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