It was ten years ago today, on September 23, 2001, that Atlantic District President David Benke participated in the interfaith prayer service “A Prayer for America” in New York City.
Benke had previously participated in an interfaith prayer service on September 9, 1998. On October 22, 1998, he signed a public apology in which he stated:
“My participation in this service was a direct violation of the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, and consequently, violation of the Constitution, Bylaws and doctrinal resolutions of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I also recognize that my participation in this interfaith prayer service was a violation of my duties and responsibilities as an elected officer of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
“While well-intended, what I did was wrong. I therefore sincerely and publicly apologize to the Synod for my actions in this connection. I assure the Synod that I will not repeat this error in the future by participating as an officiant in ecumenical services.”
Now this year, on September 11, 2011, Benke participated in a joint worship service with clergy of the ELCA, according to an ELCA news release.
In the news release below, the “Prayer and Remembrance” commemoration is referred to as a “service” several times. And it is noted that this service was patterned after a “worship service” that took place at the same ELCA church ten years earlier. That worship service took place on September 19, 2001, and Benke participated in it also (ELCA joint service of September 19, 2001).
Here then is the text of the ELCA news release, dated September 12, 2011:
Commemoration at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Manhattan, hosted a “Prayer and Remembrance” organized by Lutheran Social Services of New York. Members of the ELCA, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the public gathered to remember lives lost, acknowledge survivors who are moving forward and celebrate the response efforts of both denominations in New York.
“I felt great warmth, especially in seeing the relationships of collaboration and shared service that the ELCA and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod displayed while responding to Sept. 11,” said the Rev. Kevin A. Massey, program director for Lutheran Disaster Response.
“We gathered at Holy Trinity to commemorate 10 years passing. The lost are remembered. The tears often flow anew. While time assuages some of the sting of the pain, the ache remains. We will always miss those whose absence leaves a space in our souls,” he said.
The commemoration included speakers and participants from the ELCA and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod including Hanson, the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, executive director of ELCA Congregational and Synodical Mission, and the Rev. David Benke, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Atlantic District.
The Rev. Robert A. Rimbo, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, participated and noted that the service was patterned after a worship service that took place at Holy Trinity shortly after the attacks.
“The service was very moving,” said Rimbo. “It provided a time to remember and reflect what happened 10 years ago here.”
“The service propelled us to move into the future together. While we will never forget what happened, there is new life as God’s people move forward,” he said, adding that the anniversary is a turning-point and gateway to engage in new opportunities for service.