KIRKWOOD — Though his margin of victory thinned, the Rev. Matthew Harrison won a fourth term to lead the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is based here and has 6,000 congregations in the United States and Canada.
Harrison, 57, said Wednesday in an announcement that it was an honor to serve the church “at this crucial moment.”
The Missouri Synod has been losing members and cutting its network of colleges and overseas missions because of diminishing resources and budget cuts. Amid fallen birthrates, the church has also struggled to retain younger members and find new ones. Enrollment has been declining at its two affiliated seminaries in Clayton and Fort Wayne, Ind.
“Where pastors and people are in Bible study, they are much better at resolving conflict and more focused on outreach,” Harrison told a Missouri Synod publication this month. “Challenges with universities, seminaries, congregations, evangelism, stewardship, mission, culture, care for workers (you name it!) are solved not by programs but by Christians who know the Scriptures.”
Congregations nominate presidential candidates every three years. A body of 6,449 pastoral and lay voters registered by each congregation then make the final selection.
Harrison garnered 3,014 votes, or 51.76%, followed by the Rev. David P.E. Maier, president of the synod’s Michigan District, who received 2,323 votes, or 39.89%; and the Rev. Timothy M. Klinkenberg, senior pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Orange, Calif., who won 486 votes, or 8.35%, according to results released Wednesday. In 2016, Harrison won 57% of the vote, down from 66% in 2013.
Harrison is from Sioux City, Iowa. Before becoming president in 2010, he oversaw the church’s response to natural disasters.
The Missouri Synod brand of Lutheranism leans traditional. It was founded in 1847 as The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States.