Sola Structura

This may be an apocryphal story, but I was told my someone that the sainted Herman Sasse and Kurt Maquart were attending the vaunted Vatican II Council. As things were going on and on and on about this or that bureaucratic point St. Herman leaned over to St. Kurt and whispered, “Sola Structura.” Well, that ain’t us, is it? I think it is. I think as long as the structure of the LCMS is sound, or regarded as such, “God is in heaven and all is right with the world.”

What else can explain President Harrison’s obsession, his fetish, with the calmness of Synod. The June 2018 Reporter, Synod’s state-run paper, says: “In his report to the BOD Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said ‘the district convention season is in full swing,’ and that, judging by the resolutions being considered at those gathering, things are ‘remarkably calm’”  (June 2018 Reporter, 5).This might be a trenchant observation if it weren’t tragic.

Below is a list of public statements by our fearless leader where he pontificates on the calmness of Synod. This list wasn’t gathered by me but by a layman in my congregation (Richard Strickert) who extracts things from the internet that I didn’t know where there. Moreover, he cites them.

  • Harrison: “The Synod is enjoying a calm non-convention year.” (LCMS BOD 2/17-18/2017 Minutes)
  • Harrison: “We’ve come a long, long way. The 2016 [LCMS] convention was unbelievably calm.” (Reporter, February 28, 2017)
  • Harrison referred to the convention as “really pretty calm … [and] remarkable” (Reporter, September 22, 2016)
  • “From what I can see, it’s been remarkably calm” for a year leading up to a Synod convention, President Harrison said as he began his report to the Board. (Reporter, December 18, 2015)
  • President Harrison touched on a number of subjects in his oral report, noting that from what he has seen, “the Synod is remarkably calm for a convention year.” (LCMS BOD 11/19-20/ 2015)
  • “It’s very calm in the church,” Harrison told the [LCMS National Mission] board (Reporter, 10/21/2015)
  • “The district conventions were extremely calm and positive across the board,” Harrison told the BOD (Reporter, 8/27/2015)
  • He [Harrison also provided a general report of the tone of the recent district conventions, calling them “extremely calm” and his presence at twenty-one of the conventions “well received,” indicative of a “very positive mood across the church.” (LCMS BOD 8/20-21/2015 Minutes)
  • He [Harrison] spoke of the “basically calm” 2015 district conventions that had met so far (Reporter, 6/25/2015)
  • He [Harrison] commended the Board for its consideration of the balanced budget for 2016, characterized LCMS district conventions as “calm,” welcomed Robson to the staff, and mentioned Synod units that are “hitting their stride.” (Reporter, 5/21/2015)
  • President Matthew Harrison began his report with positive comments regarding the Synod, stating that this is “a good moment for us, really blessed,” as evidenced by warm receptions and calm collegiality at district conventions and the growth of international mission efforts. (LCMS BOD 5/15-16/2015 Minutes)
  • “The Synod remains pretty calm as it goes about its work,” Harrison told the Board in his president’s report. (Reporter, 5/30/2015)
  • In his report to the COP, Harrison noted that “the Synod remains calm and busy about its task of sharing Christ as it carries out its manifold ministries.” (Reporter, 5/7/2014)
  • President Rev. Dr. [sic] Matthew C. Harrison thanked [Rev. David W. Totsky] for reading the Bylaws in such a “sonorous, calm” voice and joked, “I may ask CPH to publish them in audio version to help me go to sleep every night.” (Reporter, 7/23/2013)
  • While there are some doctrinal disagreements in the Synod, his [Harrison’s] observation, based on attending the conventions, is that the Synod “is rather calm and very much united in a number of areas, including the recent HHS mandate challenge to religious freedom.” (Reporter, 10/17/2012)
  • Harrison: “While the Synod does have some ongoing doctrinal disagreements, overall the conventions were quite calm, celebrating unity in many areas of the Synod’s life together.” (LCMS BOD 8/23-24/2012 Minutes) [Emphasis added]


I said of Harrison’s predecessor that he fiddled about doctrine while the Synod was Ablaze. Harrison proclaims calmness because he ignores the doctrinal divides. We do not agree on the doctrines of: Communion (also known as the Gospel), the Order of Creation, unionism or  syncretism. But all is well because we can calmly come together – at the invitation of our leaders – and commune together.

The structure remains intact as long as we do this, but at what price? At the cost of conscience and of health. When you commune with those you know you don’t agree with in regard to the Gospel and all its articles, you don’t partake of calmness but of weakness, sickness, and even deadness. But hallelujah! At least calm prevails over the Synod structure.

I referenced the doldrums in a May 2017 post. The verb for that is becalm. It was terrible news when the captain of sailing ship announced: “We are becalmed!” Physical life and death hung on whether the wind would come back into the sails. It’s a matter of spiritual life when a church body is becalmed. Apart from the Holy Spirit breathing wind back into the sails of confessional Lutheranism in the LCMS, we will calmly go the way of the ELCA. “Land Ho!”

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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