Controversy Over Participation in Interfaith Service

January 15, 2002

Source: Newsday

On January 15, 2002, Newsday reported that "after Sept. 11, many turned to God for comfort and hope. Prayer took on greater significance. But two religious leaders have come under attack by their own brethren for praying in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks... Rev. David Benke is president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's Atlantic District... and is pastor of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Brooklyn... Benke participated in 'A Prayer Service for America' at Yankee Stadium with politicians, celebrities and representatives from various faiths... The president of the entire Missouri Synod, the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, visited New York, toured 'Ground Zero' and met with other pastors at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan, part of a separate body called the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, to hear reports and for prayer, Bible reading and hymn singing... A few vocal pastors within the Missouri Synod have brought ecclesiastical charges against the men... In December, five pastors filed a complaint accusing Benke of 'syncretism' - the belief that all religions basically are equal and there are other ways to heaven besides Jesus Christ... A disagreement such as this raises questions for all people of faith about how to deal with religious differences. After all, Christians certainly have disputes - sometimes quite sharp - between denominations and within particular churches, as do Jews and Muslims... Beyond meeting with others, engagement over what we have in common and how we differ helps foster understanding."