Steadfast in the Pew: Public Prayers With Pagans

February 15th, 2013 Post by

newtonIn times of tragedy it is not uncommon for communities to unite together. The school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut is but one of a number of examples of grief stricken, hurt, persons seeking each other out for comfort in the aftermath of a horrible event.

Even while community members at the epicenter of disaster look to each other for solace at perhaps their greatest time of fear and vulnerability, there remains something constant and that is our universal need to feel like we are in control. Communities want to make sense out of the senseless, and bring comfort to those in pain. Enter the community prayer services designed to show unity in support to the victims and their families.

We witnessed one of these prayer services in the aftermath of the Newton massacre. Indeed, many articles have been written pointing out the syncretism involved at one such prayer service involving an LC-MS pastor and several more articles have been written in response to those who have rightfully called for the public apology of the LC-MS pastor who wrongly participated in the prayer service.

One of the supporters of this pastor’s involvement in the syncretistic and unionistic prayer service, likened his invocation and blessing upon all present at the prayer service—in the name of the Triune God—to that of the Apostle Paul preaching and teaching in synagogues and temples. Is blessing all those present at a prayer service in the name of the Triune God, which included Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christian groups, really the same thing that the Apostle Paul did as he preached the Gospel around the Mediterranean? I think not.

Such a claim is quite similar to the justification for this pastor’s participation that we ought to be all things to all people, just as the Apostle Paul was “all things to all people” as recorded in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. In this Scripture passage, Paul is writing to the unruly Corinthian congregation in answer to some sort of charge that he and Barnabas don’t have a right to earn a living from preaching the gospel (see verses 6 through 14). Paul responds that he has abrogated his right to earn his living from preaching the Gospel in order to not be a stumbling block to the Corinthians. He goes on further to explain that he must preach the Gospel (paid or not) and in so doing he has made himself a “servant to all” (vs. 19). In short, Paul’s becoming “all things to all people” meant that it is the Gospel which set him free to preach it among Jews and Gentiles alike. Not being under the Law meant he was free to observe Jewish practices, when among the Jews, that did not compromise, or undermine, the truth of the Gospel and likewise he was free by the Gospel to live amongst the Gentiles, but was not free to adopt their pagan practices. Being “all things to all people” does not mean that the boundaries of doctrinal truth should be crossed in a show of community support.

Rather than rushing into participation at public prayer events with pagans, we should stand firm in the faith handed to us by the Apostles and lovingly pronounce the Gospel in its purity to the world around us. After all, the most comforting message a community in distress can hear is the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.






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  1. Johan Bergfest
    February 15th, 2013 at 08:19 | #1

    The SP says that this matter is OVER.

    How many more arias does the fat lady have to sing before it really is over?

  2. Rev. McCall
    February 15th, 2013 at 08:33 | #2

    It would have been nice to say that Pelagianism was over hundreds of years ago too, and settled doctrine that no one would ever fall into again. It would be nice to be able to say the matter of who Jesus Christ was was settled with the writing of the Nicene Creed. Yet those pesky Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness’ just won’t let it drop. Funny how the struggle for truth is never really over just because a politician or a pope says it is. Wasn’t this matter OVER under Kieschnick as well? Settled, done with, you name it because the SP said so? Yet those darn errors and false teachings just don’t seem to go away. :-)

  3. Carl Vehse
    February 15th, 2013 at 08:43 | #3

    @Johan Bergfest #1 : “The SP says that this matter is OVER.”

    Where did he say that?

  4. Joe Strieter
    February 15th, 2013 at 09:39 | #4

    Johan Bergfest :
    The SP says that this matter is OVER.
    How many more arias does the fat lady have to sing before it really is over?

    If it’s over, then perhaps someone will inform the Drs. Kieschnick and Benke that their ecclesiastical supervisor has said so. Interesting that with all the “team-talk” of Transforming Congregations (I have personally seen LCMS “Elder Teams,” “Evangelism Teams,” “Education Teams,” and “Stewardship Teams,”) the bogosity pushed so hard by the previous administration, that these two leaders have shown an persistent unwillingness to be “team players.”

  5. John Rixe
    February 15th, 2013 at 10:00 | #5

    We have mutually forgiven each other where we have fallen short.
    We are reconciled.
    We are at peace.
    – Pr Harrison, Pr Morris, Pr Yeadon

    Yes, my Lord and King,
    give me the grace to see my own faults 
    and not to judge my brother.
    For blessed are You forever and ever. Amen.
    – St Ephraim

  6. Carl Vehse
    February 15th, 2013 at 10:40 | #6

    @John Rixe #5 : “We have mutually forgiven each other where we have fallen short”

    As noted in the letters of Pres. Harrison, Pres. Yeadon, and Rev. Morris, that statement applies to the apologies of Rev. Morris where he caused offense to some, and of Pres. Harrison for his “debacle” in handling the apology, “as we try again to work toward resolution” (further indicating that the matter is not over).

    Rev. Morris has refused to recognize that he fell short in his syncretic participation as a co-officiant, along with a demigod (to some leg-tingling MSM), at an interfaith prayer service. The Synod’s Constitution and Bylaws (Remember those? Synodical members used to subscribe to and follow them.) provide a Dispute Resolution Procedure (Bylaw 1.10) to use in such cases.

    The continuing whine, “this matter is over,” is just hot air.

  7. John Rixe
    February 15th, 2013 at 11:10 | #7

    Our dealings have been marked throughout with patience, kindness, and love. We implore the church to do likewise. – Pr Harrison, Pr Morris, Pr Yeadon

  8. Jim Hamilton
    February 15th, 2013 at 11:38 | #8

    I wonder if liberals like Rixe and Bergfest would be so adamant that this matter is “over” if Harrison had strongly reprimanded Pastor Morris for his unionism and syncretism? Somehow I suspect that in that case we would have to continue “dialoging” until the liberals got their way.

  9. #4 Kitty
    February 15th, 2013 at 11:55 | #9

    John Rixe is a liberal? That’s strange; I never see him at any of the meetings.

  10. John Rixe
    February 15th, 2013 at 12:52 | #10

    “CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is when you attack the ISSUE and seek to
    resolve the issue in a healthy manner.

    DESTRUCTIVE antagonism is when you attack the PERSON and
    seek to destroy and demean him or her.”      – Pr Likeness  

    PS – not a liberal. I just reflect the views of most average laypeople. :)

  11. Lumpenkönig
    February 15th, 2013 at 16:41 | #11

    @Johan Bergfest #1

    If the matter is OVER (and I agree with you that it should be), then what did ex-president Gerry Kieschnick hope to accomplish by questioning the credibility of Pastor Harrison? Where is the love? Could the former president explain in further detail? Gerry Kieschnick should be supporting the Harrison administration, not attacking it publicly and making the LCMS look foolish in the eyes of non-Lutherans. His “Einmischung” served to divide the LCMS even more. If I want to witness the LCMS being ridiculed, I will watch the ELCA pastors do it daily on the ALPB forum.

    The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, the former Missouri Synod president who had defended Benke, has also spoken out in support of Morris. Kieschnick wrote on his blog that Morris was “responding in a pastoral way to people in need of healing and hope.” Outsiders watching this dispute will “shake their heads in disgust and dismay. For them, the image of our church becomes one of isolationism, sectarianism and legalism,” Kieschnick said.

    Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/lutheran_pastor_appologizes_for_qhP4MeBxd6C2DPmnLIgSLO

  12. William
    February 15th, 2013 at 16:42 | #12

    @John Rixe #10
    I concur with your first two comments, but ” I just reflect the views of most average laypeople.” That seems somewhat presumptuous. And even if true, it doesn’t convey a right/correct view or a wrong/incorrect view for that matter.

  13. Lumpenkönig
    February 15th, 2013 at 16:51 | #13

    Joe Strieter :

    Johan Bergfest :
    The SP says that this matter is OVER.
    How many more arias does the fat lady have to sing before it really is over?

    If it’s over, then perhaps someone will inform the Drs. Kieschnick and Benke that their ecclesiastical supervisor has said so. Interesting that with all the “team-talk” of Transforming Congregations (I have personally seen LCMS “Elder Teams,” “Evangelism Teams,” “Education Teams,” and “Stewardship Teams,”) the bogosity pushed so hard by the previous administration, that these two leaders have shown an persistent unwillingness to be “team players.”

    It makes me sick that millions of LCMS Lutherans have no clue how their offering money is spent. I would wager that 85% of the membership would be very angry if they really knew.

    After three years of the Harrison administration and after the restructuring of Synod, does anyone know the current status of these activities? What is the status of these programs at the district level? Has the influence of such teams grown, shrunk, or stayed the same?

  14. Nicholas
    February 15th, 2013 at 18:22 | #14

    @John Rixe #10

    You reflect the views of a tiny minority in the synod.

  15. John Rixe
    February 15th, 2013 at 18:29 | #15

    @William #12

    Agreed William. Just pointing out my views are mainstream LCMS and not liberal (nor necessarily correct). As I’ve said before, participation in the vigil was a mistake and shouldn’t be repeated.

  16. Joe Strieter
    February 15th, 2013 at 18:33 | #16

    @Lumpenkönig #13

    You asked, “After three years of the Harrison administration and after the restructuring of Synod, does anyone know the current status of these activities? What is the status of these programs at the district level? Has the influence of such teams grown, shrunk, or stayed the same?”

    It’s typical that a new administration quietly shoves such programs as TCN off to the side with little, if any, fanfare. Unless I’m mistaken, TCN has lost a lot, if not all of its funding from Synod. It has RSO status, but that’s about it. On the other hand, it’s alive and well, and its proponents and practitioners continue to push it. In my opinion, it remains an utter bogosity, and is still inimical to both Church and Ministry in the LCMS. Everytime I hear the term, “Team” in connection with a congregation’s organization (translation: “structure”) I get bilious. When the chairman of the Board of Elders introduces himself as “Leader of the Elder Team,” it’s hard not to scream.

    My apologies for thread-jacking here, and going down a rabbit trail, but I think further explanation is called for. As far as other such programs, I think “Fan Into Flame” is history, but I could be wrong. You need to keep in mind that many of these programs were passed by Synodical Conventions, altho TCN was not mentioned by name in the Revitalization Resolution passed by the 2007 Convention. I was there, and I got sucked in. Here’s the text of that resolution (Note that the last “Whereas” is patently false, and is a direct quote from Paul Borden’s “Direct Hit”):

    To Support Revitalization of LCMS
    Congregations
    RESOLUTION 1-01A
    Report R1-01 (CW, pp. 39–45); Overture 1-03 (CW, p. 133), 2007 Proceedings, p. 111

    WHEREAS, In response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Ablaze! goals of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod—to share the Good News of Jesus with 50 million unreached
    or uncommitted people in North America and to begin 2,000 new missions by the year 2017—will be accomplished by the committed outreach activities of individuals in local
    congregations; and

    WHEREAS, The 2004 convention called for every LCMS church to move toward being a mission outpost. Currently, 67 congregations are participating in a pilot program testing
    mission revitalization strategies; and

    WHEREAS, A revitalized congregation is regularly and consistently making new disciples and renewing its members in order that they make new disciples through the
    power of the Holy Spirit; therefore be it

    Resolved, That the LCMS in convention adopt a goal of praying and working for the mission revitalization of at least 2,000 existing LCMS churches by 2017; and be it further

    Resolved, That the LCMS through its districts, congregations, Lutheran Hour Ministries, the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, LWML, and LCMS World Mission through its national team support the mission revitalization efforts as a major component of Ablaze!

    Action: Adopted (1)
    (During discussion, a suggestion to amend the third whereas paragraph by adding the words and renewing its members in order that they after the first occurrence of the word disciples in place of the word who was agreed to by the committee. The resolution
    was adopted as changed [Yes: 929; No: 199].)

  17. February 17th, 2013 at 07:02 | #17

    How to Witness to Jesus Christ in the Public Square and Avoid Syncretism

    A paper by Rev. Daniel Preus, Fourth Vice-President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

    Part 1
    For Christians it goes without saying that we are going to talk about Jesus to those who do not yet know Him, and for that matter, also to those who do. Jesus says that He is the way, the truth and the life and nobody comes to the Father except through Him. (Jn. 14:6) Peter says that there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.(Acts 4:12) Again St. Peter says, “Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, in meekness and in fear.” (I Peter 3:15) Why?

    http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/02/16/how-to-witness-to-jesus-christ-in-the-public-square-and-avoid-syncretism/

  18. February 17th, 2013 at 07:08 | #18

    This powerful message of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ is the message we need to bring to the public square. This message of a Savior who covers our guilt and frees us from sin and death, not anemic platitudes about a generic god, is what our fallen world still desperately needs to hear. When opportunities come our way to bring this Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to the people of our land, we welcome them and with joy proclaim the glories of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

  19. February 17th, 2013 at 14:20 | #19

    With thanks and due acknowledgement to:

    Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I packed the paper in a PDF :

    How Can We Give a Witness for Jesus Christ in the Public Square
    While Avoiding the Errors of Unionism and Syncretism?

    By:

    Rev. Daniel Preus, Fourth Vice-President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

    This was first printed here:

    Logia

    a journal of lutheran theology

    SYNCRETISM, SYNERGISM, & SECULARISM

    Holy trinity 2003 volume xii, number 3

    http://www.logia.org/fullpdf/2003123.pdf

    The Paper link:

    By Daniel Preus,
    February 17-18, 2003 – Soli Deo Gloria

    Originally titled:
    How Can We Give a Witness for Jesus Christ in the Public Square
    While Avoiding the Errors of Unionism and Syncretism?

    Delivered February 17-18 2003 at a Joint Theological Conference of the North Dakota and North MN Districts of The LCMS.

    http://www.lutheransonline.com/lo/329/FSLO-1361131329-111329.pdf

  20. February 17th, 2013 at 16:26 | #20

    Well written Jim. Concise and to the point.

    Not exactly sure how the labeling of people as conservative/liberal/confessional/et. al. is useful to a discussion and appears to be nothing short of antagonistic. It also appears that some prefer conflict to an announcement of reconciliation.

    Tim

  21. February 18th, 2013 at 19:22 | #21

    The State of the Unionism

    Jonathan Fisk·

    UNIONISM!! SYNCRETISM!!! AskDaPastor 2.0 takes on a current event question. Why don’t faithful Lutherans commune with other denominations? Why don’t faithful Lutherans take part in worship services with other religions? Pastor Fisk answers perhaps one of the toughest questions we face in our church today. And tough questions generally have tough answers, so please stick it out to the end for this one, cause it’s all about Jesus!!

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