Christian News, June 26, 2013
“After Newtown,” an article by Rev. Paul Robert Sauer, second vice-president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri synod’s Atlantic District and Associate Editor of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau’s Lutheran Forum, says:
“There is very little positive that can be taken away from the recent uproar in the Missouri Synod over the participation of one of its pastors, Rob Morris, in a community service following the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Conservatives are upset that discipline was not meted out in what was for them a clear violation of biblical and constitutional injunctions against unionism and syncretism. Moderates are upset that a pastor would even be asked to apologize for participating in what our own Commission on Theology and Church Relations document deems permissible. The great middle of Missouri was forced to shrug their heads yet again as once more the Synod became known in the wider public only for what it is against and the tremendous dysfunction with which it seems to operate.”
“The level of division and entrenchment on each side, coupled with the dismissive attitude toward synodical resolutions and synodical leadership statements that so many in the Missouri Synod seem to have, indicate how daunting the Koinonia task will be. Beyond the theological divides in Missouri that have yet again been exposed and that invariably become the focus of all the argumentation, the larger unspoken problem obvious to everyone- except those inside Missouri- is a systematic organizational dysfunction that threatens to derail any attempt at reasonable theological discussion, to say nothing of forging genuine 'Koinonia.’”
Morris contacted his ecclesiastical supervisor and was given permission to participate in the Newtown community service on the basis of the Synod-commended 2004 CTCR document on civic events. What has been lost in the discussion of Morris's participation in the community service is that our Synod has spoken on this issue, albeit with a divided voice, and that Morris's participation was within those bounds. Individuals are free to dissent from Synod's position and may have the theological wherewithal to make a case against it, but they certainly lack the ecclesiastical authority to demand that others conform to their own personal views on the issue.
“Sadly, Harrison, with the best motivation at heart in attempting to let charity prevail in the Missouri Synod, overstepped his own authority in asking Morris to apologize for something that Synod documents say he was permitted to do.”
“No matter how well grounded in history and theology they may have been, Harrison’s views were not the position of the Missouri Synod at the time when decisions about Morris’s participation were made. Arguably, there was an additional overstepping of the bounds when Harrison operated outside of the normal ecclesiastical structure by asking Morris to apologize – an ecclesial right which belongs, according to Missouri Synod polity, not to Harrison but to Yeadon, Morris’s district president.”
“At the end of the day, the final arbiter remains the individual, disconnected from the consultation of the wider church. That is the very antithesis of what Harrison hopes to accomplish with Koinonia, and that is why I was grateful at his churchmanship in apologizing for the way the situation was handled.”
1. As this article was being written, synodical nominations for president and vice-presidents have just been announced. It is remarkable how few congregations engaged in the nominations process. Although it is outside of the purview of this particular treatment of Missouri’s dysfunction, I can’t help but wonder how much of the ongoing dysfunction has caused congregations to simply ‘check out’ of Synod politics all together.”
(CN editor: “Note “Is Lutheran Forum Really a Lutheran Forum for All Sides,” CN January 5, 2009.” “Hinlicky Judges Heart of CN Editor – Lutheran Forum Refuses to Debate Inerrancy of Bible,” CN May 20, 1991. The ALPB has long promoted women pastors and evolution and has denied the inerrancy of the Bible. ELCA clergyperson Sarah Hinlicky Wilson is the editor of Lutheran Forum. Father Richard Neuhaus had been an editor of Lutheran Forum. Rev. James Loken, a homosexual, was long a columnist for Lutheran Forum. The Lutheran Forum said the editor of CN was “A Jew hater.” It’s predecessor insisted the CN editor was “out for blood.” The ALPB published Lively Stone, the autobiography of Berthold von Schenk in which he denies the basic doctrine of Christianity).