Over the last couple of years, our pastor has permitted and actually encouraged the display of pictures of deceased members in the sanctuary during church services—both at funeral and regular services. Pictures of the deceased and family have also been included on church funeral service bulletins. I have always understood that to display pictures of the deceased or pictures of persons for any reason is inappropriate in the sanctuary. It seems to me that these practices are at best tacky and distracting and may constitute idolatry. Am I over-reacting?
I commend you for your concern for the pure worship of God. The second commandment forbids "any religious worship not instituted by God himself" (Westminster Larger Catechism, answer 109). From the situation you describe, it does not appear to me that the pictures in the bulletin are objects of worship, or that they are even intended to assist worshipers in worship. If either of these were the case, then your concerns would be a matter of biblical principle.
However, I suspect that such pictures in church bulletins are meant to console mourners as they remember and give thanks to God for the lives of the deceased. I find no doctrinal grounds for objecting to this. A bulletin not only provides the order of worship on the Lord's Day, but also information that concerns the life of the congregation. The death of members and their family is certainly noteworthy. Even if you find the pictures "tacky or distracting," I would encourage that love and sympathy for grieving brothers and sisters be your pre-eminent concern.
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