Archive for December 2010

Regarding the Call to Village, Ladue

Statement by Matthew Harrison
on the Acceptance of a Call
to Serve as an Assistant Pastor

To: District Presidents of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (for distribution as they see fit)

From: Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Date: December 19, 2010

Grace and peace in Jesus, “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25)!

This morning, Sunday, December 19, 2010, I personally informed the pastor, elders and members of Village Lutheran Church, Ladue, Missouri, that I had accepted the congregation’s call to serve as their assistant pastor. The call was not acted upon hastily, or without significant consultation In providing you with the following information, I want to lay out for you a brief explanation of the personal and theological reasons why I am taking this path.

The constitution and bylaws of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod specifically allow the President of the Synod to hold such an office. The bylaws state:

The President of the Synod shall be a full-time executive and shall serve as a voting member of the Board of Directors of the Synod. (a) He shall not be in charge of a congregation or hold a chair at any educational institution but may be called as an assistant pastor, provided such services do not interfere with his official duties as President. (3.3.1)

There are a number of reasons for this action. I shall only note a few items here. With respect to the Synod’s national office:

  • Though no President (or congregation) has acted on this privilege for many decades, in its wisdom the Synod recognizes that its President may be a called pastor at a local parish. This was long the practice of the Missouri Synod, and has been the practice of the Lutheran Church in general for most of its history.
  • While those of us in national leadership have noted a lessening of local loyalty to the national church, we have less often acknowledged the local perception that the national office has distanced itself from congregations. Accepting this call is my own concrete affirmation of the vital, in fact, most vital role of local congregations and pastors in our mission, mercy, and life together as a Synod (John 10:12-16).
  • The new structure of the Synod greatly increases the CEO responsibilities of the President. It is more vital than ever that amidst the many tasks of the office, it be carried out pastorally, and with the church’s pastoral and missionary task firmly in focus and close at hand (1 Pet. 5:2).
  • In this called, pastoral position, I am directly responsible to the senior pastor and board of elders of Village Lutheran for my preaching and teaching there. I believe it is healthy even (especially!) for the President of Synod to be directly accountable to a local congregation in this way, and to God himself for such a congregation (Heb. 13:17).

With respect to my particular person I note the following.

  • St. Paul states, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1).
  • In the core of my being, I am a pastor. I view life pastorally. I view the mission of the church pastorally (Jer. 3:15). My work at LCMS World Relief and Human Care moved the church’s work of mercy to a pastoral model, closely connecting care with local altars, fonts, and pulpits worldwide.
  • I am energized by and find great joy in preaching, teaching, and pastoral visitation (2 Cor. 1:24).
  • A called pastoral relationship with a local congregation allows me and my family to be cared for by a group of Christians in a way that would otherwise not occur (Gal. 6:6). Village Ladue recognizes this care as a vocation of service to the Synod.
  • My two boys are in high school. Their time at home is short. For ten years they have rarely heard me preach or teach. I desire to preach to my own children in these vital years of their Christian formation. As Synod President I could well be absent every weekend. For the sake of my wife and boys at this stage of our lives, travel must be reasonably limited. Wonderful things may be accomplished for the Missouri Synod over the next number of years, but (God help me) not at the expense of the faith of my own family (Eph. 5:25; 1 Tim. 3:4).

The bylaw states that the president “may be called as an assistant pastor, provided such services do not interfere with his official duties as President.” I note the following:

  • This called pastoral position involves preaching once every month or two; teaching the occasional Sunday Bible study; and visiting a handful of shut-ins each month (1 Tim. 5:17; Matt. 25:36).  It involves no meetings and no administrative duties. I shall receive from this position no compensation, or even reimbursement for mileage. This call is a gift. My service shall be a gift (1 Thess. 2:9). This call is not a so-called “status call”a call merely for the purpose of an ordained man being able to remain on the LCMS roster.

  • My clear priority is and has to be the called position of Synod President, which is more than full-time (Luke 17:10; 1 Cor. 15:58).

With respect to district presidents:

  • While I have chosen to act upon a matter of freedom, not all district presidents have such freedom in their respective district constitutions, nor are their respective circumstances the same. I will guard each district president’s freedom, right, and responsibility to act as he and his district believe is best for his particular circumstances (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:13). Their office alone makes them worthy of our deepest love, support, and continual prayer (2 Cor. 11:28).

Finally:

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. . . . Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:18-21).

Pastor Matthew Harrison

Fellowship Recognized Between LCMS and SELC

Bishop Lytkin with pastors from SELC and representatives from CTSFW

On 17 December 2010, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) approved the recognition of church fellowship between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC). The approval of the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and the SELC occurred twelve years after the SELC first requested fellowship discussions with the LCMS under President Alvin Barry.  Under Bylaw 3.9.5.2.2c, after a request for fellowship, consultation with the Preasidium, and the approval of the recognition of fellowship, the President of Synod may declare recognition of such fellowship.

Commenting on the CTCR’s action, President Matthew C. Harrison said, “We give thanks to the Lord that after much patience and longsuffering on the part of the Siberian Lutherans, the Missouri Synod can now recognize the gift of fellowship that the Lord has worked between the LCMS and the SELC.” For his part, Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin of the SELC has stated several times in the past, “From our point of view, we are in fellowship with the LCMS.”

Shortly after President Harrison was elected at the 64th regular convention of the LCMS, Bishop Lytkin sent President-elect Harrison a letter on 14 July 2010 saying, “We at Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church also hope that with your election and introduction in the office of the President discussions between our church bodies concerning church fellowship will gain new momentum and will come to a proper conclusion. As you may know, we have met with LCMS church leaders a number of times, starting from Alvin Barry, but in the last year some impending circumstances slowed down our progress.” In response to this letter, President Harrison sent a delegation to Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia, which consisted of Rev. Dr. Albert B Collver, Director of Church Relations ­ Assistant to the President, Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Director of the CTCR, and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Dean of International Studies, Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, for doctrinal discussions with members of the SELC. The delegation, while acknowledging differences in practice, found no doctrinal differences. On 18 November 2010, President Harrison consulted with the Preasidium regarding pursuing fellowship with the SELC according to Bylaw 3.9.5.2.2c.

With CTCR’s December 17 approval, President Matthew C. Harrison, per Bylaw 3.9.5.2.2c, declared the recognition between the two church bodies.

Upon receiving the news of fellowship with the SELC, President Dean Wenthe of Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne stated, “I am delighted that more than a decade of mission work in Siberia on the part of Concordia Theological Seminary, under the direction of Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill and supported by our faculty, now has borne fruit as fellowship between our two churches. The SELC is already one of our church’s most vibrant mission partners. We rejoice in God’s grace and pray his blessing upon Bishop Lytkin, his pastors and congregations.” Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Dean of International Studies and Director of the Russian Project at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, commented further, “The decision of President Harrison to declare altar and pulpit fellowship with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church as one of his first international, church relations acts is extremely significant. It reveals a vision and heart for fostering unity among faithful confessional Lutheran brothers and sisters the world over.”

Over the past 14 years, Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, utilizing its professors, along with pastors primarily from within the Missouri Synod and occasionally from our partner churches such as SELK, provided theological education for the majority of the current pastors in the SELC, largely at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Siberia, Russia.  During this time, the LCMS and the SELC have forged deep relationships. Although the Synod in July 2010 passed Resolution 3-04A to help fast track fellowship with small or emerging confessional Lutheran church bodies, the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC came about through measured and intentional steps.

The passing of Resolution 3-04A at the Synod’s convention in July 2010 led to the creation of Bylaw 3.9.5.2.2c, which reads, “When a small, formative, or emerging church body requests recognition of altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod, and after consultation with the Praesidium and approval by the commission, such recognition may be declared by the President of the Synod subject to the endorsement of the subsequent Synod convention.” The first use of this Bylaw for the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and the SELC after more than 14 years of contact between the two churches demonstrates a careful and deliberate use of this new responsibility granted to the President.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, Chairman of the CTCR noted, “In John 17 the Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for the oneness of His church.  Since that time the church has struggled to express that oneness.  From this we learn, first of all, that fellowship doesn’t simply ‘happen’ by ‘chance.’  It is the gift of God.  Second, we see that the realization of that fellowship occurs in a fallen world that now lives under the cross of Christ.  The Commission on Theology and Church Relations rejoices in the Lord’s gracious leading of the SELC and LCMS to recognize their confessional unity and looks forward to future opportunities to work toward the faithful expression of the oneness we have in Christ with those who confess the faith in the fullness of its truth.”

With the recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations – Assistant to the President, said, “As one who taught at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, the formal recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC brings me great joy as the role of confessional Lutheranism is expanded around the world.”

The recognition of fellowship between the LCMS and SELC will be brought to the LCMS’ 65th regular convention in 2013 for ratification.

Map of Parishes in SELC