Al’s Posts

President Harrison, the LCMS, and Ecumenical Dialogue » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

With thanks and permission from First Things.

President Harrison, the LCMS, and Ecumenical Dialogue » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

By Matthew Block

This past Saturday, the 2.2 million strong Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod announced the re-election of Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison as President.

President Harrison was first elected in 2010. The same convention which elected him also adopted new policies for the election of the president—namely, that the presidential election would take place in the lead-up to future conventions, rather than at the conventions themselves (which is why we’re talking about this now rather than during the National LCMS Convention July 20-25).

Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a short article reflecting on President Harrison’s first term, noting some of the positive and negative events that were part of it. In recounting President Harrison’s service so far, Townsend mentions his participation in resisting the Health and Human Services mandate, quoting Harrison’s testimony before congress during which he said he was pleased to “stand with our friends in the Catholic church” as they opposed the excesses of the mandate.

That last topic brings to mind another topic worthy of discussion in considering President Harrison’s first term—namely, the LCMS’ increasingly friendly relations with other church bodies. We’ve seen some of that, of course, in the reaction to the HHS mandate. In addition to testify with other Christians at congress on the matter, President Harrison has been a signatory to a number of letters along with other religious leaders expressing concern about the mandate, most recently a few days ago. It’s led to especially collegial relations with Roman Catholics, with President Harrison writing a letter in June of last year thanking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for their defense of religious freedom. (The growing relationship between confessional Lutherans and Catholics around the world is something I’ve addressed elsewhere on First Things. Up here in Canada, something similar is going on as Lutheran Church–Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently began talks).

But the LCMS’ relationships with other churches have also been growing over the past few years as well. In particular, the LCMS, along with its sister church, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), has developed good relations with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), publishing last year a joint statement rejoicing that they can “jointly affirm core teachings (articles) of the Christian faith shared by our church bodies.” Similarly good relations have been developed with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), with whom the LCMS and LCC are in continuing talks. Representatives of these four church bodies (ACNA, NALC, LCC, and LCMS) recently met together for an ecumenical summit on marriage and sexuality, publishing a joint affirmation on marriage (signed by the heads of all four churches) shortly thereafter.

The LCMS’ growing interchurch relations are not restricted to North America either. While the LCMS has long been part of the International Lutheran Council, the church is more and more developing relationships with biblical Lutherans outside this group. In particular, churches like the 6.1 million member Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), who earlier this year cut off ties to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Church of Sweden, have begun seeking new relationships with the LCMS and other confessional Lutherans. In March, for example, the EECMY’s General Secretary visited LCMS leaders in St. Louis to “strengthen the relationship” they’ve already been building. And the LCMS held an “International Conference on Confessional Leadership” last year in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 120 Lutheran church leaders from around the world attending.

If the past few years are anything to go by, this growing interest in strong relationships between the LCMS and other confessing Christian churches is likely to continue into President Harrison’s second term. I for one couldn’t be more pleased.

LCMS in “Place of Jesus”

A field cut video about the request from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to the Missouri Synod for assistance with theological education. Mekane Yesus means “Place of Jesus.” The EECMY is a 6.1 million member Lutheran church in Ethiopia.

— Posted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 16 June 2013 by Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations


Pictured clockwise from Left) Pr Joel Kerosuo, Bp With, Bp Matti Väisänen, Bp Roland Gustafsson and Anssi Simojoki.

Photo courtesy of Jouko Makkonen.

Dear Praying Friends,

I am filled with deep gratitude to you who have prayed for my meeting with the Tunsberg bishop today. An extra thank you to all of you who responded so quickly. Assured of prayers and support from all of you, I traveled to Tønsberg with confidence. During the meeting, I felt comfort and peace.

The conversation in Tønsberg was characterized by a surprisingly calm seriousness. The Church of Norway has placed Mrs. Laila Riksaasen Dahl as bishop of Tunsberg diocese. Since I now live in Tunsberg diocese, it is her official duty to make the final decision on disciplinary measures, because I let myself be consecrated bishop in violation of applicable canon law provisions of the Church of Norway.

In the conversation I elaborated the basis for the actions that began with doctrinal conversations at my initiative with my then Bishop of Nidaros, and ended with my episcopal ordination in Tromsø in 2012. Laila Riksaasen Dahl listened attentively and sympathetically, revealing good theological insight and respect. She expressed, in an unexpectedly clear manner, her understanding that this matter shall at the Last Day be of profound seriousness to both parties.

I pointed out that when the bishops and CoN’s General Assembly accept unbiblical teachings in the Church, they break apart the unity of the Church of Norway. Because of the new doctrine of the bishop of Nidaros, I had to exclude him from the church communion fellowship. And when church members, because of what has happened elsewhere, have no shepherd and call me to help, my ordination vow commits me to take care of the flock – even as a bishop. With fervent desire I encouraged her, along with my former Bishop of Nidaros, to change their doctrine, and I promised my prayer for that to happen.

Laila Riksaasen Dahl concluded the conversation by stating that​​, particularly due to the episcopal ordination in Tromsø, she decided to terminate my authorization as a pastor in the Church of Norway. To this I replied that the new doctrine contrary to Scripture has led us to this rupture, and to the consequences that are now taking place. There and then I put on my episcopal cross and made visible in this way our claim to be a diocese in the church. Explicit notice was taken of this symbolic act.


I see an image of the Norwegian church as a large and pleasant area, built on floats. Priests, bishops – and laity in the CoN General Assembly – cut away the tendons that keep this area secured to land – one mooring after the other. When the floating area now drifts from shore, it can easily seem that they who control developments are sending us who have other foundations under our feet away from themselves. But we, who stand on the firm ground, know that really it is they who drift away from the mainland of Christ’s Church; they drift away before the weather and wind of this age.

Let us pray that the Lord may have mercy!

Yours in Christ
+Thor Henrik

The De-Frocking of Bishop Thor Henrik With

Thor With

{Note: Bishop Thor Henrik With was consecrated Bishop in Northern Norway (Valgmenighetene i Nordnorge) in a Divine Service on Saturday, 24 March 2012, in Tromsø, Norway. LCMS Theological Educator to the Baltics, Rev. Dr. Charles Evanson attended Bishop With’s consecration. He provides the translation below with a plea for prayers as it appears Bishop With will be defrocked by the Church of Norway for holding to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Pictured is Bishop With with Archbishop Obare from 24 March 2012.}


Dear friends!

Will you pray for me, and again tomorrow, Thursday, May 16?

I am summoned to meet the bishop of Tunsberg tomorrow at 10 am, because I have allowed myself to become bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Foundation in Norway. Apparently the bishop of Tunsberg will announce the decision that I will be deprived of priestly rights in the Norwegian church. As they say, I am to “lose robe and collar.”

Since the Church of Norway has deluded itself into thinking that God blesses gay relationships and made it a doctrine, to which bishops and priests are to gladly agree to in their dioceses and parishes, the loss of priestly rights is sad, but it is not catastrophic. It is hard to bear that church members are deceived in this way, and that brother priests whom I would lead in the good fight of faith now become opponents. Also in other serious matters the church which took me into the ministry when I was ordained on December 16, 1979 is suffering. It is in serious conflict with the only Word that can give life and eternal salvation.

Will you pray that I receive wisdom and love to carry forward concern and guidance before the Tunsberg bishop, and to testify clearly about that to which  God’s Word commits us?

What is most of all at stake is the faithfulness of bishops and priests to Scripture and the Lutheran Confession to which they pledged their commitment at ordination – and therewith their proper guidance and care for all God’s people, on the road to judgment and the resurrection of life.

I thank you very much, friends, that I can count on you!


Yours in Christ,

+ Thor Henrik

Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations.

Lutheran Hosts Recognized



Rev. Dr. Albert Collver presented the Jill and Glen Oster a plaque of thanks from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for their support of LCMS missionary efforts in Papua New Guinea (through caring for the Mission Children of LCMS PNG missionaries).

Luther Frau Cotta

Dr. Collver noted that the Lutheran church has a long history of families hosting school children, beginning perhaps with Martin Luther being hosted by the Cotta family when he was a school boy (pictured above). Dr. Collver said, “It is a wonderful service to the Lord to host the children of missionaries in your home. Thank you and May Christ richly bless you.”

The Osters are spending almost 6 weeks traveling the US to visit as many of the 33 missionary kids and missionary alumni parents as they can. So far they have been to Hawaii, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, and from there they move on to Ohio, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Texas, flying out of Dallas back to Adelaide.

The Osters were touched to be publicly thanked — and didn’t know about the recognition planned at the LCMS International Center.
Just a few things Glen said, “about 50 years ago, there was an announcement in their church to host American children. And Jill said, ‘I like the American accent.’ … we decided to help. Initially we hosted 3 boys and 2 girls, never knowing that eventually we’d host 33!”

Jill and Glenn Oster were a young newlywed couple when they volunteered to provide a home away from home for the first group of LCMS missionary children who attended Concordia College (a boarding school High School) in Adelaide, Australia. Between, 1963-1979 they hosted and took care of a total of 33 high school students, all children of LCMS missionaries in Papua New Guinea. The LCMS missionaries were able to focus on their mission work knowing that their children were in the God-guided hands of the Osters who treated the missionary children as their own.

Oster_Australia-MK-PNG_Pic 1_30Apr13

Jill and Glen Oster and Carrie (Burce) and Myron Koehn, executive director of LCMS Information Technologies. (Carrie is a missionary kid of the first LCMS missionaries —the Burces — to PNG and one of the last children hosted by the Osters)

Myron Koehn introduced the Osters in chapel:

“Joining us today are Glen and Jill Oster from Adelaide South Australia. Between the years of 1963 and 1979 this amazing couple voluntarily hosted a total of 33 LCMS New Guinea missionary kids (MK’s) whose parents sent them to high school at the Concordia boarding school in Adelaide. The Osters are now making their way across the country visiting as many of those 33 missionary kids as possible before returning to Adelaide in a few weeks. On a personal note, Glen and Jill, I want to express my thanks to you for taking such good care of my wife, Carrie, who was among the last of the 33 MK’s you hosted. Rev. Dr. Al Collver is here today representing The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and I understand that he has something for you…”

Glen is now retired from his carpentry career. Both Glen and Jill were quite active in their Lutheran congregation and at Concordia College (High School) in Adelaide — often volunteering wherever and whenever help was needed. Glen and Jill are members of the Lutheran Church of Australia with whom the LCMS enjoyed a very strong Papua New Guinea ministry partnership dating back to the 1940s. Praise be to God for all He accomplished through that ministry partnership and His servants, the Osters.

— Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations on 30 April 2013.