A few days after the shooting in Newtown, CT, that killed 20 children and six adults, the community gathered with a variety of clergy leaders representing a number of faiths for a prayer service and vigil.
That didn't sit well with the president of the conservative, Kirkwood-based Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
A pastor from Christ the King Lutheran Church, a Missouri Synod church in Newtown, was among those who participated. And the president of the synod, The Rev. Matthew Harrison, asked that pastor to apologize, as reported in an article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Saturday.
The Post's coverage summarizes the issue thusly: The synod forbids "worship services that blend the beliefs and practices of Lutherans with those of other faiths." That's how Harrison saw the prayer vigil in Newtown.
In Harrison's statement on the synod's website, he said the prayers and readings, and the vestments of other clergy "led me to conclude that this was in fact joint worship" and that it "was a step beyond the bounds of practice allowed by the Scriptures, our Lutheran Confessions, and the constitution of our Synod."
In his apology, posted on the synod's website, Pastor Robert Morris declared that he had shared the stage at the vigil with "false teachers," and therefore, "I have diminished the proclamation of the truth."
Still, he said, "I believed my participation to be, not an act of joint worship, but an act of community chaplaincy."
In a later statement on Thursday, the synod said, "We are proud of the work Pastor Morris has done in Newtown and how he has served the community in so many ways. We are handling the situation within our church to work toward greater unity and consensus." (See the full statement as a PDF attached to this article.)
What do you think of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's decision to reprimand Pastor Morris? Was Morris participating in worship with other religious leaders, or just helping his community heal? What do you think about this story?