Northern Illinois District President Declines Invitation to Pray, by Pr. Rossow

Northern Illinois District President Dan Gilbert declined an invitation to lead a prayer for the visit of Thuringian President and woman clergy Pastor Kristene Lieberknecht to Concordia University, Chicago last week. We reported our concerns about this Lutheran Laymans League event in an earlier post this month.

We had heard through the grapevine that Bishop Gilbert had declined the offer and so we contacted him and he verified the report. When asked if we could publish this story President Gilbert responded by saying “I am always in favor of reporting the truth.”

Even though this would not have been unionism since there was no worship service involved, President Gilbert just thought it best that he not give the opening prayer so as not to give the wrong impression.

President Gilbert has always been respectful of the Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans and has spent hours with representatives of that group over the year listening to concerns and in many cases taking action. There are still important disagreements but the relationship has always been one of mutual respect. The spirit of President Harrison’s Koinonia project is alive and well in the NID.

Bishop Gilbert’s declination to pray is certainly a far cry from, and hopefully a sign of a step forward compared to the eagerness of Bishop David Behnke, from the Atlantic District, who a decade ago, openly prayed in a joint worship service and civic event in New York City in remembrance of the 9-11 victims.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Northern Illinois District President Declines Invitation to Pray, by Pr. Rossow — 58 Comments

  1. Paul,

    First of all, the ELCA bishop was “Bouman” not “Bohlman”. Secondly, I suggest you read Dr. Benke’s own words about how he got onto the field. In many respects it was just as you sarcastically described it. He was not on the list. He was told by the FBI he could not go onto the field. The person responsible for the Protestant contingent of clery told him the same thing. He went anyway, taking the arm of one who was invited to speak, and basically daring security to stop him. This is taken from Dr. Benke’s own account. You should read it sometime.

    Finally, no one has suggested that prayer is all there is to worship. But until fairly recently the LCMS did define prayer as being worship. That aside, there were readings/quotations from the the Bible and the sacred texts of other religions, as well as impromptu sermonettes. But even leaving THAT aside, you have not answered my question: how do YOU define worship? What has to be there for you to consider something to be worship?

  2. Paul,

    It is not Helen, but David Benke who argued in his Response to Charges for his participation in the YS interfaith prayer service. Benke claims his participation had been vindicated by “our denomination”.

    It was Benke who on Sept. 15 notified pastors in his district regarding the special observance on Sept. 23, in which “various religious leaders from all major traditions will offer words of encouragement and unity. I view this as an opportunity for LCMS Lutherans to show the kind of civic unity and pride which are so desperately needed at this time, as well as to mirror the Gospel of Christ in love and action.”

    It was Benke who on Sept 20, after not being contacted by anyone inviting him to the special prayer event, “determined to make a phone call to a Roman Catholic contact about the September 23 event. When I asked about the event in Central Park, he said, ‘Oh, that’s ancient history. With all the security issues, it’s been moved to Yankee Stadium. You’ll need a ticket to get in through security. That’s designed to keep attendance to those who really need to be there.'”

    It was Benke, in response to the (not so) subtle hint that he had not been considered as one of the participants, but could be an attendee, if he could get a ticket, who then “made a series of phone calls. By mid-afternoon these conversations resulted in the opportunity to participate in the program at Yankee Stadium and to offer a prayer.” Benke then “contacted Dr. John Hiemstra, Protestant program coordinator and gave him a provisional positive response, pending process of discernment [sic].”

    It was Benke who, despite his previous apology to Pres. Barry not to participate in such activities again, got the newly elected Pres. Kieschnick’s to “affirmed my decision to participate” with the understanding that Benke “intended to offer a prayer in Jesus’ Name.”

    It was Benke who on Friday, Sept 21, “then contacted Dr. Hiemstra with that information, since he had to know on that day whether I would be participating due to FBI clearance procedures.”

    It was Benke who, on Sept. 23 at Yankee Stadium, asserted that he ignored the final security list of FBI-approved participants in which his name had not been included. Benke instead proclaimed, “I resolved that I would need to accompany the rest up to the bleacher area out on the field.”

    It was was Benke who ignored the instructions from his Protestant portion leader to wait in the dugout; instead Benke brags about sneaking onto the field – ” What were they going to do, throw me off the field?”

    It was Benke who took the Cardinal’s arm and walked out from the dugout onto the playing field, forcing the Yankee Stadium Prayer Service staff to scramble so that “eventually they found me a chair, sitting next to the Commander of the Atlantic Fleet.”

    It was Benke who co-officiated a prayer service with heathen clerics and who, following the prayers to their gods by these pagans, proclaimed to the stadium and television audience, “Oh, we’re stronger now than we were an hour ago.”

    It was Benke who violated the Missouri Synod’s prohibition against participating in syncretism. On May 2, 2002, Benke wrote the Rev. Wallace Schulz regarding the interfaith prayer service, “Clearly the event was syncretistic”, and followed it with the weasel words, “But was the Mayor of New York’s syncretism something that the Constitution of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod proscribes?”

    It was Benke who, after his blasphemous YS prayer (though he claims he is “sorry” it caused offense), continues to hawk on his church’s website his It’s OK to pray (TM) t-shirts with his YS prayer on the back.

    It was Benke who refused to recognize that the YS prayer service was a worship service to a multitude of pagan gods and that, as Rev. Schulz described, “when President Benke asked pagan clerics to ‘join hands’ with him in prayer, this was the spiritually copulative act of adultery”; instead Benke had proclaimed in an email to a Lutheran layman, “The Muslim God is also the true God”. Five and a half years later Benke did retract 28.5 percent of the heretical statement he wrote.

  3. @Paul #47
    And I just love all you people that don’t know him, never met him, live in the heartland (far away from ground zero) and throw your little digs at him.

    Dear Paul, you remind me of my first NJ landlady. She told me I was a “provincial” because I came from Minnesota. (Do you know they sell New York papers in Minnesota? I began reading them when I was eight years old.) She hadn’t gotten to the Statue of Liberty and she grew up in Newark, about 10 miles away.
    I walked the streets of south Manhattan before that vertical ticky-tacky that was the WTC was built. (BTW, do you know that it was much opposed at the time?) I am familiar with some parts of Brooklyn.
    No, I never visited your hero’s church but a friend of mine went there (against the advice of 2 or 3 cops who gave him directions). Small world. 🙂

  4. Helen , you reminded me of a coworker and his son from the Midwest. They went to NYC to check out Columbia University. They were taking the Subway and asked for instruction. This person said get off at X street and run like hell. They decided not to enroll there.

  5. @Ready to Lose it #55
    Depending on the decade, it may have been good advice.

    A friend who grew up in Brooklyn rode the subway all over the boroughs all of her youth. By the time we were attending alumni meetings (for an Iowa college) in Manhattan, one of our husbands met us afterward to see us home. She hated to think it was necessary in her NYC!

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