REPOST: Responding to a Tragedy in Your Community in a Steadfast Way

InterfaithAny pastor worth his salt feels a tension between two good things: (1) breaking out beyond his own ecclesiastical ghetto so as to live in the public square as a Christian leader and (2) remaining faithful to the Word of God and an orthodox confession. Often, it feels as though a choice of one or the other has to be made. Think of the recent flap over Louie Giglio being disinvited (forced to withdraw?) from giving the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration. Whatever you think of the rest of Giglio’s Christian confession, he was forced out of the public square back into his ecclesiastical ghetto because of a single comment he made twenty years ago that homosexual behavior is sinful. The information about a statement made twenty years ago didn’t come out because someone just happened to be listening to a Louie Giglio tape from twenty years ago. Once he was announced, people who hate the rest of his confession went digging for what they could find that violates the public religion of our land. He could not have (1) and (2). We are at a time in cultural history where those who are allowed to participate in the public square must adhere to the new state religion which demands that you make a pluralistic and relativistic confession. If you don’t, you will not be granted a voice. If you don’t, you will be shouted down and ridiculed by the love and tolerance crowd (ironic, isn’t it?). Don’t believe me? Recall what can only  be called hate that was being spewed at the LCMS and at President Harrison on the LCMS facebook page over our Synod’s biblical position on fellowship in worship, or recall the hateful comments found on any of these news stories. This is the world we find ourselves in. Count the cost.

Because of the cultural tension between (1) and (2) Many Lutherans have given up on having both of them together, with some opting for (1) over (2), or vice versa. Neither is right. Neither the pastor who holds his confession privately but will not take it into the public square nor the pastor who ignores or qualifies his confession in order to gain access to the public square are faithful. But from the beginning of the church, Christians have lived as Christians in the public square without compromising the witness and worship of Jesus Christ. They’ve done this in times that were even more hostile than our own.

So if there is a way to have (1) and (2) together, how will it be done? How do we bear public witness and live openly in the public square while holding steadfast to our confession?

More specifically, when a tragedy strikes a community — whether or not it gains national attention — how should a pastor (and by extension, laypersons) respond in the eye of the community?

  1. Don’t wait on others to organize some communal worship event on which you will piggyback. Don’t let them set the agenda and then pressure you to get on board. Organize your own service. Announce it in the local paper. Get on the radio. Tell your parishioners to invite friends. Invite other clergy to attend, but <i>you</i> be the one to publicly witness to the grace of God in the midst of tragedy by providing a clear, unequivocal, faithful voice as God’s called and ordained servant. If there are other LCMS churches in the area, ask the pastors to participate in the service. Have them robe in vestments.
  2. Call your district. Call the synod. See what relief efforts, if any, can be made to your community. Maybe they can help. Maybe they can’t. You don’t know until you try.
  3. If people have been injured, go visit them in the hospital — nevermind whether they are your parishioners or not. This is true community chaplaincy.
  4. Perhaps you can sponsor a drive for affected victims if this fits the situation.
  5. Write an editorial to the newspaper pointing people to hope in Jesus Christ for the deliverance from evil.
  6. If you’ve done anything like 1-5, there’s a good chance you’ll end up on the local news. Most people find it shameless when athletes use their access to the media as a platform to push some personal belief (whatever it may be), but when it comes to pastors, not only do they not find it shameless — they expect it (even if they don’t agree with you). So don’t be afraid to get on camera speak boldly about the tragedy. Be careful, however, to speak clearly and succinctly so that your words cannot be twisted through an editing job.

Get out in front of the response to the tragedy. Lead instead of follow, and you won’t need to serve up Jesus as one of the side dishes in the smorgasbord of faiths. Any accusation that you don’t care about the victims because you refused to participate in the new state religion is much more likely to ring hollow.

About Pastor John Fraiser

Pastor Fraiser didn't begin as a Lutheran, but he became one as soon as he could. He grew up as a Baptist and received his M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. With time on his hands following his seminary studies, he began reading the writings of Martin Luther and became convinced that Lutheran doctrine was a faithful presentation of the doctrine of Scripture and answered many of his perplexing Baptist questions. After joining the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, he went on for graduate philosophy studies, while also taking post-graduate courses at Concordia Seminary. Though he intended to teach philosophy in a university setting, he also applied as a candidate for ordination through the Synod’s colloquy program with the plans of bi-vocational parish ministry. Following colloquy, he assisted in a vacancy at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in LaGrange, Kentucky where he was eventually called as pastor. He said 'no' to a philosophy PhD fellowship and was ordained on Luther’s ordination date – April 3rd – in 2011. Pr. Fraiser is married to Emily, and they have a four-year-old daughter named Jillian.


REPOST: Responding to a Tragedy in Your Community in a Steadfast Way — 13 Comments

  1. @Rev. Larry D. Wright #1

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone this misinterpreted, and from the looks of it, you tried very hard to get it wrong.

    I’d like to say that the problem is that my post is full of vague expressions and that you’ve opted for the least likely interpretation in each case, but that wouldn’t be accurate because many times you opt for an interpretation that just makes no sense at all.

    So long as whatever agenda that motivated you to misconstrue my entire post in the first place is still in play, I have no confidence that further dialogue is worth any effort. Those who have already read your comment — whether here or on your Facebook repost — can only tell that you’re griping about something but they don’t seem to be able to figure out what that really is. I can see why. I’ve read your rant several times now, and I’m honestly no closer to understanding almost anything you’ve said. About the most I can come up with is that you’ve got some kind of hang up about the word ‘ghetto’.

    Now, if you’d like to calm down, take a decent tone, and actually dialogue about the subject, maybe we can get somewhere in conversation and understanding one another. I welcome this. But with the assume-the-worst approach you’ve taken here, I know where these conversations end up, and it’s no good for either of us. I don’t know you, Larry, but I promise you that I would never treat you — another brother in the Office — with the kind of contempt you’ve shown for me here. If you care to, try again once the anger subsides, and it’s likely that you’ll be able to state your points more discernibly and that I’ll be able to dialogue with you.

  2. So far there is nothing on the WMLT blogsite about resources for Sunday of Easter 4 in light of the explosions at the West Fertilizer Co. plant in West, Texas, which killed a dozen people. There is also nothing on the Texas District website. Five Missouri Synod churches are within 30 miles of the destroyed plant:

    Christ Lutheran Church, Hillsboro, TX (16 miles)
    St. Paul Lutheran Church, Bellmead, TX (17 miles)
    St. Mark Lutheran Church, Waco, TX (22 miles)
    Our Savior Lutheran Church, Whitney, TX (26 miles)
    Peace Lutheran Church, Waco, TX (30 miles)

    It’s not know whether there will be any interfaith or Lutheran prayer services and who will be participating. But since both Texas Senators voted yesterday against the Demonrat gang rape of the 2nd amendment, the White Hut occupant will probably not even send some low-level delegation (the second-floor janitors) like he did to former PM Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, which was the same low-level delegation he sent to the funeral of Venezuelan thug dictator, Hugo Chevez.

  3. Pardon me a second here – – but you wrote:
    “Organize your own service. …… Tell your parishioners to invite friends. Invite other clergy to attend”

    Are we drawing a line between “attending” and “participating”?

    Since if we are NOT drawing that line then the service will be the same as all the others to date. If we ARE then things would be okay, but the pastors sitting there listening might be miffed – – but that’s okay too.

  4. Invite other clergy to attend, but you be the one to publicly witness to the grace of God in the midst of tragedy by providing a clear, unequivocal, faithful voice as God’s called and ordained servant. If there are other LCMS churches in the area, ask the pastors to participate in the service. Have them robe in vestments.

    I’m not sure why you find this statement unclear. Non-LCMS pastors attending is certainly different than LCMS robed clergy participating.

  5. @Scott Troemel #6
    “Invite other clergy to attend” assumes the reader will know Lutherans invite to participate only the clergy with whom they are in full fellowship. On the other hand, we invite to attend everyone for whom Christ died.

    If they are miffed, they need to remember that we do invite them to join us, truly join us, but they reject us by rejecting what we teach and believe — the Word.

  6. Pastor Fraiser and Mr. Rixe

    It is obviously I who have a misinterpreted, I apologize for the tone and tenor of my note. Is it possible to further explain what is meant to be conveyed by the first part of the first sentence….

    “Any pastor worth his salt feels a tension between two good things: (1) breaking out beyond his own ecclesiastical ghetto so as to live in the public square as a Christian leader…”

  7. @Carl Vehse #5
    There is also nothing on the Texas District website.

    Maybe TX District will get something out for West next week.
    Meanwhile, Pastor James Heiser, Salem, has West in his parish.
    I can forward his letter if no one else does. 😮

  8. Yes, I got Rev. Heiser’s letter. Salem Lutheran Church (ELDoNA) in Malone is about 16 miles NE of West, TX. According to Rev. Heiser, no one from Salem was injured. One Salem family living in West was shaken by the blast but did not lose their home.

  9. Pastor Fraiser
    I apologize. My comments were neither constructive nor made in a way to produce constructive discussion.

  10. According to CBS-Houston, “Monstrous Tornado Kills 2 Dozen Children At Elementary School,” Plaza Towers Elementary School, in Moore, OK, between Oklahoma City and Norman.

    St John’s Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Moore, OK is 2 miles from the school.

    Calls to area pastors to participate in interfaith prayer services for the families of those children killed, the injured survivors, and those who lost their homes and possessions can soon be expected.

    There is disaster relief information, though nothing current yet, on the Oklahoma District Disaster Response Website (LCMS).

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