Controversy Over Participation in Interfaith Service

February 8, 2002

Source: The New York Times

On February 8, 2002, The New York Times featured the story "Seeing Heresy in a Service for Sept. 11." It reported on the controversy over Rev. David Benke's participation in the national prayer service with leaders from other faiths. The article explained, "Addressing his 'brothers and sisters,' he prayed: 'The strength we have is the power of love. And the power of love you have received is from God, for God is love. So take the hand of one next to you now and join me in prayer on this field of dreams turned into God's house of prayer.' It sounds innocuous. But 17 pastors in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is based in St. Louis, did not like the company Pastor Benke kept. They accused him of tolerating syncretism, the combining of Christian and non-Christian views. Their charges could lead to his dismissal as a clergyman." It noted that, "The affair has led to crisis mode in the leadership of the Missouri Synod, a conservative branch of Lutherans that claims 2.6 million adherents and is the nation's ninth-largest Christian church. It also raises the question of how a religion can reach out to other faiths while remaining true to itself."