By David Domsch
We all like to be in control. It’s only human – as is the urge to extend our control beyond ourselves to include other people and situations. That can and does lead to conflict – often serious conflict.
Three years ago, before he was elected President of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Rev. Matthew Harrison questioned the amount of control he saw possible under the new structure that was then being discussed for adoption within the Synod. Rev. Harrison opposed this new structure. Would that the same concern still existed in the President’s office today. Unfortunately, it appears that Rev. Harrison & his allies are attempting to extend control well beyond that exercised by any previous administration.
A few examples:
- Following the Sandy Hook shootings, Rev. Harrison personally contacted a local pastor who participated in a community event in the wake of that tragedy to reprimand him for his participation in that community event. By doing so, Rev. Harrison usurped the ecclesiastical supervision of the pastor’s District President.
- The nine presidents of the universities in the Concordia University System unanimously object to actions of the CUS Board of Directors that seek to move final decisions on hiring faculty and administrators away from the individual universities and locate them at the level of the CUS Board and President Harrison.
- Both Valparaiso University and the Lutheran Deaconess Association have been banned from having booths at either this summer’s LCMS Convention or the National Youth Gathering – without the courtesy of explanation or rationale.
- The Presidentially-appointed Specific Ministry Program Task Force’s report attempts to limit that program sharply and place it under central control – which at least the St. Louis Seminary faculty strongly opposes.
These examples are backed by a central control agenda that is evident in the resolutions that are to come before the delegates at next month’s Synod Convention. A few of the more obvious examples:
- Overture 1-06 seeks to force all Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) to adhere to all protocol agreements and policies established by the Board for International Mission – whether they
apply or not.
- Resolution 1-08 seeks to have all congregational international mission projects report to Synod’s Director of Church Relations and the offices of National and International Mission.
- Resolution 3-13 orders Concordia Publishing House to produce a new version of the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism and an adult catechism “under the auspices of the President’s
- Resolution 4-06 seeks to tighten restrictions on who can perform duties of the Office of the Holy Ministry.
- Resolutions 4-07 and 4-09 seek to overturn a ruling of the Committee on Constitutional Matters and prohibit rostered church workers from communing outside the LCMS.
- Resolution 4-10 seeks to direct the District Presidents to “conduct official visits” to all congregations to police their communion practices.
- Resolution 4-15 seeks to prohibit any “educational agency or institution” “to tolerate any teaching” other than young-earth creationism as defined in the resolution.
- Resolution 5-01 seeks to have the LCMS President convene a task force to report on the “issues of confessional Lutheran identity in all the CUS Institutions.”
- Resolution 5-03 seeks to create a Specific Ministry Pastor oversight committee that reports directly to the President of Synod to control that program. Its partner resolution, Resolution 5-04,
identifies several “concerns” with the current program which the oversight committee is to “address and .. propose appropriate action.”
- Resolution 5-05 seeks to centralize control over each institution in the Concordia University System in the CUS Board of Directors, including prior approval by that board of all theology
appointments and reporting requirements. This resolution is obviously designed to make the Boards of Regents at the individual universities subservient to the CUS Board. It is pertinent to note
that these schools no longer receive any funding from Synod – but this resolution has the temerity to demand subservience to a national board, despite Synod’s lack of responsibility toward
these institutions. If passed, this resolution would create a rule that would likely cost individual universities their accreditation since accrediting bodies expect schools to be independent of
- Resolution 5-06 seeks, among other things, to define the reasons an individual institution can terminate a faculty member and to substitute the CHS board-adopted appeals process for those in
place at each individual institution.
- Resolution 5-09 gives the President of the CUS control over the selection of an individual institution’s President.
- Resolution 5-10 vests the CUS Board with authority to “consolidate, relocate, separate or divest a college or university.”
- Resolution 5-11 institutes a prior approval process for all seminary appointments. The approval group is the President of Synod, the Chair of Board for National Missions and the Chair of
Council of Presidents. As the President of Synod appoints the Chair of the Board for National Missions, this resolution gives him total control over all seminary appointments
- Resolution 6-04 seeks to have the Secretary of Synod become a voting member of the Committee on Constitutional Matters – part of the overall attempt to make that body’s decisions less
independent – more controlled.
- Resolution 7-01 changes the job descriptions of all officials to a role of “Visitor” – with the (unspoken) job of policing the pastoral practices of those whom they “visit.” In keeping with this,
Resolution 7-02 changes the title of “Circuit Counselor” to “Visitor.”
- Resolution 7-04 changes the principles on which the viability of a district is to be judged – placing how well “ecclesiastical supervision” is done as the number one criterion.
- Resolution 7-07 achieves unanimity of opinion in each district’s delegation by having a subset of each district convention elect all delegates to the next national convention.
- Late Resolutions L4-73, and L4-77, echoing the President’s position in the matter and duplicating several other resolutions, attempt to overturn a ruling of the Committee on Constitutional
- Late Resolution L4-74 seeks to have the Synod President eliminate all Lay Ministry & Deacon programs by the end of 2014.
This is, without a doubt, the most central control oriented agenda I have ever seen. This agenda trashes the independence of individual congregations and CUS institutions with its unconstitutional overreach. See Article VII of the LCMS Constitution. In his final speech to an LCMS Convention, J. A. O. Preus excoriated the political activity of those, including his brother, he saw motivated primarily by a desire for control. I am deeply disturbed by both the breadth and depth of this latest attempt to centralize control of the Synod and its universities. This entire agenda needs to be soundly rejected.