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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






10 October 2005

Whose Funeral Do I Officiate?


Q: Why do some Lutheran pastors officiate funerals of people outside their congregations and others do not?

CemeteryA: Some few might act out of narrow-mindedness but many restrict funerals just as they do other rites of the Church to those sheep who are under their pastoral care. Normally, I will only officiate for members of my congregation, but will look at the circumstances before making a final decision. One thing I do is talk with their own pastor.

I will not give a Christian burial to someone who did not live as a Christian. Thus, if the person avoided his own church and pastor in life, I will not seem to condone this in death by presiding over the funeral. I have had funerals where the deceased wasn’t a member of my church, but for whom I provided pastoral care prior to death, or who were former members and whose family had ties to the church. At other times, I have had committals for former members whose funeral services had been elsewhere and whose bodies had been returned for burial.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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