Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Wonder What You Do First

I have been thinking a bit about President Elect Matthew Harrison beginning his term of office tomorrow.  To be honest, I have not thought about this kind of thing much even though I have lived through several Presidents of Synod (Behnken, Harms, Preus, Bohlman, Barry, Kuhn, Kieschnick, and, now, Harrison).  I have a fairly good idea what you do when you begin your time in a new parish (have done that a couple of times) but I am not so sure what you do when you begin an elected term of office.

To be sure, Harrison has an edge on some since he has worked in the International Center and knows the lay out, the structure of the Church, the people who work there, and the processes of the LCMS rather well.  He has no real learning curve about this.  To those who came in from the outside, finding the bathroom and cafeteria and chapel might be daunting enough -- without the prospect of running "corporate" Synod (as some like to call it).  His assistants are likewise seasoned pros who know the layout of the IC, the structure of Synod, and, most importantly, know Harrison well and how he thinks and works.

Apart from the unpacking, what do you do first?  We have a host of issues before us -- not in the least of which is the gigantic task of restructuring the Synod around two boards, staffing those boards, and working out the kinks of the choices made in Convention in July.  Here Harrison has a bit of an unknown to work with and he will, for good or ill, shape and define how those decisions will be implemented for some years to come.  I do not envy him this task.  What would it be like if you came to a new parish and began at the very same time they moved, say, from a Voters system of governance to a Council/Board of Directors system and nobody was sure what they were doing or how to do it -- all the while the pressing urgencies of the day demanded action?

In addition, the elephant in the room is the divergent views of Synod and its direction -- well attested by the 51% to 48-49% split in adopting those restructuring changes.  The divisions of our church body are well entrenched and we all think we know what is best, what needs to be done, and how to do it.  Most of all, we are not shy about offering our advice to any and all -- whether they want to hear it or not.  With a limited term of office and such great challenges before him, Harrison has a lot to pick through and much to ponder.  We will judge him and we will probably judge him unfairly and too quickly -- can't escape that.

There are things in process that will need to be handled -- things begun in the past that now have to be completed (what do you do with Ablaze and Fan into Flame or the sale of KFUO FM, for example).  There are decisions that need to be rendered on a host of small but important subjects that carry over from the Kieschnick years.  A quick learning curve is needed here, to be sure.  The financial need that seemed to drive so much is just as pressing and it will not disappear quickly.  Not to mention how to continue the work of the many boards and commissions that were reshuffled by the Convention -- continuing their work while the structure is being redefined -- sample, World Relief and Human Care! And I could go on and on...

As a new Pastor to a parish, I concentrated on two things... the worship service and getting to know the people.  Since any Pastor sees most all of his flock on Sunday morning, I worked to make sure that those first services and sermons gave them a good impression (judgments are rendered rather quickly, you know) and a signal of the direction before us (Lutheran confessional identity and liturgical practice).  Getting to know the people is a matter of names and stories -- who are these folks, where did they come from, and what is going on with them...  As a new President of Synod,  I would not know where to start... but Matt Harrison will begin with my prayers and and I hope you will pray for him as well.  It would not surprise me, knowing him, that he chose to begin on his knees.

1 comment:

ErnestO said...

Pastor Harrison is first man of faith, prayer and praise and has the right kind of confidence in Christ.

Pastor Harrison has explained that he thinks the key to exploding upon the world in mission and mercy is this: Courage through repentance and renewal by the mighty Word of God. The change we really need is not structural. We lack repentance. (Just look at how we treat one another [Gal. 5:16ff].) And we do not believe that the Word of God can actually unite us (Eph. 3:20).
It’s time for us to dare to be who we are — to be Lutheran, and to be merciful.