Serial Prayer ““ Has the CTCR Done Their Job? by Andy Simcak, Texas Confessional Lutherans

The 2007 Houston convention of the LCMS adopted Resolution 3-05: “To Provide Further Discussion and Guidance on the Matter of Serial Prayer. The resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, in 2004 Res. 3-06A, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod commended for study “Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events,” a report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), “to help pastors, teachers, and church workers make decisions about participation in civic events” (2004 Proceedings, p. 131); and

WHEREAS, Congregations of the Synod have requested further clarification regarding serial prayer; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the Synod in convention assign to the CTCR the task of providing further guidance for participation in civic events that includes the offering of serial prayer.

Has the CTCR provided “further guidance for participation in civic events that includes the offering of serial prayer”? I report; you decide!

At its December 11-13, 2008 meeting, the CTCR adopted the following response to this request by the Synod:

The Commission has carefully re-examined the discussion of “serial” or “seriatim prayers” on pages 19-20 of its report GUIDELINES FOR PARTICIPATION IN CIVIC EVENTS (April 2004). Although some “further clarification” may be possible in terms of applying the “conditions” discussed in this section of the report to various events and situations that have arisen in the past, it is impossible to provide specific guidance for any and all events that may arise in the future. We simply cannot anticipate the precise nature, purpose, or context of every occasion that may arise in the future or set forth specific parameters surrounding participation in these types of events beyond what is already stated in the 2004 report. Ultimately, this is a matter that requires the exercise of pastoral judgment at a particular time and place. When presented with such a situation, a pastor is, of course, urged to consult with other pastors and advisors for counsel with regard to how to respond to such requests within his particular context.

My question: has the CTCR fulfilled its task of providing “further guidance” in the matter of serial prayer at civic events? The answer obviously is in the negative.

The CTCR tells us that “pastoral judgment” is required. “Pastoral judgment” opens the door to open communion in many cases. Will “pastoral judgment” also open the door to allowing serial prayer? I will not be surprised if it does!

To demonstrate the confusion in our synod, here is the text of the CTCR’s discussion of serial prayer on pages 19-20 of its 2004 report:

The members of the Commission disagree about the issue of so-called “serial” or “seriatim” prayers involving representatives of different religious (Christian and/or non-Christian) groups or churches. Some members of the Commission believe that under no circumstances is it permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in any type of an event in which various Christian and/or non-Christian leaders “take turns” offering prayers, holding that such an activity by its very nature constitutes “joint prayer and worship.” The majority of the Commission believes that in some instances it may be possible and permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in such an event as long as certain conditions are met(e.g., when the purpose of the event in question is clearly and predominately civic in nature, and when it is conducted in such a way that does not correspond to the LCMS understanding of a “service.”; when no restrictions are placed on the context of the Christian witness that may be given by the LCMS pastor; when a sincere effort is made by those involved to make it clear that those participating do not all share the same religious views concerning such issues as the nature of God, the way of salvation, and the nature of religious truth itself).

Has the CTCR fulfilled its assignment? Has the Yankee Stadium fiasco been condemned in any way or is it possible for a similar situation to again occur? In my humble opinion the problem of “serial prayer” has NOT been resolved! The CTCR itself as well as the synod are not of one voice on this very important matter.

It appears to me that the synod continues to dwell in utter confusion as to whether or not to participate in civic events that include “serial prayer.”

Rev. Andrew Simcak, Jr., Houston, Texas
President, Texas Confessional Lutherans

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

Serial Prayer ““ Has the CTCR Done Their Job? by Andy Simcak, Texas Confessional Lutherans — 8 Comments

  1. ‘Some members of the Commission believe that under no circumstances is it permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in any type of an event in which various Christian and/or non-Christian leaders “take turns” offering prayers, holding that such an activity by its very nature constitutes “joint prayer and worship.” The majority of the Commission believes that in some instances it may be possible and permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in such an event as long as certain conditions are met(e.g., when the purpose of the event in question is clearly and predominately civic in nature, and when it is conducted in such a way that does not correspond to the LCMS understanding of a “service.”’

    Can you imagine if our church fathers who wrote and subscribed to the Lutheran Confessions gave us junk like this? We have come to a low point where our representative CTCR “theologians” are divided over the meaning of the first commandment and the majority support breaking it. No other gods means no other gods. When we leave room for other gods we must be called to repentance, not given some kind of pharisaic rules that explain the right way to go about breaking God’s law.

  2. “when a sincere effort is made by those involved to make it clear that those participating do not all share the same religious views concerning such issues as the nature of God, the way of salvation, and the nature of religious truth itself.”

    It may be clear that those involved have different views on such topics but it is certainly not clear whether those involved believe their religion is the only true religion or if they subscribe to the popular belief that there is no absolute truth and all religions are true for its respective practitioners. Given the nature of such events and the pervasiveness in society of truth being relative I don’t see how a christian could participate without seeming to endorse other religions as acceptable alternatives to Christianity.

  3. It is difficult to lay this issue to rest in a confessional manner when the President of the Synod gives a big green light to those who participate in serial prayer. With a stronger leader, the issue would have been dealt with, and we would, at the very least, have more clarity than we do now.

  4. Exactly, Alex! What does it gain for us to have a LCMS “pastor” say a prayer among a group of others saying prayers? What does it look like to the general public when we do that? The clear message that _I_ see is that we are simply another opiate for the masses .. that we are simply another path to whatever “god” you want to create to help you get through tough times in your life.

    I do not see how any reasonable “theologian” could think that it helps us in any way to have pastors (who assert that they are LCMS members or representatives) worshiping or praying among those who believe differently.

    ** pastor and theologian in quotes because I can’t believe anyone I would consider one would argue that it is OK to participate in events such as these.

  5. Definition of Serial prayer: akin to taking your dinner and dividing it into its respective food groups, eating each food group sequentially, and then believeing it won’t come out in the end one big mess.

  6. James Gier,

    Your explanation of serial prayer should be sent in to the members of the CTCR. It is an excellent response to the CTCR’s contention that “it is impossible to provide specific guidance for any and all events that may arise in the future.”

  7. We simply cannot anticipate the precise nature, purpose, or context of every occasion that may arise in the future or set forth specific parameters surrounding participation in these types of events beyond what is already stated in the 2004 report.

    Does anyone know what parameters were stated in the 2004 report?

    If they can’t anticipate the nature, purpose and context of every occasion in the future I would find it helpful to have at least a couple examples of situations that they feel would be acceptable. I don’t expect an exhaustive list, but some idea of the thinking that led to such a response.

    I think serial prayer is harmful not only for the reasons I posted above but also for our weaker brothers and sisters who lack catechesis, something too common in our synod. For them to see leaders setting such an example only serves to reinforce what the world tells them, Christianity is true for you but there are many other religions that are just as true for other people. We should accept that people are free to believe whatever they want but we should certainly not promote false teaching in any way. By standing alongside and praying with people of other faiths you indicate that your faith is just one of many truths. No matter what is said, your very presence gives such an impression and actions speak louder than words. People will remember your presence more than your words.

    Such a teaching seems to contradict not only scripture but the many other religions that purport to be the only true religion. A consequence of claiming that all religions are true is that any religion claiming to be the only true one must be false. The conclusion contradicts the initial statement. The Bible does not teach that truth is relative and we should not provide any witness to such an effect.

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