By Cheryl Magness
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Council of Presidents (COP) met Feb. 4–8 near Asheville, N.C.
Among other business, they unanimously adopted a Jan. 24 statement by LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, released in response to recent actions by the governors of New York and Illinois extending and promoting access to abortions in their states. The statement denounces the governors’ actions and affirms the Synod’s commitment to upholding the sanctity of life at all its stages.
LCMS Third Vice-President (Great Plains Region) Rev. Nabil S. Nour proposed the resolution, which, as approved, reads:
“We, the LCMS Council of Presidents, affirm the sanctity of human life from conception, and unanimously endorse President Matthew Harrison’s January 2019 statement in response to the expansion of abortion in New York and Illinois.”
The resolution was seconded and unanimously approved by a show of hands, after which all the members of the COP stood to sing the Common Doxology.
“These men of God know the truth,” Nour said. “It is of utmost importance that we speak in one voice in the church. Our confession in the public square is important. I am thankful for President Harrison in writing this letter and standing on the life-giving, life-sustaining and life-changing Word.”
Since being released, Harrison’s statement has received almost 3,000 shares and over 110 comments on Facebook, almost all expressing support. The Synod’s Church Information Center reports that the response via email and phone has been 100 percent positive.
‘Bound by our conscience’
The statement reads, in part:
“Life, not death, is the goal of humanity. History testifies that death is never the means through which justice and human rights prevail. We do not advance on the graves of our children. Germany, which sought eugenics as the solution to problems, now has strict abortion laws. To defend and support life is the goal of every just government, and the right to life is the hallmark of a good society. …
“We live as citizens in this world, and we seek to be obedient to our nation’s laws. …
“We are, however, bound by our conscience to speak against those laws that are unjust and, especially, those laws that violate God’s law and the natural law that binds all mankind. Abortion and other means through which humans kill humans violate these natural and moral laws that form the foundation of society.”
The entire statement can be found here.
The Rev. Dr. Brian S. Saunders, president of the LCMS Iowa District East, said, “I am so proud of the entire Council of Presidents voting unanimous support for this resolution. Scripture is clear, and biology supports this: that life begins at conception and is to be protected as ‘one of the least of these.’ May we continue to stand firm where the devil would have us waver.”
The Rev. Peter K. Lange, president of the LCMS Kansas District, expressed his appreciation to Nour for suggesting a vote of support for Harrison’s statement, adding, “This is a strong demonstration of the unity, concord and harmony that we are blessed to share on this and many other of the critical points of our common confession. May the Lord grant us an increase of such a bold, joyful and unified confession.”
LCMS Texas District President Rev. Michael Newman also highlighted the unity of the COP in unanimously signing on to the statement, saying, “It is of utmost importance that we speak with one voice to reinforce the sanctity of life.
“It was heartening to see the district presidents and Synod vice-presidents join with President Harrison in declaring unwavering value for God’s gift of life — not merely to impact legislation or opinions, but because God so loved the world, because our Savior Jesus Christ died for all, and because we are called to proclaim God’s righteousness even to a people yet unborn.”
In other business, the COP:
- Participated in a two-day retreat led by the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, Dr. Beverly Yahnke and Rev. David Fleming from DOXOLOGY—The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel. Cantor Phillip Magness, director of Sanctuary Worship at Concordia Lutheran Church, Kirkwood, Mo., provided the music.
- Heard a report from Harrison on the work of the LCMS nationally and internationally.
- Heard presentations from Jim Sanft, president of Concordia Plan Services, and David Fiedler, president of the LCMS Foundation.
- Met individually with placement officers from the Synod’s two seminaries to discuss their congregations’ needs for candidate placement in April. There are currently about 80 candidates for placement, which is down about a dozen from a year ago.
- Discussed 2016 Res. 13-01A, 13-02A and 13-03A regarding the Res. 13-01 Task Force report on the partnership of the royal priesthood and the Office of the Public Ministry and made progress on the regularization of licensed lay deacons and the work of Res. 13-03 Task Force to address future leadership needs for congregations. This was the continuation of a conversation that began at the COP’s September 2018 meeting and continued at the November meeting. The council then broke into their Koinonia groups to discuss and work though these issues.
- Approved pastoral candidates and vicars to move forward in the spring placement process, approved commissioned ministers for reinstatement and spent time reviewing and discussing various aspects of their work as district presidents.
- Spent time discussing plans for the 2019 LCMS convention.
Posted Feb. 28, 2019