By James H. Heine
ST. LOUIS — During its Feb. 16-19 meeting here, the LCMS Council of Presidents (COP) adopted “an open letter of comfort” addressing the recent controversy surrounding the participation of a Synod pastor in a community prayer vigil/service held two days after the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Adopted unanimously by the COP, the letter was delivered Feb. 21 by New England District President Rev. Timothy Yeadon to Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown through its pastor, the Rev. Robert Morris.
In the letter, the COP first expresses God’s love and care for all involved in the Newtown tragedy.
“Our hearts break for all those who lost loved ones in this unimaginable tragedy,” the COP stated. “May God continue to work in you His peace even through tears and even amongst things we do not understand.”
Also, the COP affirmed “our brothers who have worked through this community crisis with humility, repentance and forgiveness for the sake of Christ’s church and the world” and encouraged “all to strive in continued reconciliation in Christ who Himself reconciled us to God by His sacrifice on the cross.”
In closing, the COP pledged to “commit ourselves under God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions to a study of how better to respond appropriately in a Christ-centered manner to community crises,” inviting the church “to join us humbly in a study of God’s Word as we struggle against the power of darkness through our merciful God of love.”
The Council of Presidents consists of the LCMS’ 35 district presidents, the five vice-presidents and the president of the Synod.
“Being the president of the New England District and living close to Newtown, Conn., this tragedy is extremely personal for me and so many here in our corner of the Synod,” wrote Yeadon Feb. 26 in an email to Reporter. “Yet my comfort has been standing in the shadow of the cross of Jesus with the saints of Christ the King Lutheran Church, her pastor, Rev. Rob Morris, our Synod President, Rev. Matthew Harrison, and my brothers on the Council of Presidents. I also know that our Savior has made room at the cross, and the empty tomb, for so many others as well who have joined us there. Together with them I affirm Jesus’ hope as the only One we really have, and He is truly with us — this I believe. With the Lord’s help, we will not let Satan isolate us from each other, divide us, or remove that hope we have in Jesus Christ.”
In addition to appearing in Reporter, the Council of Presidents’ letter will be posted online at the Synod’s Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog. Posted on the blog as well are a series of letters from Harrison, Yeadon and Morris concerning Newtown and the reaction to Morris’ participation in the prayer vigil/service. The documents include a joint statement of unity signed by Harrison and Morris. Also, Harrison has issued a video statement that may be found at http://video.lcms.org/archives/2012.
An electronic copy of the letter was sent to all rostered members of the Synod Feb. 25.
The complete letter follows.
February 21, 2013
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the name of Jesus Christ by whom God works all comfort.
The Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod expresses God’s love and care for all involved in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts break for all those who lost loved ones in this unimaginable tragedy. May God continue to work in you His peace even through tears and even amongst things we do not understand.
The Council of Presidents affirms our brothers who have worked through this community crisis with humility, repentance and forgiveness for the sake of Christ’s church and the world. The Council also affirms the continued ministry of all who have shown mercy and compassion to those affected by the Newtown tragedy.
We encourage all to strive in continued reconciliation in Christ who Himself reconciled us to God by His sacrifice on the cross.
In the shadow of Christ-crucified who overcame the power of sin we commit ourselves under God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions to a study of how better to respond appropriately in a Christ-centered manner to community crises.
We invite the church at large to join us humbly in a study of God’s Word as we struggle against the power of darkness through our merciful God of love.
Thank you and may God bless you as we “[look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).
We remain yours in Christ,
The Council of Presidents,
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Posted Feb. 28, 2013