LCMS Election 2016 – Secretary of the Synod – Rev. Dr. John Sias


Dr. John Sias, a brilliant scholar and down to earth teacher – a good man who could follow in the footsteps of Dr. Hartwig.

There are a few elections that I would like to spotlight here at Steadfast in the coming week leading up to the Convention (if I have time).  The first one I want to focus on is for the office of Secretary of the Synod.  This position is vital and endures beyond Presidential administrations.  The longer a man can serve in it the greater blessing for the LCMS.  There are five good men on the ballot and I have read about a floor nomination that intends to be made as well, but in the end I want to speak in favor of the man I think is going to be best for the job in the long run – the Rev. Dr. John Sias.

This will be a very personal recommendation.  If you want the more technical one with credentials and so forth, check out the United List bio.  (Some have been critical of the “anonymous” nature of the United List, but frankly put, look at the names they recommend, many of which I know, good folks willing to serve).

I met John Sias in my first summer at seminary.  He was in my Greek class, and yet more than just a student (which he was) he was also already tutoring in it.  He had the ability to both take in teaching (often highly technical matters) and learn it so thoroughly that he could teach it to the rest of us.  That was just a small amount of his skills.  He had a high level of attention to detail, could talk within the realm of that detail, but even more praiseworthy he could speak about the same technical matters in common terms, bringing in more and more understanding.  This is a great skill to have for being the Secretary of Synod who help do so much on the technical side of Constitution/Bylaws, etc. but then also has to communicate it to people (like delegates) in common language.  Dr. Hartwig has done this, Dr. Sias would continue to do it.


If he can work with the temperament of cattle, he can work with the Synod.

John has a great intellect and can lead a academic classroom, but he is also at home on the ranch or with children in a bible class.  He has served in Montana since his placement, showing devotion to the position God has given him.  He has been serving a triple-point parish, requiring coordination of three congregations and also the wisdom to know where he can maximize his efforts between the three by coordination.  He has also developed excellent curriculum for instruction, showing a very technical and yet practical understanding of pedagogy with the Scriptures and Catechism.

I have also worked with John in his work with publications at Lutheran Legacy.  He has a great skillful eye for details.  He helped organize and add some great footnotes to probably one of the best books on Justification – “Justification of the Sinner before God” by Eduard Preuss.  I had an old copy of the work from Concordia Theological Monthly, but the new edition that Dr. Sias was involved with added much in technical detail and also in clarification.  He can work with the intricate and make it seem so clear.

John has also written for Concordia Publishing House.  He wrote “5 Things You Can Do To Witness”.  He cares for taking the doctrine he knows so well out into the world, each baptized Christian a witness.  Again, great and deep knowledge but taught in a way that everyone can understand.  Dr. Hartwig has been very good at this.  Dr. Sias would continue that.


Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to have John on “Concord Matters”, a great radio show on KFUO Radio.  We talked about the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the Large Catechism.  During the show he was able to cite from memory portions of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession but also speak of great mysteries using very clear and simple illustration.  Here is the link to the show.  Here is a great snippet of Dr. Sias proclaiming the Gospel.


The last major thing that I want to make a comment about is character and conviction.  John is a man of both.  In this life our best friends are not the ones that always agree with you, but sometimes they are the ones who criticize or correct you.  That is a Biblical friend.  John has been that to me on a couple of occasions.  We are not close friends by any means, but on a couple occasions John has offered correction to me, a guy on the “same team” of the Confessional movement.  He has principles.  He acts on them.  He does not show favorites.  That is vital in a position like Secretary, especially in a highly politicized organization like the LCMS.  We need a man who can stand firm on convictions no matter what side of the Synod is in power.  In this way Dr. Sias is a lot like Dr. Hartwig.

There are several minor things which I will add.  His age allows for him to serve for a long time (something that has been a real blessing in the length of Dr. Hartwig’s service).  He has served already on the nominations committee for Synod.  He has served his own Montana District.  He has served on the Committee on Constitutional Matters.  These things all add to the total picture of this man who I believe would be a great Secretary for the LCMS.

Of course, because of his humble character, John will deny or downplay much of my praise of his virtues in what I have just written.

In my honest opinion, a vote for Dr. Sias is a vote to continue the great work of Dr. Hartwig in the Office of Secretary for the LCMS.


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


LCMS Election 2016 – Secretary of the Synod – Rev. Dr. John Sias — 4 Comments

  1. Dear Pastor Scheer,

    Thanks for your post on Dr. Sias. Setting forth the strengths of candidates is the best way we can put forward the best men (and women) for office. I agree with your all of your assessment of Dr. Sias and I believe he is the best man for the job. I am not a delegate and can’t vote, but I will be encouraging folks to vote for him.

    I checked out the United List bio you linked to on Dr. Sias. I want to highlight something there that I think is very important, from my perspective as the former director of Concordia Historical Institute (CHI).

    A number of years ago, probably in the late 1960s, the LC-MS national offices began the digitization of their records. Before that, everything was on paper, and is now at CHI in their archives. The computers were great for easy current access, but difficult for long-term access, especially when the computer systems changed. This is something that our CHI Associate Director brought to the attention of the Board of Directors numerous times, but to my knowledge nothing has been done about it. Synod has an IT department, but long-term care of the records is not their main concern.

    Dr. John Sias is a “Dr.” because he has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Illinois University at Champaign/Urbana (check his bio for specifics on that)–one of the national academic leaders in that field. Dr. Sias is ideally suited to be Secretary, because one of the major tasks of that office is care for the records of Synod–which are now ALL digitized. With his training and knowledge in that field, as Secretary Dr. Sias would be able to see the entire picture of synod’s records, and with hopefully a long tenure (given his relative youth compared to the other candidates), would be able to affect a long-term solution to this problem.

    I don’t know if I have painted an accurate picture of the issues involved, but at least the BJS bloggers will know that I think Dr. John Sias is the best man for this job and why.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. I also would like to recommend Rev. Dr. Sias,

    I met John in 2003 when he was a PhD student at Univ. of IL — one of the most elite schools of engineering in the world. I was just out of Harvard Business School and launching a start-up company (aPriori). John and I became fast friends, both being parishioners under Pastor Rick Milas at Uni-Lu on campus.

    At the time, John was one of the top guys in computer compilers in the world and could have skated out of Illinois with a $120k+ job. But, the Lord called him to His work. In addition to making great craft beer and the best guac I have ever had, you should vote for John because:

    1. CONFESSION — John is as super solid of a confessional liturgical Lutheran as you will find. He will interpret rulings both fairly and in a way that works with the Bible and the Book of Concord, not in ways that will give license for heresy and heterodoxy.

    2. EXPERIENCE — He has served under Dr. Hartwig for several years on the Constitutional committee. Like the SCOTUS dealing with law, the constitution and bylaws are intricate. You want somebody who has gone through that steep learning curve to understand the basics of the constitution. John has gone beyond that initial learning to the deeper understanding at this point.

    3. AGE — as alluded above, we actually WANT a younger guy in the position, (IF he has the experience… which in this case, he does) because you want to leverage the learning, knowledge, and wisdom for a very long time, as we have with Dr. Hartwig

    4. INTELLIGENCE & WISDOM — You need an attention to detail (raw intellect) and a discerning heart (wisdom). John has the former as proven by his PhD from a top 5 engineering school. He has the latter, as proven by his work as a pastor and his publications/translations.

    Vote for John… and get everyone you know to speak for him and vote for him.

    Honestly, how much more perfect of a candidate could the Lord have provided us for this position?

    Eric Arno Hiller
    Regent, Concordia University Chicago

  3. In its Opinion 13-2694, Constitutional Questions re Advocacy of Doctrinal Positions Contrary to the Synod’s Stated Positions (Adopted June 13–14, 2014, 2016 CW, p. 128) the CCM (including the Rev. Dr. John Sias) states:

    The Synod, while acknowledging the unique status of the Scriptures (norma normans, “the norming norm”) and the Lutheran Confessions (norma normata, “normed norm”), also acknowledges that the Confessions are not exhaustive in their confession of biblical doctrine but “speak primarily to the articles of faith in controversy in the days of the Reformation” (Constitution Art. VIII C; 1971 Res. 5-24).

    This CCM opinion 13-2694 regards the Lutheran Confessions as “not exhaustive in their confession of biblical doctrine.” This phrase seems to be in disagreement with the phrase, “comprehensive, unanimously approved summary and form wherein is brought together from God’s Word the common doctrine, reduced to a brief compass, which the churches that are of the true Christian religion confess, just as the ancient Church always had for this use its fixed symbols.” (FC.SD.RN.1)

    IOW, to a question of whether there is true biblical doctrine not contained in the Book of Concord, the CCM opinion would answer in the positive.

    That the Book of Concord does not contain an exhaustive (finished) listing or reference to all articles of faith in the Christian doctrine contained in the Bible, and unconditionally subscribed to by Lutherans, is a view that Wilhelm Loehe held. As Loehe noted in his July 1, 1853, letter to G.M. Grossmann [1823-1897] in Saginaw:

    “The doctrines of the [Lutheran] Symbols appears to me not to be finished [fertig]. If it were, I do not conceive how both sides could appeal to them, which has been the case for a long time.”

    “Were it otherwise, were the individual-Lutheran [individuell-lutherischen] view fully and purely expressed in the Symbols, only that people like me didn’t see it, it is indeed certain that people of my type would not have been tolerated in the Lutheran Church.”

    Does anyone know of other writings from the CCM or from Dr. Sias or others that clarify the understanding of the statement in CCM Opinion 13-2694?

  4. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I think Carl is referring to the 19th century argument on “Open Questions.” The difference between Walther and Loehe on this question was that Walther said that anything not taught in Scripture or not taught clearly there is an “open question.” LCMS affirmed that position with Brief Statement article 44. Loehe’s position is quoted by Carl.

    I can’t see how the CCM opinion differs from Walther’s position. The confessions do not cover all the doctrines taught in Scripture. For example, the confessions say very little about the Creation. I don’t think they say anything about the ordination of women, i.e., women performing the duties of the pastoral office.

    Both the 1932 Brief Statement and the 1973 Statement on Scriptural and Confessional Principles explain how doctrine in the LCMS is drawn from Scripture and expressed by the Confessions. I won’t reiterate that here.

    I have no knowledge of the inner workings of the CCM in the period in question or today. Statements or opinions of a committee are not always those of an individual member of a committee. Although on rare occasions, a “minority opinion” is called for, most of the time a person on a committee like this has to accept majority vote, and not undermine the work of a committee.

    Things would never get done and the church would be in constant chaos if everyone who disagreed and voted against a proposal or statement made his disagreement public.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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