Constitutional Emergency

The Arkansas legislature recently modified the state's concealed carry law to permit carrying a concealed weapon in church.  As a result some of our elders raised the question of not allowing weapons in church.  I thought you might be interested in our pastor's response.

Dear Gents,

After yesterday's meeting I did a great deal of Scriptural searching and guidance seeking from fellow pastors; men of faith whom I deeply respect and look to for wisdom and guidance.  Rev. Randy Moll is pastor of a small LCMS congregation in Rogers.  He is a very good and faithful man of God.  I was actually quite surprised to find this following link/post from him. 
http://scripturalreview.com/?tag=concealed-carry
Such an impassioned post is not really his style.  Scripturally, I will direct you to the references that Rev. Moll provides in his article.  They speak for themselves.

 I will only add that from a historical/theological position, even God (through men such as Nehemiah) specifically appointed/called certain, particular men to serve as "armed guards/defenders" of the temple, the priests, and the worshipers.  We call these men "Levites."  If you remember from our Wednesday study of Nehemiah, we spent some time talking about the protective, faithful role of the Levites.  One of the questions I posed to the class was, "What has changed?  Do we still need our ushers/elders to serve as defenders/protectors of our church?"  The answer was a resounding "yes," though there were differing opinions on how exactly that should be accomplished. 

Whatever you gents choose, I will abide with.  I will stress:  Carrying a firearm at church, even in the sanctuary, is not a sin.  I know that some folks have personal feelings about this issue, but these are personal, ethical concerns/feelings.  These are subjective, personal, emotional feelings.  Objectively and theologically, there is nothing sinful about it, and therefore I don't think it is right to impose our personal, subjective concerns upon others who are, in fact, committing no sin.  It's one thing to prohibit sin.  It's quite another thing to enforce my opinion over something "unsinful", but still unappealing to me. 

For example:  I firmly believe that our worship of God is a "full body, full life" thing, meaning that I worship God with my all, and not just my words.  God has richly blessed me.  One of the ways I was always taught to show thankfulness to God for all His benefits to me was to wear my "Sunday best" to church.  I will admit that on a personal level I can't understand why people show up to church looking like they're more suited for a trip to the hardware store or Walmart.  Are they sinning by wearing flip-flops, shorts, sweatpants, and T-shirts to church?  No.  There's just something not "right" about it, but it's not sinful.  What if I were to say, "All people who aren't dressed in their Sunday best have to sit in the narthex for worship.  There's just something not right about being here in God's sanctuary for worship dressed like a slouch"?  What if the congregation took a vote on the matter and the overwhelming majority voted in favor of such a ridiculous, man-made, Pharisaical law?  To quote the old Lutheran pastor, Rev. Matthias Loy, "By the grace and providence of God we have been allowed to make an ass of ourselves." 

The fact of the matter is that some of our members (who are faithful, law-abiding, level-headed, even-tempered, good people) do carry to church.  I know this.  They're not sinning (which would certainly require my attention), nor are they breaking Caesar's law.  This is a matter of them exercising their Christian freedom.  As long as they don't "unconceal" their piece (unless in an absolute emergency), they are doing nothing wrong.  However, to infringe and prohibit based upon my personal likes/dislikes/opinions is wrong, and does trespass into sinful territory.

 Bottom line:  It is my pastoral opinion that permitting a select few trusted men to discreetly carry a firearm at church (including in the sanctuary) for the purpose of serving as "Levitical protectors/defenders" is acceptable.  Again, whatever you gents decide, I will abide with and support.  I do ask that you consider this pastoral counsel before you render decision.  Granting/authorizing permission to a select few doesn't mean that you, as elder, will now be required to carry.  If you don't want to carry, you don't have to.  No one will ever impose such a rule upon you.  However, please don't impose upon those who do desire to carry and worship.  As I said, you can carry and faithfully/rightly worship God at the same time.  Carrying a concealed handgun is not an issue of sin, nor is there an issue of transgressing Caesar's law. 

I will ask you gents, as elders and leaders, to decide on this matter.  You, as elders, take the next couple of weeks while I'm gone and hash this out.  This is why we have elders.  You are to make these sort of command, policy decisions.  This is not a congregational vote item.  This is a policy decision that is to be decided by the called and appointed leaders.  As I've said many times before, the church is (and always has been [ ref. Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council]) a "theological republic," meaning that certain people are called and chosen to serve, care for, represent, decide, and speak on behalf of all the people.  The Church is not a theological democracy.  Simple popular majority vote is acceptable in non-theological, everyday areas such as paint color, etc.  However, this particular issue has theological ramifications (i.e., stewardship, protection of the weak and old and young, service, Christian freedom, and "sin").  For this reason (as in Acts 15) you, as elders and leaders, (and not the whole church) are called to deliberate and decide.  May God grant you faithful wisdom, clarity, self-control, love, resolve, courage, and peace as you exercise your God-given responsibilities to Him and the people you have been called by Him to serve, protect, and defend.

Christ's grace and peace to you,
Pastor          

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Our church can afford a paid guard and several security men. Where a curch can't afford it, I would hope there were some concealed or open carriers in the congregation. As an usher, I'd like to see the carriers be in cooperation with the ushers who are to be vigilantly watching for a loose canon. Most likely there could be an armed robber there for the offeratory $, or you have an unglued ex-husband or soon-to-be-ex looking for a wife at her predictable place on a Sunday, or there's the nut who hates and so disrupts the pastor then rushes the pulpit with a weapon. A guard at the back and front of the church is preferable. A new threat is the radical muslim.

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