During his speech to the Southern District Convention on March 9, Synod’s current President rejected any and all personal responsibility for the closure of Concordia College Alabama.
In 45 minutes of well-presented Q & A, (Matt IS an engaging, quick-witted speaker after all), Harrison also admitted a ballooning internal debt, pitted the needs of urban and rural congregations against those of suburban Christians, and proposed a plan of planting successful churches in zip codes “amenable to the LCMS” in order to fund struggling ministries.
Not bad for a Friday morning in March.
The Blame Game Continues
According to Matthew C. Harrison, everyone but himself is to blame for the closure of Selma. Listen for yourself to his speech by clicking on this link:
Here is a Harrison quote from the 1:11:15 to 1:11:35 marks on the live stream link shown above:
“I stood throughout with Selma. I fought for Selma. I encouraged (Synod) Board of Directors to give more money for Selma, but at the point when your chief leaders say this is no longer sustainable, that’s all I can say, I’m sorry.”
After Harrison’s excuses, a Second Vice President on the Southern District Board of Directors reported (1:12:45) he said to President Harrison, two years prior to the closing that Synod just needs to be more transparent to membership about Selma’s problems. Ignoring such pleas, President Harrison and his United-Lister controlled Synod Boards did not present Selma’s problems at the 2016 Milwaukee Convention.
Harrison denies responsibility for the closure of Selma. Yet, as the 2nd VP says on videotape (1:12:02), Selma just recently developed many of the debt problems which Harrison cites as a major reason why it is closing.
At the 1:02:00 mark, Harrison had oh-so-carefully said, “I’m deeply, deeply disappointed that the closure of Concordia Alabama should have been announced on my watch.”
Harrison has been President of Synod since 2010. Selma is closing in the middle of 2018. Yet he claims the closure is merely being announced on his watch.
President Harrison, YOU have been Synod’s President since 2010. While fingers of blame can be pointed in many directions, ultimately you bear responsibility for Selma’s closure.
Concordia College Alabama will close on Matt Harrison’s watch.
It’s more than an announcement, Synod President. It’s reality.
Harrison Admits Big Debt Problems at Synod
At the 1:05:50 mark, in response to someone asking him for a sensible reason why he is allowing the closure of Selma, Harrison admits internal borrowing by Synod (he parenthetically adds, “I’m against it!”) has ballooned from $2 million only three years ago up to $10.3 million as of February, 2018. Internal debt seems to be the only thing at Synod which has ballooned more than Matthew Harrison’s personal salary in recent years. President Harrison, YOU and your United-Lister majority are responsible for this.
500% Increase in Internal Borrowing in 3 Years
Synod’s current President self-servingly reports the problem was even larger when he took office eight years ago.
What does Harrison say is the cause of his administration’s 500% increase in internal borrowing in three years? He blames the economy and increase in international missionaries.
President Harrison is selling our Hong Kong headquarters building for a reported $35 million. Where is the $35 million going? Is our Hong Kong headquarters building being sold to solve debt problems in St. Louis? We know the sale will cripple our mission to mainland China.
Did Matt Share Any Good News?
Wait for it …
Matt also spoke on what is always his favorite topic – birth rates!
At the 53:25 mark on the live stream, Harrison reports what he says is the Good News: “our kids are having more children now than the Roman Catholics are having!”
He then adds (53:55 mark) his dark, negative view of our Synod’s future: “We will decline probably 500,000 plus over the next 10 – 15 years.”
Who wants to follow such a negative leader? The answer is: almost nobody.
Members are fleeing LC-MS churches in droves. Our Synod’s membership decline under Harrison is almost twice as fast as it has ever been before. And our President is publicly predicting our rate of decline will increase! Our beloved Synod is in crisis under Matthew C. Harrison.
Harrison Asks for Help
Harrison can be commended for a change in attitude with regard to the experience of the local congregations. Almost at the end of his time, Matt took a moment for a few “outreach” items. Beginning at the 1:29:00 mark in response to a question, Matt suggested that in the new evangelism program at Synod (Everyone His Witness), an “urban” module could be produced, asking a pastor for his input!
Pitting Suburban Vs. Urban Churches
In addition, he advised that financially strong suburban congregations must link with urban churches to support their city ministry (about 1:33:00). Matt quipped about his experience of “big happy suburban congregations” showing up to help urban churches because they came to “unload stuff to salve their consciences” and tell them what to do.
But when it comes to money, Matt has a different attitude: “It’s very important for us to have partnerships with financially stronger ministries further out in the community. That’s the future for us.”
This is a Bad Plan
If that’s our future hope, this is a bad plan. Admittedly, off-the-cuff remarks can be misspoken. But all of us can be surprised at a leader who speaks so cavalierly about the souls of people living in suburban America. Harrison connects reaching the lost in the suburbs to financially sustaining marginal ministries rather than gaining suburban – and urban – and rural souls for heaven.
Plant Suburban Churches for Financial Support
Though hard to believe, in the closing minutes of his remarks (1:39:50-1:40:15) our Synod President actually said,
“We must continue to have and plant strong suburban churches so that we can be strong in assisting rural and particularly urban churches…and non-anglo churches, which very few of reach the critical point of [being] self-sustaining.”
In support of this concept, Matt introduced an effort first mentioned in the 2017 LCEF Convocation to plant new churches in zip codes which are “amenable to the Missouri Synod” (whatever that means) and where the LCMS doesn’t already have churches (1:39:40). Matt has promised to share where those golden mission opportunities are, but they are not yet forthcoming.
We Need Competent and Responsible Leadership
No matter how fast Synod’s President jokes and blusters in front of a live audience — and he has certain skills in that regard — careful listeners are deeply troubled by what he is saying, and not saying.
President Harrison does not accept his personal responsibility for very bad things happening in our Synod. He says everyone else is to blame – not himself. Yet on his watch, Synod membership is plummeting, internal borrowing is ballooning, and our Synod’s only historically black college is closing. Meanwhile, he personally took a 20 percent pay raise to $252,573.
There IS an Answer. It’s Not Matt.
In the coming days, Congregations Matter will describe the bright new future that is coming for our Synod. Our best days are in front of us! And, we will be introducing outstanding new leadership.
Hang on. It won’t be long now.
Congregations – and our Synod – matter!