LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick says that continuing questions related to participation of Atlantic District President David Benke in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, “A Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium led him to send a recent memo to all Missouri Synod congregations.
In the Jan. 22 memo, which runs more than six pages, Kieschnick reviews issues surrounding the event and quotes from statements and memos he has issued about it over the past two years.
“The memo isn’t saying anything that hasn’t already been said. Based on questions and concerns I continue to receive, I decided it would be helpful to once again bring this information to the attention of the Synod,” Kieschnick told Reporter. “I pray that doing so will be helpful to restoring unity and harmony in the Synod.”
Complaints following Benke’s participation in the Yankee Stadium event resulted in his suspension in June 2002. The suspension was lifted last year by a three-member dispute resolution panel.
Kieschnick’s latest memo makes two basic points:
- “First, I agree with the position of the LCMS that pastors of our Synod should have the freedom, tempered with the accompanying responsibility, of ‘offering prayers, speaking and reading Scripture at events sponsored by governments ‘ if the organization in charge does not restrict a Christian witness, and if this can be done without any compromise of our Scriptural, Confessional and constitutional commitments.” His quote is from a document commended by the 2001 Synod convention “for continued use and guidance.”
- He said he has an “unwavering conviction regarding the absolute necessity of being prepared to share our faith in all circumstances, especially at public gatherings, in a way that leaves no doubts or question about the nature of that faith.” He added, “Dr. Benke’s prayer could and should have been a stronger articulation of the truth of Holy Scripture regarding the absolute necessity of faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to eternal life.” He notes that he — and Benke himself — said this two years ago.
Kieschnick quotes a Jan. 4, 2002, statement by Benke, who wrote: “I made a pledge very early on to take seriously those who differed with me. So in the area of specific wording, to whoever has had problems and criticisms, I am sorry that I didn’t get the words out more clearly or accurately or completely. Although it was never intentional, I know that my words have offended some in my denomination, and for that offense I apologize, sincerely, and ask for forgiveness.”
Kieschnick concluded his memo with encouragement for congregations and individual members to pray for the Synod as it prepares for its triennial convention this summer.
The full text of the memo is available on the Web at www.lcms .org/?602.
Posted Jan. 30, 2004