Overture: “To Provide Guidance on Participation in Interfaith and Joint Worship Services” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

[On Sunday the following overture was adopted, unanimously, both by my congregation and our circuit forum, to be submitted to the LCMS Convention Workbook.  CH]

To Provide Guidance on Participation in Interfaith and Joint Worship Services

WHEREAS, the LORD God commanded his people, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3), and judged them severely when they mixed the one true faith with the worship of the golden calf (Exod. 32); and

WHEREAS, the prophet Elijah did not participate in any “interfaith prayer service” on Mount Carmel, but rather mocked and condemned the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18); and

WHEREAS, our Lord Jesus Christ declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); and

WHEREAS, the apostle Peter boldly testified to the exclusive nature of salvation in Jesus alone, saying, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12); and

WHEREAS, the apostle Paul did not participate in any “interfaith prayer service” alongside pagan priests when he spoke at the Areopagus (Acts 17); and

WHEREAS, the apostle Paul wrote, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Rom. 16:17); and

WHEREAS, the Constitution of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod requires, as a condition of membership, “Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as . . . Taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession” (Article VI. 2. b.); and

WHEREAS, interfaith prayer services and joint worship services with clergy of religious bodies with which we are not in fellowship–whether those services are called “vigils” or “events” or some other term, and whether they may also include some civic elements–those are services in which multiple clergy members of various religious bodies take turns in leading parts of the service (invocations, prayers, readings, messages, blessings); and

WHEREAS, participation by our ministers in such services may understandably cause offense to the people of our Synod; and

WHEREAS, in its 2004 report, “Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events,” the CTCR could not come to agreement on “the issue of so-called ‘serial’ or ‘seriatim’ prayers involving representatives of different religious (Christian and/or non-Christian) groups or churches” (p. 19), thus rendering their guidelines less than optimal and helpful; and

WHEREAS, the 2010 Convention resolved “To Study Article VI of Synod’s Constitution” (2010 Res. 8-30B), which would include study of the meaning and application of “Renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description”; and

WHEREAS, the Koinonia Project is likely to discuss this whole matter and work toward a greater consensus among us; therefore be it

Resolved, that, unless and until the Synod decides otherwise, the rostered ministers of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, not participate in interfaith services or joint services with clergy of religious bodies with which we are not in fellowship.

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