Lutheran Minister Forced To Apologize For Interfaith Vigil For Sandy Hook Victims

Author: February 7, 2013 5:47 pm

morris1A Lutheran Pastor who participated in December’s interfaith prayer vigil in honor of the Newtown victims has been forced to apologize. It seems as if recognizing other faiths is against his religion and for that, he has been chastised.

Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown closed the ceremony with his benediction. The interfaith vigil was largely seen as a positive response to an even so tragic it rocked the nation as well as the small town of Newtown, CT. President Obama attended the ceremony.

The vigil included members of multiple faiths, including Islam, Judaism and Baha’i, along with Christianity.

The Lutheran church didn’t see it as such a positive step. In fact, the president of the Missouri Synod, Pastor Matthew Harrison, wrote in a member to church members that he had requested an apology from Morris for the “joint worship.” As reported by NBC News, Harrison wrote:

“There is sometimes a real tension between wanting to bear witness to Christ and at the same time avoiding 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,” Harrison wrote.

“There will be times in this crazy world when, for what we believe are all the right reasons, we may step over the scriptural line,” he wrote.

Rev. Todd Wilken summed up the his (and presumably the Church’s view) by saying:

These words do what they say. These words impart the blessing of the Triune God.


Is this blessing rightly applied to a prayer vigil where other gods are invoked? No. Is it rightly applied to the vigil’s participants who invoked those other gods? No.

The Triune God does not bless prayers to other gods.

But, Pastor Morris said He does.

Now, it was certainly not Pastor Morris’ intention to say that the Triune God blesses the invocation of false gods. But, by pronouncing this blessing at the Newtown vigil, that is exactly what Pastor Morris did say.

The Newtown prayer vigil highlights, yet again, the no-win nature of inter-religious prayer. These events are intrinsically syncretistic. Against the very best intentions (and Pastor Morris’ clearly were), the inevitably result is confusion. Confusion never serves the purpose of clear, public confession –much less the public proclamation of the Gospel.

Of course, both Jews and Muslims worship the same God as Christians.

Morris relented, saying,

“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. “I did not believe my participation to be an act of joint worship, but one of mercy and care to a community shocked and grieving an unspeakably horrific event. However, I recognize others in our church consider it to constitute joint worship and I understand why.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Post 9/11, the Missouri Synod’s Rev. David H. Benke was suspended for two years for participating in an interfaith service. The Missouri Synod does not represent the Lutheran Church but it does represent 2.3 million members. It is headquartered in St. Louis.

The church’s rule is currently under review, but it does leave many wondering if actual men of God can’t find common ground with other people of faith, should it be a surprise that the “Godly” party refuses to find common ground in governing?


Screen-Shot-2012-12-27-at-6.14.13-PMWendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She is the Senior Editor for Addicting Info. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson

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5 Comments

  • On the other hand…

    Luther endorsed the Cujus regio ejus religio doctrine of state religions (if you don’t like it, emigrate to another principality of Germany). He even proposed that a governmental commission could decide theology.

    In America, however, the Lutheran churches have noted the sorry fate of the Lutheran churches in Europe and taken the opposite opinion. In the 1950s our state supplied funds to religious schools for the cost of textbooks that were not religious. The Missouri Synod Lutheran schools refused it saying that if the government can pay for the books they can say what is in the books. As for the European Lutherans the Lutherans here have noted that a church state union starts with the idea that the church will control the state but ends with the state controlling the church. So Lutherans fully endorse the separation of church and state.

    Now before I get to my last point I must jump back to history again. Early on Luther attacked the real presence in the mass. Later on he reversed himself. Excuse me, “communion”, it is a no-no in Lutheranism to use Catholic terminology.

    The article did not do justice (or whatever) to the Missouri Synod another way. Not only are they not to pray with other believers but they are not to pray with other Lutherans. The Missouri Synod holds to the real presence and other Lutheran denominations do not.

  • CNN reported this morning that a Pew Pole shows that the number of atheists in this country are growing. Today, 1 in 5 people are non-believers. If Christians wonder why, this is a perfect example. If the Lutheran god is different from the Methodist god, or the Baptist god (and so on), which god is the true god? What are your chances of worshiping the right god? It seems to be very bad odds and apparently it is getting worse. That causes people to think – not a good thing for religion. Keep it up Christians, sooner or later you will find yourselves a minority.

  • Another reason to avoid religion.

  • Having grown up in a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church I don’t remember the Jesus I learned about being so exclusive. The Jesus I was taught about was an inclusive Jesus who welcomed all. He didn’t ask for his followers to pass a loyalty check or subscribe to a particular branch of beliefs. That’s why my own beliefs have taken such a battering over the years. I can not reconcile the loving, benevolent God I was taught with the hatred and disrespect I see in churches. To quote from an old song, “Signs”: “If God was here he’d tell you to your face, ‘Man you’re some kind of sinner’!”

  • Tolerance? We don’t need no stinkin’ tolerance! The only tolerance we good, Dog-fearing Christians will tolerate is others tolerating our intolerance!

    And religious leaders scratch their heads wondering why their number of followers is losing ground on a daily basis and why atheists are gaining …

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