From June 22-25, during its convention in Florida, the 160+ voting delegates from the Florida-Georgia District delivered clear and direct messages to third-term LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison. Delegates were disappointed by President Harrison’s scripted remarks and were unpersuaded by his deflective non-answers to their specific questions.
As a result, President Harrison’s actions as President were overwhelmingly rejected in vote after vote. Harrison did not find a Convention blindly following his lead. By almost unanimous votes, the Florida-Georgia district called for changes in financial transparency and ecclesiastical supervision.
Harrison’s response? He was dismissive of the convention work of Florida-Georgia pastors and laypeople. “Pass Resolutions…knock yourself out…” he retorted during his unscripted Q&A time.
DELEGATES DON’T TRUST SYNOD’S FINANCIAL REPORTS
“With 98.8% of the vote (161-2!) the resolution passes…”
These words (and nearly unanimous vote) announced that the Florida-Georgia District passed a resolution calling on the LCMS in Convention to direct the Chief Financial Officer to report quarterly the financial position of the Synod. This must be in a format easily understood by persons unfamiliar with financial terminology used in generally accepted accounting principles.
This isn’t the first time Synod congregations have sought simple, transparent financial reports. Despite prior Synod Convention resolutions that require clear financial reporting (like 2010 Synodical resolution 4-03), the International Center shares little about Synod finances with congregations. Our Synod leaders say even less about Synod’s dire financial state.
Why is such a resolution necessary? Even president Harrison agreed that financial transparency is a problem in Synod. In his own report to Synod, President Matthew Harrison asserted:
“The financials are complex and, unfortunately not always easy to understand. We do need greater clarity and transparency in this area, and we are working on that.” (Joy:Fully Lutheran page 33, emphasis added)
“Working On It” Isn’t Enough
We have had 8 years of leadership under the direction of President Harrison and his Board of Directors. Yet we are no clearer today about Synod’s finances than we were in 2010.
The binding will of LCMS congregations can only be imposed on Synod leaders with convention overtures. Unless overtures are passed at the local level to change things for the better, we will not be able to stop the centralization of the LCMS into a hierarchical structure. That’s not what our LCMS forefathers had in mind when they formed the Synod. Congregations matter — and we deserve to be fully informed about what’s going on in our Synod, especially with regard to finances!
“Working on it” isn’t “Getting it done.”
The delegates from congregations of the Florida-Georgia District have had enough! And so they passed a resolution with directives — a plan that addresses the Synod’s budget AND special appeals such that there will be no more cloaking of Synod’s finances.
FL-GA REJECTED HARRISON’S ATTEMPT TO BE PASTOR’S SUPERVISOR
“With 92.8% of the vote (154-12!) the resolution passes…”
Again, with these words (and an overwhelming majority vote) the Florida-Georgia District passed a resolution memorializing Synod regarding the maelstrom that surrounds the Ecclesiastical Supervision issue that has arisen within Synod since the Synodical Convention in 2016. The Florida-Georgia District has resolved:
“That CCM Opinion 16.2791 be nullified and sent for review with clear reference to the historical precedent of Synod’s practices and rules since its inception; that the District memorialize Synod that the decision of the Board of Directors concerning 12-14 be nullified and sent for review; and that the District memorialize Synod with proposed constitutional and bylaw changes that would seek to clarify and return to Synod’s historic position; and finally that the District pray for peace and harmony within the District and Synod, providing a witness to God’s powerful work of reconciliation in our lives.”
The delegates want reversal of the unconstitutional move in 2017 by President Harrison and his United Lister Board naming him supervisor of 6,000 pastors AND congregations! It will never work. Let’s return to a world of sanity where duly-elected District Presidents are the ecclesiastical supervisors in their Districts.
HARMONY IN FL-GA DISTRICT IS AN EXAMPLE TO ALL OF SYNOD
The Florida-Georgia District has given to the LCMS a model of what can happen when District leadership, pastors, and congregations work towards a common goal of a healthy, vibrant Synod. The votes by delegates were harmonious and virtually unanimous.
HARRISON PERCEIVED AS DISMISSIVE, CONDESENDING
Unfortunately, when President Matthew Harrison was asked about Ecclesiastical Supervision (12-14) during the 30-minute Question and Answer period he responded:
“Pass Resolutions…knock yourselves out…”
Delegates can’t read his mind, but based on Harrison’s past behavior, many interpreted his flippant remark as this: “Pass any resolution you want to — because I intend to keep them from seeing the light of day at the 2019 Tampa National Convention!”
Isn’t that how the Selma crisis was swept under the rug at the 2016 Milwaukee Convention? Many overtures about Selma were sent to the International Center. None of them made it to a floor committee’s presentation so delegates could direct our leaders to assist Selma. Reliable sources say the debt levels of Selma in 2016 were manageable, and financial supporters were lined up to save the Synod’s only historic black college.
The same thing happened at the Milwaukee convention with resolutions from three LCMS districts, three district boards of directors, one circuit, and seventeen congregations challenging rulings by the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM). The voice of the congregations was simply scuttled. (Click here to see the report of the Texas District Convention for more about this.)
President Harrison was perceived by the Florida-Georgia delegates as dismissive, condescending, and not demonstrating the heart of a servant leader to his constituency. It is sad. Delegates were profoundly disappointed by Harrison’s attitude, behavior and remarks.
Nobody benefits when our President speaks and acts this way to the people and congregations he is supposed to serve.
IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP
In the Florida – Georgia District it is clear:
- Financial Transparency matters;
- District Presidents being the rightful Ecclesiastical Supervisors matter; and
- Congregations Matter!