Tiller killing prompts Lutheran responses

The shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few U.S. physicians who performed late-term abortions, has prompted statements from Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick, LCMS World Relief and Human Care and its Life Ministries office, Evangelical Lutheran Chgbk.gifurch in America (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and other ELCA leaders, and Lutherans For Life, the country’s only pan-Lutheran, pro-life organization.

Tiller was killed May 31 while serving as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan., a congregation of the ELCA.

In a statement released June 1, Kieschnick said, “This tragic incident obviously will have an impact on all Lutherans and all Christians, especially those of us who believe the teaching of Scripture that abortion is not a moral option except as a tragically unavoidable byproduct of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of another human being.

“We join others who are expressing sadness and strong disagreement with this act of violence and express our sincere Christian sympathy to the wife and family of the man whose life was ended, especially at a time and place of Christian worship,” Kieschnick said.  “We also continue our efforts as Lutheran Christians to speak the truth in love, not in violence, regarding the sanctity of God’s precious gift of life at all ages and all stages, doing so with concern for the protection of the lives of all.”

In its June 1 statement, LCMS World Relief and Human Care “offers sympathy and prayers for the family of Dr. George Tiller and laments the violence that took his life.  The mission of our ministry is to share the grace, mercy, and compassion of our Lord Himself, and we work diligently to ensure that all human life is treated with respect.  We join with others in the pro-life movement who declare that violent acts never contribute to that goal.  We oppose any violence or illegal action done under the motivation of ending the violence of abortion.”

Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries for LCMS World Relief and Human Care, added, “The work of LCMS World Relief and Human Care is expressed in upholding the sanctity of all human life, from womb to grave, through actions of mercy and love.  We will continue to work to bring the care and compassion of Christ to the underserved around the globe, and to ensure the right to life for all peoples equally, regardless of their belief or background.  We support and engage in peaceful solutions and encourage only legal activity toward this goal.”

In the ELCA statement, also released June 1, Hanson said, “Dr. George Tiller and his wife, Jeanne, were gathering with the people of Reformation Lutheran Church to worship and to celebrate Pentecost — the coming of the Holy Spirit to God’s people.  In ttiller2.gifhe wake of his death, we pray that the Holy Spirit will comfort his family and all who mourn.

“We pray for the courage to be peacemakers, rejecting violence as a means of resolving differences,” Hanson continued.  “We trust God’s promise that neither death nor life nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Reformation Lutheran Church Pastors Lowell R. Michelson and Kristin M. Neitzel posted a statement on the congregation’s Web site, noting that Tiller had been a long-time member.

“In the wake of this tragic event, our deepest concern is for the family of George Tiller,” the statement reads.  “We ask the community to join us in prayer for them as they face the difficult days ahead.  Our hearts ache with them.  We also ask that the family’s privacy be respected.”

They added that counselors were helping members of the congregation, and said they “pray for healing and peace to be restored.  We offer our thanks for the many prayers of support from across the country.”

In its June 1 statement, Lutherans For Life (LFL) extends its sympathy to Tiller’s family, and denounces the killing as “evil.”

“God’s Word tells us not to fight evil with evil but to ‘overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:21),” the statement reads.  “Based on that same Word of God, LFL believes that abortion is a great evil, the violent murder of another human being that deeply grieves the Author and Redeemer of life.

“But we oppose the use of evil to overcome this evil.  We have the greatest ‘good’ there is to use against it, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  LFL strives to apply the Gospel to the life issues, to change the hearts and minds so that people will turn to the Lord of Life and not the god of death as the solution to difficult circumstances.

“We want to make the killing of children in the sanctity of the womb as unthinkable and deplorable as the killing of George Tiller in the sanctity of his church.”

Posted June 1, 2009

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