Saturday, January 17, 2009

Here the LCMS stands on Warren, Robinson, etc. Part One

part one | part two | part three

There was a story that Red Stick Rant (obviously) picked up on, but it also appeared in two Lutheran blogs, CyberBrethren and Steadfast Lutherans (I hadn't heard of the latter). And a couple of these religiously conservative blogs link to...a story in the New York Times.

President-elect Barack Obama has asked V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, to deliver the invocation at an inaugural event on Sunday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

But that isn't the part that got to the religiously conservative bloggers. This is what Gene Robinson said:

Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.”

“I am very clear,” he said, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that. The texts that I hold as sacred are not sacred texts for all Americans, and I want all people to feel that this is their prayer.”

Bishop Robinson said he might address the prayer to “the God of our many understandings”....

The most interesting reaction to this came from the aforementioned Steadfast Lutherans:

The big stories leading up to the inauguration...have surrounded President-elect Obama’s choices for which clergy will be involved in inaugural festivities. Purpose-Driven Life author Rev. Rick Warren is doing the big one but in a sop to gay rights activists, Obama just picked Bishop Gene Robinson to kick things off.

When you add in the other two clergy who will be participating, it’s a uniquely Protestant affair, which is sort of interesting.

But note how Steadfast Lutheran defines the word "Protestant":

I never realized how different Lutheranism was from American Protestantism until the weeks and months following the horrendous acts of terrorism on New York City, over the skies of Pennsylvania and in my city of Washington, D.C.

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod people know where this is going. There was one 9/11-related event that caused a big furor in my denomination:

When the Atlantic District President prayed a nebulous civil religion prayer at the Oprah Winfrey-led interfaith “Prayer for America” service at Yankee Stadium — with the full blessing and approval of President Gerald Kieschnick — it wreaked havoc on the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. When those with a proper understanding of the confessions called the syncretizers on their commandment breaking, noted theologians such as Bill O’Reilly took the syncretizers side and questioned whether the LCMS could rightfully be called Christian.

It was a shameful and difficult period and it’s hard not to lose respect for President Kieschnick for just how poorly he handled the situation — from a managerial or leadership position even if not a doctrinal one.

Interestingly enough, the author equates "American Protestantism" with "civil religion." I'm sure that there are some old-line Baptists and some Quakers that take deep offense at the insult, and in fact would say that it's hardly proper for a Lutheran to be lobbing the civil religion criticism, considering the state of many Lutheran churches in Europe.

And the LCMS view of the 9/11 interfaith service did not escape the attention of a Huffington Post commenter using the name ArthurTwoShedsJackson (heh):

Now, look at the other end of the religious spectrum: the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS - not to be confused with the much larger Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, ELCA). The LCMS forbids -- repeat, FORBIDS -- interfaith prayer with non-LCMSers. The LCMS calls this "syncretism." When an LCMS representative participated in the interfaith service shortly after 9/11, the LCMS hierarchy suspended that representative for "syncretism"! It gets uglier than that -- google LCMS 9/11 yankee stadium when you can.

To be continued...

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