Thanks, Herb!

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 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

6 thoughts on “Thanks, Herb!”

  1. Russell Thurman

    I knew Vice President Mueller as Herbie when he was my suite mate at Concordia Ann Arbor..
    I had the great opportunity to spend some time with his Mom& Dad and the rest of his family at their home. I will never forget those times.
    I am very grateful to God for his becoming the first vice president and I am grateful that God has granted him rest with his family .
    In spite of the business of his office and of the burden of prayer that is upon him he took the time out to minister to me when I had the same kind of aneurysm in my heart and the same size as he did .

  2. Pastor Herb (because he has such a kind, pastoral heart) graciously served our Lay Deacon Task Force and brought such calm and level reasoning. It was my privilege to to work along side Dr. Mueller as our group wrestled with challenges to conduct appropriate ministry. He is a blessing to our church. May the Lord bless you with a well earned retirement.

  3. Pastor Steven Hicks

    Rev. Dr. Mueller and I have met a couple of times and I have always found him to be one of the most upstanding Christian men that I ever met.
    I thank him for being a thoughtful leader and calming influence as he lead me through my Colloquoy interview. Something I will always remember as a proud and God blessed day in my life.
    Prayers on your recovery my brother in Christ! Get better so that you can enjoy the next part of your life in retirement.

  4. Rev. David Stout

    I thank the Lord for Dr. Mueller’s gracious kindness to me when I entered the ministerium by colloquy. He is in my prayers and will always have my appreciation.

  5. Rev. Dr. Charles Cortright

    Rev. Dr. Herb Mueller headed my colloquy committee with kindness, thoroughness, and Christian fidelity to both this candidate and the church he has served for so long. He will always have my thanks and gratitude. May our Lord bless him and his family in this period of recuperation with the peace of Christ!

  6. Rev. Tom Wenndt

    I had noticed a few weeks back – without any notice or fanfare – that Dr. Mueller was not on the nominating ballot for 1st Vice-President this time around. Obviously that is a separate issue from his recent health struggles. Still, earnest prayer and thanksgiving for him had begun before I even knew of what seemed to be a most grim diagnosis. But our Savior still brings grace upon grace. Whether or not his health will allow him to join us down here in Tampa for the convention, I pray that we take at least some time at convention to give heartfelt thanks for all he has done and meant to our church body. While he undoubtedly will view himself as nothing more than a sinner in need of the forgiveness offered through His Savior, Jesus Christ, we have all benefited from his faithfulness and dedication. God bless him and his family!

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