In a welcome speech intended to energize his supporters and gain nominations at the Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne (CTSFW) Symposia Series (held January 15-19, 2019), President Matthew Harrison raised the fears of his audience with the specter of Fort Wayne being “on the ropes” in the near future without him as Synod President.
Really? Nothing could be further from the truth.
No matter which Presidential candidate Synod congregations choose to lead us, the future of our Fort Wayne Seminary is secure.
At a time when Synod needs a President with hope and a plan for the future, conjuring fear seems to be driving President Harrison’s re-election campaign efforts.
The Symposia Series at Fort Wayne
The Fort Wayne Symposia Series is an annual gathering at CTSFW of mostly pastors featuring the presentation of theological papers and discussion on a variety of theological and confessional topics.
Ultra-conservative groups in the LCMS have also used their non-conference time and the days surrounding the Symposium to gather members of political groups (like The United List, Balance Concord Incorporated, Lutheran Concerns Association, Issues, Etc., and Gottesdienst), to present the Sabre of Boldness award, and to plan district and national convention political strategy.
These activities are not a part of the Symposium and CTSFW is not directly involved in the political meetings of these groups, but they happen at the same time.
Harrison’s Welcome A Dark Prediction
As Harrison welcomed those gathered at the Fort Wayne Symposia Series, he evoked the memory of Robert Preus as the icon of their struggle. He raised the specter that the battle to save the Synod is not over. And then Harrison boasted that he brought necessary changes to the Synod because the LCMS had lost its confessional moorings.
Next, President Harrison raised the fear level of the group with his dark prediction of the demise of CTSFW:
“You know full well what we face. If you do not participate in the nomination and election process…we could face real challenges. Those challenges in the future would easily mean, and WOULD mean of course, that this institution [Fort Wayne] among other things would be “on the ropes” in a very short time….If you don’t take advantage of it [the nomination process] we may all regret it.” [emphasis added]
Certainly everyone in Synod should participate in the nomination and election process. All of us. That’s what a Synod does — together.
But just as Harrison sent postcards to select pastors encouraging them to circumvent their congregation’s nominating process, why did President Harrison choose this small gathering to motivate them with the fear of CTS being “on the ropes in a very short time?”
Harrison Builds Fear on False Assumptions
Why not motivate pastors with a positive vision of hope and a plan for the future? Why does President Harrison exhibit such little confidence in the Synod he himself has led for nine years? Is that what we want from our Synod President?
Does Harrison believe Fort Wayne is the ONLY seminary of the LCMS faithful to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions? What does that say about Concordia St. Louis and the graduates from that seminary?
Do any of us believe that Fort Wayne, or St. Louis, or our Synod are in such dire straits that only President Harrison can stave off our collective demise?
At a time when our Seminary Presidents, Dr. Lawrence Rast and Dr. Dale Meyer, stand together in support of one another, why is President Harrison signaling a divide of confessional fidelity between our seminaries and the end of one of them without him leading Synod?
Does our Synod need a divider or a unifier as its leader?
Concordia Theological Seminary Stands Strong
There is no imminent demise of Fort Wayne. In fact, just the opposite is true. Here’s some facts from just the past few years at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne:
- 289 students are studying to be pastors or are seeking an advanced degree in the Graduate School. The new class of 41 M.Div students in Fall 2018 compares to St. Louis’ incoming class of 44. At a time when other seminaries are seeing a continued decline in enrollment, our seminaries remain stable.
- In 2015, a new 60,000 square foot Wayne and Barbara Kroemer Library was dedicated. Its circulating and rare book collection ranks it in the top five largest freestanding Lutheran seminary collections in the world.
- The student aid endowment has more than doubled enabling CTSFW (along with CSL) to provide a 100% tuition guarantee for all residential students. Our synod’s congregations remain committed to continuing to support our seminaries in the years to come.
- CTSFW is blessed with an outstanding faculty with rich congregational experience and high academic credentials. And, the seminary is doubly blessed with a committed staff, many of whom have served there for decades out of a love for the students and dedication to the mission of the seminary.
- CTSFW developed a new PhD program in Theological Studies in addition to the PhD in Missiology.
- CTSFW has a plan for the future. Working collaboratively with stakeholders and finding new ways to partner with CSL and our universities, CTSFW is committed to its mission to form servants in Jesus Christ who teach the faithful, reach the lost, and care for all — today and for many, many years to come. By taking the time to do the hard planning, CTSFW is freed to focus on priorities and embrace new challenges and opportunities as they come.
Does that sound like a seminary that’s “on the ropes”?
Harrison’s Fear Tactics Won’t Work Again in 2019
BOTH of our seminaries graduate pastors, deaconesses and others prepared for their callings. BOTH fully support the scriptural and confessional standards of our Synod. BOTH are in strong positions to do so in the days to come.
Congregations are too smart to fall for scare tactics to win their vote — or their nomination.
Our Synod needs a President with a steady hand and a clear vision of a hopeful future RIGHT NOW. We need a President who depends on God’s Word to do his work, not unconstitutional postcards and scare tactics to keep his job.
We Have a Choice to Make
The election for Synod President is coming in June. Our Synod has a choice to make.
Congregations Matter believes David Maier and Tim Klinkenberg are just the kind of men we need for our Synod.
Both Maier and Klinkenberg believe in:
- Hope rather than fear-mongering to gain nominations and votes.
- Trusting people rather than controlling them.
- Bringing issues to light instead of the darkness of hiding behind executive session minutes.
- Informing congregations rather than secretly selling our mission properties and closing colleges.
- Transparency in Synod finances and partnering with districts to distribute hurricane relief funds rather than holding $5.2M in offerings in Synod offices in St. Louis (the number is up from $3.3M in October 2017) .
BOTH of our seminaries are faithful to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and their futures are secure.
Congregations —and Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne — matter.