An Update on Rev. David Benke, Suspended for Participating in Interfaith Service

September 16, 2006

Source: Kitsap Sun,2403,BSUN_19075_4997463,00.html

On September 16, 2006 Kitsap Sun reported, "'Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.' On the screen was Rev. David Benke, a Lutheran minister of the Missouri Synod. He was one of many New York religious leaders that spoke at the interfaith Yankee Stadium, 'A Prayer for America' service that convened primarily as a way to provide solace to the families and the rescue workers. He sat on a platform that held members of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Sikh faiths, together as an acknowledgement of our common humanity. I sat there stunned, listening to him describe what happened to him following the 10-sentence prayer he shared. People and pastors within his own faith accused him of heresy, calling him a 'terrorist' for his participation in the event. A petition was filed, requesting his removal not only as pastor, but from the denomination itself. His suspension was rescinded on appeal in 2003. An article in Religion Today stated, 'To Benke, the event was more patriotic than religious,' and that 'not to make the primary human connections at a time of civic, national and global tragedy would be a great pastoral error.' All this because he participated in an interfaith service. I spoke with Rev. Benke on a recent morning. I wanted to know what effect this experience had on him. He said that the whole issue was a 'moment of truth for my denomination,' and that the suspension gave him the time and opportunity to explore ecumenical and interfaith connections. He said that it has been his understanding that interfaith groups encourage each person to 'live up to the integrity of their own belief' and that 'the authentic Christian message is one of hope, Christ being the way, the truth, and the light.'"