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Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Brief Catalog of Press Stories Regarding President Harrison's Testimony Before Congress on Religious Freedom

LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison's February 16, 2012, testimony before Congress with representatives of the Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian, and Jewish on the threat to religious liberty posed by the contraception mandate recently promulgated by President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services department has generated significant press coverage.

President Harrison testified in a hearing titled, "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" 

President Harrison testified: "I'm here because there is a narrow but very significant provision in the HHS provisions that is, I believe, very dangerous to religious people with our kind of convictions -- and it's also dangerous to any religious people with unique convictions."

Below is a brief catalog of press stories about President Harrison's testimony before congress on religious freedom:

Saint Louis Post-Dispatch Story About President Harrison's Congressional Testimony

Tim Townsend of the  Saint Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a story titled, "Lutheran leader sides with Catholics on contraceptives issue in fiery testimony."
New York Times Coverage

The New York Times covered the event with a story titled, "Passions Flare as House Debates Birth Control Rule." The NY Times writes quotes Harrison, "'I pray for the president every day,'” Mr. Harrison said, even as he expressed 'deep distress' over the new policy and complained of 'government intrusions into Christian conscience and practice.'"

Fox News Coverage
Fox News posted a story titled, "Contraception ruling: Democrats accuse clergy of complicity with GOP at hearing." Fox News quoted President Harrison testifying, "While we are grandfathered under the very narrow provisions of the HHS policy, we are deeply concerned that our consciences may soon be martyred by a few strokes on the keyboard."

CBS News Coverage
CBS News displayed its bias with a story titled, "Dems decry all-male House panel on WH contraception rule." CBS News quoted President Harrison, "Religious people determine what violates their consciences -- not the federal government. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences."

CNN Front Page Coverage
CNN posted a story on their front page titled, "Culture War 2.0: The New Front Lines." CNN did not quote President Harrison.

Molly Hemingway wrote a clever-titled story, "A Lutheran, a Jew, a Baptist and a Catholic Walk Into A Hearing.

THOMAS MESSER, an LCMS pastor, wrote an op-ed piece, "Religious liberty on trial in America."

Maggie Karner, LCMS Director of Life and Health Ministries wrote a piece titled, "Where the Women Were During the House Contraception Mandate Hearing," for Christianity Today.

St. Louis Radio Host Interviews LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison on HHS Ruling
On Friday, Feb. 17, KMOX radio host Charlie Brennan interviewed LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison on his appearance before a House committee regarding the recent HHS mandate on health insurance and its mandatory coverage of contraceptives.

You can listen to the audio file of the eight-minute interview by clicking either here or here.
Right-click here to save MP3

President Harrison's testimony before Congress can be seen here:

The LCMS Webpage also is maintaing up-to-date coverage at

-- Posted by  Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Haiti Visit Continued - LCC and LCMS

In Jacmel, Haiti, President Robert Bugbee of the Lutheran Church Canada (LCC) and President Marky Kessa of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH) stand in front of a medical clinic donated to the ELCH by LCMS World Relief and Human Care after the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and severely damaged Jacmel and also Leogane.

Two years after the earthquake, this historic street in Jacmel is still badly damaged. This was a section of town with some of the oldest buildings dating to the time of the French occupation in the late 18th century.
A United Nations tent city still remains in Jacmel. Two years ago when I visited the tent city in Jacmel, Canada United Nations forces provided security for the earthquake survivors. In a blogpost, I wrote:
"The children being children made toys from discarded bicycle tire rims and a stick. A few other children made kites from scraps of plastic wrap or bags and a few sticks. The kite string was dental foss. In the midst of the disaster, the children can still play."
Today, the children still play and there has been improvement to the city of Jacmel... Not to mention the completion of two Lutheran Villages.

Pastor Willy Gaspar and Ulna, the manager of the medical clinic in Jacmel, look over a list of needed medications.

Dr. Collver stands with Sydney Kessa in front of the Lutheran Guest House in Jacmel. A couple of short term teams from the LCMS stayed in the guest house this past month as they volunteered in Haiti.

Driving back from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince, a several hour drive through the mountains, we saw evidence of the challenges which beset Haiti. The problems and challenges of Haiti were only exacerbated by the earthquake. Nearly every SUV type vehicle was branded with the logo of one of the ten thousand non-governmental organizations (NGO) that operate in Haiti. Yet unbridled charity from the United States and other countries will not solve these problems.
On the way back to the hotel in Port-au-Prince, we drove past the collapsed presidential palace so that President Bugbee could see it. Our Haitian driver mentioned that every American wants to see the collapsed palace. I asked him, "Do you think it will be repaired?" He responded, "They will try to do something. This is our 9/11."

President Bugbee reflecting on the trip remarked, "When we think of the sorrow and other human tragedies brought on by the earthquake here, I can't help but think of that mighty refrain from Psalm 46, 'The Lord of hosts is with us.' In the middle of all their sorrow, our friends n Haiti are finding that He is with them in a big way in the faithful preaching of the Gospel. I can only hope that the Missouri Synod and the LCC can be the Lord's instruments to deepen these wonderful people in their commitment to Christ, His Word, and our Lutheran Confession."
Kyrie Eleison.
-- Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, February 13, 2012

LCC and LCMS Visit to Haiti

President Robert Bugbee (LCC), Pastor Willy Gaspar, Dr. Albert Collver in Haiti

On Saturday, 11 February 2012, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, President of the Lutheran Church Canada (LCC) and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations, arrived in Port-au-Prince Haiti. They were met by Pastor Willy Gaspar of the Dominican Lutheran Mission and Mr. Lophane Laurent at Toussaint Louverture International Airport.

Mr. Lophane Laurent Sporting the WMLT Disaster Shirt

On Sunday, 12 February 2012, the group traveled to Gonaïves to visit the headquarters of the Lutheran Church of Haiti (LCH). The Lutheran Church of Haiti is not in church fellowship with either the LCMS or the LCC, nor is it a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC); however, a number of mission societies within the LCMS and the LCC support the Lutheran Church of Haiti. The President of the LCH is Rev. Revenal Benoit.

Pastor Benoit standing next to Pastor Gaspar (playing drums) after the service

The Lutheran Church of Haiti (LCH) is a break-away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH), which is in fellowship with the LCMS and a member of the ILC. A number of mission societies affiliated with either the LCMS or the LCC have been working with the LCH. Ironically, very few of the Haitian mission societies work with the LCMS' partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH). Part of the reason for the visit was to check on reports from the various mission societies. This is President Bugbee's first trip to Haiti.

Worship at the main Church of Haiti in Gonaïves. The musicians were very skilled, but the music was not what we were accustomed to using in worship.

View from the top of Lutheran Church of Faith, headquarters of LCH, in Gonaïves. The other floors of the church building contain class rooms, a computer / business school, and a recording studio that serves the FM radio station and Channel 6 on the television.

The Broadcasting equipment and transmitter equipment was donated from the United States.

After visiting the church building, we traveled a short distance to a center for street boys. Approximately 25 boys, ranging in age from 4 to 12 are cared for at the center. The boys parents either had died, were unable to care for them, or put them out on the street like strays.

A stray dog wanders outside the rescue center for boys.

The remains of a fortress used by the Haitians to defend against Napoleon's attempts to retake Haiti after its revolution in 1804. Haiti has truly suffered from the time the French occupied the island in the 17th century until the present.

President Bugbee meets with Pastor Benoit of the Lutheran Church of Haiti (LCH).

Children who attended the church service.

Today, we travel from Gonaïves to Jacmel, where we will meet representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH).

-- Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations


Friday, February 10, 2012

Fifth Annual Emmaus Conference

President Matthew C. Harrison (LCMS), President Mark Schroeder (WELS),
President John Moldstad, Jr. (ELS) at Emmaus Conference in Tacoma, WA
The Fifth Annual Emmaus Conference on "The History and Prospects of Lutheran Free Conferences" was held at Parkland Lutheran Church and School in Tacoma, WA, on 9 - 10 February 2012. While this is the fifth annual free conference, it is the second time the presidents from The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and The Evangelical Lutheran Synod met together "to share information on a selected topic of interest to confessional Lutheranism in a setting outside the realm of church fellowship.... The conference is not to be viewed as having any official status of formal doctrinal discussions between church bodies." The organizers of the Emmaus Conference did express the desire that this conference in Tacoma might lead to "the establishment of such official free conferences among confessional Lutheran church bodies in America."

In 1856, Dr. C.F.W. Walther, President of the Missouri Synod, first proposed the idea of free conferences to "bring together American Lutherans who unreservedly confessed the Augsburg Confession." The proposal of free conferences was Walther's "first major ecumenical effort." President Harrison noted, "The now famous free conferences were proposed by Walther in Lehre und Wehre in 1856, and actually held during: October 1856 at Columbus; October 1857 at Pittsburgh; August 1858 at Cleveland; and July 1859 at Fort Wayne." Unfortunately, Walther was unable to attend the fourth free conference. A large section of President Harrison's paper addressed the historical trifecta that threatened Lutheranism: Reformed Theology, Pietism, and Rationalism. This "three-fold battering ram," manifested as Samuel Simon Schmucker's Definite Synodical Platform – An American Recension of the Augsburg Confession of 1855,  threatened Lutheranism in America and was the impetus for the free conferences based upon the Augsburg Confession.

In the above video clip, President Harrison described the sentiment at the time of the "forced" union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia by Friedrich Wilhelm III on 27 September 1817. President Harrison also described why one should be "wary" of Reformation anniversaries and Reformation commemorations. President Harrison concluded his paper with a statement by F.C.D. Wyneken, who attended all four of the original free conferences. Harrison said, "I offer it here as my deepest prayer and personal confession, as my deepest longing over against you who are my separated brethren."

"Then why, beloved brothers, do we stand by one another? Why can’t we leave one another? It is because we cannot let go of the one truth that we, in fellowship with all the saints, have acknowledged, believe, and confess as it is in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. These Confessions bear witness to the truth clearly, plainly, and powerfully on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, against all the desires of Satan, to the whole world. And why do we hold so firmly to our Confession such that we happily endure the hatred of the world and also of the rest of Christianity, which is difficult to bear? Why, with God’s help and grace, would we suffer persecution and death before we would give up even a small part of that Confession? We do so because we have come to make the truth set forth in that Confession our own, not in times of good leisure and rest, like we might appropriate other natural or historical truths. The Holy Spirit has revealed this truth to us in the midst of the burdens of troubled consciences as our only salvation. Through the Word, the Spirit has borne witness to the truth in broken and troubled hearts. Our consciences are bound to the Word and therefore to the Confession of the Church. As poor, forlorn, and condemned men, we have learned to believe in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The peace of conscience, the peace of our souls, the hope of eternal blessedness, our very being and life hang on this truth. To surrender it would be to surrender our salvation and ourselves for time and eternity. Therefore, neither can we let go of the most insignificant portion of the Confession because the entire series of the individual teachings of the faith are for us one chain. This chain not only binds our understanding in the truth, it binds our consciences and lives. The loss of an individual part of the same would break this chain, and we would be torn loose from Christ, tumbling again into the abyss of anxiety, doubt, and eternal death. Therefore we hold fast to our Confession, as to our very life’s life."

Photo Showing A Well Attended Conference
After President Harrison finished his paper, the presidents from The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) responded. ELS President John Moldstad, Jr., responded first. He began by saying how refreshing it was to hear such a paper. Moldstad said, "While the early set of free conferences did not bring about the desired unity of doctrine sought by Walther, they did serve as a catalyst for a highly treasured blessing. A second set of Waltherian conferences (1860s) led to the formation of the solidly confessional and endearing Synodical Conference of 1872."

President Mark Schroeder (WELS) Offers Response
President Schroeder from the Wisconsin Synod responded second. He began by greeting his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and thanking President Harrison for his paper and offering thanks to the members of the Missouri Synod, for the many blessings that benefit "other Lutherans, even in those synods such as mine which are not now in fellowship with the LCMS." Schroeder concluded his remarks:

"Those who would claim the label 'Confessional' today have an ongoing responsibility and opportunity to define carefully what that term means, and what it means for the person and synod wanting to wear the label. If free conferences and other discussions can help to clarify and solidify what it means to be truly Confessional, then such discussions should take place with the prayer that God would use the power of his Word and the working of the Spirit to encourage faithfulness to the doctrines of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. It is only such faithfulness, confessed and practiced, that holds the promise of true unity and full fellowship. That is a noble and God-pleasing goal which all Confessional Lutherans can strive to reach."
The conference attendees were greatly encouraged by President Harrison's paper and the responses of Presidents Moldstad and Schroeder. The emerging friendships developed and the clear confession of the Lutheran Confession at the Emmaus Conference is helping to overcome tensions that developed between the three Synods after the breakup of the Synodical Conference in the mid-20th century. Ultimately, every Reformation of the Lord's church, every reconciliation and restoration of relationships, involves repentance and absolution. May the Lord grant repentance and his forgiveness to us!

The Emmaus Conference Brochure.
Fifth Annual Emmaus Conference 9-10 Feb 2012

Eventually, the papers presented should be available at the Emmaus Conference website.

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations for the LCMS
10 February 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Missouri Synod Undertakes Foreign Mission

In 1893, the Missouri Synod officially decided to undertake foreign mission. By then the Synod had been around 46 years. The fact that it took the Missouri Synod 46 years should not be construed to mean that the Synod was uninterested in foreign mission or that the people of the Missouri Synod were not "missional." In the Missouri Synod's original constitution, the second item reads, "The joint extension of the kingdom of God." Koppelmann notes, "Thus the Missouri Synod became the first Lutheran church body in America to acknowledge mission work as a definite part of its program, rather than that of a society within the church."

In the 19th century, church bodies (with the exception of Roman Catholics) for the most part did not do missions. Because of the lack of mission work by church bodies in Europe, various mission societies were formed in England, Germany, and Scandinavia. These mission societies sent missionaries around the world. Before the Missouri Synod formed its own foreign mission board, funds were collected for foreign missions and were sent to the orthodox Lutheran mission societies in Germany.

Between 1849 and 1868, there were 53 articles in Der Lutheraner, the forerunner to the Lutheran Witness on foreign missions. The Synod also was engaged in what became known as "home missions," which included work among European immigrants, Indians, and "Negros." In fact, the Missouri Synod had a shortage of pastors.

In 1893, F. Sievers wrote an article titled, "Shall We Not Begin Foreign Missions?" In his article, he wrote:
Is there not already a manpower shortage? Yes, but God might well make this even more severe if we refused to undertake this mission. Do we have men with the required gifts? Should ours be the only Church without such men when it is the largest Lutheran body in the world? Foreign missions cost very much money! They do, and God has given us enormously much money. Could we not do more with the same amount of money spent in home missions? Is that a fair measure? Those among whom home missions are carried on have some light available. The heathen have none! Do we not carry a double, even a tenfold, obligation to bring them the light?

At the Synod convention in 1893, the convention created a foreign mission board. The report to the convention read:

The Lord has His hour in which He moves hearts to agree to that for which He has sent His people. Until this hour has struck, no good work can be done by them. . . . For our Synod the hour is now come in which the Lord is directing us to a new activity in missions among the heathen. That for which individuals or small groups within our Synod have been sighing to God for decades, namely, that we might again have a mission of our own among the heathen, this it seems is being fulfilled in a most wonderful way. The Lord has newly warmed the hearts for missions among the heathen and shows us not only that the doors to the heathen have opened throughout the world, but has also poured into our laps the means for this new mission activity. Now one hears not only a few single voices among us that desire a genuine mission of our own among the heathen, but all synodical Districts have come into this meeting so that, besides other im- portant business, they might thoroughly discuss the establishment of the desired mission among the heathen. It is now a rather general desire of our Christians that a mission be begun in a heathen country. The General Mission Board brings this before General Synod as a definite resolution. Your committee believes that this desire should be heeded. 
The resolution passed. Soon thereafter the Missouri Synod had missionaries on the foreign field. After a failed attempt to send a missionary to Japan -- in part due to war -- the Missouri Synod turned her focus to India. The Missouri Synod went from India to Brazil and Argentina.  In 1936, missionaries were sent to Nigeria. After World War II, the Missouri Synod sent missionaries to Asia beginning with Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea.

The entire fascinating story on how the Missouri Synod began foreign missions in 1893 can be read in Koppelmann, Herman H. “Missouri Synod undertakes foreign missions.” Concordia Theological Monthly 22, no. 8 (1951): 552-566. The article is produced below in PDF.

-- Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations

Missouri Synod Undertakes Foreign Missions