In 2010 Matthew Harrison was elected president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Part of his campaign for election included the document “It Is Time” published on the http://itistime.org/ website.
The document opens with the analogy of a ship in which 20% do not agree with the direction, and what to do about it. The idea the voting and winning just over 50% of the vote and then forcing the others to abide by the decisions does not create unity.
This document is a shot across the bow aimed directly at the conservatives who were responsible for causing the Seminex controversy in the 1970’s. It is a declaration against Preus and those who continue to dominate 40 years later. The stated goal is to undo the conservative coup in the LCMS.
The seminaries, particularly the St. Louis seminary, suffered great devaluation in the church’s life as a result of the controversy in the 1960s and 70s. It’s time clearly and actively to reverse that trend. (p.5)
The vision is to have LCMS seminaries begin to interact with every Lutheran Seminary in the world. This is indeed a reversal since the trend had been to separate in the name of doctrinal purity, in the face of social and theological issues that keep LCMS from unity with ELCA and the Lutheran World Federation.
This document says the manner of resolving issues is not to vote, win with a slim majority and then compel everyone who disagrees to abide by the vote. That method is what has caused the problems. The approach of Preus and the conservative coup is not traditional Lutheranism. Instead the path of Chemnitz is the example. In this example we will just continue to talk about the things we disagree on openly until eventually we come to unity.
No one group in the Synod has moral hegemony or superiority. We are all pure sinners, in need of pure grace. ( p. 8 )
It is time for a serious, decade-long effort—a non-politically organized and driven effort to regain theological and practical unity in the Synod.23 This route is the hard route. It will take time and effort. It will take courage. It will take men and women of integrity. It will also result in a Synod 85% united and on the path to even greater unity, precisely at a moment when such unity is needed like never before (p. 10)
The upshot is the synod will be unified on the non controversial things and that will be good enough. The synod will agree to agree on what it agrees on, agree to disagree but keep talking about what is disagreed about. The hedge that was built on the controversial issues will be torn down in the name of unity. In the new world the leaders may feel strongly that something is wrong, and even say so. They will however at the same time they say so allow others to hold and profess the other side publicly.
Simply put this path will be the destruction of the discipline that kept the LCMS on its conservative track. It will now run on conservative and liberal tracks at the same time. The traditional Lutheran approach doesn’t mean conservative evangelical values, rather the traditional Lutheran approach means agreeing to disagree and keep talking about the divide.