Just how sectarian is the Lutheran Church?

A post on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran church of Australia.

Arising from terrible circumstances, a could-have-been good news story.

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On 14th December last year a gunman entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and killed 26 people including 20 children aged between 6 and 7 years.

Rev Rob Morris a recent seminary graduate of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) was one of the local spiritual leaders who had the sad privilege of walking beside a family who had suffered terrible loss. He buried one of the children, a precious  little  girl and did what he could to assist the family in their grief. Rev Rob, himself the father of a 6-year-old could not have helped but feel the enormity of the circumstances and the effect it was having on families throughout the community.

The local Pastors Association organised an ecumenical service which was attended by the families of the victims and various clergy including representatives from the Muslim and Bahai faiths. The service was also attended by President Obama.

I don’t know how Rev Rob felt during that service. If it were me I would have been looking at the family of the little girl and felt glad that I was there to support them and perhaps give public voice to a little of what might have been in their hearts. I would have looked at the other ministers and felt a bond with them knowing that they too had not slept over the last 2 days as they did whatever they could to make the difficult path for their respective grieving families a little easier. I would have felt a thread of common humanity and realised that there really is far more that unites us than divides us.

Perhaps none of those feeling were true for Rev Rob. There can be little doubt however that his ministry was significant and that his involvement in this community event important. And I am sure that, as the new kid on the block, he would rightly have felt honoured to have been asked to  deliver the benediction at a service of national significance attended by the President.

As so, of course, he was publicly reprimanded by the head of the LCMS Rev Matt Harrison for being involved in the service and asked to apologise.

Yup.

You can read the full letter of reprimand here. Apparently Rev Rob offended other Lutherans, failed to uphold the Lutheran Confessions and went against the teachings of scripture when he joined together with non-Lutherans and  non- Christians in a public expression of grief and solidarity with families who had suffered so much .

Rev Matt Harrison stated that pastors should…

…avoid situations which may give the impression that our differences with respect to who God is, who Jesus is, how he deals with us, and how we get to heaven, really don’t matter in the end.

For the LCMS that is what it’s really all about. Rev Harrison’s letter of reprimand grows out of a couple of Lutheran doctrinal peculiarities called Religious Syncretism and Sinful Unionism. You might google these terms some time when you want to lose a couple of hours that you will never get back. Its all rather convoluted and tied up in historical irrelevancies but for what its worth… here is my definition of the principles involved.

When it comes to God and Jesus and heaven and hell, we  are right and everyone else is wrong. We really can’t have anything to do with anyone else in case anyone gets the wrong idea and thinks that we might agree with them about something. Then people might get confused about how right we are and how wrong they are. Clear? Crystal!

The LCMS takes their pure (if somewhat lonely) stand for the truth about God and Jesus and stuff very seriously indeed. In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Rev. David H. Benke, the pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn was suspended from ministry for taking part  in a huge interfaith prayer service held at Yankee Stadium.

Nothing clouds the clear witness to the truth of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

The systematic murder in cold blood of 20, 6 year olds and their teachers who gave their lives trying to protect their charges was not sufficient cause to allow an interfaith service and risk sending out a confusing message to the community.

The collapse of the twin towers on September 11, the deaths of some 3000 New Yorkers catapulting the United States (and much of the rest of the world) into the longest running war in the nation’s history did not warrant a similarly sinful display of  unionism and religious syncretism.

NOTHING is allowed to muddy the pristine waters that the LCMS swims in.

Oh…

Wait…

There was ONE thing.

Last month a group of churches got together to write to the Government in Illinois to show their opposition to marriage equality.

Here is a picture of the letterhead that was sent. (Worth 1000 words really)

IllinoisOpponents

Ahhh… sometimes you just gotta smile.

It would be a little easier to smile at the hypocrisy… and just move on… if this peculiarly sectarian understanding of syncretism and unionism was restricted to the LCMS.  It certainly doesn’t represent the views of the much larger and more moderate Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Nor is it representative of many of the various Lutheran Churches throughout the world.  But, sadly, it IS the same view as that held by the Lutheran Church of Australia.

For you reading pleasure, selected verses from

DOCTRINAL STATEMENTS AND THEOLOGICAL OPINIONS OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA

II THESES ON JOINT PRAYER AND WORSHIP

2. We agree that when joint prayer shows the marks or characteristics of unionism, it must be condemned and avoided. Such marks and characteristics of unionism are:

(a) failure to confess the whole truth of the Divine Word (in statu confessionis);

(b) failure to reject and denounce every opposing error;

(c) assigning to error equal right with the truth;

(d) creating the impression of unity in faith or of church fellowship, where it does not exist.

4. We agree to the general rule that Lutherans, pastors and lay people, should avoid services conducted by Churches not in fellowship of faith since loyalty to Christ and obedience to His Word require a Christian to avoid promiscuous worship. (Ed. Note. Number of Churches currently officially in fellowship with the LCA? Nil. :-\ ) 

8. When a special service, whatever its nature {ecumenical, interdenominational, national, civic, etc.) is in principle and in purpose unionistic, a Christian should by his refusal to take part, bear witness against such unionism.

9. While cooperation of different Churches in externals (e.g., charity, relief work, united defence against laws harmful to the Church) is not necessarily unionistic, we dare not shut our eyes to the fact that many inter-church and ecumenical meetings, bodies or organizations proceed from unionistic thinking and rest on a unionistic basis. Lutherans, while ready to cooperate in such externals, cannot condone such unionism nor cease their witness against it.

Gotta admit, Reader, if nothing else, it takes some big cojones to just put it out there like that.

Dont ya reckon?