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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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LCMS board gags its press

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Board of Directors placed a gag order on all participants — even the church's press — in the case brought against Atlantic District President David Benke.

Benke is facing possible removal from the LCMS clergy roster for participating with people of other faiths in "A Prayer for America," a Sept. 11-related event at New York's Yankee Stadium. A decision on the case is expected at the end of April.

The board called previous publicity on the Benke case "divisive and unfair," saying it "undermined the objectives of the Synod [and] brought shame upon the Synod." On Feb. 1, the board ordered the denomination's newspaper, church officers and communications department to stop all such reporting and "remove from the Synod's Web page all references to this matter." It also ordered the LCMS press to publish a statement from the board in the next newspaper edition and on the LCMS Web site.

A denominational bylaw "prohibits publicity" while such cases are pending, board members said.

"As well-meaning as this resolution might be, it serves to cut off the only source of information accountable to the church body," said David Mahsman, director of news and information and editor of official publications for the LCMS. "But it does not cut off less reliable, more partisan sources of information in the church."


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