Lutheran Pastor Apologizes for Praying at Newtown Vigil

RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House

Newtown, Conn., prayer vigil. RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House

A Lutheran pastor in Newtown, Conn., has apologized after being reprimanded for participating in an interfaith vigil following the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Rev. Rob Morris, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, prayed at the vigil the Sunday following the Dec. 14 shootings alongside other Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Baha’i clergy.

Morris’ church is a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the denomination’s constitution prohibits ministers from participating in services with members of different faiths.

It’s not the first time a Missouri Synod pastor has been reprimanded for joining an interfaith prayer service; a New York pastor also was suspended for participating in an interfaith service after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LCMS president Matthew Harrison wrote in a letter to the Synod that “the presence of prayers and religious readings” made the Newtown vigil joint worship, and therefore off-limits to Missouri Synod ministers. Harrison said Morris’ participation also offended members of the denomination.

In 113th Congress: First Hindu, first Buddhist in Senate, and (maybe) first ‘none’

The 113th Congress is the most diverse in U.S. history. New members include the first Hindu, first Buddhist, and the first "none." The Washington Post reports:

The new, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations.

Read more here.

Why We Have to Take the Saudis’ Interfaith Offer Seriously

© IR Stone / Shutterstock

Illustration: All Religious Temples, © IR Stone / Shutterstock

Presidents, government ministers and religious leaders from around the world gathered in Vienna on Monday Nov. 26 for the gala launch of the King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

While Austria and Spain joined Saudi Arabia in establishing the center, it originated in a bold initiative by Saudi King Abdullah. Some years ago, the king convened representatives from all segments of the Muslim world in Mecca to support his call for Islam to engage the other world religions in addressing the social, scientific, and global challenges of our times.

He followed this up with an interfaith conference in Madrid co-hosted with King Juan Carlos of Spain and subsequently brought his initiative to the United Nations in 2008, hosting a gathering of world political leaders that included Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Amid Israel-Hamas Violence, Reconciliation Between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews Continues

Christianity Today reports:

As violence flares anew between Hamas and Israel, which is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks reaching as far as Tel Aviv, CT checked in with Jerusalem-based reconciliation ministry Musalaha for an update on reconciliation efforts between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews.

In 2009, CT reported how three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting—which killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis—left Gaza's beleaguered Christians beginning 2009 in their worst situation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. However, reconciliation work between Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews continued.

Read more here.

A (Possibly) Significant Development in Muslim-Christian Relations

A possibly significant development in Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations is being spear-headed by the Islamic Scholars of North America (ISNA). In July of 2012, ISNA Director of Community Outreach, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, convened a small multilateral forum of scholars in Mauritania to discuss challenges faced by religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities around the world.

Mauritania is an interesting choice, since it has no indigenous Christian population, and the CIA World Factbook lists the country as “(official) 100% Muslim.”

So, officially, Mauritania is 100 percent Muslim, which begs the question: If the ISNA is reaching out to Islamic scholars in Mauritania on the issue of minority religious rights, and the (official) statistic is that Mauritania is 100 percent Muslim, is this a tacit recognition on  ISNA’s part that some of the 100 percent officially Muslim Mauritanians have secretly switched their religion … and that international human rights standards should allow them to do so?

If that’s the case, then this is a significant development in interfaith relations.

… the key word being if.

When All of Abraham’s Children Share a Table: A Moment I’ll Never Forget

Interfaith prayer, photo courtesy Jon Huckins

Interfaith prayer, photo courtesy Jon Huckins

Hebron is known as one of the most volatile cities in the whole region of Israel/Palestine. Located in the heart of the West Bank, both Jews and Arabs have had roots here for thousands of years.  Having endured years of conflict, racism, violence and separation, Hebron’s inhabitants have been covered in a narrative lacking an acknowledgment of a shared humanity

It’s in the middle of such realities that our Learning Community (part of our organization, The Global Immersion Project) feels called to listen, learn, and be radically present. Through the art of friendship making, shared tables and storytelling, we desire to promote the just heart of God by being a people of reconciliation in the way of Jesus. 

It was this posture that landed us in the underground home of a local Muslim Palestinian family who is close friends with the Jewish Rabbi who was hosting us in the old city of Hebron (he is both a host and dear friend). Having prepared a beautiful and expansive Palestinian meal, they warmly invited each one of us into their home and said, “Today, this is your home.” 

More Than 12,000 Christians "Starving" in the Village of Rableh: Humanitarian Law is Invoked

Agencia Fides, the Vatican news outlet for Catholic missioners, is the only news source for reports about Mussalaha, the popular faith-led peace movement in Syria. With violence fracturing along religious/ethnic lines, this inter-religious movement seeks to maintain safe havens for all Syrians who will lay down their weapons. Mussalaha is also smuggling food, medicine, and hope into blockaded cities, such as Rableh where more than 12,000 Christians have been under siege for more than 10 days.

Agencia Fides reports: Over 12 thousand faithful Greek-Catholics are trapped in the village of Rableh, west of Qusayr, in the area of Homs. Food is scarce, the faithful are living on "bread and water", medicine is lacking to treat the sick and wounded. This is the alarm raised by local sources of Fides that invoke respect for humanitarian law, that confirm what the international press is reporting on the situation in Rableh. For more than ten days the village of Rableh is subject to a strict blockade by armed opposition groups, which surround it on all sides....

 ...representatives of the popular initiative for reconciliation "Mussalaha" were able to carry a small load of humanitarian aid to the village. A representative of "Mussalaha" assured the faithful by claiming that "everything will be done to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid." An appeal was launched by His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, visibly moved, to all men of good will so that "Rableh is saved and all other villages affected in Syria, and finally for peace to be reached in our beloved country." Even the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, His Exc. Mgr. Mario Zenari, called on all parties involved "to the strict observance of the international humanitarian law", pointing out that the resolution of the crisis in Syria depends first of all on its citizens.

Read the whole article.