Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Congratulations to Rev. Matthew Harrison

The election, moments ago, of Rev. Matthew Harrison to the office of President of the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, is a remarkable demonstration of the mysterious ways of God.

Rev. Harrison is, in my estimation, a theologian of impressive stature, who knows the history of the Synod as well as what counts for confessional Lutheran theology. I heard him speak up in Minnesota a few months ago, very impressive. I have known him for some time, but in my estimation, he has gained much in theological clarity and sense. The grace of God is with him.

He's going to need it.

Moments after the election, while waiting for the ballot boxes to reset for the election of first VP of Synod, the delegation had to listen to a traditional Trinitarian hymn "Holy God We Praise Thy Name," but with a rhythm section and a male vocalist. It was pure praise band stuff, which confessional Lutherans find, well, rather repulsive. It doesn't match the words being sung. It's the very kind of thing we've been teaching our people to avoid.

So here we have a truly schizophrenic situation. The music here is unbefitting worship, but the election tells another story. A divided synod, but hopefully one which wend its way through the worship wars to a God-pleasing resolution.

Could we dare to hope for such a thing? Well, years ago I would never have expected that a Matthew Harrison would have had a chance to be elected President of the Missouri Synod.


  1. This is par for the course for Missouri. In 1969 the Synod voted to enter into fellowship with the ALC but elected JAO Preus, who had spoken out against this strongly. Thus is life in Missouri.

    But, JAO was the right man to have in the LCMS in the 70s. God grant that Rev. Harrison is the right man for the 10s.

  2. I remember those days, Eric and pray with you that Matt is who we need and not who we deserve.

  3. Dear sir, I respect you highly and appreciate your words. But I have to say that I find offense at your comment that "confessional Lutherans find, well, rather repulsive." I certainly understand where you are coming from, and agree for the most part about such music in worship. But I find it hard to group all in one lump when the comment is made.

    I realize my tiny voice in the sea of theologians may not be heard, but felt as thought I needed to say at least something.

    Blessings to you and your ministry.

  4. Congratulations to Rev.Mathew Harrison from Kenya.We`ve been praying for LCMS Convention and its still our prayer that the Synod stand with the WORD of GOD.May God`s blessing be with you and the entire Synod as you begin your work.
    Blessings to all!
    Richard Ngare

  5. Pastor Mark:

    How would you feel about this slight rewording of Fr. Eckardt's observation?

    While there exist well-meaning Confessional Lutherans who are comfortable with the praise band, nevertheless, the praise band style of music is completely and utterly incongruent and incompatible with what the tradition of the holy Catholic Church of the Lutheran Confession teaches and practices regarding the public worship of Almighty God.

  6. Honestly I mean no offense in calling the use of a rhythm section repulsive. Please believe me on that.

    I don't mean to lump anything together, but to comment specifically on the attempt made in this kind of worship to blend what is proper for giving honor to God with the drumbeats of 21st century culture. Those drumbeats are fine and valuable for entertainment, but not for worship. In that setting they are jarring (i.e., repulsive) to us who want to worship God in humility and sincerity. They provide a very powerful kind of popular music, and as such, carry a strong and undeniable element of personal artistic and improvisational expressiveness. The genre gets in the way of what truly gives honor to Christ, because the nature of this music is such that it highlights solo or individual "performance."

  7. I'm glad that J.S. Bach's organ playing, cantatas and passions were never heard in the Lutheran church. It's "fine and valuable for entertainment, but not for worship. In that setting (they) are jarring (i.e. repulsive) to us who want to worship God in humility and sincerity". They "...carry a strong and undeniable element of personal artistic and improvisational expressiveness. The genre gets in the way of what truly gives honor to Christ, because the nature of this music is such that it highlights solo or individual performance".

    While Bach was in Germany and Handel was in England, they were tearing down the organs in churches in England, for the same reasons cited above. Maybe they were more Lutheran than Bach was.

  8. I sincerely wish I could enter this conversation the way I need too but I am on vacation and with several people so I cannnot. By profession I am a musician, by God's grace I am one of his own, by theological Biblical accuracy I am a Lutheran.

    There has never been in the history of man a more Godly Biblically accurate musician than Bach. The above comment smacks of one who has not studied Bach nor the fact that after every work he compose he dedicated it to the Glory of God, not the popular music of his day. I would ask you to read the biography by Wolff. The difficulties with a "praise band" are too numerous to mention here but to put those to words together is a contradiction in terms and serious blow to truly Godly honoring music, in church or anywhere for that matter.

    Music is built on priniples. One of those principle is that music, like words, must be to the glory of God. Lady Gaga does not write her music to be anything but sensual, provacative, and hateful of God. I recommend for proof of this a study of her latest hit, "Alejandro" I believe is the title. Worldy music is wrong for the believer from a standpoint of music as well as text; it is not amoral. Rock artists view their music as audio
    pornography. They will tell you so if you read their works.

    The saddest part for me ecclesiologically in all this is that many if not most of my Christian brethren refuse to believe this. All I can reply with is I John 2:15-17 and I Corinthians 6:14-17.

    God's grace be with us all.

    Steve Foxx SSP

  9. When I was in London a few years ago I heard a world-class musician perform some of the Goldberg Variations. My friends next to me heard music - I heard theology - I heard Law and Gospel. It was then that I realized that Bach is right to be accounted among the great theologians of Christendom.

  10. When Bach introduced so much new ornamentation, he was considered inappropriate.

  11. I don't mean to be contentious, but I'm afraid you've been misinformed about Bach.

    If I may recommend something to you, the real history of Bach may be gleaned from Gunther Stiller's Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig. Stiller provides some pretty clear data to show that Bach was not interested in the kind of innovation you suggest; he was busily reacting against the rampant Pietism in his day.

  12. I'll be happy to read something. However, I have come across something, can't remember what, where the contemporary critics were roundly put off by what he was doing, such as all the trills.

    I don't find discussion "contentious" very easily. :)

  13. The "Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig" does not seem to be readily available. Do you have some other books you recommend?


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