rob morris

Missouri Synod President Apologizes for Newtown Interfaith ‘Debacle’

RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House.
President Barack Obama attends a Sandy Hook interfaith vigil. RNS photo by Pete Souza/The White House.

The president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod apologized for his role in the “debacle” that led him to publicly reprimand a pastor in Newtown, Conn., for praying at an interfaith service following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In the initial incident, the denomination’s president, Matthew C. Harrison, requested an apology from the Rev. Rob Morris of Newtown’s Christ the King Lutheran Church for participating in an interfaith prayer vigil that followed the Dec. 14  shootings. Morris’ role in the vigil broke denominational rules against joint worship with other religions.

Morris complied and apologized — not for his participation, but for offending members of the St. Louis-based denomination. But the president’s request sparked a blaze of criticism — from within the denomination and outside it. Critics charged he was intolerant and insensitive to the town’s grieving residents.

“In retrospect, I look back and see that I could’ve done things differently,” Harrison said in a video posted on the denomination’s blog Sunday. “My deepest desire was to bring unity, or at least to avoid greater division in the Synod over this issue.”

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