Continuing from our last post, these questions are a compilation of the most frequently asked questions addressed to the LCMS Presidential candidates on the Synod’s Facebook page. The purpose of these posts is to build awareness of the candidates, stimulate thought, and generate a helpful discussion. You’re encouraged to comment.
How will you lead the Synod in responding to challenges from the culture to the teaching of God’s Word that marriage is between one man and one woman? How should Synod best support faithful practice of this doctrine in our parishes?
“Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before my father in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). We must be compassionate to all, yet uncompromising on life (Luke 1:39f.), marriage (Matt. 19:4) and religious freedom (John 8:31f.). I have confessed before congress (Google “Here I Stand, Rev. Harrison’s”). We have forged alliances with Alliance Defending Freedom, Becket Fund, conservative Anglicans, Lutherans and Roman Catholics on marriage. We created Free to Be Faithful. We launched the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty in Washington as an “aggressive defense” against attacks on our basic constitutional rights. Because of our biblical steadfastness, the global Lutheran community is realigning toward us. Let’s stand together!
God’s Word is powerful and transforms lives! We need to love people like Jesus did and speak, preach and teach the truth in love regarding these cultural issues. We seemingly have abdicated our role to psychology and culture. The crucial issue is: Do we believe God’s Word, especially the Gospel — has the power to change lives? The Church is the only place these issues can be addressed faithfully, lovingly and boldly. But if we only condemn without deliberately seeking opportunities for personal relationships and understanding, we will continue our tendency to mistake correct theology as the only facet of “faithfulness.”
Administratively the president should assure that the best resources (legal, constitutional, financial, expert network) can give guidance to congregations and other Synod entities. But don’t lose sight of Jesus’ mission to sinners. We are not merely to oppose what is wrong but be persuasive in presenting why we believe what we do. “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
How will you lead the Synod to build up and support the service of our commissioned ministers of religion?
Scott’s Comment: For those of you who don’t speak Synodese, I’d provide the official definition for “commissioned ministers of religion” if I could find it; it’s “ministers” that aren’t ordained such as teachers, DCEs, K-9 Comfort Dogs – that sort of thing.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good … God has so composed the body … that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:12f.). Outreach and retention are more vital than ever. Our commissioned ministers are the gold standard in their sacred vocations at school, in mercy, with families, youth, young adults, music, etc. “The schoolmaster stands in the place of the parent, in the place of God” (Luther, Large Catechism). Even if we can’t pay them in gold, we should treat them like gold.
Having served congregations with Lutheran elementary schools for 25 years of ministry and being married to a Lutheran elementary teacher, my respect and admiration for their tireless and loving service to the Lord, the ministry of the Word, the children, families and congregations they serve is immense. I would work to recognize and emphasize the incredible blessing of their ministry, continually strive to encourage appropriate compensation levels commensurate to their pubic school equivalents and advocate for commissioned ministers to have the right to vote at our district and synodical conventions with the same ratio by which they are represented now.
Like all our rostered workers, commissioned ministers of religion are called to a specific place. The best motivation I can imagine is that the place to which they are called is healthy and thriving in our Lord’s mission, and hopefully growing. There may be some specifics that the International Center can do, but they will be band-aids compared to the energy that comes when the calling entity is focused on Jesus and His mission. I’ll strive to be a “helper of joy” (2 Cor. 1:24).
Is it possible to define what it means to be a Lutheran? If so, how would you describe what it means to be Lutheran in terms of both doctrine and practice?
If we can’t define what it is to be Lutheran, it’s time to shut down the LCMS. Christ’s Gospel is at the heart. Salvation is pure gift. The inerrant, inspired Scriptures are our only source and norm for teaching. The Small Catechism contains the major doctrines of the Bible. What happened on the cross is delivered here in God’s Word preached/read, Baptism, absolution and the Supper. We retain the Church’s pattern of worship (invocation, confession/absolution, lessons, sermon, Supper, etc.). The Church’s unity is manifest in agreement in Christ’s teachings. The royal priesthood/laity and the clergy work toward the goal: “The Son of man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Of course it’s possible to define what a Lutheran is! Every pastor who confirms young and old knows this. Through catechesis, etc., we bring people into membership as “Lutheran” Christians. However, it is MUCH MORE than that. It is the living Word of God — inspired, infallible, inerrant — and the teachings of the Holy Scriptures explained in our Confessions that bring our rich understanding of “Lutheranism” to bear. It is a life lived under Calvary’s cross, joined to Christ in Baptism, nourished by the Lord’s Supper and sent out into the world wearing the “garments of salvation,” joyfully obedient to God.
In these questions, the word “Lutheran” is used four times; “Christ” is used only once and then in a passing way. With Luther in mind, the Formula of Concord says, “writings of ancient or contemporary teachers, whatever their names may be, shall not be regarded as equal to Holy Scripture.” I will focus on Jesus Christ, citing Luther and our confessions, “as witnesses of how and where the teaching of the prophets and apostles was preserved after the time of the apostles” (FC, Epitome, 2).
Scott’s comment: Did he answer the question?
That ends the series of questions. Draw your own conclusions and dialogue as you see fit. Check that: Dialogue in a respectful manner.
It’s somewhat difficult to get a complete feel for the candidates with these short answers and, to some extent, softball questions. It’s illustrative of what I consider the backwards way people are elected in the LCMS. The whole “The Office seeks the man, the man doesn’t seek the Office” pretension creates a sort of backwards atmosphere that seems to preclude “campaigning” or other official candidate dialogue, which results in candidates that are not widely known or understood. I guess we’re “settlers” here in the LCMS – we settle for elections based on minimal information. There’s nothing wrong with actual debate between the candidates, in my opinion. Thanks for reading along!
Editor’s Note: The LCMS Presidential Election is set for June 11-14, 2016 through an online voting system. If you were a delegate to your district convention you should have already received a notice from LCMS Secretary Hartwig about that. If you would like to know more, click here.