by Matthew C. Harrison
As I write these words, First Vice-President Herb Mueller is at home recuperating from brain surgery. A tangerine-sized tumor was removed this past week.
A couple of weeks earlier, Herb had told me that the May 2019 Council of Presidents (COP) meeting was his 101st. Before becoming Synod First Vice-President in 2010, Herb had served the better part of two decades as President of the Southern Illinois District. We noticed he was not himself at the COP meeting. A few days later, the diagnosis came, and surgery quickly followed. Doctors will soon set him on a course of treatment, but we rejoice that 95% of the tumor was removed. Years ago, Herb had promised his wife, Faith, that he would retire in September 2019. And now, after all these years of service, with Herb having reached retirement age, it is time for him to enjoy more time with his lovely wife, his children and his grandchildren.
I cannot thank God enough for the colleagues I’ve served with as Synod president. Herb has been a standout among many excellent and gifted servants of Christ. The Lord has blessed him with guilelessness. The Lord has blessed him with a work ethic unparalleled. The Lord has blessed him with a profound grasp of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions. The Lord has blessed him with deep humility and compassion. The Lord has blessed him with tremendous experience. The Lord has blessed him with wisdom, compassion, honesty and love. I’m a much better man and Synod president for knowing him and serving with him. Herb is in robust health otherwise; he’s had to be to keep up with his intense schedule of service to the church. For three terms we have maintained a vigorous visitation of all 35 districts (per the LCMS Constitution) to listen, learn and encourage. Herb has overseen the directive of the 2016 convention that we colloquize qualified licensed lay deacons into the Office of the Ministry. He’s carried out that herculean task with fidelity and kindness. And we agree that, according to the Bible (Rom. 10) and the Lutheran Confessions (AC XIV), if a man is regularly performing the duties of the pastoral office, he should be placed in the pastoral office (call and ordination).
Please join me in constant prayer for our beloved brother and colleague in Christ, that he will respond well to treatment and can join us at the 2019 LCMS convention in Tampa. Our theme is “Joy:fully Lutheran,” based on 1 Thess. 5:16–18, which reads, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” We rejoice over God’s great gift of Herb Mueller and kindly request you to join us in ceaseless prayer for him at this important juncture in his life.
The 2019 LCMS convention is just around the corner. Most of you reading this will not be in attendance. Many will. I remember some years ago visiting Lutheran Senior Services here in St. Louis. A group of retired pastors was sitting at a table, and I stopped by to talk with them and see how they were doing. One responded, “I used to get so worked up about LCMS conventions. Now I couldn’t care less!” And then he laughed uproariously. Synod conventions are important. According to our Constitution, conventions (under the authority of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions) have the final say in the LCMS. But the drama, frankly, is often overblown.
We work very hard to get issues to the floor in a way that they will find broad agreement. In fact, the past two conventions have had very high, perhaps record high, support for actions. The average resolution in 2016 passed at some 92%. I’ve had many delegates tell me that other delegates from previous conventions had told them to expect something negative when they go to the convention. But then, when they went to our convention, the events that they experienced were, in fact, very positive. In 2016, the two most controversial resolutions — regularizing of licensed lay deacons (Res. 13-02A) and ecclesiastical supervision (Res. 12-14) — passed by some 74% and 94%, respectively.
At our 2019 convention, we’ll have solid teaching on 1 Thess. 5:16–18 and being “Joy: fully Lutheran” — including rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving. The Lord will bless us, as He always does, with the election of qualified people to serve many different roles in the church. We’ll deal thoughtfully with important theological issues and with how to go about confessing Jesus in today’s world and culture. The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens, who planted and pastors a church in Berlin made up of nearly 2,000 former Muslims, will teach us about being thankful. We will have amazing reports from our missionaries around the globe. Our daily worship will be first rate! We’ll talk about challenges (and there are always challenges). And there will be humor. There is always good humor. I love to grab each of the vice-presidents and put them in the chair for a time. Something humorous always happens! There will be moments when offense is given or taken, and apologies and forgiveness in Jesus will predominate and take place. That’s what Christians do. No one will get everything that he or she wants. But the Lord will bless. You can count on it. This is convention number 67 in 172 years of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. And the Lord has not ceased to bless us!
I do hope you will watch the convention online at lcms.org/convention/livestream. Delegates invariably come away shocked at how large and extensive the work of the LCMS is. We all learn so much. This convention, we will rejoice together in being “Joy:fully Lutheran.” We will meet leaders representing millions of our friends from around the globe. And we will go forth, encouraged and confident to share Christ where we live and work. To God alone be the glory!
— Pastor Harrison