Harrison – A One Term President?
Christian News, February 18, 2013, Vol. 51, No. 07
“Newtown vigil bares discord for Lutherans” the lead story in the February 9, St. Louis Post-Dispatch has these subheads: “Censure – Minister is punished for praying for shooting victims with other faiths.” “Division – People ‘shake their heads in disgust’ at reprimand says LCMS dissident.”
The major story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which appeared before Harrison’s apology said in part:
“A decision by the leader of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to censure a pastor for participating in a prayer service for victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre has reopened old wounds for an often politically divided denomination.
“The Rev. Matthew Harrison asked the pastor of a Newtown, Conn., church, the Rev. Rob Morris, to apologize for participating in a public interfaith vigil with President Barack Obama two days after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the town’s elementary school.
“In a letter posted on the synod’s website, Harrison said Morris’s participation in the service ‘violated the limits set by Scripture regarding joint worship.’
“Harrison declined a request for comment but explained in his letter that he believed the vigil in the auditorium of Newtown High School to be a worship service because it included ‘prayers and religious readings’ by clergy, some of whom were dressed in ecclesiastical vestments.”
The front page story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which had a photo of LCMS President Harrison, may have been a factor in getting him to issue a personal apology “for the way the matter was handled, which brought national media attention to the congregation and pastor of Christ Lutheran Church as well as to The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.”
“The constitution of the 2.4 million-member denomination, based in Kirkwood, prohibits members from taking part in worship services that blend the beliefs and practices of Lutherans with those of other faiths and Christian denominations.
“In 2001, a similar moment threatened the administration of Harrison’s predecessor, the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, after he allowed a pastor, the Rev. David Benke, to take part in an interfaith prayer vigil at Yankee Stadium in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Conservative elements in the church called for the removal of Kieschnick, and Benke was eventually suspended in June 2002. Benke was later reinstated, and the episode dogged Kieschnick’s presidency.
“In his email newsletter, Kieschnick weighed in on the Newtown service this week, writing that ‘the overwhelming majority of people both in and beyond the LCMS who hear the request for apology and/or removal shake their heads in disgust and dismay.’
“The LCMS constitution states that members must denounce ‘unionism’ — mingling of Lutheran and other Christian theology or practice — and ‘syncretism,’ the mingling of Christian and non-Christian theology or practice.
“ ‘I did not believe my participation to be an act of joint worship, but one of mercy and care to a community shocked and grieving an unspeakably horrific event,’ he explained in his letter. ‘However, I recognize others in our church consider it to constitute joint worship and I understand why. I apologize where I have caused offense by pushing Christian freedom too far.’
“Morris did not respond to an interview request.”
“But some pastors and academics — most of whom did not want to speak publicly — reacted angrily to Harrison’s letter.
“‘I would hope that this latest action by 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,’ said the Rev. Matthew Becker, interim pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Michigan City, Ind.
“The Rev. Scott Seidler, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood, sent a message to his congregation saying that ‘with thousands of other pastors and church leaders from across our denomination, I find President Harrison’s actions to be both outside the bounds of his denominational authority and inconsistent with the example of Jesus Christ himself.’
“In an email to the Post-Dispatch, Seidler said that Lutherans ‘will not soon forget the heavy-handed reproof of a young pastor who interceded for the little children. It is quite possible Matt Harrison is a one-term president.’
“Please Forgive Me”
Evolutionist Becker of Jesus First and Daystar said after Harrison’s public apology: “I am grateful for this apology. I hope it is able to bring closure to this particular public scandal. I certainly accept it and will do what I can to move forward positively.” Harrison said in his apology that he had sinned and “caused great offense. Please forgive me.”
CN asked both Harrison and Morris on January 2 if Harrison had asked Morris not to participate in the joint worship service. CN called Harrison several times. Harrison did ask another LCMS pastor to tell CN not to comment on the event.
The CN editor has said from the very beginning of this controversy that it is further evidence that the LCMS is seriously theologically divided rather than being a simply politically divided as the press has reported.
Universalism Marches On
“‘ELCA and LCMS Clergy May Teach Muslims and Christian Believe in Same God – UNIVERSALISM MARCHES ON’ the lead story in the January 14, 2013 CN said:
“Pastors and professors in The Lutheran Church in America and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are now permitted to maintain that Muslims and Christians believe in the same true God. Dr. David Benke, president of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod, insists that ‘The Muslim God is also the true God.’ At an interfaith service held at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2001 the LCMS official, with the approval of LCMS President Jerry Kieschnick, prayed with Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Liberal Protestant and Roman Catholics.”
“LCMS Vice-President Wallace Schulz, who maintains that the Holy Trinity is the only true God and only God who actually exists, ruled that Benke had violated Holy Scripture and should be removed from the LCMS clergy roster if he does not repent. Dr. Kurt Marquart defended Schulz’s decision when the case was heard. However, Schulz was overruled and Benke now says he is reconciled with all members of the LCMS’s Council of Presidents, including the LCMS’s President and vice presidents, without having retracted. He says that all members of the LCMS’s COP commune with him. Crisis in Christendom – Seminex Ablaze includes a statement by Schulz.”
“Schulz wrote: ‘This is why I state emphatically and very, very sadly that all and I repeat ALL of the divisiveness we have had in the LCMS as a result of Yankee Stadium can be traced to this (Kieschnick’s) “original” sin.’
“(Page 111 Crisis in Christendom- Seminex Ablaze.) Benke is among those on the LCMS clergy roster who maintain that there should be room on the LCMS clergy roster for those who support evolution and women pastors. LCMS officials have tried to curb publicity about a recent similar interfaith service in Newtown, Connecticut where President Obama participated with clergymen from various religions, including an LCMS pastor who is reported to have spoken at length with LCMS President Harrison and his district president prior to participating in the interfaith service. CN has asked both the LCMS president and Rev. Timothy Yeadon, the president of the LCMS’s New England district, if they urged the LCMS pastor in Newtown not to take part in the interfaith service which included leaders of non-Christians religions. (See separate story in this issue).”
“CN has often said much of the ‘mission’ work in the major denomination involves preaching a social Gospel rather than the Saving Gospel because the major denominations no longer insist Christianity is the only saving faith and that non-Christians such as Muslims are lost because the God they worship does not actually exist.”
The January 16, 2012 CN said:
Benke has many supporters in the LCMS. CPH’s Paul McCain has asked Benke to write a book for CPH to publish. Benke, a long time liberal in the LCMS, supported the liberal professors who formed Seminex and then joined ELCA. While McCain opposed Benke when he was LCMS President Barry’s assistant, he supported Benke when Jerry Kieschnick was elected LCMS president. CN sent Benke’s letter, in which he wrote “The Muslim god is also the true God” to LCMS President Kieschnick who did not ask for any retraction. He and the other members of the LCMS’ Council of Presidents continued to commune with Benke.
When Father Richard Neuhaus (a universalist who said Jews worship the true God and no one is in Hell), died, the Concordia Journal of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis published an article by Benke praising Neuhaus. Paul McCain of CPH similarly had words of praise for Neuhaus while opposing some “ham fisted” reply which may come from Christian News.
When the CN editor’s congregation asked the LCMS to adopt a resolution declaring that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and non-Christians are lost, it did adopt a resolution recommended by the editor’s congregation. The LCMS’ 1972 Statement on Scriptural and Confessional Principles says:
“We believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and that all who die without faith in Him are eternally damned.” LCMS liberals, including some in the LCMS’ mission department unanimously opposed adoption of this statement. It is in CN’s Crisis In Christendom – Seminex Ablaze.
In recent years the LCMS’ Department of Missions has refused to say that all in the mission department and sent out as missionaries must believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven and non-Christians are lost. The LCMS bureaucracy has taken no disciplinary action vs. such Universalists in the LCMS as Concordia, Portland Professor, Herbert Hoefer, who also serves at times under contract from the LCMS mission department. CN has repeatedly documented Hoefer’s universalism.
“Good May Result from Promotion of Universalism in East - LCMS’s Smoldering Embers of Conflict” the lead story of the January 21, 2013 CN reported:
“When a Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod pastor participated in a unionistic and syncretistic worship service with Muslims, Baha’i, Jewish, Roman Catholic, and liberal Protestant clergy, 12 year-old embers of smoldering embers of conflict in the LCMS were rekindled. On September 23, 2001 Dr. David Benke, president of the LCMS’s Atlantic District, with the approval of LCMS President Jerry Kieschnick, prayed and worshipped with Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Roman Catholic, and liberal Protestant church leaders who all were supposed to be praying to the same god. Benke, in his defense, later wrote ‘The Muslim God is also the true God.’ A survey showed that the majority of the members of the LCMS agree with him. They reject the notion that the Holy Trinity is the only true God and that a person is justified by faith alone in the merits of Jesus Christ. “Interfaith Service in Newtown Promoted Universalism’ in the January 14, 2013 Christian News mentioned statistics from “‘Poll: Most Christians’ belief out of sync with Bible’ in the LCMS July 2001 Reporter and reprinted in the July 23, 2001 Christian News.”
“The smoldering embers in the LCMS go back even further than what happened in New York’s Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2001. The embers from the formation of Seminex in 1974 during the LCMS’s great ‘Battle for the Bible’ were never extinguished. Many who supported the theological position of the liberals, who formed Seminex, remained in the LCMS to agitate for women pastors, evolution and the critical views of the Bible condemned as false doctrine not to be tolerated in the LCMS in Resolution 3-09 of the LCMS’s 1973 convention. Dr. Kurt Marquart observed that the LCMS never followed through on 3-09. The LCMS’s 2010 convention again affirmed the 1973 convention resolution. However, no supporter of evolution, higher criticism of the Bible, women pastors, abortion, or homosexuality in the LCMS has ever been disciplined or banned from communion. The embers just keep smoldering in a church today which now has a ‘koinonia’ policy which bans no liberal supporter of evolution, abortion, higher criticism of the Bible, or homosexuality from communion. Only someone who filed charges of false doctrine vs. an LCMS evolutionist or supporter of women pastors has been banned from communion in the LCMS. Some are hoping that good may result in the LCMS from the smoldering of the embers of conflict stirred up by the horrible massacre in Newtown.
“Good May Result from Yankee Stadium Controversy for LCMS in Rekindling 25Yaer-Old Embers of Conflict” a story in the December 10, 2001 Christian News mentioned in the January 14, 2013 CN said:
“ ‘When two hijacked airplanes reduced New York’s World Trade Center to rubble September 11, they also rekindled 25-year-old embers of conflict in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,’ says the December 2, 2001, Omaha World Herald in a story titled ‘Lutheran President Criticized for Prayer.’
x x x
“At the 25th anniversary of Seminex, CN questioned some 350 graduates of Seminex, who were certified for the ministry in the LCMS, and professors and clergymen, who signed statements supporting the theology of Seminex, few said they now repudiated the theology of Seminex and affirmed the inerrancy of the Bible, opposed the ordination of women, and denied the teachings of evolution. CN gave the responses to LCMS officials. The Seminexers were permitted to remain on the LCMS clergy roster. Efforts at the 2001 convention of the LCMS by the editor’s congregation to have the convention take action against the Seminex liberals, including Prange and Bretscher, were sidetracked.
“If the ‘embers of conflict’ within the LCMS were stirred up by the fact that Atlantic District President David Benke, with the approval and encouragement of LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick, prayed with Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and other non-Christian at the prayer service held in Yankee Stadium, then the entire matter may end up for the good of the LCMS. Hundreds of thousands of members of the LCMS may finally wake up to the fact that there are many liberal clergymen within the LCMS who still support the anti-scriptural position of Seminex and who should be encouraged to join ECLA if they do not repudiate their liberal theology. The Yankee Stadium prayer services have led to more publicity for the LCMS in the nation’s press that any other event since the founding of Seminex. Perhaps there is still a chance of preventing the LCMS from becoming just one more of America’s ‘anything goes’ churches. Once the true Lutheran in ELCA see that the LCMS does not keep on its roster professors and clergymen, who deny what the Scriptures teach, more of them will leave ELCA and join the LCMS. The Seminexers in the LCMS should join their liberal friends in ECLA and the loyal Lutherans in ELCA should join the LCMS, WELS, ELS or one of the smaller confessional Lutheran church bodies.”