The meaning of Pastor Morris’ apology on the synod’s WMLT blog is hard to decipher. His recent interview in the Newtown Bee sheds some light on it. Even though President Harrison calls his participation in the Vigil Service unionism and syncretism, which is a sin according to Scriptural teaching and forbidden according to the LCMS Constitution, Morris makes it clear that he did not apologize for his sinful participation in the event. Here is the first paragraph of the story.
Rob Morris, the pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown, has apologized to those who were upset or offended at his participation in the December 16, 2012, vigil at Newtown High School. He is not apologizing, however, for being part of that evening’s presentation.
The article also has some interesting news from Pastor Morris about compensation for “combat duty.”
The Synod paid for the Morris family — Pastor Rob, his wife Christy, and their two sons — to go on vacation after 12/14, and has also arranged for visits to Newtown by comfort dogs.
We contacted officials at the International Center and they said this was a result of synod’s mercy work. Funds are given to each district and they are then given out as it is seen fit.
I am all in favor of this if the “vacation” was intended to get Morris away from the ruckus so that he could have time to reflect and see his sin. It is a little different story if it was simply for rest and relaxation. I am not sure confessional Grandpa Schmidt in St. Louis who sees Pastor Morris’ actions as wrong would like to see his offerings going to this cause. (I actually do know of a confessional grandpa in St. Louis who views it this way.)
Or, as one LCMS pastor said to me in light of this, “I didn’t get a paid vacation from synod when my congregation ran me out of the parish.”
Here is a confusing quote from Pastor Morris in the Bee’s story.
It was not a worship service,” Pastor Morris said on February 7. “How could it be? What I said was nothing other than words of Scripture.
That is a non-sequitur. Our synod approved liturgies are also nothing but the words of Scripture. (Kudos again to the LSB committee for including all those Scripture references in the hymnal.) Lutheran worship is filled with Scripture.
Morris is also quoted as saying ministering is hard, but ministering Christ’s grace is a gift, no matter the circumstances.
It is a clear teaching of Scripture and Lutheranism that there is no gospel (gift) without the law. Pastor Morris did not minister grace at the Newtown event. That is like saying the Jesuits were correct in conducting mass baptisms of pagans who had no idea what was going on (indiscriminately sprinkling water on crowds with the baptismal formula).
The story goes on to say that Morris says that the event, promoted by the organizers as a Vigil Service, was not a worship service. Common sense says that if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, and so forth, then it is a duck. We are not sure what Pastor Morris believes this was. These things are usually explained away by those who violate the LCMS Constitution, Article VI, section 2b as some sort of civic event. Here is a typical outline of a civic event followed by the outline of the Newtown Vigil Service.
Patriotic music by the community band
Invocation by local clergyman or politician
The pledge of allegiance
Singing of the national anthem
Introduction of dignitaries
More political speeches (ad nauseum)
Closing prayer by local clergy or politician
Everyone sings “God Bless America” led by the community band
Newtown Vigil Service
Disclaimer that none of the speakers is endorsing another’s viewpoint (This was then followed up by at least a half dozen references by the speakers that they are doing this in unity and that they had to be together this night in order to do this. Click here to see the video. Click here to see all the videos on the BJS Youtube channel.)
Prayer (to mother god, father god, or to whatever name we might call it)
Psalmody (chanted liturgically by the local Rabbi)
Prayers (some of them chanted liturgically by Muslim man and boy)
Reading of the 23rd Psalm (there was ritual standing and sitting at this point)
If it looks like a worship service, if it sounds like a worship service, if it is outlined like a worship service, then it is a worship service.
This was a very interesting interview given by Pastor Morris indeed!