May. 13th, 2003

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Some of you may remember last year, when the MIssouri Synod of the Lutheran Church suspended a minister who, with permission from the leaders of his church, spoke at the non-denominational service for the victims of 9/11 in Yankee Stadium. Briefly, the Synod, which was formed by Lutherans fleeing oppressive religious tolerance in the Kaiser's Prussia (they were asked to pray with Calvinists, to their understandable horror) felt that the minister was guilty of suggesting that the non-christian religions represented at the service were valid in some way by praying on the same stage. My earlier posts on the subject are here and here.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod announced yesterday that it has dismissed all charges against a high-ranking pastor who had been suspended for praying with "pagans" in an interfaith service at New York's Yankee Stadium after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Rev. David Benke, 57, said the dispute was "a lesson in how absolutism, no matter where it comes from, ends up hurting people."

After eight months under suspension, Benke returned to work yesterday afternoon as president -- the equivalent of a bishop in the Missouri Synod -- of the Atlantic District. The Missouri Synod has 2.6 million members and is the ninth-largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Benke's troubles began after he appeared with Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Christian speakers in "A Prayer for America," the interfaith service co-hosted by Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones on Sept. 23, 2001.

Eighteen pastors and three congregations of the Missouri Synod charged him with "syncretism" -- mixing Christian and non-Christian beliefs -- and "unionism," or blurring the doctrines of Christian denominations. An initial adjudicator, the Rev. Wallace Schulz, upheld the charges and ordered Benke to apologize or leave the clergy...

The Rev. Schulz later lost his job as the host of "The Lutheran Hour" on radio over the controversy.
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In another of the ongoing list of things we're really going to have to discuss with the Powell family one of these days, the FCC is about to deregulate basically anything that would keep Bush donors from buying up every available form of communication available.

Talk to congress about it.


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