Question 3. For the past triennium, the participation of an LCMS district president in the post-9/11 “A Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium has been a subject of controversy and discussion in the Synod. How can a member of the Synod, in our pluralistic age, take part in such an event and make a faithful witness to the Gospel without giving the impression that all present worship the same God or share the same religious beliefs?
Diekelman (3): It’s time we move beyond the Yankee Stadium issue! We must concentrate more on how we are joyfully and confessionally telling the story of Jesus and His love to all people. Lay people are living out their faith every day as they make decisions about their participation in business, social and community arenas. Their words and actions must give glory to the one true God. They must give faithful witness to the saving Lordship of Jesus Christ. To compromise the faith or settle for a universalistic message that waters down the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ is unacceptable.
At times, faithful lay people may come to different conclusions over witness opportunities. Our pastors are faced with similar dilemmas, made more difficult by their public dimensions. No matter what is said or done, if our public witness gives the impression that all present worship the same God or share the same religious beliefs, we must not participate. However, if a clear witness can be given to the saving grace of the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then we should do all it takes to get to the microphone. Often, these decisions are difficult. As a Synod anchored in God’s grace, we should always treat one another honorably. An environment in which we recklessly volley charges against one another is neither healthy nor serves the Gospel.
Kieschnick (3): Following the Yankee Stadium event, I asked the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, in consultation with the Council of Presidents, to prepare a document now titled “Guidelines for Participation in Civic Events.” I strongly support its clear statements:
“It is never permissible for Christians to pray and worship together with non-Christians (‘joint prayer or worship’). [“Joint prayer or worship” is defined as “worship activities that assume, and falsely so, that Christians and non-Christians may actually join together in ‘worshiping the same God’ apart from a common faith in and confession of Jesus Christ.”] … It is understood that LCMS pastors who participate in civic events of any kind will take care to ensure that their prayers clearly and faithfully reflect Scripture’s teaching regarding the nature of the true God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the exclusivity of access to God through faith in Christ alone.”
“Witness & Worship in Pluralistic America” (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis) also provides proper caution and evangelical encouragement, e.g.: “The Great Commission obligates the church to be in the world without becoming of the world in order to witness to the world.”
We are compelled to proclaim to all, unapologetically, uncompromisingly and unequivocally, the One Message that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior of the world!
Marquart (3): The question takes for granted that one may participate in such events. I disagree. A public meeting with other religions, without joint worship, is one thing. We should then present the Gospel as winsomely as God’s grace may enable us. But “A Prayer [note: not separate “prayers”] for America” is another matter. To take turns reading, preaching, and praying with official representatives of non-Christian religions, the whole thing enclosed within common “invocations” and “benedictions,” is to take part in a joint service.
To deny this is to deny the honest meaning of the words. Our Synod needs to resolve this matter by asserting the clear Word of God (especially the First Commandment!) against the fake “authorities” made up by human church politics. An honest solution will include at least an apology to Vice President Dr. Wallace Schulz. Though the Lutheran Laymen’s League is on record otherwise, I believe he was punished with dismissal from the Lutheran Hour for his courageous decision to follow God’s truth rather than human regulations (see Matt. 15:9).
Preus (3): Through its dispute resolution process our church has dealt with “A Prayer for America.” It would not be healthy for us to continue focusing attention on the past. We do need to ensure that we seek opportunities to proclaim the Gospel clearly. I am confident that we will continue to honor the fellowship doctrine and practice to which we have all agreed. Our LCMS Constitution requires all members of the Synod to avoid “unionism and syncretism of every description.” The reason for this requirement is to ensure that our public confession remain unambiguous as together we proclaim to all the world that,
Christ alone is our salvation, Christ the Rock on which we stand.
Other than this sure Foundation will be found but sinking sand.
Wenthe (3): If one looks at the history of the church, when Christians have witnessed clearly and accompanied that witness to the one and only Triune God with acts of mercy and compassion towards all of humanity, the witness to Christ is powerful and persuasive. By the same token, whenever the church has compromised its conscience or suggested that there are other ways to God’s mercy and grace than through Christ and His cross, the mission and health of the church have declined dramatically. Our Lord Himself is a model as He challenged the false gods and religions of the Roman Empire and announced His own lordship of all creation when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” The pastoral response of the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary to the events of Yankee Stadium is a model for such a witness.
Question 4. The president is the chief ecumenical officer of the Synod. The Missouri Synod is a large and complex organization, with colleges, universities, seminaries, auxiliaries, congregations, districts and other entities that have become involved in work overseas. What would you do to coordinate these varied entities and efforts and work with our 29 partner churches to provide effective leadership to confessional Lutheranism around the world?
Diekelman (4): As a parish pastor and district president, I’ve learned about leadership “on the job.” Effective lead