Monday, June 01, 2009

Murder in the Church

I first learned about the murder of Dr. George Tiller early yesterday afternoon on while looking at ALPB Forum Online. Mine was a terrible sinking feeling, partly because this happened in the Narthex of a sister ELCA congregation, where Dr. Tiller was serving as an usher as the congregation was preparing for worship on one of the holiest of Christian holy days, Pentecost -- the 50th Day of Easter and the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

What, then, should a Lutheran Pastor say in this sort of situation? The best I've seen so far is this letter to the editor posted by three Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastors in northwest Wisconsin. As you read it, please do so with the same careful attention with which it was clearly written.
There is an old saying: Two wrongs don’t make a right. This does not appear in the Bible but it certainly reflects a scriptural idea. This concept, that two wrongs don’t make a right, is certainly true in the case of the murder of Dr. George Tiller.

Dr. Tiller was an infamous abortionist, who was one of the very few in the country who would perform late-term abortions. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is strongly pro-life, and condemns the practice of abortion. Dr. Tiller, a former member of a Missouri Synod congregation, was excommunicated by that congregation for his abortion practice. (The congregation he was currently attending is part of another Lutheran body.) We stand by that action. Our sister congregation acted properly in disciplining Dr. Tiller. Such action is always intended to lead a person to see their sins and come to repentance. Excommunication is never intended to bring that person harm.

While we condemn Dr. Tiller’s actions as an abortionist, we just as strongly condemn the actions of the person who took his life. Murder, even of a murderer, is never acceptable. God teaches us in Romans 13 and other places, that the government is in place to enforce justice. We are never to take private vengeance. This is simply not given to private individuals. Murder in any circumstances is a grievous sin. It was our utmost desire that Dr. Tiller come to repentance, and perhaps in time he may have. We do not know. Only God sees all ends. Sadly, because of this heinous act of violence, Dr. Tiller no longer has that opportunity.

Rev. Jody R. Walter, pastor LCMS
Immanuel, Frederic

Rev. David Emmons, pastor LCMS
Zion, Turtle Lake/Immanuel, Clayton

Rev. Mark Schoen, pastor LCMS
Shepherd of the Valley, St. Croix Falls
There's a whole lot of careful theology and pastoral care in those 3 brief paragraphs. There will be more to say later on, but in the heat of the moment, these Lutheran pastors have said what needed to be said, no more and no less.

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