There are two types of people who sometimes object to participating in interfaith ceremonies: religious and irreligious.
First the religious. After the horrible shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, the local clergy sponsored an ecumenical prayer service. While I don’t believe there is a deity who listens to prayers, I do understand the value of a community coming together publicly to mourn such a tragedy. One victim was a little girl who had recently joined Christ the King Lutheran Church. Its pastor, Robert Morris, gave the benediction. President Barack Obama and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy attended.
Pastor Morris had made it clear that participants at the service did not necessarily endorse one another’s theological views. Nonetheless, up the Lutheran authority chain Pastor Matthew C. Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, reprimanded Morris for participating. Pastor Harrison said he feared such ecumenical activities might give the impression that it doesn’t matter who God is, how to worship Jesus, and what we need to do to get to heaven.
After the rebuke raised a public outcry, I was hoping to hear an apology, and there was one. Unfortunately, the apology did not come from President Harrison for having criticized Pastor Morris’s attempt to comfort grieving people who might have had different beliefs about an afterlife. The apology came from Pastor Morris, who humbly acknowledged that his participation was offensive to his church. He also promised never again to take part in such ecumenical activities.
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