I was really surprised to read this article.
If you don’t have time to read it, here’s the gist. A Connecticut Lutheran pastor was asked to apologize after participating in an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims and families of the Newtown shooting. According to the article, participating in events with ‘other religions’ is not permitted by the Lutheran church.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Earlier this month, the president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Pastor Matthew Harrison, wrote a letter to church members saying he had requested an apology from [Rob] Morris for his participation in “joint worship with other religions.”
“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.”
Personally, I think participating in a vigil designed to provide comfort and display unity and support is a lot different than saying, “Our beliefs don’t matter.” Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and every other religion do have real differences. We would be living in a fantasy land to say that that is not the reality of the situation. However, does joining together to mourn and show love to hurting people mean that we aren’t holding our beliefs closely?
I don’t think so.
In a world so fragmented and divided by religion…
In a world where a lack of understanding and respect
too often leads to religious violence…
…why in the world wouldn’t we want to join together?
Why wouldn’t we try to understand one another?
Will we still disagree?
Sure. But entering into a dialogue and doing good together doesn’t mean we have to check our views at the door. It simply means that we all are working for the common good, as opposed to common destruction.
Pastor Morris issued the following apology in response:
“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,” he wrote. “I apologize where I have caused offense by pushing Christian freedom too far, and I request you charitably receive my apology.”
I really don’t think he has anything to apologize for. I think this is an epic adventure in missing the point. And I don’t think the world will get better until we are willing, while holding our beliefs about God/Jesus/ultimate reality closely and with conviction, to stretch out our hands to others who are different…and to work together for the common good.
A recent book by Brian McLaren speaks better to this issue than I can here. It’s called, Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, and it is a must read! In the book, among other things, Brian speaks to how we can develop interfaith friendships/partnerships, and yet maintain our distinctive Christian tradition.
If we ever needed to do this, it’s now.
So much about the future rides on our willingness
to work toward the common good–TOGETHER!
grace and peace.