Praise Due Where Praise is Deserved – The Positive Harrison Effect. by Pr. Rossow

I have not seen nearly as much doctrinal leadership or supervision from the Harrison administration in the LCMS as I expected there would be. (If you disagree prove me wrong by listing confessional accomplishments from the administration in the last five years in the comment section below. I am willing to be convinced.) Having said that, praise is due where praise is deserved.

Some have argued that over time the new hires of the administration will have a lasting effect and bring about the change that is needed. I am not sure about that but one thing I am sure of, Steve Schave, the new LCMS Director of Urban and Inner City Missions and the Director of Church Planting is having a very positive effect on the synod and President Harrison gets the credit for adding him to the synod staff.

I had the pleasure of speaking alongside Rev. Schave last week at a missions conference sponsored by Lutherans in Africa at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. (Click here to see the most striking and clearly Lutheran sanctuary in the LCMS.) Rev. Schave’s paper demonstrated a knowledge of and passion for confessional church planting and urban ministry. It was a breathe of fresh air after listening to evangelism and urban theorists in the LCMS droning on and on for the last thirty years about changing everything so that we can reach the lost. Schave is committed to encouraging church plants around the font, altar and pulpit with historical Lutheran piety. He believes in the same for urban church renewal as well.

I got to spend some personal time with Rev. Schave and his message was consistent and confessional. This is the promised “Harrison effect” and if there could be more of this effect it would be encouraging.

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.


Praise Due Where Praise is Deserved – The Positive Harrison Effect. by Pr. Rossow — 16 Comments

  1. How encouraging! Incidentally, I absolutely love the architecture, carvings, and appointments in Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. Would that all confessional Lutheran churches were this elegant and educational – visualizing what we believe, teach, and confess.

  2. Almost 25 weeks (five and a half months) ago, the Missouri Synod leadership was informed by the Boy Scouts of America of its planned policy change to allow openly homosexual adults as Scoutmasters. That policy change was officially approved by the BSA on July 27.

    Over 16 weeks (almost 4 months) ago, LCMS leadership announced that a meeting would be held in early August to review the President Harrison’s Memorandum of Fabulous Understanding and determine the best course of action for the LCMS.

    So far nothing has been announced about the best course of action recommended for synod congregations, and nothing has been announced about whether the meeting ever took place.

    From this year’s district conventions, I’ve heard of no district resolutions to send overtures to the synod convention regarding BSA.

    One wonders if someone has been derailing any action on this issue, like the 2013 Convention Floor Committee #2 (with you-know-who as chairman) did with Overture L2-11 (2013 LCMS Convention Today’s Business, First Issue, pp. 31-2).

    If that Overture L2-11 had not been railroaded to a bureaucratic blackhole, but instead been allowed to proceed to the convention floor as a resolution, it is likely the July 28, 2015, announcement of a so-called “meeting” would not have been needed.

  3. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    I appreciate very much your giving President Harrison credit where credit is due. In the present configuration of the synodical president’s powers and duties, appointments to various offices, whether volunteer, part-time, or full-time employees, is one of his most important powers. Maybe it is the most important of his powers.

    It may be the most important of his powers, because his powers of doctrinal supervision have been muted, if not completely obliterated, through the creation of the “dispute resolution system” in 1992 and the revisions to the disciplinary system of the LC-MS made in 2004.

    The problems with the dispute resolution and disciplinary systems of the LC-MS will be part of the topics of discussion at two upcoming free conferences. Folks interested in this issue should consider attending the Lutheran Concerns Associated (LCA) meeting in Fort Wayne on January 18, 2016 (see page 9 of Nov. 2015 “Lutheran Clarion” for more information here: ) and the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (ACELC) meeting in Nashville, TN on April 26-28, 2016 (see ).

    Some of us believe that recent cases prove that the synod needs to revise its disciplinary system and the powers of its officers, and that this needs to come before the convention in some form or another for action. Two proposals have been offered by the LCA (overtures one and three here: ).

    I also appreciate very much all the publicity Brothers of John the Steadfast has given to certain cases over the years, which demonstrate the need for this revision. Most of the LC-MS would not be aware that there are problems here, without the work of BJS and other media and organizations like it. So thanks, Pastor Rossow, for all your labors to help inform the LC-MS rank and file and to keep our synod doctrinally healthy and strong in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ! Thanks also to Pastor Scheer, Norm Fisher, and all your authors for all their hard work!

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    For those of you unaware of how things work in the area of doctrinal supervision in the LC-MS, let me explain in brief:

    Doctrinal supervision is either informal, i.e., you get a private letter or phone call from the district president (or synod president for people under his jurisdication, see LC-MS Const. XI.B.1) in which he says, in so many words, “Jack, you are out of line here and causing havoc with XYZ. Let’s have lunch and talk about it, and see if we can’t get this ironed out. I’ll be in town on Monday, December 13, etc.” You and I and the synodical archives will never know when, or how many times, a district president (or the synod president) has acted informally in this way.

    Or doctrinal supervision is formal, in which case you get a letter, with copies to the relevant parties saying, “Jack, I have received information that could lead to your removal from the synod under LC-MS Constitution Article XIII. The charges are XYZ. We have to proceed under LC-MS bylaw Chapter 2.14 [or 2.15 or 2.17]. Please call my office at your earliest convenience so we can schedule the necessary meetings . . .”

    If “Jack” is removed from the synod, you and I will know about it eventually through publication in the “Reporter,” but only when the case is completed. Or Jack may make a fuss and let the whole world know about it, even though he is not supposed to. Officers of the synod cannot publicize the case. If Jack is exonerated (i.e., proclaimed innocent of charges or gets off on a technicality), you and I will never know about it. Whichever way the case goes, the proceedings will be filed at C.H.I., and will not be available for research, unless permission is given by the Council of Presidents.

    So you all need to be aware that the workings of doctrinal supervision are essentially and intentionally private, at least most of the time.

    Why is this? If the intent is to bring someone to repentance, the best way to accomplish this is not to broadcast their sins before the whole world. The best way is to approach them privately, confront them with their sin or error, and offer forgiveness if they are willing to repent and amend their ways. This is the evangelical, pastoral approach to sin and error. It is the approach that is at the heart of the way that Lutherans and Lutheran pastors do things. We want to restore the brother, not castigate or shame him in public. If he refuses to admit error or to change his ways, then discipline proceeds.

    You will probably respond, “But what about public sins?” In other words, if a good portion of the church knows about a sin or error, moral or doctrinal, and it is all dealt with privately per the bylaws, how is the church supposed to know when or how it is properly dealt with? There really is no provision in the bylaws for letting the public know how a case goes–this is quite unlike the court system in the USA. This was part of the problem with the long-standing Becker case and it has affected other cases you have read about here at BJS.

    There is a very instructive explanation about how the church is to deal with public sins, including doctrinal ones, in the Pastoral Theology of C.F.W. Walther. Lutheran News, Inc. published an English translation of this great book many years ago, translated by Dr. John Drickamer. I see from a recent flyer at CPH that they are going to publish in 2017 a fresh new translation of this book, with all the citations from the orthodox Lutheran fathers and the Lutheran casuists that were left out of the Drickamer edition. In the meantime, those who can read German and have access to the original German edition will find that, if they read this book of Walther, a number of “lights go on” in this area. I think that once the CPH 2017 version is published, and people can read those sections for themselves, we will have a better handle on how to approach the problem of “public sins” in the LCMS, whether doctrinal or moral.

    This comment is getting long, so let me make some comments about the Harrison appointments in my next comment.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. Thank you Marty for your kind words. I have two comments.

    First, For nearly the last year, Josh has been the Chief Editor of BJS and gets the credit. He is doing a great job. I am happy now to write a post every once in while.

    Secondly, in part, I have stepped back because my head hurts from beating against the wall called LCMS Inc. You are way too generous in your summary of how church discipline works in the synod. The President has the authority to convene review panels according to the constitution. He could have and should have done so in the Matthew Becker case.

    By-laws do not save us. Courageous leaders who do not care about being respected by man but instead have given their goods, fame, child and wife over for the Gospel is what saves us from false teachers.

    Martin Luther had no by-laws working for him and had an entire Roman curia and Holy Roman Empire against him and he was able to stand up against the devil and rebuke an entire hemisphere of Christianity.

    Thanks again for your kind words. You are a gift from God to the synod.

  5. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I want to continue my discussion from comment #4 above, now pertaining to the matter of presidential appointments.

    The President of the LC-MS has always had plenty of responsibility for appointments at the national level. It just makes sense, otherwise we would have to elect all professionals who work for the synod at the national convention, and that would consume all of the time we spend at conventions.

    With the revisions to the bylaws in 2010, the president of the synod was given many more appointments. I don’t know the numbers, but the numbers of appointments probably tripled. All of the former “program boards” and the communications board were put under the “CMO,” i.e., the Chief Mission Officer, and he reports directly to the President of the Synod. The CMO is responsible for staffing all these positions (bylaw and his staffing of these positions naturally has to be approved by the President. Most of the work that was formerly done by these boards was distributed to the “Office of National Misson” and “Office of International Mission.” Other ministry units that are referred to in the bylaws under the CMO include communications, pastoral education, and mission advancement (i.e., fund-raising).

    The appointments for which the President are now responsible include: Commission on Doctrinal Review (CDR), Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM), Commission on Handbook (COH), Office of National Mission (ONM), Office of International Mission (OIM), Communications (Comm), Pastoral Education (PEd), and Mission Advancement (MissAd). The President also reviews and may veto appointments (bylaw to the directorships of: Concordia Historical Institute (CHI), Concordia Publishing House (CPH), Lutheran Church-Extension Fund (LCEF), LCMS Foundation (Found), Concordia University System (CUS), and Concordia Plan Services (CPS).

    Although the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) used to be appointed by the President (if my memory serves me correctly), its members are now appointed severally by the synod in convention, the two seminary faculties, the Council of Presidents, and the President of Synod. Its director is appointed per bylaw, so the synod president can veto the appointment, but he does not make that appoinment directly. This means that the CTCR operates more like the synod-wide corporate entities (CHI, CPH, LCEF, Found, CUS, and CPS) than the other commissions or boards. So if you don’t like what the CTCR produces, today you really can’t put the blame on the synod president, but the CTCR itself.

    On top of all these new appointment powers, President Harrison was also given the responsibility by the 2010 convention to cut back the number of total employees at the national offices, for budgetary/fiscal reasons. Thus many staff members and executives were given their termination papers on the basis of RIF (reduction in force) in Harrison’s first triennium (2010-13).

    If you look at the Commissions and Offices for which Harrison is directly responsible for appointments, you have to be impressed with the stellar quality of personnel who are in place today. At least, I am impressed, because I know most of these folks from my six-years of work at CHI; others just from attending synod conferences and conventions. I hope that you all get to meet some of them someday. The following is based on Lutheran Annual 2015 (sorry if I missed someone):

    Page 16.

    CDR: John Pless (CTS), Walter Maier III (CTS), Naomichi Masaki (CTS), Steven Mueller (CUS-Irvine), and Paul Raabe (CSL).
    CCM: George Gude, Thomas Deadrick, Ray Hartwig (ex officio), R. Neely Owen, Larry Peters, and John Sias.
    COH: Gordon Tresch, Albert Marcis, Richard Nuffer (CTS), Marvin Temme, Ray Hartwig (ex officio), Ron Schultz (ex officio), George Gude (ex officiO).

    Page 18 (consult that page in Lutheran Annual 2015 to see what each person below does for the synod)

    ONM: Bart Day, Kim Schave, Roosevelt Gray, Marcus Zill, Carlos Hernandez, Grace Rao, Ross Johnson, Mark Wood, Maggie Karner (recently deceased), Dorothy Krans, Todd Kollbaum, Terry Schmidt, Joel Hempel, Heath Curtis, Steve Schave, William Weedon, Terry Dittmer.
    OIM: John Fale (new executive for this office), Ed Grimenstein, Shauen Trump, David Erber, Grace Rao, Ross Johnson, Darin Storkson, Tony Booker, Theodore Krey, Maggie Karner (recently deceased), Craig Muehler, Christian Boehlke, Dan McMiller.
    Comm: David Strand, Pam Nielsen, David Yow, Al Dowbnia
    MissAd: Mark Hofman, Vicki Helling, Chandra Thurman, Hans Springer, Leah Sieveking, Martha Mitkos

    If you want to see what all these people do, look at the November 2015 issue of the “Lutheran Witness,” a special issue called “State of the Synod.” It is really impressive–both what the synod is doing through these people–and the presentation of that work in that issue of LW. Thanks to managing editor Adriane Heins and her staff for all their hard work on this one!

    One final area of comment. For some of us, perhaps the most important action that President Harrison has done, in connection with his authority over the LC-MS Communications Department, is to see that “Issues, etc.” came back on to KFUO-AM. Harrison did not do this alone, because there were a number of members of the LC-MS Board of Directors that wanted this to happen too. But it needed Harrisons’ support to become a reality.

    Coming back onto KFUO-AM was a good thing all around, and corrected a very bad, inexcusable action by President Harrison’s predecessor.

    Thanks again to Pastor Rossow for bringing up this topic of appointments!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  6. David Strand? He cancelled Issues, Etc. and fired Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz a few years ago, the event which directly resulted in the founding of BJS.

  7. I mentioned in the original post that there was a dearth of confessional accomplishments in the last five years but Martin reminds me of another. It is not so much confessional but it is a huge accomplishment. President Harrison and his group have done an incredible job in appropriately cutting the synod budget.

    Kudos to President Harrison. It takes fiscal guts to commit to cutting spending. Our national politicians could learn a lesson from Harrison.

    It also takes guts to cut false teachers out of the Church. I hope we see more of those guts soon because fiscal guts only result in temporal gain while doctrinal guts result in eternal gain!

  8. I see the personal attack against the CPH president was removed…self edit or moderator? You guys should resign your Synod memberships and go join ELDoNA or something.

    I have been realizing more lately after defending these pastors for ten years that it’s more likely men who are antisocial jerks who lack the gifts to be a pastor and should never have been certified in the first place, but who have a martyr complex and are hiding it all behind a false state of confession.

    I’m getting sick of this website. So long.

  9. @Pastor Tim Rossow #8

    It also takes guts to cut false teachers out of the Church. I hope we see more of those guts soon because fiscal guts only result in temporal gain while doctrinal guts result in eternal gain!

    If someone doesn’t develop that kind of GUTS, soon, Luther’s prediction of the “passing rain shower” of the Gospel will prove true for LCMS.
    Sad how so much talk about “saving the lost” may “lose the found” in a morass of tinsel and trash passing as “church”.

    [“Talk” seems to be the extent of it, too.]

  10. @Tim Schenks #7

    David Strand? He cancelled Issues, Etc. and fired Pr. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz a few years ago, the event which directly resulted in the founding of BJS.

    Therefore we know who David Strand is.
    (A chameleon, apparently, or a puppet?) Perhaps more like him are part of the institutional “molasses in January” that is slowing down the return to Lutheranism.

  11. @Tim Schenks #10

    …it’s more likely men who are antisocial jerks who lack the gifts to be a pastor and should never have been certified in the first place, but who have a martyr complex and are hiding it all behind a false state of confession.

    Surely! That’s why a man who served a congregation satisfactorily for 20 years is suddenly dismissed in the 21st. And a half dozen others in the same [confessional oriented] Winkel, in the same summer, none with less than 5 years in the pulpit, most with more.

    Or maybe it was the state of politics in Texas? A man without a congregation cannot vote in the subsequent convention and is not likely to influence a layman.
    If one faces a razor thin majority, (and has been sued already for splitting circuits illegally to boost the vote)
    you don’t think a shrewd mind would move on to the next possibility? IMHO, it did. [And probably not only in Texas]

    But I’m a conspiracy theorist, of course.

    I wonder how many CRM’s you know personally.
    I wonder how many Harrison of the glib tongue knows.
    [A few years ago, I enjoyed conversation at dinner with Pr. Will Weedon, now ascended to the IC. He said he didn’t think he had ever met a CRM. So I introduced him to four of them, who were sitting at table with him that evening.

    They are men, like yourself, except, I believe, they happened to honor their ordination vows rather more strictly than was politically safe in that time and place.
    Thank God for men like that!

  12. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I have asked the moderator to modify my previous comment #6 on this blog post, because it was factually in error. This pertains to the status of Issues, etc. vis a vis KFUO and the LCMS. I apologize for the error, which was not intentional.

    For those of you new to Brothers of John the Steadfast, it came into existence primarily in response to the cancellation of “Issues, etc.” by President Kieschnick of the LC-MS and his staff. Its last show at KFUO was in March 2008. This was reported by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway here:

    After developing its own operations, donor base, funding, and resuming broadcast on Saint Louis station KSIV in June 2008, it came back onto KFUO three years later, as reported by Dr. Gene Veith here:

    This story was so significant, that it is a major section in the relatively short article on KFUO at Wikipedia here:

    The Wikipedia story at its conclusion states this: At the same time, Issues Etc. continues to maintain complete control of its own financial matters and program content as gained following the 2008 split. Current status The station accepts pledges from businesses, individuals, congregations, and organizations which go directly to the station’s owner, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The Synod subsidizes the station as needed.

    The Wikipedia story may confuse many readers, because the antecedent of the word “station” may be understood by some folks to be “Issues, etc.” Careful reading indicates that “station” refers to KFUO, not “Issues, etc.”

    The truth of the matter, then, is that pledges and donations to “Issues, etc.” are not channeled through KFUO or the LCMS–and the synod does not subsidize “Issues, etc.” as needed. The synod subsidizes KFUO when it has annual operating losses.

    The LC-MS does not subsidize Issues, etc. Issues, etc. is not an RSO of the LC-MS. Issues, etc. is not in any way under the LCMS agency umbrella.

    “Issues, etc.” needs your donations and support in order to continue its unique ministry. This is not a glib marketing phrase–it is the truth.

    I have it from good authority that annual donations to Issues, etc. have increased every year, but there has not been a measurable increase in donations attributable to being back on KFUO. There is no group of major donors that funds Issues, etc. Issues, etc. is not funded by one or several major donors that make up the bulk of their revenue. The opposite is true. Issues, etc. is funded by very many small listener donations.

    So why aren’t you supporting Issues, etc.? Hmmm?

    You can support Issues, etc. in many different ways with your tax-deductible donations. To find out how, look here:

    This includes designating your Thrivent Choice dollars, joining the Reformation Club as a monthly donor, and asking your congregation to join the Reformation 300 Club.

    My congregation recently joined the Reformation 300 Club, and we are on as tight a budget as any congregation with one full-time pastor and a part-time secretary/administrator. We can’t even afford our own web-site in our advertising budget, but we support Issues, etc. via the Reformation 300 Club. Congregations in that Club are listed on the Issues, etc. church directory under the tab “Find a Church,” so it does qualify as advertising for your congregation.

    If you are a pastor or Lutheran church-worker, and you personally cannot afford much in terms of donations outside of your offering plate, you CAN ask your congregation to support Issues, etc. by becoming a member of the Reformation 300 Club.

    You should also be encouraging your congregation members to listen to the program via live Internet streaming, downloadable podcasts for computers or smart phones, and live on five radio stations. Most everyone has smart phones these days (iPhone or Android). There is no excuse for Lutherans to not have the Issues, etc. app and to not listen to Todd and his guests on a regular basis.

    We are coming up on the end of the year. People who are looking for tax deductions to non-profit organizations should seriously consider “Issues, etc.” for that end-of-year gift.

    Finally, I personally want to thank Pastor Tim Rossow for his leadership and for “rising to the occasion” in 2008 to support “Issues, etc.” AGAINST PRESIDENT KIESCHNICK and his cronies, when few people would. Thanks also to Norm Fisher whose skills made BJS possible, and to all the editors and authors who contributed their talents over the years.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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