The CTCR has released it’s response to a 2007 convention mandate “To Provide Further Discussion and Guidance on the Matter of Serial Prayer.” This goes back to 2004 Res. 3-06A where the convention commended for study Guidelines for Participation in Civic Event “to help pastors, teachers, and church workers make decisions about participation in civic events” (2004 Proceedings, p. 131).
Part of what bothered some, a few “Troublers of Israel” and no churchmen for sure, was the Guidelines introduction of the heretofore unknown concept of serial prayer. We’ll let the Guidelines speak for themselves.
The members of the Commission disagree about the issue of so-called “serial” or “seriatim”** prayers involving representatives of different religious (Christian and/or non-Christian) groups or churches. Some members of the Commission believe that under no circumstances is it permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in any type of an event in which various Christian and/or non-Christian leaders “take turns” offering prayers, holding that such an activity by its very nature constitutes “joint prayer and worship.” The majority of the Commission believes that in some instances it may be possible and permissible for LCMS pastors to participate in such an event as long as certain conditions are met (e.g., when the purpose of the event in question is clearly and predominately civic in nature, and when it is conducted in such a way that does not correspond to the LCMS understanding of a “service”; when no restrictions are placed on the content of the Christian witness that may be given by the LCMS pastor; when a sincere effort is made by those involved to make it clear that those participating do not all share the same religious views concerning such issues as the nature of God, the way of salvation, and the nature of religious truth itself).
It should be noted in this connection that all members of the Commission agree that, understood from a Christian perspective, prayer is always in some sense “an expression of worship.” The question is whether it is possible under any circumstances for an LCMS pastor to offer a prayer in a public setting involving a variety of religious leaders without engaging in “joint prayer and worship.” Some believe that this is not possible. The majority believes that it may be possible depending on such factors as how the event is arranged and understood and how the situation is handled by the pastor in question, in order to make it clear that “joint prayer and worship” is not being conducted or condoned.
(** “seriatim” is a legal term for “one after another” as when a court elects to decides to address multiple issues in a particular order. I would argue, if any one was really arguing this at all, that as it is one court deciding multiple issues the implication for prayer is the other way. Many are addressing one.)
After 17 months of deliberation the CTCR came up with the Sgt. Schultz response of “I know nothing; I see nothing.” I’ll let them condemn, I mean speak, for themselves:
The Commission has carefully re-examined the discussion of “‘serial’ or ‘seriatim’ prayers” on pages 19-20 of its report Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events (April 2004).* Although some “further clarification” (cf. 2007 Res. 3-05) may be possible in terms of applying the “conditions” discussed in this section of the report to various events and situations that have arisen in the past, it is impossible to provide specific guidance for any and all events that may arise in the future. We simply cannot anticipate the precise nature, purpose, or context of every occasion that may arise in the future or set forth specific parameters surrounding participation in these types of events beyond what is already stated in the 2004 report. Ultimately, this is a matter that requires the exercise of pastoral judgment at a particular time and place. When presented with such a situation, a pastor is, of course, urged to consult with other pastors and advisors for counsel with regard to how to respond to such requests within his particular context.
Adopted Unanimously by the CTCR Dec. 13, 2008
See how they wish never to speak of the Yankee Stadium Prayer service? Sure “some ‘further clarification’ may be possible in terms of applying the ‘conditions’ discussed in this section of the report to various events and situations that have arisen in the past” but they choose not to. Though this flagrant unionistic and syncretistic service still burns bright in the minds of any truly confessional Lutheran, the CTCR still refuses to be clear that when an event opens with an invocation, two in fact, and closes with a benediction and is called a prayer service, one cannot take part without placing Jesus on the same level as the gods of the Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, et al.
Truthfully, even this wouldn’t satisfy this narrow-minded, knee-jerk, “Troubler of Israel.” Even if it’s a group of people standing in a field with no preceding comment, I couldn’t take my turn praying to the True God amidst those praying to idols. And no I couldn’t do it with my brothers in Christ either lest I give the impression that the True God doesn’t care what a Christian believes, teaches, or confesses about any other doctrine other than the deity of Christ.
Furthermore, I must live on a different planet than the CTCR. Have you ever attended or heard about a civic event where “a sincere effort is made by those involved to make it clear that those participating do not all share the same religious views concerning such issues as the nature of God, the way of salvation, and the nature of religious truth itself?” This would take more than Mr. Smith going to Washington. It would take Prophet Elijah going to Mount Carmel.
To all of us fighting the good fight to save the good ship Missouri; to all of us who are going to stay in that ship till they cast us overboard; to all of us veterans of Christian wars I ask, Where is the hue and cry? Where are our trumpets sounding a clear note of repentance? O I know; they will sound in the resolutions with which we will flood our District conventions.
No, they won’t. We will blow our own horns thesame place we always do: in our quiet conventicals of like minded men over beer and cigars. There we will find the courage to speak out, to rage against the powers that be, to declare, “Something has got to be done!” And then we’ll take another drink of beer and another puff of cigar content that we’ve done our part by being outraged. Cowards all are we. We aren’t even Mr. Smith’s let alone Elijah’s. We’re Sgt. Schultz’s.
I wonder how the enemy would swallow this pill: We’ll pass a by-law that says, “In order make it clear that we don’t share the same religious views, any pastor participating in serial prayer must, by body position, either by sitting or
turning his back, indicate that he is not involved in the prayers of others.” It wouldn’t call fire from heaven, but it might hurt someone’s feelings.
Cowards we may be, but heretics we are not. To those who receive permission from such documents, shame on them. Let us be thankful for those others who help teach us that these documents are documents which should elicit feelings of Anfechtung or Tentatio and that these are documents which should bruise our consciences. The true battle is not taking place on our Synodical Convention floor but as Luther said rather in and on our consciences.
Let us not despair of our outlet with which we resort to in trials of sorrow or for as Luther said “Having been taught by experience I can say how you ought to restore your spirit when you suffer from spiritual depression. When you are assailed by gloom, despair, or a troubled conscience you should eat, drink, and talk with others. If you can find help for yourself by thinking of a girl, do so. Other remedies are suitable for other persons. Copious drinking benefits me when I am in this condition (54:17)