Another interfaith prayer service: WWDPD? (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

Another interfaith prayer service has been announced. WWDPD? What Would a District President Do? Let’s find out.

The location of the upcoming interfaith prayer service will be Fort Wayne, Indiana. The mayor of Fort Wayne, along with several interfaith leaders, announced the service on Tuesday, as reported yesterday in an article in The Journal Gazette, Mayor endorses event to celebrate all faiths.

FORT WAYNE – Sounding as much like a religious leader as a politician and civil servant, Mayor Tom Henry on Tuesday called people of all faiths in Fort Wayne to prayer.

Flanked by a Christian minister, an Islamic imam and an IPFW university teacher of religious studies, the mayor announced from his office that he had developed and was supporting a May 5 event that will include prayers, singing, dances and readings from eight religious traditions represented in the city – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Unitarian-Universalism and Baha’i.

“Prayers for the City – A Celebration of One Community, Many Faiths” will take place at 4 p.m. in the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center, formerly the Scottish Rite Center.

Let’s see, it was announced by the mayor. . . . So that must make it a civic event, right?

He said it was developed with the help of the Rev. Terry Anderson, executive director of Fort Wayne’s Interfaith Hospitality Network program for the homeless; Imam J. Tamir Rasheed of the Fort Wayne Islamic Center; and Michael Spath, continuing lecturer at IPFW and head of the Northeast Indiana Center for Middle East Peace.

All are longtime participants in, and advocates for, inter-religious dialogue.

“Dialogue”! The magic word!

However, not all area denominations will be participating.

When asked about recent news that a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor had been reprimanded and apologized to members after participating in an interfaith prayer event after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, organizers acknowledged that theological differences might keep some away. But, they said, they wanted to invite the entire city.

How could anyone NOT participate?! This is an opportunity for witness in the public square! If we’re not there, why, someone else will say something! Surely we will have an LCMS minister there, giving a clear Christian witness in the public square at this civic event!

In a telephone interview after the news conference, the Rev. Daniel May of Fort Wayne, president of the Indiana District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said its pastors and officials would not take part because the event “contradicts Scripture.”

WHAT???

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, May said, takes Jesus at face value when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the father but by me.”

“If we’re there and we participate, it sort of gives the impression that all religions are good and equally valid and all roads lead to the same place, and that would be to contradict that scripture,” he said.

“One guy praying to Allah and one guy standing up and praying to this god or that god – that’s really not what we believe, teach and confess. So in good conscience, if we are really honest to ourselves, we couldn’t do that.”

Kudos to Indiana District President Dan May! WWDPD? He would get it exactly right, that’s what he would do. (BTW, the lower-case “father” [sic]–that’s on the newspaper, not on May.)

Notice, DP May does not cite some CTCR report with a serial-prayer loophole in it big enough to drive a truck through. He cites Holy Scripture, specifically, Christ’s words about the exclusive nature of the Christian faith. DP May rightly points to the misleading witness that participation in an interfaith service gives, i.e., that all these religions are equally valid. And the serial nature of interfaith prayer services–one guy praying after another–does not change the inherent problem.

May said Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastors and members would be able to offer prayers for the city in their own congregations. . . .

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod may join in interfaith community service projects or activism in conformity with the denomination’s values, May said.

So it’s not like we in the LCMS don’t care about our communities. It’s just that we don’t join in religious rites with representatives of religious bodies with which we are not in fellowship, even when those religious rites are done seriatim or mixed with civic elements. DP May gets it right.

Good for DP May! He has given a clear Christian witness right here in this brief phone interview! Would that every DP said it as clearly!

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