A lot has been swimming around social media about the LCMS pastor who was publicly rebuked for taking part in an interfaith memorial in Newtown Connecticutt. A lot of ELCA Lutherans have been quick to say something along the lines of "Not us! Not us! They're that other kind of Lutheran! We are not that insular."
As someone who grew up LCMS and still has more family members inside than outside the LCMS, I share the sadness many feel that the LCMS is presenting a rather stern and self-righteous face to the world in these actions, especially since few unchurched people will ever take the time to understand what the objections might be to praying alongside others in the wake of such unspeakable violence.
But if you read the response that rebuked Pastor Morris wrote, you'll see that it is really an apology -- even a confession -- in the theological sense, reflecting the strength of his theological tradition. While I wouldn't use his exact wording myself, I don't hear him saying he would take back what he did, and I hear in his words a truly Lutheran understanding of what it means to lean on grace:
"Firstly, my source of ultimate comfort as I reflect back on everything in the last six weeks – that event included – is that no sin, even my own sinful failures, can destroy the Church or the Gospel. Jesus taught us that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against His Church which is built on the rock of true confession. And in one of my favorite hymns in the Lutheran Service Book, we powerfully proclaim that “Built on the rock the church shall stand / Even when steeples are falling.” We need not live in fear that Christ’s Gospel will be damaged, for even Satan cannot accomplish that.
I am hopeful, perhaps naively so, that Pastor Morris' thoughtful and hearfelt response will allow at least a few people to hear how one man's faith in the Gospel has guided him through a terribly difficult time. Thank you for courage, Pastor Morris.