Nation & World Briefs 02-08-13 Newtown Lutheran pastor reprimanded over prayer vigil

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NEW YORK -- A conservative Lutheran group has reprimanded a Newtown, Conn., pastor for participating in an interfaith vigil after the Sandy Hook massacre.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod said Rev. Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church inadvertently gave the impression he condoned joint worship by offering the benediction at a Dec. 16 event with other religious leaders for the elementary school shooting victims.

The church constitution bars clergy from praying with representatives from other religions, including some other Lutheran groups, for fear of giving the appearance that theological differences about salvation and other doctrines aren't significant.

The vigil included Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha'i leaders. President Barack Obama and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy attended.

In a statement posted Feb. 1 on a denominational blog, the Missouri Synod president, the Rev. Matthew Harrison, said Morris took "specific and commendable" steps to avoid violating the church's constitution: Morris requested an announcement before the event that participating clergy were not endorsing each other's views, and he read from Scripture.

However, Harrison concluded that the event was joint worship since other clergy wore their vestments and the vigil included prayers and religious readings.

Morris does not believe he engaged in joint worship, but has apologized, Harrison said.

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