(Photo: LCMS / Kris Bueltmann)
The second largest Lutheran church body in the United States installed its new president Saturday during a service attended by about 1,200 guests, including 31 international representatives from Lutheran churches worldwide.
The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison was installed as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s 13th president about two months after he was elected to the position by the denomination’s 64th Regular Convention, which met July 10-17 in Houston.
Also installed Saturday were the church body’s first vice-presidents, and second-through-fifth vice-presidents, boards and commissions members, and other officers.
“On this very special day, I am filled with emotion,” Harrison said following the service. “Joy and hope, to be sure, but also and always a great sense of my unworthiness and sinfulness.
“But I also know that our Lord is in the blessing business. It’s what He does by nature. So I know that He will continue to bless our beloved Synod and newly installed officers and leaders He has raised up among us,” he added.
In July, Harrison went up against presidential incumbent Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick and received votes from 54 percent of the church delegates that make up the church's highest legislative body while Kieschnick received 45 percent.
Prior to his election as president, Harrison served as the executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Relief, the church’s mercy ministry.
As LCMS's new president, Harrison is charged with leading the 2.4 million-member denomination, which comprises 6,200 congregations and more than 9,000 pastors.
The conservative church body is only second in size to the largest Lutheran denomination in America – the 4.5 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which the LCMS voted this past summer to keep ties with despite the latter body's controversial decisions on sexuality.
While the LCMS believes the ELCA's action last year to allow partnered homosexuals on the clergy roster is contrary to Scripture, the synod approved a resolution in July affirming that "cooperation in externals with other Lutheran churches, including the ELCA, continue with theological integrity."
At the same time, LCMS delegates called on the Commission on Theology and Church Relations to "develop more in-depth theological criteria for assessing cooperative endeavors, determining what would necessitate termination of such cooperative efforts."
LCMS's former president, Kieschnick, was notably outspoken about the ELCA's apparent departure from the "biblical and Christian understanding" of human sexuality.
During a gathering of Lutherans affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation, Kieschnick said he feared “many of the sacred scriptural truths which precipitated the Reformation are in danger of being lost.”
Kieschnick said that challenges to Christian truth have “first been tolerated, then accepted, and now affirmed.”
Christians today, he added, have no “general consensus of broad concurrence, not to mention complete agreement on what constitutes marriage in the eyes of God, or what is acceptable or non-acceptable sexual behavior.”
Last month, as a result of ELCA's decisions on sexuality, the North American Lutheran Church was established as another alternative to the increasingly liberal ELCA. The new church body was born from members of Lutheran CORE, "a confessional and confessing unity movement" for traditional Lutherans across different denominations.