Lutheran Synod Apologizes After Reprimanding Minister Who Participated in Newtown Interfaith Service

St. Louis, Missouri — The president of a Lutheran synod that had reprimanded a Connecticut minister for participating in an interfaith prayer vigil in memory of those who lost their lives during the Newtown massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has issued an apology of his own.

As previously reported, Pastor Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown recently issued a letter explaining his regrets after he was chastised for participating in a service that included those of other faiths. Morris’ church is a part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri synod, which prohibits its pastors from joining in interfaith worship. The service, attended by Barack Obama and Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy on December 14th, featured Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, B’hai and Christian prayers.

“[S]ome have expressed concern and, in some cases, public rebuke that my participation in the televised prayer vigil on Sunday night has hindered our ability to speak this Christian truth into a pluralistic culture,” he wrote in the letter, which was posted on the synod’s website. “The fear is that by sharing the stage with false teachers, I have diminished the proclamation of the truth which is ours by grace through faith in Christ.”

Lutheran Church-Missouri synod president Matthew Harrison also wrote a letter about the issue. He stated that he asked Morris to issue the public apology as he had already done so to the leadership. Harrison asked others to accept that apology as well.

“To those who think his apology insufficient, I would encourage you, as the commandment enjoins us, to ‘put the best construction on everything,’ and to accept with gratitude and forgiveness in Christ’s name the real apology given you,” he said.

However, now Harrison says that his request for an apology from Morris caused harm to both the minister and the synod.

“Over the past weeks, I’ve been criticized by all sides,” he outlined in an online video message released this week. “Some have said I’ve been far too lenient in this whole matter; others have criticized me for being far too strict.”

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In the end, however, Harrison said that he felt regret after hearing comments about the matter.

“I exacerbated the problem. I caused greater offense,” he stated. “I caused trouble for Pastor Morris and for the congregation, and offense there in the midst of suffering. Please forgive me.”

Harrison explained that Morris’ apology was not for his participation in the service, but rather for the offense that his involvement caused. Likewise, Harrison’s apology appeared to pertain to the way that he handled the matter, not necessarily for his desire to abide by the mandates of the synod regarding interfaith worship.

“In retrospect, I look back and see that I could’ve done things differently,” Harrison stated. “My deepest desire was to bring unity, or at least to avoid greater division in the synod over this issue.”

“I make an appeal to the synod for unity [and] for repentance,” he added. “I appeal to those who post so much on the Internet to watch your words, and for us to watch one another, and for us to care for one another — and that doesn’t allow for egregious things to be said about people, questioning their motives and other things.”

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