1. Does the LCMS plan to stop Sunday services? If so, for how long?
The national headquarters of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, located in St. Louis, represents some 6,000 congregations across the country. Many of them have schools. Our polity does not give the national headquarters authority to tell churches to stop services. We are encouraging our pastors and people to follow civil authorities according to the Fourth Commandment (i.e., honoring parents and other authorities), and they are doing so according to St. Paul’s direction in Romans 13.
2. Does the LCMS plan to limit attendance to 50 people?
Face-to-face distribution and reception of Christ’s free forgiveness in preaching (Romans 10:17) and the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:28) are essential for us and at the heart of why we exist. Some of our churches are putting a plan in place to have multiple services during the week, with no more than 50 attending.* Others, based upon their circumstances, have made other arrangements. We trust our great clergy and laypeople to act appropriately. We have well-trained clergy, and they are consulting their local lay leadership.
3. Does the LCMS believe that a governmental entity has the right to limit a church service?
We don’t view this as a matter of restriction of the First Amendment’s “free exercise” rights. That would be a different matter. We do not believe that the government is trying to limit religion in such an instance. Instead, we view this limitation of church services more as a duty and opportunity to act for the benefit of our fellow citizens, especially those most vulnerable (“love your neighbor as yourself,” Mark 12:31). We respect government authority as it acts for the physical well-being of our great nation and the world. “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:3–4). The good citizen leaders of this nation are trying to limit harm, and we support them.
Government limits might be tested, particularly if more stringent directives come. Our government has generally been limited from restricting the right of assembly and the free exercise of religion, and we are thankful for that, as all Americans are. But we also know that government has a responsibility to protect its citizenry.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
*At the time of this interview, the government recommended limiting gatherings to 50 people.
Church or no church I will be sitting in my usual spot on sunday
I love you as a dear brother in Christ and respect you as my synod president, and am thankfull to the Holy Spirit for your call. I am a Elder ar St John’s Lutheran Church in Forest Morrisdale Pa, we will not limit nor close any service on Sun. or Wed. service. No disrespect to you my dear President, I will not give Satan the upper hand in thee bride of my Great and awsome loving Lord and risen Savior.
Is there a chance for Rev. Harrison to make some you-tube videos having a service that the rest of the Country can see. as a shut in with my wife on hospice, it would be a way for the LCMS to share Gods love with everyone in this time in history.
Thank you for your comment. Most LCMS districts are compiling lists of congregations that are live-streaming their church services. You’ll find district contact information at http://www.lcms.org/districts. You could also search YouTube for LCMS congregations that have posts out there.
The government may not directly say it is limiting our freedom to worship, but they are eneacting rules that do exactly that. For years I have heard from LCMS pastors that Christians come together for worship and to receive the Blessings of the Christ Jesus. Now, we can all sit at home and watch YouTube sermons. Where is the Truth in action about what the Word of God teaches? Or is it just as relative as the rest of the world? I thought we are taught to not fear the one who can kill the body, but rather the one who can kill the soul. I am stunned and devastated at how quickly the ‘christians’ in this country folded to not coming together to worship the Triune God.
Why are we closing our churches? Especially over Holy Week? Why are we allowing our worship to be considered “nonessential?” If you can get everything you need from online worship, why go to church at all?
This virus is certainly a serious issue, but the reaction to it has greatly expanded the government’s overreach, and we are allowing them to do so without any push back whatsoever. We can cherry pick verses to support the choice to lock our churches. To say we must follow the government because the God placed leaders over us does not address when we should push back against its authority. History has shown us instances in which we should. Also, didn’t Luther push back against his church authority?
For those members with great concern and health issues, many were already choosing to worship at home. For the rest, the church should not lock us out, effectively withholding sacraments from the members.