The president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in mid-February apologized for his role in the “debacle” that led him to publicly reprimand a pastor in Newtown, Conn., for praying at an interfaith service following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In the initial incident, the denomination’s president, Matthew C. Harrison, requested an apology from Rob Morris of Newtown’s Christ the King Lutheran Church for participating in the vigil that followed the Dec. 14 shootings. Morris’ role broke denominational rules against joint worship with other religions.
Morris did apologize — not for his participation but for offending members of the St. Louis-based denomination.
The president’s request, however, sparked a blaze of criticism from within and outside the denomination. Critics charged he was intolerant and insensitive to the town’s grieving residents.
“In retrospect, I … see that I could’ve done things differently,” Harrison said in a video posted on the denomination’s blog Feb. 10. In an accompanying letter, he apologized for the “embarrassment due to the media coverage” that came with the controversy. He asked for forgiveness and patience from LCMS members.
“As president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, I take responsibility for this debacle,” he said. “I handled it poorly, multiplying the challenges. I increased the pain of a hurting community.”
The controversy is the second high-profile reprimand after a New York pastor was suspended for participating in an interfaith service after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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