By Adriane Dorr
ST. LOUIS — The installation of Rev. Matthew C. Harrison as the 13th president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod was, in his own words, “an amazing, humbling day.”
Pondering both the number of people who were in attendance as well as the international representation from LCMS partner churches, he noted, “It really gives you a sense that we are a part of something the Lord has blessed unbelievably.”
More than 1,200 people attended the installation service for Harrison and some 75 other leaders Sept. 11 in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Nearly 300 people formed the processional into the service, namely, the clergy and teachers of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo., where the Harrison family are members; 39 deaconesses; more than 150 LCMS clergy; the LCMS Council of Presidents; and the Synod’s Praesidium.
Dignitaries and guests filled the remainder of the chapel’s seats as well as the seminary’s Werner Auditorium. At Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., Sihler Auditorium also hosted students, faculty and staff who watched the event live online.
In addition, at least 1,600 people watched the service via the Internet both from around the United States and as far away as Brazil, Australia, Kazakstan, Japan, Estonia and India. According to John Klinger, chief information officer at Concordia Seminary, “This means we had just as many people watching online as showed up in person.”
The Divine Service — which included adult and children’s choirs, instrumentalists and vocal soloists — lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours and included the Lord’s Supper.
“I enjoyed the wonderful celebration today as we worshipped together,” said Dr. Larry Stoterau, president of the Pacific Southwest District and chairman of the Council of Presidents. “I look forward to our opportunity to help the Synod move forward.”
Representatives from Lutheran churches around the world also attended. More than 30 international guests from churches with whom the LCMS is in fellowship participated, traveling from Germany, the Philippines, Ghana, India, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Russia, Guatemala, Chile and Haiti to celebrate Harrison’s installation.
Dr. Walter Obare, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, served as guest preacher for the Divine Service. Encouraging Harrison and the other newly elected officials, he noted, “Bring back the doubting, those who are not sure whether to follow the Bible or to follow the post-modern views of our day. Help The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to remain a confessional church within the Church Catholic.”
Rev. Jobst Schone of Berlin, Germany, retired bishop of the LCMS partner church, the Selbständige Evangelisch–Lutherische Kirche (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church), said he looked forward to working with Harrison in the future, noting, “Pastor Harrison knows the situation in Germany, and this is always helpful for partnerships and church relationships. You even have a president who speaks a little German!”
“Big changes have come to the Missouri Synod,” said Rev. Vsevolod Lytkin, bishop of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia. On behalf of his church, he encouraged Harrison and the LCMS to “continue in the historic and liturgical traditions, which will be impact all of us as Lutherans.”
Bringing greetings and prayers on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, Rev. William Boateng stated, “This is a wondrous day for me as a Ghanian to be here and represent my country. Our people in Ghana are so happy. We have been in close fellowship with the LCMS, and it is our opportunity and privilege to continue our relationship with the LCMS.”
“We hope that this election will affect us positively,” said Rev. David Chuchu, a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya. Chuchu, who worked with Harrison in his former role as executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, said, “We look forward to expansion in our relationship with the Missouri Synod.”
Professors, seminarians and deaconesses
Professors, seminarians and deaconesses from Concordia University Chicago; Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, participated in and assisted with the installation service.
“Matthew Harrison has demonstrated his competence as a theologian and a church leader,” said Prof. John Pless, assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary. “This era will signal good things for the Synod here at home but especially overseas with global outreach both in mercy and mission.”
“What happened here today gives our seminary students a vision of the wider church, not just the Missouri Synod,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, professor of New Testament at Concordia Seminary. “It shows them that they are a part of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church, and of worldwide Lutheranism. Observing this shrinks them down, so that they are small, and Christ is big.”
Deaconess Gloria DeCuir, former assistant to the dean of the graduate school for diaconal studies at Concordia Seminary, believes that Harrison, a strong proponent of the proper role of the deaconess in the church, “will increase the visibility of the deaconess program. It’s very exciting.”
“We deaconesses call him our prince,” laughed Deaconess Pam Nielsen, senior editor for Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Youth Materials at Concordia Publishing House. “Pastor Harrison has been a teacher to our deaconess community, teaching us how the Gospel expresses itself in mercy in a way that no secular organization could do.”
Also in attendance was Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill.), a member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Collinsville, Ill., who indicated that he looks forward to working with “our elected and appointed new leadership for the church.” Shimkus said “it’s an important day to celebrate and reflect and focus on the mission at hand.”
Also attending was James Ridley, director of the International Association of Fire Fighters’ Hazardous Materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction Training Department in Washington, D.C. Ridley worked as athletic director for Zion Lutheran Academy, Fort Wayne, Ind., when Harrison served as Zion’s pastor.
“This is a joyous occasion,” said Ridley. “President Harrison has some tremendous ideas, and I look forward to seeing how they impact the LCMS.”
The Synod’s five vice-presidents also were installed during the service. Rev. Herbert C. Mueller, Dr. John Wohlrabe, Rev. Daniel Preus and Dr. Scott R. Murray were in attendance, while Dr. Paul L. Maier was installed in absentia.
Following his installation, First Vice-President Rev. Herbert Mueller noted, “I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to God for this day and ask the prayers of everyone that we remain faithful to the Word.”
“Today’s installation marks the beginning of a focus on the life of the Missouri Synod that will be a clearly biblical, theological and missional focus,” said Fourth Vice-President Preus. “Our president is a man who understands very well the needs of the church at-large and the importance of a good relationship with foreign partner churches.”
Harrison also conducted the installation of more than 70 members of other boards and commissions, such as the Boards for National and International Mission, the Concordia University System Board of Directors, and the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
Rev. Brian Wolfmueller, who now serves on the Board for National Mission, said, “President Harrison understands the Lord’s people in the inner cities, the suburbs, the rural areas. He understands that they don’t care about this talk about bureaucracy and organization, but that they simply have a deep hunger for the Lord’s Word.”
Bratwurst and bluegrass
Following the service, guests celebrated the occasion with bratwurst and bluegrass music in Concordia Seminary’s main quadrangle. Harrison, who plays the banjo, joined George Portz and His Friends of Bluegrass Band and other musicians on his own instrument for several songs.
Concordia Publishing House, the Synod’s publishing arm, also contributed to the day’s festivities in commemoration of the institution’s 141st birthday on Sept. 11.
“Concordia Publishing House could not have celebrated our 141st birthday on Sept. 11 in a more fitting way than by being present at the installation of our Synod’s officers and other elected officials,” said CPH Publisher Rev. Paul McCain. “Since our founding, our mission has been the same: to be the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Our motto — the motto of the Reformation — is ‘the Word of the Lord endures forever’ and it is precisely this Word that we seek to publish for the sake of the blood-bought souls of those who need to hear the Gospel, and for the strengthening of those who have. We work with changing media, to deliver a changeless message, and it is our honor to do so.”
Dr. Bruce G. Kintz, CPH president and CEO, said he felt “encouraged by the level of increased partnership with President Harrison and his staff in using CPH’s competencies as the publishing arm of the LCMS. During the planning phase, CPH was immediately called upon by Rev. Dr. Al Collver, Rev. Jon Vieker and Barb Below to help with the installation service and celebration in several ways.
“As if printing the service bulletins, assisting with the design of the new logo, arranging for a special processional cross to be reworked, and sponsoring a bluegrass band were not enough,” Kintz said, “the CPH family was also very pleased to be asked to set up several displays on the grounds of the seminary which simultaneously commemorated the 141st birthday of the founding of Concordia Publishing House on Sept. 11, 1869.”
To see more installation photos, click here.
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Updated Sept. 13, 2010