Lutheran crisis deja vu

Lutheran crisis deja vu February 8, 2013

Pastors of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod are not allowed to participate in joint worship services, not with other denominations we are not in fellowship with and certainly not interfaith services with other religions and where other gods are worshiped.  After 9/11, a pastor led a prayer in the interfaith service in Yankee Stadium organized by Oprah Winfrey and the LCMS was torn with controversy that lasted for years.

Now another emotional national tragedy, the shootings at Newtown, has sparked an interfaith service at which an LCMS pastor led the benediction.  This time the president of the LCMS, Rev. Matthew Harrison, reprimanded the pastor and asked him to apologize, which he did.  But now the media is seizing on the act of church discipline and people who do not understand or care anything about the LCMS theology of worship are attacking the church body for one of the few things that our culture considers absolute evil:   intolerance.

From the New York Times, no less:

A Lutheran pastor who participated in an interfaith prayer service in Newtown, Conn., in the days after the Sandy Hook massacre has apologized after being criticized by the leader of his denomination for violating its prohibition against joint worship with other religions.

The Rev. Rob Morris, a new pastor who lost one of the members of his congregation in the shooting, defended himself in an open letter published by the church, saying that before the tragedy, he had spent hours with his congregation educating them about the differences between Lutheran teaching “and the teachings of false religions such as Islam or Baha’i,” both of which had clergy members at the interfaith service. He also noted that, in his own prayer at the service, he had spoken about Jesus and quoted from the Bible.

“I believed my participation to be, not an act of joint worship, but an act of community chaplaincy,” he wrote.

But he also apologized.

“To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies,” he wrote.

via Lutheran Minister Explains Role in Sandy Hook Interfaith Service –

One question now for Missouri Synod Lutherans is what the ramifications may be insider the church body.  Will this resurrect the relatively dormant “moderate” wing of the denomination and inspire opposition to the solidly confessional and quite effective administrator President Harrison?  Will the pastors and laypeople of the church be embarrassed by all of the attention this is likely to receive and think, “how surely in a time of national tragedy we should all come together, “etc., leaving the theological issues behind?

Should this have been handled differently, whether by the young pastor or the synodical president?  Is there a way Lutherans can show their solidarity and sensitivity in times of national tragedies without compromising their convictions?

UPDATE:  But see President Harrison’s statement on the matter, which seems to me a very sensitive and balanced response.

UPDATE:  See Mollie Hemingway’s explanation of the LCMS position and her account of  the media coverage.

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  • Hanni

    Actually, I believe that the MS pastor after 9/11 was “excommunicated” and called a terrorist by his church. Many years ago, at my son’s Little League game a father was asked to pray prior to game as was the practice. He was LC Wisconsin Synod, and aggressively (or so it seemed) and loudly proclaimed that he did not pray with other faiths. Most were shocked.

  • Jon

    The pastor should have taken this up the chain of command before doing it. Had he done so, it might have turned out differently, maybe even permitting his participation in some way.

  • Hanni

    Sorry, I meant that he was an LCWS PASTOR, not a layman.

  • mollie

    Hanni, the LCMS District President was not excommunicated but, rather, suspended. You can read my piece explaining Lutheran doctrine on syncretism (the blending of religions in interfaith worship) here.

  • Becky F.

    I think that Pres. Harrison handled this very well. I think it is sad that it had to become everyone in the LCMS’s business by him publishing his letter asking for everyone to forgive Rev. Morris and to not seek bureaucratic retribution. Then, it angers me that it became national news and now people in the liberal wing of the LCMS, who already dislike Harrison, are making jokes on Facebook about how an LCMS pastor has to choose between praying with somebody that is dying in a car crash as he passes them on the road or not offending his synod. And people on Facebook that have already unaffiliated with the LCMS think it’s their Internet right to call Pres. Harrison a “racist” and “of the devil.”

    In this case, I think we should try to move on and let the matter go. It was handled in the way that it should have been. Did Rev. Morris do the right thing? No, but it is not an offense for which he should be suspended, asked to resign, or defrocked. We have much larger problems in our Synod, such as congregations that honestly have no love for the LCMS but for some reason cannot be honest with themselves and just leave, pastors that have no love for our Confessions and therefore commune everyone that approaches their altars, and congregations that have no regard for the Divine Call and are pushing good pastors out of their midst.

    I think so many of us are so quick to be offended without thinking through how people come to their conclusions on how to respond to things. Those of us that have a Kindergarten or 1st grade aged child can sympathize with the parents whose children were murdered at that elementary school. Rev. Morris has a child of that age. He also has the pastoral responsibility to minister to a couple whose child is one of the murder victims. He has been called to serve them within the context of the Newtown, CT, community. Our response to his bad choice of participating in that prayer service should have been drenched in love and compassion for a community that is shocked and hurting in a way that many of us will never understand. As a pastor’s wife, I see firsthand how much of a burden our pastors bear when they join in the suffering of their parishioners, and I don’t even get to hear close to half of what my husband knows of their sin and suffering. Being a pastor is a thankless job within his own community, much less when those outside the community think they should weigh in on the matter.

  • Jen L

    It is my understanding that Rev. Morris was asked not to participate by both his district president and President Harrison prior to the event, and participated anyway. I believe that this New York Times article and the national press on the controversy is not a result of Pres. Harrison’s letter, but of a post by the former LCMS president which presented this issue much less clearly and in agreement with the ideas of tolerance that are so popular. I pray that this doesn’t do any more to damage our synod.

  • Tom Hering

    I’m not sure what this has to do with the value of tolerance. The NYT article doesn’t bring up the subject of intolerance at all – no one is quoted making such an accusation against our denomination. So I’m perplexed by your take, Dr. Veith. I didn’t find the article to be any sort of an “attack” on the LCMS at all, but rather just a rundown of the facts. Yeah, it gave Benke the last word, but reporters kind of like to leave their readers with something thought-provoking, don’t they? And Benke is nothing if not provocative.

  • Tom Hering

    It is my understanding that Rev. Morris was asked not to participate by both his district president and President Harrison prior to the event … (Jen L @ 6)

    Rev. Morris has stated the following in his letter of apology:

    Many have asked for details as to who said what to whom prior to my participation in the service. After consultation with my supervisors and others, I made my own decision. Consensus could not be reached among those I consulted.

  • Gene Veith

    No, Tom, I quote the New York Times news story as just a convenient way to bring everyone up to date about the facts. It is surely unusual that such an august newspaper pays such attention to the inner workings of our church. But the article itself is pretty objective. The uproar is coming from elsewhere, as Becky F says and as anyone can find on the web.

  • Abby

    Becky @5 Thank you for your good explanation as well as your care for our church and your husband, a pastor.

    Everyone, read Acts 6:8-15, 7:1-60 ( A great articulation of the faith that we hold and what people who don’t hold that faith think and do about it. (Fortunately, at this time, we don’t have actual “stoning” anymore — at least in this country.)

    LCMS is in the mainstream media now. On the one hand, it gives us opportunity to say “why” we don’t participate publicly alongside false religions and so educate both ourselves (many of us didn’t know why this would be a big deal), and on the other hand shows us why it shouldn’t have been done. Look at the confusion it has caused over what we believe and why we believe it. If it shows our truth to the big audience, good. But is the big audience “listening?” or condemning?

    I remember hearing our Dr Rod Rosenbladt say that when our seminary split over the absolute truth, “is the Bible really God’s Word?,” he immediately wanted to become part of us — because we believe what God says and we act on it. I would say we got a really good deal with getting Dr Rosenbladt to come join us. (I know that may not sound right.)

    I hold nothing agains Pastor Morris for doing what he did under the circumstances. I hold nothing against Pastor Harrison for doing his job as President of our church in upholding our constitution which is voted on by all the pastors and laymen in our synod. He handled Pastor Morris with kindness, love, sensitivity, and gave forgiveness. So for the world to see how we handle God’s Word is a good thing, it seems to me. But I feel sorry for Pastor Morris. I think (I don’t know) he may well be REALLY sorry he did it for the way that it has blown up and the confusion that reigns now. As well as should confusion reign. However, God is not bound. He will bring His good out of this, we can be absolutely sure. We would all do well to show our love and forgiveness to Pastor Morris. He did what he did. I know he believes the truth and only wants that to be what we all learn here.

  • Tom Hering

    Okay, that’s different. Thanks for the clarification, Dr. Veith. I predict this topic passes 100 comments. 😉

  • Steve Bauer

    I do not believe what goes on within the LCMS is even on the NYT’s radar. It would not have even noticed this situation if someone had not informed them of it, knowing the paper would snap it up (cue the Eagles’ “Dirty Laundry”). One can only guess who that person(s) is/are and what their motivation is.

  • Abby

    @12 “One can only guess who that person(s) is/are and what their motivation is.”

    He should take a lesson from GW Bush. I’m sure he’s had a hard time refraining from speaking up during this administration. A lot of biting of the tongue.

  • Matt Jamison

    Since Pastor Harrison’s letter was published, I haven’t heard anyone call for disciplinary action against Pr. Morris. Instead we get a spate of media stories driven by comments from Prs. Benke and Kieschnick who are in no way involved in the current situation.

    LCMS conservative seem eager to forgive and forget this incident but liberals want to take advantage of this tragedy to re-fight the battles of the last decade. Shame on them. Its high time they start applying the Eighth Commandment to themselves instead of everyone who disagrees with them.

  • Tom Hering

    Steve @ 12, I would guess it was Vicki Biggs, LCMS Director of Integrated Communications. Her statement is quoted in the article, as are Rev. Harrison’s and Rev. Morris’ letters. The LCMS has a media arm, you know, whose job it is to make outlets like the NYT aware of us.

  • CRB

    Just want to say that President Harrison acted lovingly and firmly, also in a much more confessional way than President Kieschnick did regarding the “event” in 2001.
    What I cannot understand about these tragic events is why people cannot see the devil’s hand clearly at work. If a pastor is effected by a tragedy like this where one or more his members are killed, injured, etc. why is not simply bringing God’s Word to them, as well as the congregation under his care SUFFICIENT!? Why in the world gather together with those who believe differently?
    What, exactly, does this kind of unionism, syncretism accomplish but to have unbelievers confirmed in their narrow thinking that, “Hey, we’re all the same and we’re all on the way to heaven, just different paths to get there, is all !”

  • Tom Hering

    Matt @ 14, if it’s only the liberals who are jumping all over this, and conservatives just want to forgive and forget, then why did President Harrison have to say the following in his letter:

    By the mercies of Christ, I earnestly request of any who are contemplating action against Pastor Morris in the Synod’s reconciliation system that you do not do so.

  • sg

    @ 17

    Maybe he just wants to resolve things expeditiously. It certainly doesn’t prove or even provide evidence the theological conservatives such as yourself, Tom, are planning anything. I read it as, “if there are any thinking about it, please don’t do it.”

  • Tom Hering

    Sg @ 18, I read it as, “I’ve heard rumblings.”

  • kerner

    Well, this is certainly a more important application of the doctrine of fellowship than the question of whether Lutherans should join the Boy Scouts.

    I’m glad to read in President Harrison’s letter that our synod is working to clarify the application of that doctrine among us in our president circumstances.

    I hope we all can agree to pray for the those who hold the pastoral office and their families; that God would grant them wisdom and peace. It is a special and heavy burden to have to balance the call to visibly preach the Gospel, the call to offer comfort to those in pain (whatever their religion), and the call to steadfastly stand for the truth against the counterfeits that Satan spreads among us. These often require very difficult decisions, and those decisions won’t always be the right ones, however well meaning they were.

  • CRB

    I cannot imagine the case of a pastor ministering to his people who have been effected with such a tragedy (not saying that the pastor involved here did not do that, I think he said that he did), that those effected would be hurt, angry, etc. toward him for NOT appearing with the pagans in prayer/worship setting. If that is what would transpire, then the members need to seriously study the scriptures and confessions regarding unionism/syncretism.

  • Rich Kauzlarich

    I will re-post a comment I made on Cyberbretheran, Pr. McCain’s web site, on February 3 in response to his posting Pr. Harrison’s letter:

    “Pr. McCain: I’m deeply troubled by this and the implication that by showing mercy Pastor Morris must apologize to anyone. Further that there are individuals”…who are contemplating action against Pastor Morris in the Synod’s reconciliation system ….” disturbs me even more. Pr. Harrison’s letter says that Pastor Morris’s actions gave offense. To whom? I’m just one lay person but I find that the need to sanction a Pastor for showing mercy to a community in a time of unspeakable horror and suffering is offensive. I repent daily for my sins — and I pray for our Pastors, all of them.But this process is wrong and I commend Pastor Morris for showing such compassion to his suffering neighbors while knowing that he risked the sanction implied in this letter. God be with us all!”

  • HippoAugustine

    If only Elijah would have shown solidarity with the prophets of Baal!

  • Abby

    I wonder if we need a new word/s for “unionism” and “syncretism” to define what the problem is regarding joining in a worship setting with other non-Christian religions? Those two words strike me as making us look like a “sect” (which by definition is what we are I guess). These 3 words don’t seem to be a good description of what we really believe, teach, and confess. Those words sound scary to people with little or no understanding. Not good words to present to the world.

  • Hanni

    Hi Abby @24,
    Is there a problem with MS pastors appearing on platform in prayer with other Christian groups and churches? Not non-Christian ones.

  • Abby

    Hanni @25 I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I do not know the constitution and by-laws of the LCMS. I’ve never seen them made available to congregational members. I can say I would not want to wade through them either.

    I myself have been, and am, “guilty” of participating with other Christians that are not Lutheran/LCMS. I like to listen and learn. But wherever I am I not ashamed to express my firm beliefs as a Lutheran who considers the Word infallible and inerrant. I even express my firm beliefs in our definition regarding infant baptism and Holy Communion being instituted by Jesus Christ which we participate in for the forgiveness of sins. These are not symbolic acts that we do. Our theology centers on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And all 3 creeds. All that we believe comes from Scripture alone.

  • Abby

    I should have said, if I am asked or the opportunity presents itself. I don’t preach!

  • Hanni @ 25,
    Insofar as that another Christian group/denomination affirms the core tenets of Christianity (the gospel, trinity, etc), no problem. But when another group exhibits unscriptural beliefs (pentecostalism/charismaticism, Arminian understanding of salvation, name it and claim it theology, etc), then disagreement ought to be voiced.

    For example, when I hear a pentecostal affirming salvation by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone, I give a hearty and sincere “Amen!” But if that same pentecostal starts saying that I’m not truly filled with the Holy Spirit because I’m not speaking in tongues, or that the “tongues” used today as a prayer language is acceptable (which is not at all how tongues are used in Scripture) then I have to voice dissension.

  • fws

    The issue on fellowship is “witness”. This is highly contextual. In the past the LCMS and especially the Wisconsin Synod have tried to wrap a legalistic one-size-fits-all-situations rule that ends up being a true and needless offense to weaker brethren, and … sinful.

    1)If I am a publicly called officiant of the synod , then my participation , identified publicly AS such, can be problematic. Also synod officials and pastors need to follow the rules everyone has agreed to, even if one does not personally agree to them, and then work to have those rules changed , honestly, and of course with arguments from Holy Scripture, if one things they are wrong.

    2)If I am a private individual “participating” in some corporate worship like a funeral or worship service, than that is a diferent situation. And then the context is about the perceptions of friends and Family etc in view of my actions.

    3)If I am at a car wreck or in a hospital and someone asks me to pray for them or with them, then it becomes yet a diferent situation: I would NOT let a Jehovahs witness or probably not even most baptists to pray FOR me, ** when**, they are praying WITH me. however… I ***might*** ask them to remember me in prayer,

    St Paul in 1 cor 6: “ALL things are lawful. Not all things are useful!”
    We aim to preach Christ crucified. If we join with other christians or worse with pagans, who have compromised or rejected this thing, then we must take care how that participation in worship with such persons will be perceived by others. Will our witness to the one thing needful be compromised. Yet in all things charity, and in all things love. Against love there is no Law.

    This is all highly situational. It requires wisdom. Wisdom is usually acquired by making mistakes and feeling the pain of those mistakes. We need to put the best construction on others who are also seeking to witness Christ.

    Why:Christ is most urgently in need of being witnessed exactly in situations that are the most problematic and require the most care and wisdom. Do we go and dine with sinners as Christ himself did. Of course we do. The pharisees were quite wrong. It is to the sick that we must go! But if we are diluting or weakening our witness to Christ then…..

  • What I found offensive in the activity is simply that a very nice looking young pastor took the stage after a plethora of representatives of various “faith traditions” had spoken, including representatives of religous groups that stand for a faith that leads people to eternal damnation in hell and rather than boldly proclaiming that there is no other name given among men under heaven by which we must be saved, he simply read a very nice Bible verse about there being no more crying in heaven and then said the Apostolic benediction and that was that.

    Where was this “bold witness” and where the “comfort of the Gospel”?

    Where was the proclamation of sin and evil, resulting int he tragedy and the ONLY possible hope that is found ONLY in Christ and not in the false religions represented? Where was the bold proclamation of the forgiveness of sins in Christ and Christ alone?

    All in all, it was quite a complete swing and a miss.

    I mean, for Pete’s sake, if you are going to take your turn at bat at an even filled with the danger of being misunderstood and reflecting the notion that it is so nice for us all to come together and disregard our differences because, after all, we all believe in god, right? Then, at least say something so clearly and so faithfully that there will be absolutely no mistaking that the truth of God’s Holy Word and the Gospel of Christ was boldly spoken. Sure, he may not get invited back to another even like this again, but that’s ok.

    Yes, Christ is urgently needed to be hear about in situations like this. I just really, really, really wish He would have been in a faithful manner.

    In other words, go big, or go home.

  • Abby

    I’d like to see President Harrison draft and send a letter to the New York Times and include it to the other big venues who are giving it press time.

  • George A. Marquart

    Rev. Morris came to a prayer vigil for 26 people who had been killed. I don’t know how many of the children who died were from his congregation, but I do know that there were some. I may be mistaken, but I think the actual number is three. So, in part he came to the prayer vigil to fulfill his obligations to members of his own parish.

    I have read the LCMS document of the Guidelines for Participation
    in Civic Events, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations
    of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, April 2004. Since it is copyrighted I may not quote from it without written permission, which I suspect I might get when the matter before us has lost its relevance. Another glorious effort at squelching any discussion of this important matter! We should just memorize it and agree to it, as we do the Small Catechism, including the “what does this mean” sections, regardless of whether we understand them.

    But here is one quote: “It is never permissible for Christians to pray and worship together with non-Christians (“joint prayer or worship”). Civic events present a different set of circumstances. In these situations adherents of non-Christian religions may have also been invited to participate. It is understood that
    LCMS pastors who participate in civic events of any kind will take care to
    ensure that their prayers clearly and faithfully reflect Scripture’s teaching
    regarding the nature of the true God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the
    exclusivity of access to God through faith in Christ alone.” The problem is that Pastor Morris was not given the opportunity to hold a lecture on the true faith before he gave the Benediction. Also, implicit in this statement is the idea that only members of the LCMS know the true faith without any deviation, and that our presence encourages the view that somebody else may be right too. Does this actually happen?

    Rev. Morris came to console his parishioners. He came out of love and mercy, as the Good Samaritan did. Against this there is and cannot be any Law! Now he has to explain to his people that it was all wrong. They were not entitled to his consolation in the presence of unbelievers. How long do you think they will remain members of a church that treats them so shabbily? Contrary to what happened to Elijah, the Word of God today apparently becomes impotent in the presence of unbelief. Don’t we understand that it is not about our perceptions in this whole tragedy, but about the power of the Word of God wherever it is spoken?

    No, I do not believe in joint worship services, but don’t you understand that this is Rachel weeping for her children?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Hanni

    Hi J.Dean @28. Recently I read a post on Patheos evangelical channel by a former Pentecostal pastor and college professor. He graduallly turned from his church because of their belief that if one did not speak in tongues, one could not fellowship with them nor consider them as filled with the Holy Spirit. He began to notice that there were many Christians he admired who did not speak in tongues, but the leaders said things like “they just don’t remember it.” It’s a story of how difficult it is to disavow something that is blatantly nottrue in all cases. It was very moving and I think all would enjoy it, but I just can’t reember who it was. When I asked Abby @24, I had not noticed that Dr. Gene answered this question of mine in his first paragraph. I never read instructions, either.

  • My suggestion, which I also left at Mollie’s blogpost:

    “I suggest that when confessional Lutheran pastors are asked to be at events like this (in the aftermath of horrible tragedies that break all of our hearts and make us cry out to God) that they should say, I would love to, but understand I will say something like this…. (see Pastor McCain’s quote above).

    That way, there is at least a chance that some persons will see this as a rejection of confessional Lutherans and the message we bring in Christ’s name, as opposed to confessional Lutherans rejecting “worse sinners” in their time of need (for hope) and not wanting to have anything to do with them – because *that* is most definitely not the case.”


  • Steve Bauer

    Tom @15

    Thank you for your guess. It doesn’t seem to me to be a very good one, since the article does not identify the source of Ms. Biggs words as being a press release. I don’t think the Synod is in the habit of broadcasting the results of its process of church discipline to the media. Her words come across as a response to an inquiry by the NYT. I think the operative question is “cui bono?” All the same, your guess is as good as mine.

  • Matthew Cover

    I watched it live and I figured the guy by his word usage was ELCA not LCMS. Most people in that part of the Country are far left and Un Orthodox Christians anyways. I wasn’t aware that there was even an LCMS Pastor present let alone aware of this issue so its not a big deal.

    Let us not make a Mountain out of a grain of sand.

  • kerner

    George M. @32:

    I am first to admit that offering comfort to a person in pain is an expression of love, and we want to do that. But at the same time, offering false comfort (everything is alright) to those in mortal danger (i.e., when everything is definitely NOT alright) is not an expression of love. In that situation, warning people of their imminent peril is an expression of love. But how to do that whithout seeming to have no love? That’s the great dilemma.

    And I don’t pretend there is an easy answer. If I may offer an example from my own life, there is an attorney in this office who was raised RC, attended an LCMS church that was weak on catechism for awhile, and then moved on and is now one of those Baptist/Calvinists who believe in election but not infant baptism. His oldest daughter has many children, all not baptized. Last year one of them died in infancy, unbaptized.

    I have had long discussions with this man about the sacraments, and I know he has another Lutheran friend who has also done so. But he rejects our arguments. When his grandchild died, what was I to say? That it did not matter that his child was unbaptized? That would have been a dangerous lie. He found comfort in the doctrine of election, as do we Lutherans, that infants can be saved, and I have let it go at that. But about 95% of what I usually say about why parents should baptize their children just became Scriptural truths that will be excruciatingly painful for someone in his position to hear.

    So what do I do now? Never mention infant baptism again and risk the possibility that another unbaptized child will die without me having warned him? Or, should I imply, by my silence that baptism doesn’t really matter very much? Or maybe I should point out that we can be far less certain that unbaptized infants are saved and risk alienating him forever. I see no easy “just try to show love” answer to this, and I’m just a layman. I’m not even a Pastor who is called to the public preaching of the Law and Gospel.

    We have the same problem with people from unbeliving cultures. It is not easy to, in love, tell someone that everyone he cares about, or may have ever cared about, is on the Highway to Hell, merely for being no worse than any other person. Our present culture would deem that extremely “un-loving”. But it is the truth.

  • George A. Marquart

    Kerner @37 Thank you for your comment. What I cannot understand is what follows your first sentence of apparent sympathy: “But at the same time, offering false comfort (everything is alright) to those in mortal danger (i.e., when everything is definitely NOT alright) is not an expression of love.” Is this what you are saying Rev. Morris did?

    As to the rest of your concerns – all true, and they happen in real life, and we worry and pray about them. But, and I may be dense, I don’t see how they apply in this case.

    About those concerns, I think you will find the following helpful:

    Freed From the Shopkeeper’s Prison
    Rev. H. R. Curtis Trinity Lutheran Church – Worden, IL Zion Lutheran Church – Carpenter, IL Presented General Pastors’ Conference of the North Region of the IN District, LCMS, May 9, 2011.

    It is available on line.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • kerner

    George M. @38:
    “Is this what you are saying Rev. Morris did? ”

    Not having been there (and not even having heard of this incident until today), I don’t know what Pastor Morris did, exactly. But, puting the best construction on the “rumblings”, and on President Harrison’s letter, clearly somebody thinks that Pastor Morris, by his presence at and participation (whatever the exact details of that participation may have been) in the “vigil” with the unbelievers and heretics, in some way implicitly condoned their errors and/or unbelief. The gist of President Harrison’s letter seems to me to say that this is so (or close to being so), but if Pr. Morris crossed any lines it was probably unintentional, and that we should take Pr. Morris’ word for it that he meant no such thing and that his intentions were good. I do, indeed, take Pr. Morris’ word for that.

    “…our presence encourages the view that somebody else may be right too. Does this actually happen?”

    That is an excellent question. But it seems to me that it could, so sometimes it probably does. I have no idea whether it did on this occasion. I have expressed my view on another thread that I don’t believe that extreme or hard and fast rules on this area always work very well. For example, I think that a rule that I could only pray a simple prayer (such as saying grace) with other Lutherans, or with members of my own synod, is beyond reasonable. But I don’t think I should pray any prayer being led by an unbeliever, because it is important to not let anyone blur the distinction between God Almighty and some generic diety that is supposed to satisfy everybody. And I should avoid worship and even prayers with fellow Christians that are likely to be on subjects where I know they will be praying for something heretical.

    But, is your question, “does this actually happen?” meant to imply that it never does?

  • Abby

    George @32 “. . . don’t you understand that this is Rachel weeping for her children?”

    Yes, definately.

  • George A. Marquart

    Kerner @39 You ask, “But, is your question, “does this actually happen?” meant to imply that it never does?” I don’t know, and my opinion does not determine reality. My best guess is that it happens so rarely as to be insignificant. Whoever thought it up did so, in my opinion, to find a good excuse for separating himself from people he did not care for.

    Abby @ 40 thanks and thanks be to God!

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • C-Christian Soldier

    and the young pastor was forced to apologize!?
    I only ask- was the same pious– liturgical mind set used to stop German pastors from speaking out against the actions of HITLER!!

  • Trey

    Without truth there can be no love. We must remember this when considering this and similar situations. It is better not to give false comfort, when true comfort is available to be proclaimed.

    @42 Yes, it was the same mindset, yet you do not hear of them because they were murdered. Do you have an exampe you care to mention or are you only here to slander the dead? The pastor in broke the 2nd commandment- misuse of God’s name that’s why he apologized.

  • For what it is worth, I more or less go along with George Marquart on this. I don’t think Morris did anything wrong. I had different opinions concerning Benke. Given the vitriol over the last week, I have reconsidered that quite a bit. I still think we are dealing with two different events and situations. And I don’t know that I would give Benke a pass even today. But given the situation Morris was tin, and that the “vigil” was decidedly not about “minimizing differences” as the congregational pastor said, I really can’t find blame in him.
    Such things occur. When they do, the community will want to hear from their clergy. It is not always so easy as we think to make the decision to participate or not. But when you don’t participate you are also speaking for the synod, and your message is, I don’t care, and neither does the God I represent. I don’t think anyone but men holding a decade long grudge left this service thinking Morris agreed with Bahai or Buddha. This is made even more troublesome by members of our own synod not accepting that apology but using ever opportunity to further denigrate a brother in the office.
    I think I understand what Harrison was and is trying to do, and he is in my prayers also. It has been a rough week for all parties involved. I pray for Harrison’s continued leadership. I also pray that our synod would get a grip, and possibly even apologize to Morris for dragging his name through the mud.

  • Abby

    Bror @44 “I also pray that our synod would get a grip, and possibly even apologize to Morris for dragging his name through the mud.”

    That would be amazing. Maybe there is hope?

  • George A. Marquart

    Trey @43. You write, “Without truth there can be no love.” Since this post deals largely with the LCMS versus all other Christian denominations does that mean that none of them can love, because they do not have the truth?

    You write, “Do you have an example you care to mention or are you only here to slander the dead?” I don’t think that C-Christian Soldier @42 was slandering anyone. The truth is very few Lutheran pastors died in Nazi Germany in defense of their faith.

    You write, “The pastor in broke the 2nd commandment- misuse of God’s name that’s why he apologized.” If you mean Rev. Morris, he read a verse from Scripture and spoke the Apostolic benediction. This is misuse of God’s name? Of which of the following is he guilty, “We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Helen K.

    @44 Bror. Thank you. I haven’t gotten into the details of this so much but am rather heartsick about the whole thing. I’d heard of the reprimand and aplogy by President Harrison and Pr Morris before this topic came out in Dr. Veith’s blog. I am a relatively new LCMS Lutheran of slightly over one year. I grew up in a conservative, what some of you might consider pietistic, (sp) type denomination as a child and then continued on throughout my life attending non-denominational type congregations. The churches I’ve attended are anything but “liberal” or charismatic. I would say their teachings are in line with LCMS Lutherans other than agreement on the Sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptismal Regeneration. I happened to see most of the service at the Newton memorial on TV and saw and heard Pr Morris delivering the benediction at the end. I was happy to learn he was a pastor in our LCMS synod and thought nothing of it. Now this furor comes along and I’ve been saddened. I can see the reasoning as to doctrinal purity but Pr Morris was only there as a member of the clergy seeking to provide comfort at a time of sorrow and tragedy for a community. I didn’t realize he was breaking a “law” (which isn’t the right word) and so I accept President Harrison’s explanation. I don’t believe that by Pr Morris’s participation in the memorial service there was any wrong doing. Just my opinion. May Lord have Mercy.

  • Daniel Gorman

    I appreciate the conciliatory tone taken in the Harrison and Morris letters. However, neither pastor wrote anything in their letters that reverses the LCMS’s long-standing policy of syncretism.

    When Rev. Benke participated in a joint prayer service in 1998, he humbly confessed his sin and promised never to repeat his error. On the basis of Rev. Benke’s public confession and repentance, the LCMS President dropped all disciplinary action against Rev. Benke.

    In 2001, the LCMS changed its policy on syncretism. When Rev. Benke participated in yet another joint prayer service, the LCMS President condoned his syncretism and the synod ruled that he had not violated any LCMS doctrines.

    The Harrison/Morris letters confirm that syncretism remains the public doctrine of the LCMS in 2013. Pr. Morris will not confess or repent of his syncretism. LCMS Pres. Harrison and the synod will not hold Pr. Morris accountable.

    In fairness to Pres. Harrison, I don’t see how he could charge Pr. Morris with synergism. Rev. Benke remains Atlantic District President. How can Pres. Harrison hold a parish pastor to a higher standard of conduct than one of his own district presidents?

  • helen

    George Marquart @ 46
    The truth is very few Lutheran pastors died in Nazi Germany in defense of their faith.

    (This is way off topic): I think you are probably aware that there were very few Lutheran pastors in 1930’s Germany, after more than a century of merger with the reformed. Those who were serious about their Lutheran faith emigrated to North and South America and Australia. That is why the “Missouri Synod” is here.
    The SELK [the independent Lutheran church in Germany] is not very big even today.

    Now, if you or C-CS, want to say that pastors in general did not defy Hitler, you may be right. Which Germans did? But what does that have to do with this?

  • Abby,
    There is always hope. I have known Pres. Harrison for sometime. I’m proud to have him as Synod president. He actually made quite an apology last night on FB. If I read it right. In truth I think he is trying to keep over zealous dullards off of Morris’s back, and that is all he has been trying to do. Unfortunately, those guys tend not to be able to think beyond a reptilian capacity. “Syncretism and Unionism” they cry, and they were out for blood gathered together with pitchforks. In the words of Anthony S. Thompson, the great pioneer of Gonzo Preaching:”We’re right in the middle of a reptile zoo, and somebody is giving booze to these goddamn things. Won’t be long now before they tear us to shreds…” overheard talking to his lay delegate at the 1969 MNS district convention.
    It would be one thing had this been some Easter Sunrise Service in the park. Personally, I avoid National Day of Prayer breakfasts, especially around here with the Mormon population. But in the words of Ecclesiastes there is a time and place for everything. I did not get the impression that Morris was endorsing the other faiths. He was there as part of that community that to its credit wanted to hear what he as a member of the clergy had to say. There may have been a couple people there thinking that all the clergy agreed on everything, but most of them were aware of the extasraordinary circumstances that brought the community together that evening even as most of them drive to separate parking lots on Sunday Morning if they go anywhere at all. And just to make it clear that not everyone here was on the same page doctrinally, it was said so explicitly. That is one huge difference between Newtown and Yankee Stadium. Yankee Stadium was put together for the explicit purpose of saying, we all believe in the same god/gods. Newtown was more, we have our differences, but we do care the same. Had Morris not participated, it would have been rather conspicuous in that small town, and the message would have been given that he didn’t care, nor did he think God cared.
    Furthermore, I don’t think we can rightly complain about not having a voice in the public square if we turn down every invitation we are given to speak in the public square. We need to be careful about this. It isn’t an act of syncretism every time someone prays with a person that doesn’t believe the same. Yesterday I prayed with and for an LDS friend. Not every event marked with prayer is a worship service. We don’t compromise our faith saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and not every speech given after a prayer is a sermon. I’m rather surprised people think Obama should have stayed home. That doesn’t make sense at all. I might not like what all he had to say, but he has a responsibility to speak at things like that. It just goes with the territory. I would say the same for Pastor Morris.
    Nor would this have been a time for words of condemnation. If you believe such things its best you are not in a pulpit. There is a time and a place to make the statement that only those who believe in Jesus Christ are saved. But you don’t stand up in the community after such an horrific event and give that pill. You do what Morris did, you pray for them. As Jesus says, I did not come to condemn the world… We might keep that in mind. The world is already condemned. We might try to get better at giving a positive account of the faith in these situations. Something along the lines of this is why we put our faith in Jesus. And not, hey you guys are all going to hell right now. Jesus died for these people. He didn’t do that so we could beat on them with the law in the wake of such a disaster. We can show the same love toward them as he did.

  • Helen K,
    “Now this furor comes along and I’ve been saddened. I can see the reasoning as to doctrinal purity but Pr Morris was only there as a member of the clergy seeking to provide comfort at a time of sorrow and tragedy for a community.”
    Precisely. Comfort, Comfort ye my people. This is what Pastors are supposed to do. Though not a false comfort. But again, this would hardly be the time and place to tear everyone down. It is a time to offer the hope you have, quietly, and humbly. Personally, I’m glad Morris was there. He has shown himself to be quite a capable pastor given his very short time in the office.
    I might ask that you don’t lose heart. I can get quite frustrated myself. At times even get a bit harsh with my colleagues. The truth is we are all sinners. We all need forgiveness, pastors too, sometimes for being in the wrong when they are trying to be in the right.

  • sg

    Had Morris not participated, it would have been rather conspicuous in that small town, and the message would have been given that he didn’t care, nor did he think God cared.
    I am wondering whether others were invited and declined to avoid the appearance of syncretism.

  • shell

    George A. Marquart @ 46
    You wrote that this is about LCMS vs. other Christian denominations, but there were also representatives from other religions participating in the service. Does that change anything?

  • Syncretism tends to be an LCMS concern these days, not shared by others very much. I don’t think NewTown has a WELS congregation.

  • shell

    Bror Erickson,
    I respect your comments on this blog, so I would like to know your thoughts on my perspective.
    I very much support the Gospel care that a pastor gives to his congregation and even his community. But at the same time, I wonder if such care is really possible in the situation at hand.
    Consider the following analogy: a small tribe receives its water from two wells–one has good water, one has poisoned water. The tribe drinks from both and has been getting sick. You are aware of the nature of the two wells and so visit the tribe. Would it be more caring to tell them simply the importance of good water or to also let them know that one of the wells is poisoned?
    I realize that this is not a perfect analogy, but the question remains: What is the truly caring action a pastor should take? I have my thoughts but am willing to consider another point of view from Bror or anyone.

  • Don Neuendorf

    Setting aside for a moment the question of whether Pastor Morris was right or wrong, I want to look at the question of his offering an apology. Lots of people seem to be offended that he was “forced” to apologize. And yet consider how different the spirit of Naaman was in 2 Kings 5. Here he is, a pagan man who has only just come to know who the True God is (after being healed of leprosy), and yet HE understands the importance of appearances. It is vitally important not to even give the impression that a false god is real. So he *asks forgiveness* in advance for an action that, though it is not wrong in and of itself, may convey the impression that he is endorsing idolatry.

    But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”

    Even if you argue that Pastor Morris’s action was not wrong, you have to acknowledge that it was, in this culture of syncretism, very capable of conveying a false impression. When some people argue that no one should be “offended” by his actions, they fail to understand the significance of the offense. It’s not a question of people getting their feelings hurt. It’s a question of “causing offense” in the sense of Matthew 18:6 – that is, of leading someone away from Christ. In our society we worry most about our feelings. But Jesus is most concerned with our eternal salvation.

  • Shell,
    I’m just going to ignore your analogy if it is all the same to you.
    Is pastoral care possible in this situation? that is your question. The only answer I have is that if the answer is no, I have no business being a pastor. Obviously, pastoral care is possible. I think Morris has given a fine demonstration of that. You bring the gospel and let the Holy Spirit work. You pray that they come to hear more.
    Part of being a pastor and ministering to a community is patience, lots of patience. Perhaps you have to feed them milk far longer than you would expect. Getting to the point where you can give them meat takes time. I’ve been in my town for nine years, here I feel like I’m just starting to make inroads. And I have been working at it hard, writing in the paper, doing jail ministry, working as a hospice chaplain, joining different civic clubs, walking around town with my dog and saying hi to people, going to bars and clubs after hours, sometimes with my elders after church on a Wednesday night. Much of the time it is waiting for them to open up, listening to them and what they have to say, and speaking little. Eugene Peterson likens it to the harpoonist waiting for the whale to surface.
    Coming off like a used car salesman with an axe to grind, using bait and switch, or giving the hard sale is unbecoming of the gospel. I’ve tried using the Kennedy Explosion model of evangelism, if it ever had a day it is long past. The Newtown event was definitely not the place for that type of discourse.
    I’ll add more to this discussion. When I came to my congregation, it was divided, it was a microcosm of the LCMS, People were at each others throats, and doctrine wasn’t so much the issue, though it made a nice guise, power and control were at root. At the same time people were complaining that there were few new members if any. I told my elders, “You know, I want this congregation to grow as much as anyone. But until we heal our own divisions, and start behaving like Christians with one another no one is going to join. Who wants to come to church in the midst of a hornets’ nest?” There is truth to that for this synod also. And frankly i think the people who ought to be apologizing are the likes of Tim Rossow, and Todd Wilken for the way they have conducted themselves as oafs in Brothers of John the Steadfast.

  • Don,
    Morris is very concerned with the eternal salvation of people’s souls to implicate otherwise would be slanderous. He is also very concerned with giving offense. Which is why he asked for disclaimers to be read. Which is why he also apologized, afterward, and I doubt that apology was very forced. I’ve had some personal discourse with the man and find him to be a very honorable and faithful pastor, who cares very much for the flock that Jesus has entrusted to him. He also cares deeply for the community in which God has placed him. Today, I’m honored to be in the ministry with that brother.

  • shell

    Bror Erickson,
    Thank you for your reply. The Lord bless your ministry and the pastoral heart he has given you.
    I liked my analogy because it addresses what I haven’t seen in your comments–namely, the Law.
    We cannot hear the Gospel until we’ve first been crushed by the Law. I know that you would agree that proper pastoral care includes both Law and Gospel (with the Gospel predominating).
    Now, obviously the deaths of these poor children and the senseless murder screams LAW without even a word spoken. If this were a Christian funeral, I would say this is enough Law; let’s hear the sweet Gospel. But the context of the service introduced a new dynamic–different “Gospels.”
    Based on several comments on the internet surrounding this very topic, many (if not most) people heard Pastor Morris’ words as one Gospel among many equally viable or as part of one generic “Gospel.” If our goal is to simply show that we care, then maybe his participation is understandable. But if the care that a pastor seeks to provide is the Gospel, then it must be heard as ONLY the Gospel in Christ. Any other care in the face of such devastation might make people feel good in the short term but ultimately would not be helpful.
    I think that the best pastoral care in such a case would be would you described in your post of daily involvement in the community. It would be much more difficult and not as “glorious” but it would bring the Gospel to a community that certainly needs Christ’s care.

  • Abby

    Bror @57 I really really understand what you are saying. I wish you were in my city so I could come to your church. I love how you handled your people and how you diagnosed the problem. And what you do around town to reach people. Go where the sinners are. We need pastors/people doing these things. Not just sit in our churches grumbling about stuff and hurting each other.

    One thing still bothers me. I am not being nit-picky here, because I wish all this would go away for Pr Morris. And I hope and pray it doesn’t take us further down a bad path in the LCMS with our divisions already. I can totally see Pr. Morris intention and heart. But maybe, he made a mistake in accepting where they placed him in the “service.”

    My question is, in the assembled crowd that he was in, can he really say these words? and give these words to all who were there?:
    “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

    I know this is not the Aaronic blessing (my favorite):
    “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
    So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.'” Numbers 6:22-27

    If the Moabites, Ammorites, Hittites, Edomites, Israelites were ever gathered for a common tragedy (if they could ever do that without killing each other) I cannot imagine that any priest of Israel would have used this blessing to bless the whole assembly. It was reserved.

    Please believe me. I am not judging Pr. Morris. The whole atmosphere he was in was intensely confusing and emotional at the time. I do not blame him for what he did. It was only a mistake — and not deserving of all this furor. I just think it was unfortunate that he gave this blessing. But I am only wondering. I am not a pastor or official of our church. I certainly don’t understand the fine hair splitting over the words we use from God’s Word. And this needs to be done to hold us together in the truth. And I have said before, if any correction needed to be made it should have been done quietly as in Matthew 18. Instead of using this now for our 2-party political system. And hurting Pr. Morris in the process. I pray for his strength and God’s peace and for his work with his congregation.

  • See, I don’t think Pr. Morris indicated that he thought his gospel was one among many. I think that is a fear that is being trumpeted and uncharitably used against him. My TI used to ask what if the sky was green? What if? what if?
    Lets put it this way, in the worst case scenario these people left as confused as they were before. In the best? Pr. Morris’s prayer was answered in the positive. In either case they saw Pr. Morris, they know who he is, and if they are confused, have more questions what ever, they know they can come and talk to him. They will see him around town, and his participation has opened a larger conversation for him.
    I suppose you can assume that a pastor that has been in town less than a year has a say in where he fits in the program. That is not an assumption I would make. You can assume he didn’t also have services previous to this one where he reached out individually apart from the cacaphony of the public memorial. That too is an assumption I won’t make. Maybe he could have done things differently. I trust he did the best he could with what he was asked to do.

  • Abby

    Bror @61: “. . . in the worst case scenario these people left as confused as they were before. In the best? Pr. Morris’s prayer was answered in the positive. In either case they saw Pr. Morris, they know who he is, and if they are confused, have more questions what ever, they know they can come and talk to him. They will see him around town, and his participation has opened a larger conversation for him.”


  • As for law it has its place. Sometimes it follows the gospel, sometimes it precedes the gospel. The gospel always predominates. I guess, if i had 2 or three minutes in front of a crowd, I’d concentrate on the gospel, I might even ignore the law. The law after all is already written on their hearts.
    I never assume, even when doing a funeral that the people in attendance are Christian. Strike that, when I’m doing a funeral I assume no one there is a Christian. But Morris wasn’t there to give a sermon.
    I will also say, when working with your community, your congregation, your friends and family, it takes awhile for you to be able to preach the law, and have the people trust you enough to listen. Sometimes it is best to open the conversation with the gospel. Infact it is always best, lest you end up stuck discussing the law without understanding.

  • SKPeterson

    I think part of the problem is that people were hoping that Pr. Morris would be able to provide a clear and bold call to Christ through a forthright proclamation of the faith. He was not able to fully do so, primarily because his position was to perform the benediction, which he did. That being said, that is the criticism against Pr. Morris – he was not able to provide a 100% clear proclamation of the Gospel by his positioning in the service. However, it is doubtful that he would have had the opportunity at other points to do so. This then provides the reasoning for chastizing Pr. Morris – while his intentions were good and probably right – the vehicle of the public prayer gathering/service was not a good venue for him to witness effectively and gives (an arguably weak) imprimatur toward a syncretism because of his impaired witness.

  • Abby

    Bror @63: “The gospel always predominates. I guess, if i had 2 or three minutes in front of a crowd, I’d concentrate on the gospel, I might even ignore the law. The law after all is already written on their hearts.”

    This is how I usually handle “lawbreakers” too. Jesus preached the Law. But, boy, to the “worst” sinners he gave the Gospel immediately. This is what I go to church for. I need the Gospel all the time. Law too. But, believe me, what is in my heart about the Law is already very strong.

  • George A. Marquart

    Helen @ 49 You are right. But in popular parlance at the time, many people still referred to it as the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche. I know; I was there.

    I was merely responding to Trey @43 who accused C-Christiansoldier @42 of slandering the dead – presumably martyred pastors of the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche.

    Shell @53 When I was writing my post I added a clause about that, but then the whole thing got too complicated, so I erased it. Yes, there were others there, but my whole point was my objection to the slogan, “Without truth there can be no love.” If these others, presumably Muslims, Jews, and others are supposed to have no truth at all, then they cannot have any love at all, which is, in a sense true, because we believe that without faith no work pleases God. But I wanted to establish that maybe a few people outside of the LCMS may have a little love, thought it could not possibly be as good as ours. After all, who else could have so much love as to censure a pastor for consoling his people amidst their similarly afflicted friends?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Don Neuendorf

    Bror @58 – Evidently I somehow did not make my point clear enough. I certainly did not “implicate” that Pastor Morris did not care about reaching the lost. In fact, I tried to set aside the contentious issue of whether his action was right or wrong and get into the issue of the apology. Since some people are up in arms at President Harrison for “forcing” Morris to apologize (their word, not mine), I thought that this deserved more consideration.

    Like you, I did not get the sense that Pastor Morris was forced to apologize. Instead, I got the clear impression that he believed he was in a situation in which any decision he made would have some negative effect. I believe it was perfectly appropriate for him to apologize, even if he would say that he’d take the same action again in the same circumstances. It’s always appropriate to apologize when you know you’re going to cause harm. If he had chosen not to participate in the civic memorial service then I think it would have been appropriate for him to apologize to those in his congregation that he might have offended – similarly asking for their understanding of his dilemma.

    That was the point of quoting 2 Kings 5. Naaman did not do anything wrong. He wasn’t a Jewish priest. He didn’t represent Judaism. He was only doing his job as a military officer, escorting the king. And he didn’t intend to offer worship to a false god. BUT he understood that it could be taken as such, so he asked Elisha for forgiveness even before going ahead and taking the potentially offensive or misunderstood action.

    I wish that more of us acted with as much consideration as Pastors Morris and Harrison. Both of them recognized that there might be people upset on both sides of this and appealed for patience and understanding. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that many people are ready to grant it. Instead, people are out to score points. To get even for the discipline after the 9/11 memorial. To revenge the latest election. To move the synod further one way or another.

    Worst of all, it becomes clearer every day that we are not at all ready for the next such event, or the next, or the next. These things continue to happen, but we are no closer to understanding a proper response than we were in 2011. Apparently all our discussions have been for nothing. So the next time there is some disaster the pastor who serves in that area will know that everyone is watching and waiting to pick him apart.

  • George,
    Right, who could be more loving than the LCMS? God save us from our friends!

  • Don,
    Thanks for clarifying that.

  • SKPeterson

    I would also add that Pr. Morris was in an unusual predicament primarily because of his physical location. Newtown is extremely close to the major media markets of NYC and Boston, so it had a massive amount of media coverage that a similar event in a small town in western Oklahoma probably would not have received. Moreover, by its location and demographics, Newtown is far more religiously diverse than many other towns in which LCMS congregations reside. There is a difference between various Christian denominations sharing a dais and a Christian sharing one with Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Baha’i’s and whatever else.

  • shell

    Bror Erickson @ 61,
    Based on comments all over the internet, I don’t think the misunderstanding of the Gospel is a “what if” but a”what it is.” The dominate religious thinking in 21st century America and certainly in an interfaith service is that of pluralism. I appreciate that Pastor Morris took attempts to avoid this perception at the beginning, but it seems to me to be like a business posting a sign that it is not responsible for accidents on its premises. Just saying something doesn’t change the reality.
    As to the use of the Law, doesn’t Walther himself state that the Law precedes the Gospel. We must first know that we need a Savior and that there is only one Savior before we are ready to hear who that one Savior is and what He has done for us.
    I thank you for you patience with my comments; I simply want to come to an understanding of how to bring the Gospel to people in a responsible way. One last thought in support of Pastor Morris: if one is to err, err on the side of the Gospel.

  • SKPeters0n,
    Huh, a memorial service conducted by the community in the wake of a slaughter of innocents wasn’t the ideal venue? Who would have thought? But more importantly, who cares? It was a venue. It was an opportunity. If you wait around for ideal situations to address the public square it isn’t going to happen. As it is, he did what he could, and should be commended for it, not condemned.

  • kerner

    George M @41:

    Whoever thought [concerns about syncretism] up did so, in my opinion, to find a good excuse for separating himself from people he did not care for“.

    Well, I can’t read their (long departed) hearts, so I won’t insist that had nothing to do with it. But if you are saying that was all there was to it, I disagree. I think we have to take into accout at least two very important historical events in LCMS history.

    Helen @49 has already mentioned the first. And on a different thread I said this:

    In my opinion, the Lutheran Synods in North America that take the doctrine of fellowship most seriously are those likely to have been formed by ethnic german Lutherans (eg. LCMS, WELS), whereas those likely to be less vigilant are more likely to have been formed by ethnic Scandinavians (ELCA). I believe that part of the explanation for this is that the German Lutherans left Germany in the first place because they were being forced into fellowship with the state Reformed Church by the Prussian Government. So, these German Lutherans were particularly wary of (even paranoid about) the prospect of joining any religious organization that would even hint at causing them to compromise their doctrine. These are the same synods that developed elementary and secondary schools for their children much as the Roman Catholic immigrants did, and for the same reasons: to maintain their distinctives in a Calvinist/baptistic American culture.

    The point being that concerns about syncretism, which may seem like mere bigotry in 2013 to the casual observer, have their roots in a very real sequence of events in which our LCMS forebearers were compelled leave their homes to live in a foreign and uncivilized land to preserve Lutheran doctrine.

    The second historical event is the one which generates the title of this thread (deja vu). In the early 1970s, the LCMS came dangerously close to becoming just another American mainline protestant denomination, much like the ELCA has, in my opinion, become.

    By which I refer to mainline protestantism’s tendency to follow the humanist drift of western post modern thought, leaving the Bible and confessional Lutheran doctrine behind as relics of a bygone era in favor of accepting whatever contemporary human wisdom deems appropriate. In a culture in which a cardinal rule seems to be that any belief an individual chooses to follow is good, as long as it makes that individual happy and causes no obvious harm to anyone else, I do not believe that concerns about syncretism are reduced to mere bigotry. The anti-syncretist voices among us exist for a reason and are entitled to some measure of respect. At their best, it is not people, but their errors, that the anti-syncretists don’t care for.

    At the same time, you, and others (particularly Bror) are convincing me that the anti-syncretist reaction to what Pr. Morris did has been an over-reaction. And an over-reaction in this circumstance could be very damaging to the LCMS and its reputation.

  • kerner


    I liked your analogy too. But I guess my response is to point out that it is possible to offend many of the villagers so badly that they drink only from the poisoned well and refuse to consider the clean one. This is a dagner that anyone who wants to help the villagers must consider, and therefore good judgment is required whenever one is called upon to interact with them.

  • Shell,
    Actually Walther “himself” states quite the opposite as he explains how law and gospel are to be properly distinguished in a sermon.
    As a matter of course though, as I have explained else where, the law has long preceded the gospel. It is written on their hearts. If you have limited time, focus on the gospel. The law is not going to do anymore than it already has.
    As for bring the gospel in a responsible way? might start by bringing it period.
    I think we are under the delusion that we can clear up confusion regarding the gospel by sitting quietly and saying nothing at all, or on the converse we can do it by hammering the law really hard and possibly following with the gospel. In actual fact, ministry cannot be reduced to five minutes, and five minutes ought not to be divorced from the rest of a pastors career like this. The only way the confusion is going to be cleared up for anyone is to open up a discussion, and that might mean stepping out in less than ideal situations and opening your mouth, focusing people on the gospel. Perhaps like one giving an abstract or thesis statement at the beginning of a paper and then going into the details later.

  • kerner

    Don N @67 (and earlier):

    That is a very appropriate Scripture passage, and I am very impressed by your application of it. Seriously..+1.

    Worst of all, it becomes clearer every day that we are not at all ready for the next such event, or the next, or the next. These things continue to happen, but we are no closer to understanding a proper response than we were in 2011. Apparently all our discussions have been for nothing. So the next time there is some disaster the pastor who serves in that area will know that everyone is watching and waiting to pick him apart.”

    But now I have to encourage you to buck up a little. Nobody is ever really ready for an event like this. We will never really get very close to an understanding of a proper response (although, by Gods’s grace we may get a little closer). And whenever a pastor does anything, we will always know that everyone is watching and waiting to nitpick. Such is life. We have to live it. Lord have mercy on us all.

  • SKPeterson

    Bror @ 72 – What I was trying to say was that Pr. Morris was in a relatively untenable position. Massive, excessive press coverage of the situation, coupled with apparently scant support from the home office, left Pr. Morris with the ugly choice of participate and try, or refuse and hope against hope that his refusal would lead to opportunities to explain to the press that in order to proclaim the Gospel, concentrate on the families under his care, and provide a necessary “safe” space in the midst of the tumult, he really could not agree to participate. Further, though and to my original point, it is the fact that the venue was not ideal, or under Pr. Morris’s control, that led to the accusations of syncretism and becomes the underlying source of the controversy.

  • Don Neuendorf

    Two brief notes that ought to (but probably won’t) change the tone of the controversy…

  • Abby

    @78 Pray for that it will be so.

  • shell

    Pastor Erickson,
    Walther’s Law and Gospel Thesis VII states that one does not properly divide Law and Gospel when he preaches Gospel first and then Law. If the Law written on our hearts (which we often ignore) is enough, then why bother preaching Law at all? The Gospel does need to predominate, but it can not be heard until the Law has done its work.
    Now in an interfaith service, one of the barriers to hearing the Gospel is the nature of the service itself. A community that has been crushed by this fallen world needs to be comforted, so they ask the religions of the world to bring them comfort. But therein lies the problem. Should Pastor Morris bring them comfort? A resounding, “Yes!” But I think that such comfort would have to begin with a proclamation that the comfort of other religions is no comfort at all. But this, of course, could not be said at an interfaith seevice without great offense. But such a word would still be necessary.
    It is like Jeremiah who criticized the prophets of his say for saying “Peace, peace” when there was no peace. The other religions have no real peace to offer. Pastor Morris has the peace of Christ to offer but the context of the service changes that message even though Pastor Morris does not intend that. When the false prophets oh Jeremiah’s day were declaring peace when Judah’s men, women, and children were about to be slaughtered, he could not echo their message but had to give a word that no one wanted to hear. It was only later that Jeremiah could speak peace.
    Once again I do very much respect your desire to get the Gospel to the people and your pastoral heart, but I think the context does matter. If you would allow me to use my previous analogy, it would be like mixing the water from the good well with the water of the poisoned well and giving that mixture to the people to drink. The good water is still there but it has been overwhelmed by the poison water.

  • Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Don, other than my own comment, of course, your’s is the best one in this whole thread. As Jesus said, “The knuckleheads, you will always have with you.” Or something like that. I hope we knuckleheads can eventually see our way through toward some sort of genuinely sincere, faithful, Biblical and Confessional conversation about these things and stop, as you say, using the occasion to score points and try to settle old scores or push our stealthy agendas.

  • Shell,
    I if you read Walther beyond the thesis he is quick to point out that law and gospel are not necessarily rightly distinguished merely because gospel follows law, or something to that effect. Though he does point that one should end on a gospel note. To that I agree. I have my own preaching paradigm that goes, Gospel, law, Gospel. It’s a basic thing. Let the people know where you are trying to bring them and how you are going to get them there. Common sense courtesy thing really. In actual fact law and gospel out to entwine through a sermon like threads in a tapestry.
    That said. Morris wasn’t invited to give a sermon. He wasn’t given the time it would take to do all that. And if his presence communicated anything to anyone it was that he cared enough to be there. Perhaps now that the world has been given a glimpse into just how vindictive, ignorant and short sighted many of our pastors can be in this synod, they will see just how much he cared too. One can only hope.
    I won’t compare Morris to Jeremiah, the situation is a little different, Newtown isn’t quite Israel. There are a few different factors at play. And neither is Morris done with these people. His ministry with them and among them is still going on, and hopefully will continue to go on. He will have time enough to divest them of their false gods. Maybe not all of them, either all the people, or all their false gods. But God’s work continues there in and through the work of Pastor Morris, despite all of out Monday morning quarterbacking.

  • Becky F.

    @Bror, my husband is serving a similar congregation. They’re concerned that they’re dying out, but they have a reputation for not getting along well with each other. Also, I completely agree with your ending sentence in your post, #57.

  • shell

    Thank you for the dialogue, Pastor Erickson. The Lord bless you and your ministry.

  • Becky,
    Prayer, patience and love, It’s a good recipe in those situations. My congregation is the best in the synod anymore. Love them greatly.

  • Shell,
    Any time. It was enjoyable working through this with you.

  • sg


    “Syncretism tends to be an LCMS concern these days, not shared by others very much.”

    I had to dig a little, but I found some evidence. Perhaps it isn’t called syncretism, but Orthodox Jews oppose participation in such services:

    According to another source, the Obama team was looking specifically for the participation of an Orthodox rabbi.

    One person in attendance said that Sen. Joe Lieberman, the one-time Orthodox candidate for vice president, told him that it was an incredibly important and a very positive thing that the Orthodox community was represented.

    Rabbi Tzvi Hersch Weinreb, the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, was rumored to have been approached by the Obama team, but declined the invitation — paving the way for Lookstein to appear.

    Weinreb would neither confirm nor deny that he was asked to participate, but stood by the RCA’s rule, which is based on an edict from the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Modern Orthodoxy’s longtime spiritual leader. Orthodox rabbis, according to Soloveitchik, should not engage in theological debate or participate in interfaith services, but they should absolutely work with religious officials of other faiths on matters of social welfare, freedom and hunger, Weinreb said.

    My impression of this is that either it is not widely covered or that no one is particularly interested in covering a story about such disagreements among Jews. But, there is too little to have a good idea of what is up.

  • Abby

    New statements of unity:

    I don’t understand why President Harrison apologized. But he knows all the intricate details better than anyone. He is such a good President. Pray that we get to keep him.

  • sg

    I told my elders, “You know, I want this congregation to grow as much as anyone. But until we heal our own divisions, and start behaving like Christians with one another no one is going to join. Who wants to come to church in the midst of a hornets’ nest?” There is truth to that for this synod also.

    Yeah, I can see that. I just have a problem with folks taking verses out of context and saying they mean what they clearly do not mean when read in the context and with the content of the whole chapter or book. I know you know what I mean.

  • Abby
  • sg

    Okay, here is another article upset at the Newtown service syncretism, although not using the word syncretism. Authors are not LCMS:

    The Interfaith Memorial Service from Hell
    Contact: Dr. Pat McEwen, 321-431-3692; Rev. Flip Benham, 980-722-4920

    CHARLOTTE, Dec. 17, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — Watching the Memorial service for the twenty-six precious lives taken from us was painful to say the least, but it was far more painful to the God who made America great. Newtown cancelled Christmas so it could properly mourn. How foolish, yet typical of governmental strategy to replace God. The “Interfaith” service was an affront to Almighty God. Those claiming to be His priests barely mentioned His Name –Jesus! After all, He is the only God there is!

    “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” Hosea 4:6.

  • sg
  • George A. Marquart

    Bror Erickson @81 thank you for a wise, measured comment. I am reminded that one of my sainted brother’s students posted something to the effect that he asked Prof. Marquart whether, when preaching, one should always start with the Law and end with the Gospel. The response was, and I am paraphrasing since I lost the original quote, “St. Paul frequently started with the Gospel.” I write this not because your opinion cannot stand on its own, but to show that it has support.

    Further, I like the Gospel, Law, Gospel sequence when preaching to a congregation which one can assume to be Christian, because there are pastors in our church who are genuinely puzzled about why one may not preach the Law to the regenerate as if they were still outside of the Kingdom.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George,
    I took every class I could with your brother. He was a great and faithful teacher. He taught quite a bit about what it meant to have a measured response by his very being. I miss him.

  • Grace

    February 8, 2013 By Gene Veith
    “The Rev. Rob Morris, a new pastor who lost one of the members of his congregation in the shooting, defended himself in an open letter published by the church, saying that before the tragedy, he had spent hours with his congregation educating them about the differences between Lutheran teaching “and the teachings of false religions such as Islam or Baha’i,” both of which had clergy members at the interfaith service. He also noted that, in his own prayer at the service, he had spoken about Jesus and quoted from the Bible.

    “I believed my participation to be, not an act of joint worship, but an act of community chaplaincy,” he wrote.

    Pastors are often put in a position of giving comfort during the worst time of one’s life. Losing a child, to such a horrendous crime, and pain without end, is no time for any pastor to sit on the fence and labor between whether or not to pray, in a memorial service for comfort, not only for those of his church, but everyone.

    The pastor is praying from his heart and soul, to God’s ears, there is no ‘interfaith involved. There is no agreement that all false gods are included, or that one might withdraw from offering prayer to God ALMIGHTY.

    Consider the military, and all the different chaplains who represent a variety of faith’s – there is no reason to believe a pastor would excuse himself from comforting those who belong or align themselves with his denomination or church.

    When one is a Born Again Believer in Jesus Christ, praying to the LORD God Almighty, there is no interdenominational, it has nothing to do with false gods. The God of the Bible, is the only God, the only Savior, the only one who died for our sins. The cults, and all else, can pray as they choose, it has nothing to do with my, or a pastor praying to God for help. It isn’t interdenominational.

    What would you do if there were a hotel, full of thousands of people, in a situation where they were dying, because of disaster, which no one could stop. Would you as a lay person, or a pastor, pray aloud, that God might intervene? – would you pray for their loved ones? – would you pray for the souls who were hurting and bleeding inside the hotel? – or would you be more concerned about the cults, and those who worshiped false gods, thinking it was in interdenominational moment, if they prayed, standing near you? I would lift my voice to God in prayer, begging for mercy, and comfort for all concerned.

  • Pr. Dennis Bestul

    Perhaps we should respectfully honor the self-assessment of President Harrison: “As president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, I take responsibility for this debacle. I handled it poorly, multiplying the challenges.” This ‘debacle’ might well have been avoided if proactively developed Scriptural and Confessional procedures were faithfully followed by pastor and congregation as advised by unified synodical officials. Instead, we once again find ourselves being driven by reactive emotions which confuse and divide. Kyrie eleison!

  • Grace

    Dennis @ 96

    No one can ignore “emotions” when children are killed in a school room ages 5-6. Especially when it is your OWN.

    When anyone is faced with such a tragedy, as a pastor is,.. they can only think of the families who are suffering through the pain of losing thier precious children.

    In that the situation took place in a public school, and therefore the memorial service for the families, and friends was for ALL those who lost their lives – – it is only fitting that all faiths be recognized. That doesn’t mean that I, who am a Born Again Christian would have been influenced, by any of the pastors, priests, or cults within the group of faiths, praying ….. have any effect on me, my family or my church. The service was for all faiths, who’s children had been killed, was not an “interdenominational moment” – it was done to include everyone who had lost a child, NOT to include GROUPING, ie; coming together. There is no “coming together” –

    One can claim “reactive emotions” but that doesn’t cut it – I am a pastor’s daughter, I’ve seen pain and suffering. I’ve watched my father, as he sat after many a service in his chair, eyes straight ahead, thousands of miles from where I sat. The grief and burden to help those who never see their dear child again.

    Perhaps you’ve overlooked the point .. people sometimes see, for the first time, the real presence of Christ in some pastor’s who’s dedication and humble spirit is obvious – who’s love for our LORD Jesus Christ, over-shaddows all the cults and its ‘isms’ this world holds, with no promise of eternal life.

  • Jack

    To whom does a Divinely Called Pastor owe an obligation to serve? Isn’t it his flock? Our shepherd was, most certainly not called by the community, nor should he ever serve the community before/instead of the flock. Should he ever serve the community as shepherd? What flock would call a shepherd to serve the community?

    The shepherd is the qualified one upon whom the flock must depend. In the event that the shepherd has any question about serving the community, why should he consult other than his call?

    A shepherd must not act in a way to cause confusion within his flock.

  • Jack,
    It is a poor mean congregation that does not call a pastor to serve their community. I have never known of a congregation that did not want their pastor serving their community. For sure they call a pastor to serve them with the gospel and sacraments, but in so doing that call one to be a missionary among them, to offer the gospel and sacraments to the community also.
    If there was confusion, the confusion was not in the midst of the flock for which Morris served. Indeed, it is my understanding that his flock wanted him there. He would not be responsible for causing confusion in his flock. No, if there is confusion among his flock, the people who have caused confusion are rather the critics of Pr. Morris, who seem to go looking for opportunities to denigrate, chastize and bully fellow brothers in the office publicly and nastily.

  • fws

    paul mc cain @ 30

    Amen! Let´s pray that

  • fws

    paul mc cain @ 30

    Amen! Let´s pray that God moves pastors and all of us to do this.

  • Nicholas


    So now Grace, the village Calvary Chapellite, admits that she thinks with her emotions and is defending this interfaith worship service (with the sermon given by the most pro-abortion president in America’s history).

  • Abby

    I just heard an LCMS pastor denigrate President Harrison in front of his congregation at the end of sermon time. He also made it sound like the President is responsible for “making new syndical law” instead of merely doing his job to handle situations according to the “laws” that are instituted in Convention and voted on by (how many?) pastors and lay delegates. So, now I’m confused. I don’t believe it is President Harrison’s fault this “law” is in place in the first place. And even if the law titled “unionism and syncretism” were not there it would still be good to develop scriptural guidlines to provide guidance in these situations instead of to randomly say — oh, we don’t associate. But, and this is important, we are not the only ones who don’t do this. The Jews have a policy against, and a Greek Orthodox church during 9/11 merely offered their church for any help they could give while not participating in the “service.” People know there are reasons for not doing this. Pastors should be very careful to educate their people if they are going to go along with putting this kind of confusion out there. And what I heard him put across I saw as blatant politicing against our current President in favor of the past one. The minute I saw him hold up the St Louis Post Dispatch I knew what he was going to do. I think he was wrong. He even said that “they” were demanding an apology from President Harrison and that “he” should not do this again. I hate it when Convention time draws nears. I really do hate the politics that come out and get really ugly. “They” are donning their suits of armor and getting ready for the battle. I am really really sorry we seem (maybe I’m not old enough to remember this may be always the way it was done) to have degenerated into the 2-party system we now have. I hope and pray Pastor Harrison wins handily again this summer. At least things are quiet again for awhile.

  • Grace

    Nicholas @ 102

    “So now Grace, the village Calvary Chapellite, admits that she thinks with her emotions and is defending this interfaith worship service (with the, sermon given by the most pro-abortion president in America’s history).

    It is dishonest for you to accuse me of defending Obama. He is not a pastor, his name was never mentioned as such in this thread. Obama’s role was as President of the United States, not a pastor.

    Calling me the village Calvary Chapellite, doesn’t serve you well. Turning a churches name around, like a school boy, serves no purpose.

    If you haven’t learned by now, the responsibility of all pastors, who’s congregants were atteding, to give comfort, you’ve missed the entire meaning of the gathering within the auditorium of the school, in which it was held.

  • Abby

    And, honestly, I’m tired of all the apology letters. I will be wrong here, but I don’t think ANYONE did anything wrong here. Mistakes were made. Look at them and deal with them. Isn’t that how we deal with life? Put the play-by-play up on the screen, evaluate it, and make it better for next time. Improve it. Do it better, or try. (No one should remind me of the Yoda quote–I use it all the time.) But, for heaven’s sake — put the stones down!!!

    I love this: @30 “. . . say something so clearly and so faithfully that there will be absolutely no mistaking that the truth of God’s Holy Word and the Gospel of Christ was boldly spoken. Sure, he may not get invited back to another even like this again, but that’s ok . . . Yes, Christ is urgently needed to be heard about in situations like this. I just really, really, really wish He would have been in a faithful manner . . . In other words, go big, or go home.”

  • Grace

    Abby @ 103

    Your posts would be much more interesting, if you would break your thoughts and points into paragraphs. 😉

  • Abby

    Thanks for the tip. I was too angry.

  • Grace


    The most important thing is this; many people heard about Christ, whether it was on a mountainside, a school auditorium, or a football field – they knew that the prayers offered to God Almighty were real, in Jesus Name.

    As the beautful song written by Gaither states:
     ‏  ‏ “There is just something about that name”


  • Grace
  • George A. Marquart

    With notable exceptions, there is very little argument in this debate based on Scripture. May I suggest that one portion of Scripture that applies is the 8th chapter of 1 Corinthians, which deals with food sacrificed to idols. I am particularly impressed that St. Paul does not feel that even such an important matter requires a lot of detailed instruction. He trust the spiritual discernment of the members of the church in Corinth.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Abby

    George @110 Thank you. You have much better scriptural knowledge than I. And with food sacrificed to idols — he said, eat it! Unless it would cause someone else to stumble and thereby lose their Christianity. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

  • Abby

    In the division we have regarding this dilemma, how can anyone know which side of the horse to fall off on?

  • Nicholas

    There is no parallel to eating food sacrificed to idols. A parallel would be Paul taking part in a joint prayer/worship service with pagan priests. Somehow, we don’t see that in the New Testament.

  • Abby

    @113 That would not be done!

  • Grace


    You’re belabouring a point you don’t have. It wasn’t a “Worship Service” it was a Memorial service for all the children and adults who were murdered at Sandy Hook. I doubt many paid attention to all the ‘isms’ that were present, who do not believe in Christ Jesus as our Savior. It was a chance however, for some people who never hear, to hear about Christ.

    Gotta tell ya fella – if you’re going to Heaven and expect to be at the Marriage feast, you just might be sitting next to a Calvary Chapel Believer, on each side, or a Baptist, or any number of other Born Again Believers. You’ll have to leave your check list in the grave, when you arrive to meet the LORD. No one is going to care about your tedious list.

  • George A. Marquart

    Nicholas @113. It is not the same thing, but it is a parallel. If we had “the same thing” in Scripture for everything in life, we would not need what St. Paul calls “spiritual discernment”. Paul frequently joined in Synagogue worship, where he had an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. But the parallel lies in the fact that we are dealing with something that you might do under one set of circumstances, and would absolutely refuse to do under another. The circumcision of Timothy, and Paul’s refusal to circumcise Titus also fall in this category. Can anyone think of others?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • fws

    shell @ 55

    the pastor is there to forgive sins.
    people drink from bad water, physically and doctrinally, all the time. that includes you and me.
    Comforting people in a time of death is something we are supposed to do. If you go to the funeral of your own Family , some are not even christian. We are to comfort them.

    God does not depend on us for everything. we can trust God to take care of stuff if we focus on what the task at hand is. We do what we are given to do in a particular situation . we leave the results up to God!

  • fws

    don @ 69 na PT McCain @ 81


  • rvs

    I have a friend in this branch of the Lutheran church, and he is horrified by the situation. He is conservative, 31, loves the Lord. I take his reaction as a good sign, an indication that some of the old ways are fading.

  • Lumpenkönig

    Enemies of the LCMS will seize this opportunity to criticize it. Why should anyone be surprised. I did not, however, perceive any bias in the article. Six months from now, will anyone outside of the warring LCMS factions remember this story?

    Pastors Harrison and Rev. Rob Morris handled the situation correctly. I was offended by the quote near the end of the NY Times article: “Mr. Benke refused to apologize…..”

    The New York Post article was even worse:

    “The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, the former Missouri Synod president who had defended Benke, has also spoken out in support of Morris. Kieschnick wrote on his blog that Morris was “responding in a pastoral way to people in need of healing and hope.” Outsiders watching this dispute will “shake their heads in disgust and dismay. For them, the image of our church becomes one of isolationism, sectarianism and legalism,” Kieschnick said.


    Note to all Kieschnick fans and supporters: Look at the damage you have done to confessional Lutheranism. Those who watched the forced sale of ULC “shake their heads in disgust and dismay.” May the Lord rebuke you for your evil deed:

    Recall that when Todd Wilken and Wally Schulz were fired for criticizing pastors Benke and Kieschnick for their participation at the Yankee Stadium interfaith service in 2001. We do not see anyone in the Harrison administration firing anyone for criticizing how the Sandy Hook situation was handled. The title “Lutheran Crisis Deja Vu is a therefore misleading.

  • Grace

    Lumpenkönig @ 120

    You must feel very pleased with yourself. IF NOT, “take this opportunity to bow and sway at your apprance in the mirror “

    I doubt there is such a “mrror” –

    confessional Lutheranism

  • Grace

    Lumpenkönig @ 120

    >‘Enemies of the LCMS will seize this opportunity to criticize it. Why should anyone be surprised. I did not, however, perceive any bias in the article. Six months from now, will anyone outside of the warring LCMS factions remember this story?”

    mer down – Those who care, might remember very well the story, regardless of your careless remarks.

  • Bror,

    I appreciate your call for a measured response to this issue. Might I humbly suggest that in some of your comments you have not been as measured as you should be? Shouldn’t we be putting the best construction on the actions of those with different views than ours whenever we possibly can?

    Kerner: “The anti-syncretist voices among us exist for a reason and are entitled to some measure of respect. At their best, it is not people, but their errors, that the anti-syncretists don’t care for.”

    Wisdom. Let us attend.

    “Amen”, right?


  • SKPeterson

    Grace @ 121 and 122 – What? Those posts make no sense whatsoever. How was Lumpenkonig in any way making careless remarks? His post at 120 presents a particular viewpoint within the LCMS, and the likelihood that this viewpoint, other traditional/confessional viewpoints, or the viewpoints of their opponents, usually called the Liberals, will get an open and honest treatment in the national press is remote. Maybe, maybe, from the RNS, but, as Lumpen notes, who outside the LCMS will be paying all that much attention in 6 months?

    The press enjoys intrafaith disagreement if it is Christian, particularly if it is in more conservative denominations. It is notably lax in noting differences in Islam, or Judaism, or within liberal Protestantism. It also usually botches discussions of conservative v. liberal Catholicism, or the internal workings of the Orthodox. Recall, for example, the apparent misrepresentations in the press of the removal of the presiding bishop of the OCA in the last year. I am not sure that the witness of the LCMS has been hampered by this (non)event in light of the rather open hostility usually displayed toward any Christian community in venues like the NYT or the WaPo. As Lumpenkonig observes, at least the NYT was fairly balanced (the commentary otoh was as vitriolic as it comes, but that could have been the case if the article had been simply “Lutheran Church Advocates Jesus Christ in Mission to City”).

  • Lumpenkönig

    Grace @ 121 and 122

    O no! I have been targeted by the wrath of Grace! Careless? I have read your numerous insults on other articles on this blog. I have learned to dismiss all your posts as garbage. You failed to address the substance of my remarks and instead chose to lob insults. Do you ever have anything of substance to contribute?

    Grace, as someone who is not Lutheran and who has no plans to convert from evangelicalism to Lutheranism, why should you care? Why are you on this blog?

  • Lumpenkönig

    SKPeterson @ 124

    Thank you!

    This is an internal LCMS matter. I believe President Harrison handled the Sandy Hook situation properly. I really do not understand Gerald Kieschnick’s uncharitable comments. Rob Bell would agree with Pastor Kieschnick.

    Talk to evangelical converts to Lutheranism. They will tell you that disillusionment with Saddleback and Willow Creek Association endorsed publications is a major reason why they left evangelicalism in the first place. If using evangelical worship and study materials within LCMS congregations has failed to attract converts from evangelicalism to those congregations, then why is the LCMS still promoting this practice?

  • SKPeterson

    Lumpenkonig @ 126 – Your last paragraph is opening up a whole new can of worms, 🙂 .

  • Grace

    Lumpenkönig @126 – – >Talk to evangelical converts to Lutheranism. They will tell you that disillusionment with Saddleback and Willow Creek Association endorsed publications is a major reason why they left evangelicalism in the first place.”

    Both churches you’ve mentioned above are Emergent Churhes – the vast majority of Evangelical Churches DO NOT EMBRACE their beliefs.

  • One observation: it seems to me that if conservatives often seem more like “attack dogs” they are nevertheless more willing to attribute good motives to the persons they think are in the wrong (i.e. he is well-meaning, etc). On the other hand, I don’t recall seeing this so much from the other side. In addition, I note Pastor Harrison’s most recent words about handling things poorly – accompanied by repentance. This is something else I think is significant. But I don’t doubt that many opposed to him and his views will see it as more political than personal. Which I think is too bad.


  • Grace


    There is no reason why a pastor must repent after saying a prayer at a memorial service for children and adults, murdered at school.

    Asking for repentance? How can one repent for praying to God ALMIGHTY?


  • Tom Hering

    Nathan @ 129, thanks for your sterling example of attributing good motives to the other side. :-O

  • Tom,

    My mom and dad always taught me to put the best construction on things. : ) Seriously, I think that is an accurate observation – maybe they have good reasons for acting this way though?

    : )


  • tODD

    Grace typed (@130, as well as on a different thread; I guess she really needs an answer soon):

    How can one repent for praying to God ALMIGHTY?

    I’ll answer your question as soon as you’re done with your weekly prayer service with Rob Bell, Thomas S. Monson, and Feisal Abdul Rauf.

  • Tom Hering

    Nathan @ 132, I admit that was funny. 😉

  • Grace

    tODD @ 133

    I’ll answer your question as soon as you’re done with your weekly prayer service with Rob Bell, Thomas S. Monson, and Feisal Abdul Rauf.

    Your attempt at sarcasm, if that’s what it was supposed to be, or irony is foolish.

    Rob Bell, is Emergent Church – Thomas S Monson, is President of the LDS (Mormon Church) – Feisal Abdul Rauf is an American Sufi imam –

    You must be STARVED for ATTENTION


  • tODD

    So, wait, Grace (@135), are you saying you wouldn’t pray with those people? Why not?

  • Grace


     ‏  ‏ POOR, POOR tODD


  • tODD

    (For those of you on Patheos who’ve just joined us, Grace has just admitted that I’ve made a fair point. However, she can’t bring herself to actually admit it outright, so she uses her special catchphrase to indicate that she cannot continue her argument. It’s sort of a Cranach version of “checkmate”.)

  • Abby

    Todd @138 “Checkmate: . . . the king is under direct attack and cannot avoid being captured. In chess the king is never actually captured – the game ends as soon as the king is checkmated because checkmate leaves the defending player with no legal moves.”

    Wait a minute, are you conceding? No more moves? Although it is a tactic used to attempt to shut the game down.

  • tODD

    Abby (@139), yeah, sorry, I meant to say “touché”, not “checkmate”.

  • Abby

    Todd @140 Alright!

  • Abby

    Todd @140 Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never, quit!” 🙂

  • sg


    O no! I have been targeted by the wrath of Grace!

    LOL What ironic words!