Saturday, February 9, 2013

Missouri Synod Lutherans Unfeeling ? LCMS Journalist On Media Coverage of Sandy Hook Worship Service

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has been in the news this week as to a controversy over a interfaith Church service that happened after the  Sandy Hook School shootings.

I have been following some of the media coverage and found it very wanting in some respects.

First I think many journalists assume that many of us are in regions where Lutherans are abundant. While there are Lutherans in the major cities of North Louisiana I did not meet my first Lutheran till I was in college.  So many still are struggling with understanding the divisions and issuesin the Lutheran Church.

On a personal level I find many of the comments in the media articles dealing with this issue a tad disheartening. In fact many Christians themselves seem to parrot the attitude of The Friendly Atheist in his post Lutheran Pastor Apologizes for Being a Decent Human Being .

There is among Christians perhaps a tad little bit of a smug Holier than though attitude ,and yes let me saying that word "judging".

Now in honesty I think much of this has to deal with the fact that the issues might have not been fully explored that are at issue as to LCMS Doctrine and joint worship services likes this . That is we are dealing with many Christians acting out of ignorance.

Therefore I have been waiting during the week for journalist Mollie Hemingway to give her take on this since she is a member of a congregations  of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

She does so here at Covering opposition to syncretism in a syncretized world  where she gives some background , thoughts and  reviews the media coverage. The comments are a must read , and one can see that the particulars of what is " worship " is of some debate in the Missouri Synod.

Two things struck me in Hemingway's piece. First she does remind us that these people left Germany in some great numbers and at great cost to come to American over these issues.

Second she  notes "So if you thought it was less than enjoyable to have your patriotism questioned after 9/11, you can imagine how easy it is to explain your church doctrine on the First and Second Commandments in the subtle and unpolarized aftermath of the Newtown massacre. "

That I have to admit does not sound fun at all. Which I think requires of us all some sensitivity not only to the Newton victims and community  but to the LCMS also.

It appears that this is a issue specifically worship. I think it is easy to get the impression that LCMS is against all ecumenical work. That is not the case. In fact what is largely missing in many of these stories is members of the local LCMS Congregation were on the ground giving aid to victims.

Mrs Hemingway was kind enough to clarify some elements of the doctrine that is at issue to me in an email.

First if a LCMC person  attend a  different church body's wedding or funeral and that's fine. They are also allowed to observe other worship services, though, including baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.
The issue here is they do  NOT DO syncretistic or unionistic worship services, and that includes weddings and funerals and in this case interfaithwworship services. That basically means their Pastors and Officials can NOT help lead them. I thought this  post Unionism & Syncretism Follow-up by a Lutheran pastor was a good item to look at what these terms mean.

Now the coverage has not been all bad. But I have to admit the items that I have come across have seemed again wanting. However as reporter Bob Smietana of the Tennessean  stated in the comments :

This story is another great example of how difficult it is to ”get religion.”

To folks inside the LCMS, this is a case of syncretism in worship. To people outside the church, the pastor was acting like chaplain, in praying and offering comfort to the grieving, and the event was a community gathering – not worship. Not easy for a reporter to get both sides of that story....

I think that is very true. Which is more the reason why journalists and indeed just regular folks that do social media sites of some influence need to be careful about accurately representing the  the LCMS position (s) and complexities. On top of the shooting  tragedy we don't need to add to that the perception that LCMS folks are unfeeling uncaring Christian folks.


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Anonymous said...

Sorry. Haaving gone through missouri synod schools. I DO believe they are uncaring and unfeeling. I agree the lay people/parishioners do not all tend to be this way. But i left the "misery synod" b/c of how cold their ministers are. I spoke w other former missour synod luutheraans who left for years. They mention to me how "inhuman", the ministers tend to be. I converted to roman catholic after years of not going to lutheraaan church. ELCA doesnt tend to be as unfeeling as missouri/wisconsin synods. I dont know if its because missouri/wisconsin synods tend to be old Germans? There r good people within the missouri/wisc synods however their dogma/pastors/and many leaders within? Are inhuman.