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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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When to pray for the ill

Congregations often pray for the ill. But now ELCA clergy — or anyone offering the prayers — may have to tread carefully. The Dallas Morning News reports a debate over medical privacy and prayer, citing suits filed by parishioners claiming violation of their medical privacy.

Although ELCA clergy haven't faced such suits yet, Edward McGlynn Gaffney Jr., a law professor at Valparaiso [Ind.] University, sees cause for concern: "If you believe there is such a thing as spontaneous prayer, inspired by the Spirit, then how can you control that? The intrusion of government on the clergy when such suits are entertained is a formidable one. If the government told clergy what to preach, people would see that as wrong. Why should prayer be different?"


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