During the September 8-13 Council of Presidents (COP) meeting, the group elected Rev. Lee Hagan (Missouri District) and Rev. Richard Snow (Nebraska District) as their Chair and Vice-Chair. Their election will provide a renewed emphasis on utilizing the God-given diversity of gifts to His Church, a focus on Word-directed decision-making, and collegiality.
God provides all of us to His Church to accomplish His will. He calls us to use His Word as our guide for action – including acting as brothers and sisters in Christ. Good leaders recognize that. And their leadership vision reflects it.
In his September/October 2022 Reporter newsletter to the Nebraska District, President Richard Snow described this leadership vision – and his inspiration from Moses in Numbers 11:1-17 for how he believes God commends people to lead in the Body of Christ:
“It is a tremendous honor and responsibly as [Hagan and Snow] work with President Harrison and the rest of the Council to lead the Missouri Synod into the future, under Christ. None of us are meant to take on this task alone. One brain, no matter how smart, is not enough. This is the Body of Christ. We need one another and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead our Church.”
We need this kind of leadership vision to help our LCMS congregations face the many challenges of being a post-COVID church witnessing to a world that needs to hear more about Jesus’ love and His power than institutional control and its power.
Diverse Team Leadership Is Our History
Snow’s leadership vision isn’t new. Utilizing the diversity of gifts within the Body of Christ to face today’s challenges is a part of our LCMS history. It’s the kind of leadership our forefathers envision for the LCMS.
The Preamble of our LCMS Constitution says as much. It cites two biblical examples as the “Reason for the Forming of a Synodical Union.” The first is “the example of the apostolic church” in Acts 15:1-32 regarding the circumcision controversy. But they didn’t leave it at that. The second reason is “Our Lord’s will that the diversities of gifts should be for the common profit” as witnessed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-31.
Snow’s Leadership Style Affirms God’s Design
“…I do not and cannot lead alone. We are the Body of Christ. We have important work to do. Each one of you has an important part to play. None of us are meant to go it alone,” Snow continues.
“Together we work to disciple the saved and reach out to the lost. Together we proclaim God’s truth and grace. Together in Christ we can do immeasurably more than we thought or imagined. Together in Christ we have the victory.”
Snow Charts A Course for Hope-filled Action
Snow went on to identify some of the challenges his leadership team must face. They include:
- church worker shortages
- cultural changes and challenges
- clergy dependency and worker fatigue
- lay involvement in the ministry
- relational health
“It would be easy to cast a cloak of doom and fear over everything. It is tempting to think that we as leaders are here to save the Church. While we have the responsibility to lead, the Church already has a Savior. And it will take the whole Body of Christ as we face the challenges ahead. Thankfully, in Christ, we have grace and truth. Joyfully, we live in hope.”
The Council of Presidents’ Work
By their election, Presidents Hagan and Snow, already entrusted by their districts to serve as their Presidents, have been identified as “leaders of leaders” and entrusted with great responsibility in the group.
The Council of Presidents (COP) was formed by Bylaw 3.10 to “provide opportunity for the President of Synod to advise and counsel his representatives in the regions and districts and for the regional vice Presidents and District presidents in turn to give counsel to the President…. to counsel one another on matters regarding the doctrine and administration of Synod, its regions, and its districts, and to edify and support one another in the work they share” (p.149). In addition, they work as the Board of Assignments of Synod, assigning first calls to graduates and assisting with the placement of others.
COP Upcoming Priorities
Every new leadership team will take on similar tasks with their gifts, God-directed priorities, and specific challenges of their day. Just as a congregation can have a series of great pastors serving them, each will bring their own strengths to the task of Word and Sacrament ministry.
Through conversations with members of the COP, Our Congregations, Our Synod found a desire to spend more agenda time in the Word of God. They believe this will help the group talk about issues of doctrine and practice informed by the Word. It also will assist all members to continue to act fraternally with one another based on that Word.
As one District President opined, “I think this is the first COP triennium where most of the Council has no personal experience of the 70’s ‘Walkout.’ The Walkout still casts a shadow on some of the ways we deal with one another in Synod.”
Others echoed the list of issues identified by Snow. These include the recruitment and retention of church workers, church work health and healthy relationships, and the stewardship of finances and facilities faced by congregations across the Synod.
The Best Leaders “Turn Towards Team”
If our COP leaders will follow Snow’s leadership vision of healthy conversations and team achievement to heart, our Synod is in good hands with this triennium’s Council of Presidents. Our Congregations, Our Synod applauds their leadership decision and hopes that a “turn towards team” with humility will bless all of our work together. Power and control will not win the day over brotherly conversation and team effort. President Snow’s closing comments exemplify the type of leader we can all follow. He lifts up other leaders and focuses his team on the future.
“Missouri District President Hagan is a great leader. I am honored to serve with him. We are prioritizing issues the Council needs to address as we move forward. We are not here to work alone or to save the Church, but we are called to serve the church. We are humbled to do so.”
The LCMS cannot move forward by electing leaders who do not have a track record of developing effective, collegial teams that respect the diversity of gifts God has given His Church. Focusing on the past and leading with a vision of exercising greater control in order to “save the Synod” will not help us face our issues now.
Our congregations and our Synod are gifts to one another from God for His Kingdom on this side of heaven. Our Lord’s work needs – and deserves – leaders like President Richard Snow.