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June 25, 2013

2

Why I Voted for Matthew Harrison for Synod President

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

At one time in my life, I could best be described as a political animal. I didn’t just love politics; I thrived on it. My heart would do a happy dance if the candidate I was working for agreed to a nasty campaign tactic. The more vicious an attack, the better I felt. Of course, I wanted to win. But if my candidate lost, I wanted to make sure the other side was bruised and battered. And if my candidate won, I prayed that the person we beat was so numb and hurt that they’d never get into politics again.

I tell people that I wanted my opponent so battered and smeared to a point where his or her children would spit at them at the breakfast table … that pigeons would dive bomb their droppings on them as they walked down the street … that their own parents would be sad to call them their child.

That is how I learned and executed the game some call politics.

To me, politics was a blood sport. I wanted to win every election by any means necessary.

That is, until that fateful day when I couldn’t look at myself in my bathroom mirror.

There was just so much sleaze my stomach could take. And on a dime, I changed my career and life. It took awhile to get the feelings of ugliness out of my heart. But eventually, the forgiveness won by Christ at the cross became not just something I heard about on Sunday morning. It became my life’s reality. And so began the path the Lord placed me on that eventually led me to seminary and to serving Him.

The days leading up to my ordination, I made myself a promise: I would never play politics in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I would be collegial to all brothers in the clergy. Whether they agreed with my opinions on the direction of the Synod or not, I would spend my days serving the Lord with honor.

And as I am now 8 years an ordained pastor (yes, today, June 25th, is the anniversary of my ordination), I am proud to say that my political activities in the LCMS are zero. I listen to all sides. I talk with all pastors who want to talk with me. Some of the things that go on within the Synod make me shake my head. However, you’re not going to find a man more proud to say that he’s a pastor in the Lutheran Church – MIssouri Synod.

Three years ago, our national church body governance was completely overhauled, splitting the operations of the Synod into boards for National and International missions. Honestly, outside of changing titles and shifting work duties, I can’t see how the major restructuring effort is any more different that the old Synod. But I’m not at our headquarters in St. Louis; I’m a pastor in the field who cares more about the sheep given me to care for than whether or not a marketing firm tells us to use a blue LCMS cross or a purple one.

But with this structural change, instead of leaving the election of a Synodical President up to the national convention, this year, all churches have been given the power of election. A church’s called pastor, as a member of Synod, and the congregation’s delegate to the district’s convention, each have one vote for Synod president. This vote started on Saturday, June 22 and ends at midnight Central time tonight. There are three candidates on the ballot:

– Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, the incumbent

– Rev. Dr. Herbert Mueller, the incumbent 1st Vice President of the LCMS

– Rev. Dr. David Maier, the President of the Michigan District.

If no one candidate receives 50%, there will be an additional vote next week. In the end, we’ll have an elected Synodical President before we convene in St. Louis on July 20th.

This new election process is different – it is all done on the internet. There are no write in votes. You have a choice of three candidates and that’s it.

After reflecting upon this vote, and talking with a number of brother clergymen over the past few months, on Saturday morning I cast my vote at around 8:30am.

Our district president, Rev. Dr. Anthony Steinbronn last week reminded us clergy about the vote and encouraged us to vote our conscience. While some DPs in the Synod are taking sides and rooting for their candidates and urging pastors to vote for “their guy,” President Steinbronn gave us the person for whom he would cast a vote, if he could. But he sternly expressed his opinion that the votes we are to cast are to be our own, that we should make a decision on Synodical President based upon our feelings for the direction of our Synod. In encouraging us to vote our conscience, President Steinbronn wrote: “Each one of the nominees loves our Synod and is highly committed to its future.”

And I agree.

So on Saturday morning at around 8:30am, I cast my vote for the incumbent, Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison.

I didn’t vote against either President Maier or VP Mueller. If either man was elected Synod President, I have no doubt that they would be terrific leaders and help guide the LCMS to preach the Gospel to more and more people. Either man would make every member of Synod proud.

In the end, I voted in favor of President Harrison.

The direction he’s lead our Synod has been a good one. His emphasis of Witness-Mercy-Life Together is a terrific whole-life stewardship focus that our Synod has been lacking for a while. He’s appears to take a solid pastoral approach to his duties. Granted, I do not support everything that he’s done as Synod President. There have been some issues from within Synod that make me angry. But let’s be honest: If we don’t expect his own wife and children to support him blindly 100 percent, why would anyone expect pastors to support our Synod President in some fantastical way?

Overall, I am proud of the way he’s handled himself. Some of the changes he’s made in Synod are good – I love the changes to how the Synod communicates (The Lutheran Witness magazine is magnificent; the new website is beautiful; and I like that the Synod uses social media – except that they don’t use Google+ and I think they should). He walks in support of the unborn. He testifies before Congress to defend the right of religious freedom. He stands up for being a Lutheran in the midst of a culture and society that mocks Christ. When he has erred, he’s publicly admitted it and asked forgiveness.

Plus, I don’t think three years is enough time to judge a man’s presidency. It’s too short of a period of time.

So I voted to re-elect President Harrison.

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