Confessionals are unhappy complainers. All responses are intended to deflect the issue at hand and to get the Confessional to defend himself. Fear of exposure regarding promoting false doctrine is common among Missionals.

    Please explain the fascination with Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Beth Moore. They teach a theology that is hostile to Lutheran doctrine. For example, have you ever been forced to read Bill Hybels’ book: “The Power of a Whisper” as part of an all-church study? Where in the Lutheran Confessions does it state that we hear voices from God throughout the day as we ponder our everyday tasks? The study guides for books and videos by Warren and Hybels ask endless personal questions that have next to nothing to do with the Bible. Why not just admit that such materials are mindless, watered-down Calvinist garbage.

    Of course, news regarding positive changes within the LCMS as a result of exposing and debating the bad news is always welcome. These are troubling times for the Church. Keep up the good work, Steadfast!

  9. @Roger Gallup #4
    Well Jon give us something to smile about by returning the church back to its rightful owner Jesus and let the happy clappies go their willow way. Not loving? Neither is castigating confessionals because we prefer order and dignity to a weekly talent show

  10. @Lumpenkönig #61

    @John Rixe #63

    As one of those three who was boring, stale, and all too predictable (#61) and also apparently the night sky (#63), I guess I am sorry. But as one of the boring, stale, and predictable guys who came up with the new (and unpredicted) changes at BJS, you are welcome. Wow, and they say confessionals are mean…

  11. @John Rixe #57

    Rixe: Confessionals seem unhappy most of the time. They would probably be more convincing if they would lighten up.

    Crandall: Here’s a convincing Confessional addressing the erring “pastors” of his day: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15) (Lighten up, John, that was a joke! See — here’s a smiley-face: )

    Rixe: “Sorry, I don’t get the point. Whom are you comparing to scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites?”

    I was referring to any erring pastor being exhorted by a caring brother. The humor was that you were whining about confessionals needing to lighten up (“Don’t worry! Be happy!”) and I showed you Jesus himself reacting in an “unpleasant” way to the errorists of his day. I was trying to inject a little humor as I made the point that confronting error is not usually a pleasant task, but it is a necessary one — made necessary by those leading their proselytes away from the Cross of Jesus Christ. In the recent climate of the LC-MS, it has been more important that you winsomely teach false doctrine than unpleasantly exhort your brother pastors to offer more than a joint service on Christmas Day. Ironically enough,
    for a good number of years, judging others was not allowed — unless you were judging them to be judgmental, rigid, unloving confessionals with no heart for the lost — “Like us wonderfully nice and accepting, non-judgmental and totally Christ-like missionals…” Thanks be to God, the tide has turned and 85% realize again the importance of what we believe.

    @John Rixe #65

    Rixe: The grumpy folks are generally laypersons. They should be made to go sing Christmas carols with the Presbyterians

    Crandall: Good one! You DO have a sense of humor! LOL

  12. @Tim Klinkenberg #19
    Pres, Kieschnick thought on his feet during the convention. I remember also he was gracious like that as the Convention Chair

    I remember being told that GK kept Prof. Kurt Marquart standing unrecognized at a microphone for an hour while runners from ‘us1st’ occupied the other mikes.

    I remember a few other things I won’t go into here.

    I have a little different definition of “gracious”, Tim.

  13. @Ted Crandall #67

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.  Do you include as scribes and Pharisees those who preach childrens’ sermons and don’t wear vestments?  I mean no disrespect.

  14. @Lumpenkönig #61

    I agree Steadfast has done good work in promoting campus ministry, standards and training for new pastors, standards for Bible class leaders, raising funds for ULC, etc.  Keep it up!

  15. @John Rixe #71
    Do you include as scribes and Pharisees those who preach childrens’ sermons and don’t wear vestments?

    Children’s sermons are largely a waste of time, (especially with ‘toys’ incorporated) unless they are used to slip in the catechical instruction that adults are avoiding by avoiding Bible class.

    Vestments are a mark of a Lutheran Pastor. In wearing them, he signifies that he is less important than the God he is (hopefully) preaching about.

    Dancing about in jeans and suspenders (color to match the liturgical season) is subtle sarcasm awa an indication of an oversize ego. [“Look at ME!”] IMnsvHO!

  16. @Ted Crandall #74

    I think we agree.  Those who operate at a level of sin comparable to scribes and Pharisees should not be dealt with winsomely nor should anyone lighten up in confronting such evil.  An example would be MNS Board of Directors.   Thanks again for your patient replies.

  17. @helen #73

    You may be right, but are these sins that are comparable to those of the scribes and Pharisees (children of hell)? You are talking about every pastor in my circuit for at least one service each weekend.

  18. @John Rixe #76
    You are talking about every pastor in my circuit for at least one service each weekend.

    In what way…. the children’s sermon, the vestments or lack thereof, or =8-O
    the [embroidered] green suspenders!?

    I’ll give the children’s sermon a bye… something good may be happening there.

    Re vestments: Why not be Lutheran!? Please?

    [If the lack of vestments go with a band displacing the alter as the center of the chancel…
    why not label yourself willowcreek or saddleback or [rock concert?] and stop confusing us?
    Or worse, expecting Lutherans to pay for your entertainment?]
    If they are “riding two horses” I would guess that’s the reason… “We’d get rid of Granpa but he’s got the bank account.” The youngsters got electronic gadgets, new cars and credit card debt.

    Jojakim over on LQ recorded the fate of a church which built a big new sanctuary and then told the older members they were “scaffolding” and unneeded now the building was finished.
    No kidding!
    They neglected to consider that it wasn’t paid for, and the oldsters had been doing the paying. They went into foreclosure. Too bad, so sad.

  19. One or the other, sometimes both.  No green suspenders.  Always a suit and often with clerical collar.  All of the churches also have traditional services with vestments every Sunday.

    The Saturday night service at my church, for example, follows traditional format but with praise band and AGPS songs.  The sermon is identical to Sunday.  The service is pretty subdued and tame.    It’s aimed at school parents.  70% of the families of our 500 students have no church membership.

    I’m guessing that most contemporary services in LCMS are like that but I have no evidence.  Only a few are on the wild side, I hope.  I believe that all LCMS pastors, in general, are sincere in reaching out to the lost no matter what the style.  I know of none who are scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites.

  20. @Pastor Tim Rossow #56
    There is an outstanding (and a bit frightening, honestly) article about the whole issue of “tolerance” and “intolerance” and the *planned* reversal of those two words, led by a man by the name of Herbert Marcuse, on “Salvo.”

    Here’s the link: http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo20/herbert-marcuse-censorship-is-tolerance.php

    This reminds me a lot of what Gene Veith has to say in “Modern Fascism.”

    @John Rixe #78
    I think we don’t give people “out there” enough credit. A service “aimed” at that 70% you mention could very easily be a simple Vespers order (assuming a Sat. evening, eg.), and A. it wouldn’t be “too hard” for the “uninitiated” to follow, and B. it wouldn’t “drive them away” (unless they already wanted an excuse to go away), because people do generally have an understanding that if they go to a new place (not even necessarily a church), there will be different ways of doing things. “Outsiders” who have come to my churches (chanting regularly at one, not at the other, genuflecting before the Body and Blood after each of our Lord’s Words of institution–me, not the people, though a few heads do bow…stuff like this) have *never* been “put off” by this–at least “outsiders” from outside of Lutheranism–RC’s, all kinds of Protestants, unconnecteds, etc. Whether they “like” it or not, I usually don’t know, and, essentially, I try not to care. What I care about is the delivery to them of the pure Gospel, which the Liturgy does. And with the “higher” aspects, it’s a matter of visibly and physically confessing how Great and *Holy* the Gifts are that He is giving here. There is plenty of joy, to be sure, too. Lots of smiles on my and my people’s faces–how can we not, after all?

  21. @John Rixe #78
    Well, fwiw, every single pastor I know is a hypocrite. 🙂 (Chief of hypocrites though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me!) But for that matter, so is every Christian. Just read something recently with a new perspective on that term–can’t remember where I read it–essentially–“Thank God I’m a hypocrite–two-faced! If I were only 1-faced, it’d be the one face that is going to hell.”

    The person who says he’s not a Pharisee becomes one by saying it.

    (Will look at your Creed post in a moment.)

  22. Re: Nicene Creed video:
    Cool.

    One *little* critique–because I catch myself phrasing it confusingly often enough. There’s a semicolon between “Being of one substance with the Father*;* By whom all things were made…” The point is that “By whom all things were made” refers to the Son, Jesus Christ. It is not simply a repetition of what we already confessed in the first article. I think we run the clauses together such that people think “Father” is the referent of “whom”.

    (Sorry I had to mention that–I do like the video with the 3 different voices, 3 different generations.)

  23. @Rev. David Mueller #80

    Thanks for your comment.  I have no interest nor knowledge regarding the merits of liturgical vs contemporary.  I just wanted to make sure that so-called “erring pastors” practices are not considered comparable to the sins of scribes and Pharisees.   

  24. Pastor Joshua Scheer :
    @Lumpenkönig #61
    @John Rixe #63
    As one of those three who was boring, stale, and all too predictable (#61) and also apparently the night sky (#63), I guess I am sorry. But as one of the boring, stale, and predictable guys who came up with the new (and unpredicted) changes at BJS, you are welcome. Wow, and they say confessionals are mean…

    Sorry, I did not mean for it to be an insult. Having more people write for Steadfast takes the burden off of the same three guys to be pressured to write something. The variety of fresh perspectives is a very good thing!

    Thanks for thinking of it, Pastor Scheer! I could have never predicted a great change was in the works.

  25. John Rixe :
    One or the other, sometimes both.  No green suspenders.  Always a suit and often with clerical collar.  All of the churches also have traditional services with vestments every Sunday.
    The Saturday night service at my church, for example, follows traditional format but with praise band and AGPS songs.  The sermon is identical to Sunday.  The service is pretty subdued and tame.    It’s aimed at school parents.  70% of the families of our 500 students have no church membership.
    I’m guessing that most contemporary services in LCMS are like that but I have no evidence.  Only a few are on the wild side, I hope.  I believe that all LCMS pastors, in general, are sincere in reaching out to the lost no matter what the style.  I know of none who are scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites.

    Our congregations are very much alike, John. I can tolerate an LCMS mixed, aka “blended” service, but the all-church studies of Willow Creek materials is too much. It would be ideal if LCMS churches were to use CPH materials. At least I would not have to question the theological legitimacy of what I may (or may not) be learning.

    What is Willow Creek providing to LCMS congregations that CPH is unwilling or unable to do? Does anyone know?

  26. @Rev. David Mueller #80

    Here’s the link: http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo20/herbert-marcuse-censorship-is-tolerance.php

    Wow! That is scary. Excerpt: “In the years since Marcuse, the notion of tolerance has completed its metamorphosis. Whereas under the old notion of tolerance, a man had to disagree with something in order to tolerate it, under the new meaning, there can be no disagreement; rather, a person must actually accept all values and viewpoints as being equally legitimate (the obvious exception being that we must not tolerate the old notion of tolerance.)”

  27. @Ted Crandall #88
    (the obvious exception being that we must not tolerate the old notion of tolerance.)”

    No, we will not be tolerated by the new liberals. That is more than scary; it’s approved bullying.

    [e.g., Look at what happened to Komen, when they decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood.]

    The HHS mandate to provide abortifacients “FREE” is approved bullying.
    (Look at the majority of the comments in any paper.)

  28. @helen #89

    I hadn’t thought of it as bullying, but you’re absolutely right! And anyone who has the audacity to agree out loud with God that homosexuality is a sin is immediately judged guilty of bullying — but the sort of bullying the liberals won’t approve.

  29. @Ted Crandall #88
    can be no disagreement; rather, a person must actually accept all values and viewpoints as being equally legitimate

    Not only accept…. PAY for their program [and keep our religious opinions in the privacy of our own homes, according to one female congressman]!

    The day will come, as it has in the Muslim majority countries, when speaking of unadulterated Christianity won’t be tolerated, even in our own homes. Some of our world seeking “Mainline Christians” will help (are helping) to bring that about.

    –“Grumpy” 🙁

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