In December, Rob Morris of Newtown's Christ the King Lutheran Church participated in a prayer vigil for the victims of the Newtown massacre. It was attended by Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders as well as president Barack Obama. Now, Rob Morris has been forced to apologize for this -- specifically, for giving the closing benediction -- because it's against his church's rules to participate in "joint worship with other religions."
Obama at Interfaith Prayer Vigil
Rob Morris says that he didn't believe the prayer vigil would qualify as "joint worship." It certainly wasn't a full religious worship service, but I suspect that for most religions, any sort of organized prayer service will qualify as worship to some degree.
It would be difficult to characterize prayer as non-worship when it's conducted in such an organized, public, communal manner.
"There is sometimes a real tension between wanting to bear witness to Christ and at the same time avoiding situations which may give the impression that our differences with respect to who God is, who Jesus is, how he deals with us, and how we get to heaven, really don't matter in the end," [Pastor Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod] wrote.
"There will be times in this crazy world when, for what we believe are all the right reasons, we may step over the scriptural line," he wrote.
Source: NBC News
I'll bet a lot of people will find this story to be surprising and sad, but it will only surprise those who have been deceived into thinking that religion unites people more than it divides. These sorts of situations are actually quite consistent with the exclusionary, divisive nature of traditional, conservative religion (of almost any sort, not just Christianity).
The only thing that's surprising is that we don't hear about such things happening more often.