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Church Lifts Suspension for Pastor at 9/11 Service

May 17, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

ST. LOUIS — A Lutheran pastor from New York who was suspended by his church for taking part in a national ecumenical prayer event at Yankee Stadium after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has had his suspension lifted.

"I feel vindicated," the Rev. David Benke said in an interview with Religion News Service.

"In a sense, I feel the denomination has made a stand for what's right. I think Yankee Stadium was the right thing at the right time, the right place for the right reason."

The church has now said "it's OK to pray in public, and it's OK to give a witness in a time of national crisis," said Benke, who is president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod's Atlantic District.

Benke's suspension had come in response to complaints filed by 18 church pastors and three congregations that believed that his participation violated church rules because the service included non-Christian clerics.

But the panel that lifted the suspension said participation in the prayer service was "a discretionary response to a quite extraordinary set of circumstances in a quite unordinary event."

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