Statements & Letters

President Harrison provides a Lutheran view of church and state

Comments (32)
  1. Ken Doka says:

    Dear Pastor Harrison

    I much appreciate the tone and content of the letter. I only regret that there was not as an explicit rejection of appeals to racism or other ways the candidates may be divisive. Should that letter ever be revised, I would ask that our position there — one we can historically be proud of as Lutherans — be more pronounced.

    In Christ,

    Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, MDiv

  2. Thank you for this very balanced overview of the tightrope we must walk as pastors. I would caution, however, that by initially identifying that a majority of LCMS pastors are Republican, the implication is still there that this is the preferred, or sanctified party. For one, I do not know that a survey of Wisconsin pastors would necessarily reflect the make-up of pastors in other regions. I find myself encouraged by the use of felicitious inconsistency since wanting to remain conservative on issues like abortion often comes at odds with wanting to have a generous government towards those who are under-served. Finally, I commend Max Lucado for recently writing about the lack of decency in the purportedly Christian GOP front runner.

    1. Russell Mains says:

      A very wise comment, Dr. Squires. As a lifelong LCMS Lutheran, I find this overt slant “to the political right”, a bit disingenuous by President Harrison. Abortion, religious freedom, and same-sex marriage, are only a few of the political issues that affect our society, and how citizens should vote. Gun violence, unregulated food and water supplies, inadequate healthcare and educational opportunities, are only a few of many examples that our Missouri Synod could address. A Republican governor now presides over a state where a decision was made to allow residents to drink water from a polluted river. Residents of Flint, Michigan (many, of whom, are children) are sick, and have either died as a result, or will in the near future. Where was the outrage from President Harrison when a mother of unborn twins had a miscarriage, after drinking this polluted water? The government claims that they are still studying whether this was the cause, but, in my mind, this could well have been an “unwanted abortion” of two infants, because of a high volume of lead in the water. If we, as Christians and LCMS Lutherans, are going to express moral outrage about POLITICAL decisions; let us, at least be consistent, and not “pick and choose” which political party is responsible for the “greater sin.” God’s Peace.

    2. Andrea Hinrichs says:

      Thank you!! I am a Democrat because I believe they represent all of the people in the USA not just the white Christians. I was raised MO Synod Luth and have been an active member my whole life and I am 73 yrs old. I attended LCMS school Grades 1-9.

      A member of my church said I couldn’t be a Christian if I voted for President Obama.

      So, I appreciate your comment and Max Lucado’s. The Republican Party needs to look hard at the lies / false witness that they encouraged Trump to spread for the last eight years against our President. That he wasn’t born in the US, that he is not a Christian, that is Muslim, and all of the candidates have said these things all the while loudly claiming to be Christian. It reminds me of the Good Samaritan and the pious religious leaders. Who did Jesus say loved his neighbor?

      From what the Republican Party says and what they do you could not say it was any of the so called “Christians of the Republican Right” that would stop and help the beaten Mexican or Muslim man laying in the road.

      Our Presidents words and his actions are loving his neighbor.
      Any way thank you for what you said.

      1. Aaron says:

        I may not agree with you politically, but that makes me SO happy 🙂

        I’m glad that we in the LCMS are not Right-heavy, but can be diverse in our political views, and yet stand together as confessional Lutherans.

    3. Spencer Hasch says:

      Rev. Squires, can you please explain your comment about how you think a biblical view on abortion is at odds with wanting to have a generous government towards those who are under-served?

    4. KeEtta Enevoldsen says:

      Information is key…our state, Minnesota, just passed the so called “Bulling Bill”. It is anything but. Google Minnesota Child Protection League to view what our government is pushing as education then check the voting record and see which party is responsible for it’s passage. I would also encourage you to take time to watch our current democratic leaders requiring homosexual indoctrination be taught in their schools in order to get financial aide. Would love to send you information on voting records on which party promotes and votes for federal funding of abortion, continued funding of Planned Parenthood, against traditional marriage, for gay indoctrination of our children K-12. Was there any question where our President stands on the homosexual issues when he appointed Kevin Jennings, organizer of GLSEN, as Safe School Czar? Each party has a platform….promoting the homosexual agenda has been part of the democratic agenda since th ’90’s. I did not know this till I was elected Vice Chair of the Democratic party in our township….along with David Minge as President (that was before he was elected to congress) and after I had signed a paper stating I would support all Democratic candidates and their party’s agenda. Pay attention! There is a distinctive difference in party platforms.

  3. Governments should never be permitted to do the things that rightfully are motivated by love. Governments can only exercise power. Even our own Constitution only grants State and Federal governments limited powers. Whenever we see a right it is always inherent to the people, and the Constitution just recognizes its existence—but does not grant it to the people.

    The government is the left hand of God—Law. God establishes earthly governments to enforce the Law—to punish murder, false testimony, theft, etc. (Romans 13). Since it can only act out of power, it cannot rightfully perform acts that must come from love—Grace: nursing the sick, feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, sheltering the homeless, etc.

    Jesus always talks about helping the least of these in terms of personal responsibility (Good Samaritan) and the shared responsibilities of the Church (Acts Church)—because we are the living stones of His Body. Never do you see Jesus teaching that the Romans should open soup kitchens, or provide free housing, income subsidies or free health care. The reason is that these are right hand of God things that must come from love.

    Whenever the government gets involved in the things of love, it can only understand, accumulate and exercise power. So, it coerces those with money to pay for these things while creating and growing more powerful and controlling. It can’t help itself, that’s its self interest and only motivation. It might talk about compassion, but it can only understand and act out of power and control.

    1. John Brink says:

      So, we simply watch others go without food, medical care, shelter, etc., when the people of God don’t act as they should and because governments “should never be permitted to do the things that rightfully are motivated by love”?

  4. Pieter Visser says:

    I find this VERY inspiring Pastor. God at the center of all out thinking and all our actions.

  5. Rev. J. Jeffrey Baxter says:

    As good as it gets! Rev. Dr. Matt – many, many thanks for this piece!

  6. Thomas Noon says:

    Much appreciated from a Pastor, not a Republican.

  7. Rev. A.R. Olsen says:

    Excellent article, much appreciated during these “interesting” times. This from a Pastor and a Republican.

  8. Tom Pranschke says:

    I always appreciate that the LCMS considers all topics with theological care. I would like to see us all standing by our brothers and sisters of every race, across boundaries. Also not a Republican.

  9. Herman K. Dietrich, Jr., Pastor Emeritus says:

    Thanks for your most brilliant presentation and scripturally sound message. You are a wonderful servant and spokesman of the Word and defender of the Scriptures in the spirit of Martin Luther and the founding clergy and laity of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Your statement of Holy Spirit-given faith resounds to the glory of the Triune God, and your testimony will be a light and lamp to this generation and the generations to follow. God speed and continue to hold high the cross and the love of Christ proclaim!

    1. Herman K. Dietrich, Jr., Pastor Emeritus says:

      P.S. Luther captured the essential truth: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”

  10. I appreciated your thoughts on the two kingdoms. A called worker can be a republican or a democrat, however it must not be made known from the pulpit or the lecturn. It should remain a private matter.

    1. Russell Mains says:

      Thank you, Lloyd. This, too, is part of “FREEDOM to be Faithful.”

  11. Rev. Edgar Trinklein March 3,2016 says:

    Thank you, President Harrison for the wisdom you shared on the issue of Church and State. I recently read in Dietrich Bonhoeffer”s book “Ethics” two statements that I think are also helpful on this issue.
    He writes, “The divine mandate of government presupposes the divine mandates of labor and marriage. Government cannot itself produce life or values. It is not creative. It preserves what has been created, maintaining it in the order which is assigned to it through the task which is imposed by God. It protects it by making law to consist in the acknowledgment of the divine mandates and by securing respect for this law by the force of the sword. Everyone owes obedience to this governing authority – for Christ’s sake.”
    Bonhoeffer also defines the divine mandate of the Church as different in this way. “It is the task of enabling the reality of Jesus Christ to become real in the preaching, teaching, and organization of the church and the Christian life. It is concerned , therefore, with the eternal salvation of the whole world. It’s a mandate that extends to all mankind, and it does so with all the other mandates. The Christian who is at once laborer, partner in marriage, and subject to a government is the whole man who stands before the whole earthly and eternal reality which God has prepared for him in Jesus Christ. A person can live up to this reality only if he responds fully to the totality of the offer and claim.”

  12. Wayne Smith says:

    The idea of Separation of Church and State comes from the Bible and not the US Constitution. God warned the Israelites when they wanted their own king. The kings used “church” to their advantage. The last statement of David in the Bathsheba story should be “It’s good to be the King.” But the story didn’t end there. We know that. Again, during the time of Jesus, “politicians” were using “church” for their own benefit (power). In essence, Jesus Christ was executed for preaching Separation of Church and State. Constantine used the Bible and other religions of his time to declare himself “god.” The Christian/Catholic Church was under the control of politicians until the Reformation. Those in power used the Bible for their own benefit (power). That is why the Bibles were chained and Christians executed in the Inquisition along with others that went against the politicians of the time.
    In general, the Democrat Party is using those things in the Bible that we should do out of Love, but is preaching that the Government is our Church and the SCOTUS is Our Supreme Entity, i.e. a religion that they wish to control.
    In general, the Republican Party is using those things in the Bible that we should do out of respect/response for God’s Love, but is preaching that the Government is our Church, enforcing God’s Law.
    Recently, a person stated that the Republican Party was Old Testament and the Democrat Party was New Testament. Maybe he was thinking of Law and Gospel. Our two political parties “Thump” the Bible but never actually read the Bible.

  13. Robert Bjornstad says:

    I guess I read Jesus quite differently than many. The Jesus I find in the Gospels calls me to follow him in faith at all times. Therefore I do not accept that there are places and times where my thoughts and actions are to be controlled by reason rather than faith. Let me ask this question: When I enter into the voting booth, an I to leave my faith behind and let my reason dictate my vote? And if so, am I entering the voting booth as an American, and not as a Christian?

    1. Russell Mains says:

      Robert Bjornstad; you are entering the voting booth as an Christian AND an American. Since God, “fearfully and wonderfully” created us with intellect to be STEWARDS of His creation, we do not need to leave REASON completely outside of the voting booth, just as it naturally coexists with our faith in every facet of our lives. God’s Peace.

  14. Rev. Martin W. Liebmann Jr. says:

    Rev. Martin W. Liebmann Jr.
    The two kingdoms are separate, and need to be kept separate. However, we as Christians are members of both kingdoms, and have responsibilities in both. As a Christian, I must be first faithful to the Triune God. The decisions I make in carrying out my responsibilities in the left must be governed by my faithfulness to God. I cannot separate myself. I am one person with obligations in both kingdoms. As a Pastor, I cannot tell another how to vote, but I do have a responsibility to God and my people to discuss the right and wrong of various policies from the point of view of God’s Word.

    1. Robert Bjornstad says:

      A question about WAR! When an individual is asked to put oneself under the command of another, because reason tells us that violence must be responded to by violence; the individual is no longer allowed to say “no”. If asked to kill then the individual must kill, or be ready to be punished for insurrection. In this situation one has put the option to follow ones faith aside. Can a disciple of Jesus do such a thing?

      1. Carl Vehse says:

        “reason tells us that violence must be responded to by violence”

        To the contrary, reason tells us that violence may be responded to by just force. Violence is the use of unjust force.

        A Christian may use just force in various vocations in the Kingdom of the Left, e.g., soldier, policeman, hangman, citizen.

  15. Robert Bjornstad says:

    It would certainly depend on where you stand whether you see force as violence or not. And whether it is just or not.
    The difference could certainly be based on reason or on faith.

    1. Carl Vehse says:

      “It would certainly depend on where you stand”

      I was speaking of absolutes. In this case reason’s distinction between just force and violence is congruent with Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

      LMMV (Lufauxran mileage may vary).

  16. Dr. Albert E. Jabs says:

    Without Jesus Christ, we not only tend to be bankrupt in our thinking, but we can spiral down into the pit of hopelessness.

  17. John J Flanagan says:

    It is as difficult to separate religion and politics as it is to separate Siamese twins joined at the hip. If you slice away one twin from the body, one or both will die. While we can all agree that we render to Caesar obedience for the purpose of orderly civil government, it is impossible for a Christian to render obedience in areas impacting the moral values and direction of the national body of which we are a part. One can set up a dichotomy which allows Christians to separate the politician who promotes abortion from his or her other political positions, and justify a separation of church/state justification…but it is a false justification. A Christian must sort out the candidates by their claimed positions, and those who do not reflect Christian values promoting traditional marriage and life for the unborn are unsuitable for our vote. Your neighbor may not care about these issues, but you, as a Christian, must use your vote as God leads you. God would not ask you to violate your Christian Faith and convictions to support a scoundrel, and in the absence of a better candidate, a Christian should forfeit his or her vote rather than lend support to the devil.

    1. Pastor Walther P. Marcis says:

      Being a pastor at St. John Nottingham for over 51 years, I feel blessed to be able to share the good news of the Risen Christ. It troubled times it is all the more important to share this message. The new hymnal does to include this verse, but I still enjoy singing it for encouragement in challenging times.
      the Church shall never parish! The dear Lord to defend.
      to guide, sustain, and cherish, Is with her to the end..
      I pray the Lord be with you as you guide the church in these times.

  18. Carl Vehse says:

    The first two sentences in the quoted excerpt from Noah Webster were also in a July, 2000, Lutheran Witness article, “Public Service and Citizenship: Thoughts from a Christian Politician,” by Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-IL). The article was reprinted as a September 2, 2009, LCMS News article.

  19. Pastor Walther P. Marcis says:


    God bless you in your work to lead our blessed synod.