Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sensible, Straight Talk from Fr. Harrison

In years past there has been much hand wringing about the decline of Missouri's membership. In these pages we have often argued the problem is a demographic one. I am gratified to see that we're not the only ones who have noticed. Thank you to Dr. Heidenreich for transcribing the following from Fr. Harrison. - +HRC

There are three things that are really hitting the Missouri Synod as much as anything. We're doing, I mean we're doing better than a lot of churches of course. But we've had a continuous slow decline over the last 50-40 years. I think 30 years ago was the last recorded yearly increase in our membership. Forty years ago, says Larry. That's all right, he'll, as he becomes president and becomes more and more of a fundraiser he'll become less and less of a historian. [Laughter] The biggest challenge we face is the birthrate. The birthrate of the Missouri Synod that is overwhelmingly white, descendent of European people in this synod - the birthrate of our church body has simply followed, mirrored, the broader birthrate of the United States among descendants of northern Europeans. That's a fact. There's hardly a single family out there that you're related to that has more children in the latest generation than it did in the previous generation. Now, do I expect any wholesale turnaround in this phenomenon? No, I don't. There are all kinds of intense pressures upon us. However, I think it's time for us to preach "Be fruitful and multiply." That's what the Bible says. And we ought to encourage young people and families who have the ability to have families. And encourage them. The church needs to be a place... It's no time to despise family ministries. It's no time to despise those kind of diakonic efforts in the church to care for marriages and families, etc. It's time to redouble our efforts in those areas and it's time to speak clearly that it's a good thing to have a large Lutheran orthodox family. If Muslims are having an average of 4.2 children a piece and we're having 2.1 children a piece, I would say God would be really happy if we'd bump it up to at least 4.2 per family. Don't quote me on that. [Laughter]

President Matthew Harrison, address at the ACNA-LCMS Open Forum, Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, Thursday, October 27, 2011.


  1. Fr. Curtis,
    You might also be interested in an excellent article that was in "Around the Tower" by a guy I know Josh Palmer. He is a 2nd year guy at this point. You might want to check that out. I think it was the very last issue that came out.

  2. This is great stuff. I wonder how we can use the church to help support young families? I think a big problem is that young couples often don't have the support of their families and other friends in the church to help, busy as we are doing our own thank, and as isolated as we are in our homes.

  3. There were approximately 600 births in Adams County Indiana in 2010. Only 187 were born in Adams Memorial hospital. 413 were born in Amish birthing centers with midwives performing these deliveries. In our little LCMS parish we had 18 baptisms in 2010. We had a baby boom from 1988-1990 and we are having a repeat once again.

  4. Church Growth the old-fashioned way. As a father of 9 (4 daughters, 3 sons, 2 sons-in-law) and grandfather of 1, that's clearly (as President Harrison implies) among the First Things.

  5. Amberg, one simple way to help is to sit with a young couple and their brood on Sunday mornings to help out. An older, childless couple in our congregation helps my husband and me maintain some order in our pew, and when my mister plays the organ, I especially appreciate their aid. Other large families also enjoy help from those who are free to do so.

    Recently we visited a church where the poor pastor's wife was overwhelmed by her two toddlers' misbehavior. There were plenty of women sitting in pews around her who should have jumped in to sit next to one baby while the mom took the other out to discipline him. But no one did.

  6. Just to clarify something: increasing our birthrate will have no effect upon the membership of the Church.

    If a woman asked "If I have another child or do not have another child, will the number of people in Heaven change?" what would be the answer? No. It would not change. The number in Heaven is set and our actions on earth will have nothing to do with that number.

    Now, wil having more children perhaps change the membership of the LCMS? Well, sure—but so would greater efforts to try and bring people in.


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