Sunday, February 17, 2013

Two Apologies Don't Make a Right

Caution: This is a religiously oriented entry suitable for Sunday reading.

A couple of weeks ago I read about how the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) had requested and received and apology from the LCMS pastor who jointly participated in the interfaith memorial service held in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

I used to be a member of the LCMS--that does not make me an expert, but this episode does confirm some of the reasons that I chose to leave the fiercely conservative, almost to a fault, reclusive branch of Protestantism.

I was amazed that the president of the synod has now apologized for asking for the apology. A New York Times article details the situation:

"The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, had sought, and received, an apology from the Newtown pastor, the Rev. Rob Morris, for violating the denomination’s prohibition against joint worship with people of other faiths. But in the face of intense criticism, Mr. Harrison this week apologized himself
“I na├»vely thought an apology for offense in the church would allow us to move quickly beyond internal controversy and toward a less emotional process of working through our differences, well out of the public spotlight,” Mr. Harrison wrote on the church’s Web site. “That plan failed miserably.”

The problem is that the LCMS prohibits their pastors from participating in multi-faith public expressions of religion. They do not want to give the impression that there are many paths to salvation. Yet--while they may grasp a tactical situation, they miss the strategic--if no one is there to represent the path to salvation (and don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that the LCMS way is the one true way) then how are people supposed to hear the good news?

The New York Times article goes on to write about it this way from the words of the President of the LCMS:
“One view is that by standing side-by-side with non-Christian clergy in public religious events, we give the impression that Christ is just one path among many,” he wrote. “Others view participation as an opportunity to share Christ and to truly love a hurting community, which may not happen if we are not participating. We struggle with the tension between these two views.”
My view? If Christians are withdrawing from the hurt and pain of the world when people need them most because we are worried about how it is going to look, then what good are we? Standing in the darkest places of life providing hope and encouragement to people filled with grief and sadness can never be wrong, can it? In my view, it is the difference between being on the front lines of the battle or hiding away in seclusion and advising others on what they are doing wrong.

We get dirty doing work. The type of shenanigans represented by the LCMS in this case makes all Christians look petty.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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