LCMS Newtown story hits the national media (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

February 7th, 2013 Post by

The national media have picked up on LCMS President Matthew Harrison’s response to the participation of Pastor Robert Morris in an interfaith prayer service in Newtown, Connecticut. The interfaith service took place on December 16, a letter from Pastor Morris regarding his participation was issued on January 31, and a letter from President Harrison on his handling of the situation was issued on February 1. Now, in the last 24 hours, an article by Caleb Bell of Religion News Service (RNS), “Lutheran pastor apologizes for praying at Newtown vigil,” has appeared in the Washington Post and other news outlets. And an article by Rachel Zoll of Associated Press (AP), “Newtown Pastor Reprimanded Over Prayer Vigil,” has appeared on ABC News and elsewhere. Expect to see the story now get even more coverage and commentary.

Of course, do not expect the coverage and commentary to understand or approve of what is going on. Even though, in my view, President Harrison’s letter is excellent, and his handling of the situation has been very balanced and pastoral–both evangelical and confessional–the media voices will not “get it.” To disapprove of interfaith services in our day is unpopular. It goes against American civil religion and political correctness. The prevailing notion in our culture is that “all roads lead to God,” and the spiritual smorgasbord that interfaith services offer falls right in line with that false belief. Even if a clergy participant is well-intentioned, and his portion of the service contains no false doctrine per se, the unavoidable effect is to support the “whatever works for you” overarching message.

I encourage you to read President Harrison’s letter for a truly “fair and balanced” approach. And I encourage you to speak up, in a winsome way, on various forums, comment sections, social media sites, etc., as to why our church does not approve of our clergy participating in interfaith services. It is not out of arrogance or lack of pastoral concern, but rather, just the opposite. It is so that, in venues–not necessarily high-profile ones–in venues both public and private, we can offer a clear and unmixed message, and people can hear that true hope is found in Jesus Christ our Lord, the one and only Savior of all men everywhere, and in him alone.

I’ll repeat what I wrote as a comment on Pastor Rossow’s post a few days ago:

I believe Pastor Morris’s intentions in participation were good. And he did take some measures to try to avoid giving wrong impressions, although those were inadequate, in my view. And I do believe Pastor Morris’s apology for giving offense is sincere. That’s a good start. Like President Harrison, I too accept his apology. However, that event that night was a joint worship service, an interfaith prayer service, even if Pastor Morris did not think it was. I hope he grows in his understanding of the inherent problems in any participation in joint worship services with the heterodox and/or heathen.

President Harrison’s letter is excellent. His handling of the whole situation is commendable. It is so much different and better than what we saw under the previous administration.

President Harrison rightly points to Article VI of the LCMS Constitution, on “renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description.” The members of our Synod need to come to a greater consensus and commitment on that, and I believe President Harrison will be able to help lead us in that direction over the coming years.

I am glad that things are moving in the right direction! May that continue! Thanks be to God!






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  1. Rev. McCall
    February 9th, 2013 at 15:41 | #1

    @Carl Vehse #49
    Might that be because such a letter does not exist?

  2. February 9th, 2013 at 18:26 | #2

    @James Gerhardt Sucha #42

    And I’m sure your liberal church body is proud of the “tolerance” that comment represents.

  3. February 10th, 2013 at 21:52 | #3

    @Derek Johnson #2
    LCMS has got to evolve. We’re not living in times in which heretics are burned at the stake anymore. Faith is important, but not faith in “The Inquisition.”

  4. Paul
    February 11th, 2013 at 19:50 | #4

    @Rev. Kevin Vogts #24
    Thats funny. I am the head of development for an organization that raises, philathropically, over $200M per year. I’m comfortable with my knowledge of development. Prior to that, worked with an organization that now raises over $800M per year. Neither one EVERR put their CEO’s picture on the exterior of the envelope.

    That said, I’m not a Harrison hater. Served on a board with him for several years and actually like the guy quite a bit. Have a great deal of respect for him, his office, his intellect, his genuine compassion for people, his humor and a great many other things (not everything, mind you, but a lot of things). But the people here would take every opportunity to bash his predecessor for every little thing under the sun. If I’m not mistaken he was called a pimp or a whoremonger (with a grand total of one person with the guts to rebuke it) or some vile thing like that right here on this site. Yep, I think he’s got a big ego (smaller, I think now that he has a first-hand look at how difficult the position is). That’s all. The direct mail pieces are proof of it. No big deal.

    So that’s me “manning up” JB. Funny how you take such issue with “potshots.” Havent spent much time on this site I guess.

  5. Nicholas Leone
    February 19th, 2013 at 21:12 | #5

    @John mark Samet #3

    The Bible doesn’t say to burn heretics. It says to reprimand and discipline them, and if they remain obstinate and unrepentant, to excommunicate them.

    Why don’t you go help the ELCA “evolve” some more? The LCMS will not give you a platform for heresy.

  6. Jeffrey
    February 27th, 2013 at 14:17 | #6

    Former President’s comments are absolutely in line with a serious biblical faith, and deserve full reading as widely as possible. http://www.icontact-archive.com/BLfgmhzNAinjEDvhgKWsUlcib5clKGYU?w=2

  7. February 27th, 2013 at 19:42 | #7

    @Nicholas Leone #5 Yes,I’m here to help the LCMS get with the times. When people of different faiths have died in a natural disaster due to weather, or to a wartime battle, or due to a gun wielding terrorist , we need and should come together for common prayer, not shun those who are not from our GROUP. We’re all from the SAME group, i.e. AMERTICANS.

  8. March 2nd, 2013 at 18:25 | #8

    Jerry Kieschnick absolutely HAS THE RIGHT IDEA.

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