When my congregation designated me its lay delegate to the Montana District Convention of the LCMS last year, I did not know that constituted me an elector for Synodical President. But I am very glad about it, because I have positive reasons to vote for Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.
This is not intended as a criticism of the other candidates. I do not know nearly as much about them. But I have met Dr. Harrison, have read many of his writings, and have seen many of his doings as President.
Dr. Harrison has a long list of accomplishments in office. He has a specific plan for the future. While I have published a critique of that plan for its omission of anything focusing on improving the state of catechesis with the Small Catechism, I agree with all 6 points of his plan. I just want to see a seventh about the Catechism added.
Still, with all that, those are not my primary reasons for voting for him. My primary reason reaches way back in my life and way forward for my grandchildren.
I grew up in the American Lutheran Church when it had a formal quia subscription to the Book of Concord. [See Sections 3.20, 3.30, and 3.40, Handbook of the American Lutheran Church, Edition 1973.]
It also had a decent confession of inspiration, inerrancy and authority of Scripture.
The American Lutheran Church accepts the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as a whole and in all their parts as the divinely inspired, revealed, and inerrant Word of God, and submits to this as the only infallible authority in all matters of faith and life.
Id., Section 3.10
During the same era as the Seminex walkout in Missouri, the ALC was wound up in the same controversies about Scripture as were involved in the Seminex events. We just didn’t have a notable, galvanizing event like the walkout. Whereas, in the outcome, and as a whole, Missouri succeeded, the ALC failed. Defection from the doctrine of Scripture resulted in the destruction of my beloved ALC. Nearly everything you see wrong in the successor body, the ELCA, stems from that.
I am in Missouri now because of its strong commitment to the Lutheran confessions and the doctrine of Scripture. But every now and again we see symptoms in Missouri that could indicate a disease similar to what destroyed the ALC. When that happens, I take special interest because I don’t want to go through another synodical destruction. The destruction of the ALC has been terrible for me and my family.
During the presidency of Dr. Harrison, we have seen two notable symptoms. One was the case of Dr. Matthew L. Becker. The other was the case of a paper by Dr. Jeffrey Kloha about textual criticism and ongoing revisions of the Greek New Testament. Dr. Harrison got both of these cases right.
Dr. Harrison was vocal about what I will call the heresy of Dr. Becker and his ever-shrinking Word of God. He took a lot of flak for that. It was professionally risky to take the right public stance.
He had to do it. This was a matter of faith and unbelief, and hence a matter of spiritual life and death. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. His actions had nothing to do with any alleged doctrinolatry or bibliolatry. It was dogmatic, yes. Dogmatic for the sake of life and salvation. We confess, “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.” Theologically and empirically, loss of the doctrine of the Word leads to unbelief in the Gospel and to death.
When a preliminary and provisional draft of Dr. Kloha’s paper was leaked, there were some who ran ahead of normal academic process and insinuated that Dr. Kloha was teaching heresy at the seminary. Dr. Harrison was not among them. Instead, he engaged with Dr. Kloha, the president of the seminary, and another theologian of competence and stature. The outcome was the publication of the final version of the paper that contains no false teaching.
From some, Dr. Harrison is taking criticism in the Kloha case. But it is as important to keep sound teachers as it is to rid the church of false teachers. It is as important to justify the innocent as it is to condemn the guilty.
Notice that these two cases had, in one sense, opposite results. In one case, Dr. Harrison opposed a false teacher, and that teacher is gone. In the other case, Dr. Harrison engaged, and then he was able to write to the Regents of the seminary that the professor’s paper contains no false teaching. Dr. Kloha stays.
But what is the same about both cases is that Dr. Harrison saw the magnitude of the cases, engaged in them, and exhibited sound discernment about whether a teaching was true or false. He took and stood his ground publicly in both cases.
This is part of the continuing success of Missouri where my beloved ALC failed.
I don’t know what the other two candidates would do, and that is not an innuendo of doubt. It is simply a case of not knowing. But what I do know is that what I’ve already got in Dr. Harrison is working. My farmer logic is, why change that? The ALC needed that, and because Missouri has it, the prospects for my grandchildren in Missouri still are good. That is too valuable for me not to go with what I know.
Because of what I know, I am happy to have a vote in the election, and happy to cast it for Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.