Matt’s Posts

Pastoral Letter Regarding Campus Ministry

The Seventeenth Week after Pentecost
October 13, 2011

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Dear Brothers in Christ,

The church is losing her young people. This is a concern we all share. While some fall away during high school, by far the greatest losses occur during the college years. Our young adults are bombarded by a secular worldview that is antagonistic to their Christian faith. College campuses have become a place where the truth of God’s Word is mocked, the divinity of Christ is questioned, and the church is scorned.

While the Synod has a tremendous system of Concordia colleges and universities, the vast majority of our young people attend secular institutions of higher education. Showing great foresight, past generations gave of their resources to establish campus ministries at major universities throughout the nation. However, over the years, as both local and national support has decreased, a number of campus ministries have been dissolved or closed. The recent events surrounding the sale of University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis, Minn., a vibrant and thriving campus ministry, are but another tragic chapter.

After too many years of being distant from campus ministry, the Synod is prepared to take leadership once again. The Synod cannot do campus ministry, but we can give voice to the importance of campus ministry, encouraging, supporting, and coordinating it wherever it is taking place.

As I write, the Office of National Mission is assembling a campus ministry task force, and plans are underway to host a future national campus ministry conference. We look forward to collaborating with many wonderful people who are already laboring tirelessly in this essential ministry and fertile mission field.

Now is the time to renew our efforts. While many have faithfully labored in campus ministry, they have not always received our support. The Synod simply cannot afford to sit on the sideline while faithful campus congregations are being closed. College students need Word and Sacrament ministry. They need faithful pastors and workers who will care, teach and prepare them for life in, but not of, the world. In short, they need Jesus.

The Office of National Mission will ensure that a larger voice is given to campus ministry so that it is valued and supported throughout the Synod once again. Investing in campus ministry invests in the future of the Church; it shepherds our young people when they need us most and builds up future leaders in the church.

As you are able, I encourage you to invest in the future of University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis so campus ministry can continue to flourish at the University of Minnesota. While the building they have utilized for campus ministry for over 60 years will be sold, the Word of the Lord will never be silenced. The Minnesota South District has encouraged them to continue ministry in that place. Please consider making a contribution to help see that this happens. You can donate directly through their website, or by sending checks through the mail to:

University Lutheran Chapel
1101 University Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
612-331-2747
www.ulcmn.org

This is not the time for us to abandon campus ministry, but the time to more fully embrace and expand it. Please continue to support all the campus ministries throughout the Synod, and encourage the development of new campus outreach where none is taking place. Let us together be about keeping the souls of our precious children and bearing witness in an increasingly godless culture. What an exciting and dynamic place to be engaged in witness, mercy, and life together!

Finally, please join me in praying for the youth of our church:

Gracious Father, Your Son grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and all people. Bless, guide, and govern the children and young people of Your Church by Your Holy Spirit, that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Your Word. Grant that they may serve You well and usefully, developing their talents not for their own sakes but to Your glory and for the welfare of their neighbor. Protect and defend them from all danger and harm, giving Your holy angels charge over them, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (For Young Persons, LSB 315)

May God bless and guide our increased efforts to care for Christ’s sheep throughout their college years so they may be preserved in the one true faith. If you would like to share ideas or thoughts as we move forward, please contact Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of the Office of National Mission (bart.day@lcms.org).

Sub cruce,

Pastor Matthew Harrison
Let’s go! Mark 1:38

Jesus Only

Jesus Only

“And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (Matt. 17:8 ESV).

Jesus only. In this instance “Jesus only” was a letdown for Peter, James and John. They’d just glimpsed glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, complete with Moses and Elijah. No time to build booths. It was back to the grind of preaching, teaching and healing. At the end of the transfiguration chapter comes another disturbing passion prediction by Jesus: “’The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.’ And they were greatly distressed” (Matt. 17:22–23).

Their only option was Jesus. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68). All or nothing. Jesus or nothing. But withRev. Matt Harrison Jesus came suffering and death. Their knowledge would remain partial until they’d seen the risen Christ. “Put to death for our transgressions, raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). And then, just one thing remained: Jesus only. The apostles, just like us, wavered and still had the flesh about their necks (Gal. 2; Acts 15:39), but trials and crosses always threw them back upon Jesus only. “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

Service in the church is often very hard business. We come into these vocations having been encouraged by our pastors, teachers, fellow Christians and family. “You’d make a good pastor!” “You’d be a wonderful teacher!” Soon we find that it’s not all Moses and Elijah in glory. Not at all. Times of joy may be punctuated with long periods of deep trials, congregations in turmoil, challenging relationships with staff and church members. The stress of disappointment and gossip can sap all energy, throw pastors into lethargy, parch preaching and drive us to separate ourselves from the world. If I could change just one thing in the Missouri Synod by waving a magic wand, I’d turn every bit of gossip and unhealthy complaint about church workers into a prayer for them. Valid critique and appropriate accountability are good things, but they also require careful and positive implementation, preferably while things are going well.

And it’s not just the “weak” church workers who have this experience. C. F. W. Walther, Friedrich Wyneken, Franz Pieper and Friedrich Pfotenhauer (and for that matter, Luther himself) all had serious and long-lasting struggles with stress-related depression and breakdown. After telling Walther about his life-long struggle with depression, Wyneken wrote:

The longer and the more I have suffered under my heavy spiritual Anfechtungen [i.e., trials, struggles], I have experienced in a practical way the necessity and importance of pure doctrine. Since every doctrine is connected with justification, and undergirds it—indeed, proceeds from it as from the center [of the faith], and leads back to it—I have found in this doctrine my only stay in the midst of my difficulties (At Home in the House of My Fathers, p. 425).

Wyneken’s trials forced him to the heart of it all—justification—Jesus, put to death for our transgressions, raised for our justification. Jesus only. We all pass through times of trial and difficulty. I’m very thankful for those trials I experienced in the parish because they have made me much more sympathetic to others and much more compassionate. Such trials leave us clinging to Jesus only. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” And wonderfully, and somewhat ironically, they render us ever more to be “little Christs” to our brothers and sisters in their challenging moments, so that we can come to them with “Jesus only:” “Whatsoever you have done to the least of these . . .” (Matt. 25:40). Perhaps Paul said it best: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).

When we began the trek into this church work business, they told us, “You’ll be a good pastor or teacher or . . .”  But the way we become such workers is the Jesus way—”the Son of man must suffer many things.” Only through such trials are we reduced to “Jesus only.”

— Pastor Matthew Harrison, President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Resolution on ULC from MNN District Fall Pastor's Conference

RESOLUTION
MNN District Fall Pastors Conference
October 4, 2011

WHEREAS, the Minnesota South District (MNS) Board of Directors (BOD) has recently taken actions and executed an agreement to sell the property on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, used for the past 62 years by University Lutheran Chapel (ULC); and

WHEREAS, the Joint Minnesota South/Minnesota North Districts Pastors Conference (May 11, 2011, Brainerd, MN) had requested that the MNS BOD bring this entire matter before the MNS District in convention to deliberate and determine an appropriate course of action regarding the sale of the ULC property; and

WHEREAS, the decision to sell the Lutheran Student Center by the MNS District BOD has resulted in tension, divisions, and a disruption to our life together; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Minnesota North District (MNN) 2011 Fall Pastors Conference humbly express its sincere sadness at the outcomes of these actions of the MNS BOD; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the MNS BOD be urged to communicate caringly and clearly and further explain its rationale, and, if at all possible, reverse or delay its recent decisions regarding ULC, so that the matter may considered by the MNS District Convention; and be it further

RESOLVED, that encouragement be given to individuals, congregations, circuits, and districts across the LCMS to offer solutions to sustain the ongoing ministry and mission of ULC; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that the MNN 2011 Fall Pastors Conference encourage all to fervently pray that the Lord of the Church bless the outcomes of these deliberations and decisions concerning ULC.

Action: Adopted

Concerning the Sale of University Lutheran Chapel

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the course of the September meeting of the Council of Presidents, Minnesota North President Don Fondow and I requested of President Lane Seitz a meeting with himself and the Minnesota South District Board of Directors. Of the several concerns raised by the then-impending sale of the University Lutheran Chapel property, President Fondow and I were in agreement that it was unwise to disregard the resolution of the joint pastors’ conference requesting that any decision to sell the property be made at the Minnesota South District Convention. We were seeking to share this and other information directly with the board. President Seitz quickly offered us options for the meeting and was polling his board for an agreeable date. However, President Seitz later informed me that the individual authorized by the Board to sell the property had signed documents to that end at very nearly the same time as President Seitz was working to find an agreeable date for us to meet with the board.

The Life Together which we enjoy is fragile and often fractured. This action makes it even more so. There is no question that the Board had the right to do what it did with the property. Unfortunately, this action is difficult, even impossible to separate from ongoing dissensus in the district about what it means to be Lutheran, very similar to our larger challenges as a Synod. We have a long way to go in this regard. God help us.

I wish to state my hearty thankfulness for ULC. I have met more delightful and engaged Lutherans from this campus ministry around the country than any other. They are occupied in all manner of professions and active in church. We need many more campus ministries just like ULC. The army of clergy and now deaconesses who have come through ULC is astounding.

I would urge that all who are concerned about ULC turn away from judging motives, as difficult as that may be. This action comes as no surprise to anyone close to the situation. It’s time to turn toward ULC’s future, a future I support.

It is also time to have more brotherly conversations around the Word of God and to implore the Lord of the Church to grant greater harmony in what it means to be Lutheran. Together, let us hear and heed the apostolic word: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:9–10).

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod