A Statement of Unity and Pastoral Letters on the Newtown Tragedy (posted by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

[“A Statement of Unity” and “Pastoral Letters on the Newtown Tragedy” today have been issued by Pastor Rob Morris, District President Timothy Yeadon, and Synod President Matthew Harrison. I will post below, in full, “A Statement of Unity.” To read the pastoral letters from President Harrison and President Yeadon, follow the link. A statement from Pastor Morris and his congregation is linked also. I encourage everyone to read all of these statements in full. And I rejoice over, and give thanks to God for, the peaceful resolution that these fine men have brought to this matter. CH]

A Statement of Unity

By the grace of God, we have worked through a very challenging situation. It has been our deepest mutual concern in dealing with one another to be faithful to Christ, our respective vocations, and to each other as brothers. Our dealings have been marked throughout with patience, kindness, and love. We implore the church to do likewise.

We have mutually forgiven each other where we have fallen short.

We are reconciled.

We are at peace.

Rob Morris, Pastor, Christ the King, Newtown

Timothy Yeadon, District President, New England District

Matthew C. Harrison, President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Pastoral Letter and Apology from President Harrison

Pastoral Letter from District President Tim Yeadon

Congregational Statement from Pastor Rob Morris and the Congregation of Christ the King


A Statement of Unity and Pastoral Letters on the Newtown Tragedy (posted by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 74 Comments

  1. The statement from Pastor Morris strikes me as proud, and he is immovable on his rightness in participation in the (not) unionism and (not) syncretism interfaith prayer vigil. He will not budge so other’s must die for him. Both the SP and the DP now have thrown themselves on their swords so that Morris can remain unmovable and refuse the path that leads to absolution. So again, the SP and the DP now make the confessions of sin and seek absolution as if they were Morris. Vicariously, very good men will take the penalty in Morris’ stead.

    Jesus did die for the Pharisees and Scribes, but on earth he gave them hell. Isaiah slaughtered the priests of Baal in Ahab’s sight. Morris gives them the Aaronic blessing. He will not be moved. Well, neither would Luther with his life on the line and facing an Emperor and Cardinals who lusted for his blood. Morris will not be moved, so we will all love him and move so he won’t have to. We’ll love him into doing the right thing, and he’s already promised he won’t do it again, and the reason is, it does trouble him to see so much discord in his beloved Synod.

    Well, that’s something that sounds like a diplomatic counter-offer he would accept. Honey, I won’t see other gods anymore because it upsets you so much. The SP and the DP are trying to take center stage in repenting for these sins, but the man in the center, the one that the Beichtvater is bidding to the Beichtstuhl, will not be moved. Bugenhagen will not let the SP and the DP confess another man’s sin. He’s waving his fingers toward himself in the confession chair and his hand is outstretched to Morris, the unmoving man in the middle.

  2. Okay, David Hartung, please contribute to domestic bliss and settle the question of what exactly your picture is. I put on my reading glasses to get a better look and my husband got as close to the screen as humanly possible, but we still can’t identify what it is. Thanks.

  3. Mrs. Hume,
    Looks like a manure spreader. Don’t mean that as snarky, I really believe that’s what it is.

  4. Dave Schumacher :
    Mrs. Hume,
    Looks like a manure spreader. Don’t mean that as snarky, I really believe that’s what it is.

    Mrs. Hume and Dave, it is a manure spreader. We had one like it when I was a kid, although it wasn’t anywhere near as clean and pretty as this one is. I use that as my avatar in online discussion groups to remind myself that I am as capable as anyone else of sewing manure when I post, and to be careful what I say.

  5. Dave Schumacher :
    Rev. David L. Prentice Jr.
    I achnowledged that he is a pastor. But, he is not a pastor by virtue of his election to SP. We DO NOT ELECT pastors. Do you folks not understand what the office of the ministry is? Do you not understand what the divine call is?

    So as elected district and Synod presidents, Harrison and Yeadon have no authority to deal with the Pastor Morris situation?

  6. 9/11 was a national tragedy that also gave rise to similar “services” and conflict. Of the 10 pastors of varied denominations in town I was the only pastor beside the RC who offered services that week (3 in addition to the normal 2). I did so because my flock was hurting and in great need of the Gospel. A year later I was the only local pastor that did not take part in the 9/11 service. I did ask the pastor who call to “invite” me why they were having the service since as far as I could tell people were no longer in crises, he said that I was uncaring an I was never asked again. The local clergy, the community as well as my own sheep did rake me over the coals.
    If Pastor Morris had offered extra service open to the community he would have been too busy to participate in the syncretistic serve. He also could have done what the Greek Orthodox priest did at the national 9/11 service. He simply offered the serves of their churches to anyone in need. The constant will be that Pastor Morris and any confessional pastor will be raked over the coal no mater what he does so he may as well act in accord with scripture and remember we work for the God who had His only Son nailed to a tree we really should not expect any better treatment.

  7. Rev Klieve,
    Your response to 9/11 sounds like a great practice for confessional Lutherans to support when such situations occur in the future. Aurora had a similar interfaith “vigil” after the theater shootings. To my knowledge no Lutherans participated, but the local churches addressed the tragedy within their congregations and in the community while not participating in the worship service. It can be done without compromising Scripture.


  8. Luk 13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
    Luk 13:2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?
    Luk 13:3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
    Luk 13:4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?
    Luk 13:5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
    Luk 13:6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
    Luk 13:7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’
    Luk 13:8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.
    Luk 13:9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
    Luk 13:10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.

    Talk of a community tragedy one in Galilee and then one in Jerusalem itself and yet Jesus is not recorded in the Gospels as forming an interfaith prayer service or accepting an invitation to participate in a worship prayer service with pagans of the Roman gods and their priests and with any of the pagan fertility gods with their priests and priestesses.

    He rather goes to the Jewish synagogues and preaches and teaches the right true faith as it is embodied in Him who is the true Gottesdienst.

    And Jesus goes to the Passover every year of His ministry in Jerusalem as one of the three major festivals all Jews were to attend.

    No unionism and syncretism for Him who died to deliver us from false worship and died because of the false worship of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Scribes and Elders, Pilate and the Romans who refused to see and acknowledge Christ as God incarnate and worship the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

    Pilate said famously, “What is truth”, and turned his back to him who said He was the truth and who bore witness to the truth before Pilate boldly and yet we have another instance of an interprayer worship service that turns its back on Him who is the way, the truth, and the life and worships vainly teaching for commandments the doctrines of men.

    I do not know any more damning and horrible condemnation as that.

  9. Did any pastor (or layman hear their pastor) discuss at church services today Rev. Morris’s interfaith prayer service participation and/or the various letters posted on the WMLT blog, including those posted yesterday at 6:39 pm?

    The event and the letters from last evening were mention before the service I attended this morning, along with support for Rev. Morris and his interfaith service participation.

  10. I followed the link to the “Congregational Statement,” and while on the church’s site clicked on “Messages From Our Church Council President.” There is a “Letter to the Congregation” from the church council president, Rob Cicarelli, which is troubling. While I am grateful that the council wishes to say “we have his back,” there is more than a note of defiance here with regard to the “apology” and it’s aftermath (emphasis mine):

    “At last night’s congregational meeting, the overriding sentiment was support for Pastor Rob Morris’ participation in the 12.16 Interfaith Vigil. He did what was needed, for us and for our community. In fact, we heard nothing but thanks. In the last two very difficult months, Pastor Morris has been a source of constant affirmation that God is indeed here in Newtown.

    “So I ask you to spread the word in the community; to your friends, family and co-workers, that the media didn’t quite get it right. Pastor Morris’ apology was one for offending some in the synod, and not for his role in the Vigil.

    How does that square with the Statement of Unity, “we are at peace”? If this report is accurate, the congregation is digging in its heels. I understand that they are embarrassed by the national media’s coverage of the “apology,” etc., and it is more than obvious that our synod is deeply divided. Having read the council president’s statement, the initial “apology” reads more and more like the sort of “I’m sorry if you were offended” apology we teach our children not to say.

  11. At the ELCA church I attended today, the pastor’s sermon mentioned Pastor Norris’s apology and how sickened he was that it was made and reported. He said Pastor Morris was right where he was supposed to be at the interfaith service. I simply don’t understand why the organizers of the event didn’t invite an ELCA pastor instead.

  12. @Markus #13
    There was an ELCA chaplain there who said that we all address god by different names (one of which was “Higher Being”), but that he/she/it would always been known god the “father/mother” to us. His prayer went down hill from there.

  13. >>Did any pastor . . . discuss at church services today . . . . including those posted yesterday at 6:39 pm?

    Our worship life and and pastors’ sermons should be regulated by the Church Year and lectionary. Current events may be useful as–hopefully succinct–sermon illustrations, but should not displace the Scriptural and liturgical themes for the day, and it is difficult to see how this would relate to today’s observance of The Transfiguration of Our Lord or the Scripture lessons appointed for that festival.

  14. Our pastor addressed the issue during announcement time. He has written a blog post about the issue and had copies printed for those who wanted to pick one up. On his post he copied part of the “apology letter” from Pr Morris, and stated that there is debate on whether this was an interfaith worship service.

    Here is the final statement:
    I hope everyone can see what is really going on here. First, among ourselves (LCMS Lutherans), there should be no question about a pastor participating in any activity that affirms or is indifferent to false religions. The world that is sold out to works righteousness will never understand this. But the Bible warns us again and again to stay away from the prophets of Baal. John, in his first letter ends with the words, “Children, keep yourselves from idols” (5.21). These aren’t mere words. They are serious warnings. We can’t affirm or be indifferent to false religions.

    Secondly, and this where things can get difficult, we have to wrestle with what is or is not a “joint worship service.” When do we have a good opportunity to witness, and when will our witness be compromised? That isn’t always easy to answer. We need to pay attention to what the other religious leaders think. If they think it is an interfaith service that affirms all religions, then that’s what it is no matter what we think it is. We also need to pay attention to the way people perceive the event. If they walk away thinking all religions are basically the same, we have failed, and we need to do better. If they walk away believing Christ is the only way or grinding their teeth that we dared to say such a thing, then we have succeeded.

  15. @Rev. Klieve #8
    “If Pastor Morris had offered extra service open to the community
    he would have been too busy to participate in the syncretistic serve.”

    Do you people who write, also read?
    It was reported that Morris’s church had services every day that first week.
    (I haven’t seen anything more since, but where would I find it?)

  16. Despite being told that I had duplicated the above post,
    it apparently couldn’t make the list once.

    However, you can read Pr. Vogts at #15.

  17. An Open Letter of Comfort
    from the LCMS Council of Presidents

    The following is an open letter of comfort adopted unanimously by the LCMS Council of Presidents on Feb. 21, 2013. It was first delivered to Pastor Rob Morris and Christ the King Lutheran Church, Newtown, Conn., by LCMS New England District President Rev. Timothy Yeadon. The Council of Presidents consists of the 35 district presidents, the five vice-presidents and the president of the Synod. Other documentation may be found at http://wmltblog.org/2013/02/pastoral-letters-on-the-newtown-tragedy/

    February 21, 2013

    Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    In the name of Jesus Christ by whom God works all comfort.

    The Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod expresses God’s love and care for all involved in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Our hearts break for all those who lost loved ones in this unimaginable tragedy. May God continue to work in you His peace even through tears and even amongst things we do not understand.

    The Council of Presidents affirms our brothers who have worked through this community crisis with humility, repentance and forgiveness for the sake of Christ’s church and the world. The Council also affirms the continued ministry of all who have shown mercy and compassion to those affected by the Newtown tragedy.
    We encourage all to strive in continued reconciliation in Christ who Himself reconciled us to God by His sacrifice on the cross.

    In the shadow of Christ-crucified who overcame the power of sin we commit ourselves under God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions to a study of how better to respond appropriately in a Christ-centered manner to community crises.

    We invite the church at large to join us humbly in a study of God’s Word as we struggle against the power of darkness through our merciful God of love.

    Thank you and may God bless you as we “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

    We remain yours in Christ,

    The Council of Presidents
    The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

  18. Jason: Well that says a whole lot of nothing. The implication may be a pass for Pr. Morris. I am okay enough with that. But I will not be okay if it is a pass for syncretistic worship.

    I saw that COP letter this afternoon and didn’t even bother to post it, because, as you note, it says “a whole lot of nothing”–at least as far as interfaith services are concerned. But this is what you get, if you’re looking for what the COP can agree on unanimously.

  19. @Charles Henrickson #23: “But this is what you get, if you’re looking for what the COP can agree on unanimously.”

    Now this raises an interesting question. If a simply majority, rather than a unanimous, vote had been sought for the letter, what might the COP letter have said?

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