While I was gone: Rev. Matthew Harrison, a confessional theologian with a heart, was re-elected president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. By a landslide of 2/3 of the vote. You LCMSers, does this bode well? What exactly, if we can say that, does it bode?
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
Members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod re-elected the Rev. Matthew Harrison as their president in a landslide, the church said Saturday.
Harrison won a second three-year term with nearly twice as many votes — 66 percent of the total — as the other two candidates combined.
The Rev. David Maier, president of the synod’s Michigan district, received 30 percent of the vote, and the Rev. Herbert Mueller Jr., the synod’s first vice president, received 4 percent.
Votes were cast by 78 percent of the 8,201 district delegates who were eligible.
Harrison is the synod’s 13th president since 1847.
The 2.4 million-member church, based in Kirkwood, is the second-largest Lutheran denomination in the country after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which has twice as many members. . . .
Harrison, 51, was spending time with family and friends Saturday and declined a request to speak to the Post-Dispatch about his re-election. But he did provide written answers Saturday to questions the newspaper sent him Friday, before the results of the election were made public.
He mentioned three accomplishments in particular from his first term that he’s proud of: an increased number of new missionaries; the church’s response to “the heartache and chaos caused by the earthquake in Japan, Hurricane Sandy, and the tornado in Moore, Okla.,” among other disasters; and a renewed focus on campus ministry.
In February 2012, Harrison was one of several religious leaders to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives telling congressional leaders that the synod “stand(s) with our friends in the Catholic church” in opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s so-called contraception mandate.
The ruling says religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, must include free birth control coverage in their employee health coverage.
Harrison testified angrily that the mandate was “a draconian violation of our First Amendment rights.” His goal, he told the Post-Dispatch later, was to “get the federal government out of matters of conscience for religious people, particularly in life issues where there’s long-standing moral and ethical church precedent.”
Harrison made national news again in February when he made public on the synod’s website news that he had asked the pastor of a Lutheran church in Newtown, Conn., to apologize for participating in an interfaith prayer vigil in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre.
The synod’s constitution prohibits members from taking part in worship services that blend the beliefs and practices of Lutherans with those of other faiths and Christian denominations.
The prohibition on worshipping with other Christians stems from the synod’s 19th-century history in Germany, when its members were forced by the government to accept Calvinism against their will — and fled to the United States to preserve their religious freedom.
Harrison later apologized for his handling of the incident, which he called a “debacle.” He apologized to the members of the Connecticut church, to the pastor in question, to the people of Newtown and “to the membership of our great church body for embarrassment due to the media coverage.”
“I handled it poorly, multiplying the challenges,” Harrison said at the time. “I increased the pain of a hurting community.”
Harrison’s goals for his next term, he told the Post-Dispatch, include recruiting, training and raising funds for more “career missionaries.”
“Specifically, we need theological educators to help strengthen our expanding list of partner churches who are begging for our help in this area,” he wrote. “It really is the Missouri Synod’s international moment.”
He also said he hoped to strengthen churches at home, while planting new ones, “especially among the many ethnic people God is bringing to our American shores.”
Finally, Harrison said he’s like to focus on high school students and young adults, “equipping them and supporting them as they move into adult life where their faith will be tried and tested.”