Okay, so I’m as uncomfortable with the title as you are. It sounds so…political! Which is truly odd because one of the reasons I so favor Pastor Harrison is because of how a-political an animal he is. I first met him in a class we took under Dr. Nagel – “Koinonia and the Church.” I’ll never forget listening to him deliver on St. Ignatius to us – from the Greek of course. Since that day many moons ago, I’ve had the blessed opportunity to hear him speak numerous times, and what always impresses me is how Pr. Harrison doesn’t like to talk about Pastor Harrison or Synodical structure or guilting people into evangelism or any such. What Pr. Harrison consistently talks about is our Lord and the great things He has done for us and the amazing life into which He has summoned us – a life shaped by mercy. Mercy, first of all, that we receive from Him, but secondly and just as vital, mercy that must shape our lives as we pass it onto others.
When he spoke at our District Convention last year, one of our older pastors (and a dear friend of mine) came up to me afterward and with all earnestness looked me in the eye to ask: “Has anyone ever thought of HIM being elected Synodical President?” My friend doesn’t do blogs or email or any such. I smiled and told him that yes, the thought had crossed a mind or two.
Why did my friend so gravitate to Pastor Harrison? Well, first know that my friend is a true evangelical catholic. A man who has sought for many years to lead his beloved flock in living from the Eucharist as the very center of the Church’s life, the deep wellspring of her hidden joy and letting that Eucharist shape our mission as church in this world. As my friend listened to Pastor Harrison deliver high-octane Gospel to the assembly in that scholarly and yet utterly engaging, popular way he has, my friend realized the deepest truth about Harrison: “That man” he said to me “is a pastor at heart.” And he was right.
It was Holy Week when Issues, Etc. was suddenly and inexplicably yanked off the air, and the producer of that show – a member of my parish, with a very sick wife – faced a most uncertain future. What would happen? I thought it typical Harrison for him to show up at our parish on Maundy Thursday, bringing Bishop Obare’s son along with him. He was there to feast on the Word and on our Lord’s body and blood, to be sure. But he was also there to be a friend to Jeff Schwarz, to speak a personal word of comfort to him in the time of his trial. 30 miles outside of St. Louis through the cornfields he had driven, just to worship with a hurting church and a hurting family that evening. It’s the sort of thing he does. “A pastor at heart.”
And besides this pastoral heart that rejoices in God’s infinite mercy reaching and transforming us in the means of grace, he is a man who has consistently shown a deep concern for the Church’s mercy ministry. Before he ended up heading the mercy arm of the Missouri Synod, he had led an absolutely stunning effort in Fort Wayne to reclaim a neighborhood for its citizens. Partnering with the local Roman parish, he and his beloved Zion Lutheran Church began buying and renovating burned out, trashed houses all around the neighborhood. They went into them with hammers and saws, with paint and nails, they enlisted the citizen’s help and let them know that they were not alone and that those parishes were NOT abandoning their neighborhood. It was a time of rebirth in that part of Fort Wayne, and it was the success (a nationally noted success) of that work there that led directly to the Synod tapping Pr. Harrison to guide its mercy ministries throughout the world – a task he has handled with the same energy and zeal he showed in transforming a ghetto into a thriving neighborhood for love of Christ and the people there.
As he [Harrison] ponders the Synodical disarray that we continue to find ourselves in (the worship wars, the decline in evangelistic zeal among our people, the deterioration of our missionary work throughout the world, and so much more), he has proposed a plan for letting the Word of God do its work among us. He knows that true renewal will come in no other way. “The Word of God must do this thing, and not we poor sinners.” (Luther) You can read his plan at http://itistime.org.
All of that and so much more (that I’ll spare you) is why I support for Synodical President this banjo playing, hammer swinging, paint-brush wielding, masterful teaching servant of God (and fine scholar, to boot!), this man with a pastor’s heart, who gets that the Church literally lives from the Divine Service where the Gospel is preached and the Body and Blood of the Savior delivered into mouths and hearts to strengthen and enliven God’s people in faith toward the Blessed Trinity AND in fervent love toward one another. Yes, I believe it is HE we should elect as our next Synodical President. It’s time, Missouri. It’s time.
William Weedon, Pastor
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Reprinted with permission from the March 2010 issue of Forum Letter. Copyright 2010 by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. All rights reserved.