HOUSTON—Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care since 2001, is the new president-elect of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and Rev. Herbert C. Mueller Jr. will serve as first vice-president.
Harrison was elected on the first ballot July 13 by delegates to the church body’s 64th Regular Convention, meeting in Houston. He received 643 votes, or 54 percent — 593 votes were needed to win.
The Synod’s current president, Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, received 527 votes, or 45 percent. Mueller, also on the ballot for president, received 8 votes; Dr. Carl C. Fickenscher II, 5; and Dr. Daniel L. Gard, 1.
Mueller was elected on the first ballot for first vice-president, receiving 631 votes, or 53 percent. He needed 600 votes for election. Dr. William Diekelman received 339 votes; Rev. Daniel Preus, 82; Dr. Wallace R. Schulz, 81; and Dr. Jeffery Schrank, 64.
Mueller, 57, of Waterloo, Ill., has served as president of the Synod’s Southern Illinois District since 1994. He is a 1979 graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He and his wife, Faith, have three children.
Addressing delegates, a somber Harrison said, “If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one rejoices, all rejoice together. Right now there are many rejoicing and there are many suffering.”
He called his election “a tumultuous change in the life of our Synod.” He thanked Kieschnick “for his heart for evangelism and his deep desire to move the Synod forward,” and said there would be “challenging times” ahead.
He told delegates “you have kept your perfect record of electing sinners as presidents of the Missouri Synod. I guarantee you I will sin and fail. I will fall short.” Harrison said he forgives those who have sinned against him, and asked forgiveness “for anything that I said or did that offended you.”
He asked for prayers, and promised to “be as straight with you as I possibly can, to the best of my ability, guided by the spirit of God.” He said he would “work as hard as I possibly can for unity around the clear and compelling Word of God and nothing else.”
Harrison, 48, graduated with a Master of Divinity in 1989 from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. He earned his Master of Sacred Theology degree from the same institution in 1991, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Prior to his call to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, Harrison served for more than a decade as a parish pastor in rural (Westgate, Iowa) and inner-city parishes (Fort Wayne). He served on the LCMS Board for Mission Services from 1998 to 2001, and is currently on the boards of Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore, and Lutheran Services in America.
He and his wife, Kathy, have two sons. The family lives in Ballwin, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.
Following the election, delegates stood to sing the Doxology in honor of Kieschnick’s service, and gave him two standing ovations during his brief comments to the convention. He thanked all those “who have been so loving and supporting and accepting and forgiving during these past nine years of my service as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.” He expressed his “love, appreciation and devotion” to his wife, Terry; his mother, who was in attendance at the convention; and other family members.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege and a pleasure to serve in this office,” he told delegates. “It’s been a humbling burden and awesome privilege, and I pray that the Lord will continue to richly bless this beloved church body that I will always love and will always serve.”
Commenting on the election, Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said he prayed “God’s blessings on Rev. Matthew Harrison as he has been elected to serve as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. We look forward to building upon our cooperative efforts in responding to the needs of our neighbors and to future meetings of the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation as a regular opportunity for conversation between ELCA and LCMS leaders.
“Moreover, I extend gratitude to God for President Kieschnick’s evangelical, Christ-centered witness during his service as president of the LCMS.”
Newly elected officers will be installed Sept. 11 in St. Louis.
The Synod’s 64th Regular Convention is meeting July 10-17 under the theme “ONE People—Forgiven.” Among the approximately 3,000 participants are some 1,200 clergy and lay voting delegates.
Posted July 13, 2010