By Wicai, Hillary
The Christian Century , Vol. 120, No. 11
A panel for the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod has lifted the suspension of a New York church official penalized last June for participating in a national interfaith prayer event at Yankee Stadium following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"I feel vindicated," said David Benke, president of the denomination's New York--based Atlantic District, after the decision was announced May 13. "I think Yankee Stadium was the right thing at the right time, the right place for the right reason," Benke said. "The LCMS has now said ... it's OK to pray in public and it's OK to give a witness in a time of national crisis."
The nationally televised event, "A Prayer for America," included non-Christian clerics as well as Christians representing various denominations and celebrity performers. They gathered to pray for the United States and for the victims of the attacks.
Benke's suspension arose from complaints filed by 18 LCMS pastors and three congregations who argued that his participation constituted syneretism--worshiping with non-Christians. They also felt Benke had sinned against some of the Ten Commandments, committed public defense of false doctrine and violated the constitution and bylaws of the St. Louis-based denomination.
Benke appealed the suspension. Ultimately he faced removal from the clergy roster. However, nearly 11 months after being removed from his duties, the panel of trained LCMS reconcilers unanimously lifted Benke's suspension.
"Rev. Benke's participation [in "A Prayer for America"] was neither a rejection of nor a challenge to the Synod's fellowship position and practice, but a discretionary response to a quite extraordinary set of circumstances in a quite unordinary event--a terrorist attack on the United States of America, specifically in New York City and the parochial area of St. Peter's Lutheran Church, New York, New York, and the Atlantic District of the LCMS," the panel wrote. …