Friday, December 18, 2009

LHP Review: This IS My Grandfather's Church!

Harrison, Matthew C. At Home in the House of My Fathers: Presidential Sermons, Essays, Letters, and Addresses from the Missouri Synod's Great Era of Unity and Growth. Bridgeport, TX: Lutheran Legacy, 2009. 826 Pages. Cloth. $19.95. (Available from LOGIA, (LHP)

Reading an 826-page volume is a daunting prospect, even for a committed bibliophile. Matthew Harrision makes it a fascinating, illuminating, and thoroughly enjoyable exercise in historical theology.

Some of the "Presidential Sermons, Essays, Letters, and Addresses from the Missouri Synod's Great Era of Unity and Growth" have been available before in English translation, while others are provided here in a fresh, readable English that does justice to the German original of the first five German-born presidents of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.

Each portion of the book has an introduction from Rev. Harrison, which serves as an ongoing background continuity that provides necessary context to understand the significance of each piece of writing, as well as contemporary application to today's LCMS. The consistent message is that unity in the Missouri Synod was always created by the Holy Spirit among those who studied the Word together. Missouri walks (walked?) together because it did theology together. Christian freedom was sometimes surrendered to walk with brother pastors and sister congregations for the greater goals of unity and mission.

At Home, faithfully read, will give the reader an enormous appreciation for what the LCMS was (and in many ways still is), but is in danger of no longer being. This would be an excellent text for an LCMS history course, or for any Lutheran pastor or life-long Lutheran.

This wonderful tome was my companion for a week of preparation for the BRTFSSG Regional Gathering in Denver the first week of December. I finished it on the way home. One of the included essays, "Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod" (224ff) was also sent to delegates to the 2010 LCMS Convention in Houston before the round of the nine regional gathering. The version here is formatted in a more reader-friendly format than the one previously available in a two-volume collection of convention essays by Dr. Walther. (CPH generously reprinted the essay and included it with the final report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance). If only delegates would read that one essay!

Walther, Wynecken, Schwan, Pieper, and Pfotenauer are largely unknown to some of the pastors and most of the laity of American Lutheranism, even in some sectors of the LCMS.

I came away from the book with a better understanding of Loehe's personal theological struggles with his church body's governing body, and his falling-out with the Missouri Synod. I have a deeper appreciation for the mission-heart of these fathers of the LCMS and how it flowed from a love of pure Bible teaching and the doctrine of Dr. Martin Luther. They saw the treasure of Christian freedom and how unity in practice was also a godly goal that was consistent with the Gospel.

At Home in the House of My Fathers evidences five LCMS Presidents and pastors who saw benefit in a consistent doctrine, practice with those saints who have entered their eternal rest. The editor is appropriately thankful that the LCMS is his grandfather's church, one engaged in preserving the pure Word of God, passionate in Gospel outreach, and engaged in compassionate human care.

QBR gives this book our highest recommendation.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.