Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod officials continue to consider charges that 17 pastors and one congregation brought last November against LCMS Atlantic District President David Benke.
Benke was charged with syncretism (worship with non-Christians) for taking part in "A Prayer for America," a televised event at Yankee Stadium days after the World Trade Center attacks. Before the Sept 23 event, LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick gave Benke approval to participate. In statements since, Kieschnick argues that LCMS policy permits participation in "civic events" that may include non-Christians.
A nearly unanimous Jan. 1 statement from the faculty of Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., disagreed about the event's civic nature. "What occurred was more than a simple civic gathering ... it was also a religious service," said the faculty, encouraging Benke and Kieschnick "to reconsider their actions and to address the church on these matters from the perspective of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions."
Originally, Kieschnick was to decide how charges against Benke would be handled. In January, the church's five vice presidents excused Kieschnick because he is involved in the case. First Vice President Daniel Preus was also excused since he has been vocal about his disapproval of Benke's actions. Second Vice President Wallace Schulz was given 90 days to investigate and make a ruling. If found guilty, Benke would be removed from the LCMS clergy roster.
Benke's detailed 30-page response to the charges was posted online at www.ad-lcms.org.
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