Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rev. Harrison's Latest Offenses

By now many millions around the world have learned about the actions of the current President of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, Rev. Matthew Harrison, toward an LCMS pastor in Newtown, Conn. who participated in a civic religious service of prayer and healing following the terrible tragedy there. The story was in today's editions of the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and other US newspapers, as well as in news reports from local tv and radio stations. Reuters has picked it up as well. Here is the link to that article:

You can also do a search on any of the major news organizations' websites and find additional links.

For Rev. Harrison's letter:

For Pastor Robert Morris' letter of apology:

President Harrison's actions toward this pastor, as summarized in his letter, are contrary to the best of evangelical-fraternal Lutheran pastoral theology. His letter should be an absolute embarrassment to all individuals who are connected with the LCMS. Given how LCMS laity and clergy are responding negatively to his actions and letter, it is clear that he does not act and speak for many. He certrainly does not speak for me. (No surprise there, I suppose.)

For a very different perspective on this whole mess, see the comment of the previous president of the Synod, Dr. Kieschnick:

I would hope that this latest action by Rev. Harrison would be sufficient to lead LCMS electors to remove him from the office of president and to replace him with someone who is wiser and more evangelical, or at least more caring toward pastors who must face extremely difficult, challenging situations of pastoral care. Maybe someone more like Dr. Kieschnick?

Matt Becker


  1. Matt, I would not expect you to support Harrison since you have abandoned support for Biblical Lutheranism.

    You seem quite selective on the occasion when you try to play the part of "bold confessor."

    I challenge you to "come out of the closet" with your views on the ordination of women and gay clergy, as you have done so in a few places, but then worked to have your comments deleted.

    They are however now a matter of public record.

    Come on, Matt, time to step up and be the kind of bold, courageous leader you would have others be.

    Will you?

    Will you speak openly about your views?

    Or will you continue to hide.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Paul McCain,

      "Hello, Pot! Kettle Calling!"

  2. Dr. Becker,

    Do you think Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

    What about Mormons and Christians?

    Do you think Muslims are going to hell?

    Just curious. . .


  3. Good questions Pr.H.R.

    Let's see if Matt answers them. Doubt he will.

  4. As soon as he gets back to his blog he'll delete all these comments anyway.


  5. This young pastor tried very hard to "jump through all the hoops" of the man-made rules and regulations that the Missouri Synod tries to place on pastors to keep them from being able to witness to the Gospel and to do their pastoral work. But apparently he did not jump through enough hoops to satisfy our first-term Synodical president, Matthew Harrison. For the sake of the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I implore President Harrison to issue a letter of apology to the Church for making such a request of this pastor. Rev. Paul D. Doellinger

    1. Yep--because I'm sure that Harrison despises the Gospel and bearing witness to it. Way to put the best construction on his actions there. Nice job keeping the 8th commandment.

  6. Harrison is remarkable in his display of love and kindness toward an erring brother. In putting on the best construction Harrison encouraged the brother to do the right thing. Morris differed in viewpoint. Harrison spoke in loving terms of this brother and the great value of his ministry. You've got a beef with that? I think Harrison riled the conservatives more by being so gracious. You've got to love his kind and brotherly approach. This is a new and fresh breath of air that we've needed for a long time!

    1. Pr Harrison called Pr Morris an "otherwise fine young pastor." Hmmm. I join those who say that Pastor Morris did not err, and therefore needed no admonition nor repentance.

  7. If you you're so darn embarrassed by it, then leave the frickin' synod. As for me, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes..."

  8. For those who believe that there is no difference at all between one "faith" and another, or that all roads lead to the same place, then no, Pastor Morris did nothing wrong. However, the fact of the matter is that there is only one Name given to men by which we may be saved, and that is the name, Jesus. When we give a weak witness by wanting to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy we are doing no one any favors. What would have been wrong with Pastor Morris having a community service and inviting everyone to attend, at which time he and he alone would have been able to reach out to the community, the nation, and the world with the ever precious balm of the Gospel of peace, which is found in no one other than Jesus – that now is the day of salvation, now is the time to trust in Christ for forgiveness, life and salvation?

    Is it really all that complicated that we have to get our feathers all ruffled over something that's a simple as 1+1=2 . . . I'm just sayin' . . .

    Rev. Drew Newman

  9. Dr Becker,
    once again I am confused about your contributions in this blog, yet I will let someone respond whom you pretend to follow, namely D. Dr. Werner Elert:

    »[...] As experience teaches, there are dogmatical troublemakers in many congregations who do not intend to submit themselves to the Word proclaimed by the Pastor, rather than to sit all the time as his judges and as spies of an allegedly charismatic Theology close to the pulpit, waiting for the great moment to catch their false teacher. Then they sneak with the Bible under their arm from door to door and secretly gather the partisan movement of the true believers. In an independentalistically constituted church body it is merely a question of the malevolent propaganda to gather a sufficient amount of voters who will overthrow the hated one. And soon they will play the same game with his successor.
    To debilitate such thoughts, which are hidden in each congregation and especially in those that claim to be the ‘lively’ ones, and their destructive power, church leadership once again is needed. And also in this case the task has to be in one hand. There are cases in which people abrogate their Church’s confession, which each child can recognize and in which each (democratic) board without theology and wisdom will conclude what is necessary – or rather could conclude, for the actions of such boards in history suggests that they are not even able to deal with cases like these. The Church leadership is not just responsible for congregations, but also for their pastors, i.e. not only to prevent him from being overthrown, but also that he is taught and corrected if he is wrong. […]« (W. Elert: Ecclesia militans, 38).

    You now may judge for, or humble yourself: To which side do you belong? Are you the bishop, who prevents pastors from being overthrown by demagogues and who simultaneously gives advice to a young pastor who accidentally did not act in accordance with his confessions, ultimately apologizing yourself for having become cause of troubles? Or are you a dogmatic troublemaker waiting to find material to refute your Synod president, since you feel exceedingly called to promote teachings that you think are more important?
    As for me, I am inclined to believe latter is true, yet I am telling you this as someone who still wishes to gain you as a brother. In fraternal love I admonish you to repent and not to seek your OWN fame.

    In Christ, Benjamin

    1. B. M.,

      The Elert quote perfectly fits the example of those zealous LCMS pastors who stuck their noses into the pastoral ministry of a CT pastor because they thought he was acting and teaching falsely. The intent of those LCMS pastors was to discipline "the false teacher" and to take steps to remove him from the roster, if he didn't repent as they thought he should.

      That pastor's immediate ecclesiastical supervisor gave this pastor permission to participate in the civic event as he did.

      The LCMS president had no business sticking his nose into the matter in the way that he did either, as he now publicly admits and for which he has now apologized. At the very least, he should have worked through the pastor's dp, who alone has ecclesiastical supervision for that pastor.

      The synod president is not above criticism by members of the synod. Prior to his own election MH was critical of the then-sitting LCMS president, Dr. K. Just as MH campaigned for the office ahead of the election, others did the same for other candidates. That kind of politiking has been going on since Preus attacked and unseated Harms.

      Unlike a pastor, the synod president is up for election/re-election every three years. His office is different from that of a pastor in a congregation. Elert was only talking about zealous trouble-makers within a congregation who try to unseat a pastor because he doesn't toe the line in the way that they think he should be doing.

      If you would examine the whole of Elert's writings, you would know that he spoke of the responsibility of church theologians to be critical of the church when it needs to be criticized. The calling of the theologian includes the responsibility of always putting the church into the position of being questioned.

    2. (Part 1)
      Dr Becker,
      reading your response I am afraid you are mistaking my admonition as an invitation for a debate, yet it is not. I sought to show you from the pen of a good teacher, whom you allege to follow, that your behavior here resembles a quite ugly pattern. Rather than thinking about it you are self-righteously justifying your nasty politicking with human traditions, and instead of stopping this tradition you also abuse the name of fine teachers for your deceitful intentions. If you read »the whole« of D.Dr. Elert writings (yet another hybris of yours), you would know about those statements which immediately refute such squishy notions of his teaching as you presented them to the readers.
      The quotation given above does not “perfectly fit[] the example of those zealous LCMS pastors ”. It does not fit logically, since the whole text then must have had argued ceteris paribus against the office of the pastor/bishop. From the text, however, the opposite is true, since it advocates in favor of a bishop as head of the Kirchenregiment who “is not just responsible for congregations, but also for their pastors, i.e. not only to prevent him from being overthrown, but also that he is taught and corrected if he is wrong.” Here again you picked those phrases that allegedly serve your case rather than reading the overall testimony of the given text. A famous Lutheran father knew very well what this pattern is called, namely “negare consequens antecedentis concessi in bona consequentia”. I am using this expression so that the learned readers might immediately know to what movement you belong, without bringing you into disrepute before those who are unlearned. But this is not the only passage which you obviously did not not understand in blessed Elert’s theological work. For if you did, you would not have said “The LCMS president had no business sticking his nose into the matter in the way that he did”, to which Elert replied long before:
      “[...] There are functions which without any doubt exceed the frame of the individual congregation. To this belongs, for instance, the training of pastors, their supervision, their substitution in times of vacancy. If, according to the word of the Apostle this also shall be orderly, a supra-congregational order has to exist for the Church. There have to be supra-congregational instances. According to this principle, which seems to be a theory, there are two options: Either these supra-congregational instances are mere practical institutions, which thus are de jure humano. If so, they have absolute no spiritual function. If so, they cannot, for instance, supervise the teaching of pastors. They could not even examine their teaching before they are called in the office. They also could not ordain them. If so, these instances would not comply to the practical need for them. Or, this being the second option, these supra-congregational instances are called to execute these spiritual functions. Then, however, they can only be those who have their authority de jure divino, since without that no spiritual functions may be executed in the Church at all. If so, those in these supra-congregational instances are only those in the spiritual office.” (Elert, LGFDK, in: ELDK, 120)
      You now may ask yourself: Is the president only an administrative figure or does he execute an office that is entrusted to him from the Synod as a pastor? Read your own Synod’s constitution and you soon will know that it is precisely his office to stick his nose into the matter even in the way he did. Your constitution reads: “The President has and always shall have the power to advise, admonish, and reprove. He shall conscientiously use all means at his command to promote and maintain unity of doctrine and practice in all the districts of the Synod.”

    3. (Part 2)
      Now you either follow a vulgar route of independentalism, denying any episcopal authority of your Synod’s president. Or you follow the route which Elert shows and accept the president’s office as executed from his spiritual office de jure divino. The route of pick and mix does comply with neither.
      To protect you from be ridiculed even from the most unlearned I am not quoting Elerts explanation of Luther’s writing “De instituendis ministris” written in 1523 in which Elert so clearly rejects all those who argue you like you do, namely against archiepisocpal offices as being intrinsically gospelic.
      Now, to come to your last point: Your rather vague description of what Elert allegedly said is sufficient evidence of your one-sided reception of him. You would have done a big service to all readers if you would have provided where you got your allegations from. Yet, I am tired of doing your job. Instead I give you a clear passage:
      “The churchly relation of the theologian consists in the fact that he lets himself being told the doctrine of the Church just as any other member and that he does not seek to answer the theological questions in the name of any ‘science’ but as a member of the Church, seeking to answer it as a member of the Church. Is he not able to find answers to single points, or does he even deny it, he may well advocate that publicy. Yet then he is not doing so as a minister of the Church. He cannot rely on anything but the scientific importance of his arguments and he consistently has to expect being refuted. The Church could let herself being convinced by these arguments. But she does not have to do so on account of the formal reason, that she has entrusted the “teaching office” to him. The theological work of the individual remains unfinished, as long as he lives. Because of this he will not present his arguments in an apodictic[al] manner. The proclamation of the Church, however, which is executed by the spiritual office, has to be apodictic[al]. Even the pastor, who prepares his sermon, has to leave the question unanswered, whether it is sufficiently explained what the proclaims in the name of the Church. But he can step onto the pulpit only if he answers with Yes.” (Elert, DZDETF, in: L 1935, 105.)
      I once again admonish you: Do not abuse the name of good teachers for your church political ambitions, but let yourself be taught by them. For you this might be question of your fame and convictions. For me this is a question of whether or not we allow students, parish members and pastors being deceived by you. As long as you do not repent from your false teaching, and arrogation, I will stick to my fraternal advice: Repent.

      In Christ, Benjamin

      PS: I beg to excuse my poor English skills in orthography and expression, Yet what I am trying to say should be clear from what I said.

    4. BM,

      Your admonition might be stronger if you would avoid ad hominem expressions ("your behavior resembles an ugly pattern," "self-righteously justifying your nasty politiking," "abuse the name of a fine teacher with deceitful intentions," etc.).

      Pres. Harrison acted inappropriately and offensively, as he himself has admitted. He has apologized for his offensive behavior.

      The sp is not the pope. His ecclesiastical supervisizing is not absolute. The bylaws restrict his authority and further specify how local pastors and congregations are to be supervised by elected district presidents.

      So the Elert quote you provided is beside the point you are trying to make.

      The zealous pastors certainly acted inappropriately by publicly maligning the young pastor and threatening to file charges against him. The Sp should have warned those pastors to stay clear and to allow the elected ecclesiastical authorities to do their vocation. Absolutely crucial was the decision of the dp to give permission to the pastor to participate in the civic vigil.

      The sp should have restricted his involvement to the dp in question, not the CT pastor. And the matter should have never been made public in the way that it has.

      As to my false teaching, what exactly are you talking about? What false teaching?

      Matt Becker

    5. Dr Becker,

      first of all I wish to apologize for this late response. Since it seems like apologies are often mistaken, I do not apologize for what I am saying or said, rather than for the delay in my response. From what I read in Pres. Harrison's apology that also is what he did: Apologizing for HOW he handled the situation, not for what he did, which in fact is entirely right. It remains a secret of yours HOW and WHY you pretend to know what the President should have done, to what extend and if at all. From the stand point of our confessions he is rightly executing a supervision and jurisdiction office which is quite independent of your democratic notions and wishes. If he is the President of the LCMS and the pastor and congregation involved are LCMS, he rightly did WHAT he should have done, although the way he did turned out to be inadequate in his eyes. That's a repentance I wish you also would display soon, yet reading your last post I am afraid you still wish to be the one who sets the rules. I, however, tried to admonish you personally and by the authority of someone's name you abused before. Since you turn out the omniscient judge who despite of the clear and evident testimony of this father feels able to say "the Elert quote [I] provided [was] beside the point [I] [was] trying to make", it seems to me you are inadmonishable. Since you asked for stronger admonition, I will pass on that task to your synod, which already knows and deals with those false teachings I mentioned. Just ask yourself what people would think if they read your posts without having the chance that you respond personally to them, fleeing from one weak excuse to another.

      Ego autem dixi et salvavi animam meam.

  10. Dr. Becker,

    Your stance is simply not in line with Holy Scripture, th eLutheran Confessions or article VI the LCMS Constitution. Why do remain in the Missouri Synod if you want to confess views that do not say the same thing as is written in our formative deocuments? There is home for you in your current state of Confession, ELCA, UCC, Episcapalianism, or the like. They adhere to the same teachings that you have insisted on propagating sometimes in secret, sometimes publicly.

    YOu need ot listen to the admonition you falsely gave concerning the most Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. Why? He is an honorable, pastoral, caring servant of servants. Verstanzie? You are a professor who wants to remain in the LCMS under the pretense of what Sasse calls a pious lie. Verstanzie?

    In addition, in your current state of confession, you need to admit to District President May what your beliefs are and expect him to do his pastoral best to reprove you for being out of line with the teaching of HOly Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the LCMS Constitution.

    1. David R.,

      I do not know what you are talking about when you assert that my teaching is out of line with the Holy Scriptures. Please, make that case to me, ala Matt. 18, if that is what you really think.

      Nor do I understand what you mean when you refer to my false admonition of MH. I would not use the terms "pastoral" or "caring" to describe what he did to the CT pastor. MH himself acknowledged as much in his apology.

      So, no, I do not understand what you are saying.

      So please, instead of simply making assertions here about my "confession," make the case ala Matt. 18 that my "current state of confession" is contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture or out of keeping with the LCMS's allowance for theological dissent.

      To understand my "current state of confession" better, you might visit Immanuel, Michigan City's webpage and listen to some of my online sermons. They are not perfect, but they will give you a clearer idea of my "current state of confession." BTW, each of those sermons was either preceded or followed by my confession of either the Apostles' Creed or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan. And each of the divine services was begun with the brief order of confession and absolution. So, if you want to talk about my "confession," you might start with these specific confessions.

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    1. Jason,
      I don't know about getting along much better in the ELCA, but I fully agree that pastors who are not biblical Lutherans should not continue in the LCMS.

      That the ordination of women is contrary to authentic Lutheran-biblical theology is, of course, the question you would have to address more carefully than you do here.

    2. Your right pastor I do need to be more careful on how I word questions. That is why I thought it would be best to just delete my comment. I apologize.

  12. Hey Matt,
    Just to let you know. We would love to have your passion and expertise in the ELCA. So anytime you are ready... Take care. You have many supporters behind you both in the ELCA and LCMS.