The numbers are in. LCMS congregations have submitted their nominations for the office of president, those nominations have been tallied, and the numbers have been reported. For the office of president, Matthew Harrison 1,332; Gerald Kieschnick 755; Herbert Mueller, Jr. 503; Carl Fickenscher II 5; and Daniel Gard 3. Those numbers tell an interesting story.
For the last nine years Gerald Kieschnick has served faithfully as our synodical president. Those years have been challenging and at times controversial. Yet through the challenges and even through the controversy, support for President Kieschnick has remained consistent. Even though some have questioned his approach, congregations have opted to give him the benefit of the doubt, backing him with their support through their nomination. For example, President Kieschnick received 1,055 nominations for the 2007 convention. The next closest was John C. Wohlrabe Jr. with 607. That is a difference of more than 400 congregations.
The latest round of nominations tell a new story. As the Synod faces organizational and financial challenges in addition to the doctrinal stresses of the past decade, congregations are nominating a new leader to lead us through these difficult waters. Rather than renominating our current President, who has sought to address these challenges through structural change (via the recommendations from The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Government), congregations are instead nominating a man who maintains that our problem is not structural, but relational. Our biggest problem is not that we need to become more efficient, like a business. Our biggest problem is that we have lost the ability to talk through our differences, like a family. Congregations appear to be in agreement that the structure will work just fine and the financial situation will improve if we stop brushing our issues under the rug and do the hard work of getting together to discuss those things that divide us.
Take another look at the numbers. Whereas in previous years and based on nominations the synod has given its nod to keep going with the direction Gerald Kieschnick had set, this year the margins are quite different. Kieschnick does not enjoy such a wide margin of support. In contrast, Pastor Matt Harrison, who has outlined a plan to bring the family back around to the table, has suddenly received 1,332 nominations.
So what has changed? In the past three years, Matt Harrison has demonstrated great leadership. This leadership has been evident as he spearheaded relief efforts in New Orleans following Katrina, and more recently in Haiti. He has shown himself to be a man proficient in our Lutheran Theology. He has demonstrated a knowledge of our history as a denomination and is conversant with our Missouri Synod source materials. He has a pastoral heart. In addition to his leadership, he has also provided a plan to help lead us out of our challenges and problems; financial, organizational, and relational!We are encouraged that more congregations of Missouri are putting their support behind the man who wants to keep the conversation “all in the family”. This bodes well for our synod.
We hope that delegates to the convention listen to the congregations, elect Matt Harrison as our President, and elect men and women in all offices who support his vision for cross-focused leadership for Missouri.