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LC-MS BOARD OF DIRECTORS TOLD NO TO "GAG ORDER"
Posted on Monday, July 15 @ 00:51:00 CDT by van

Religion A June 10 ruling of the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) has tempered efforts by The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod's (LC-MS) Board of Directors to halt all reporting on the dispute involving Atlantic District President David Benke. Benke, who I am told, about a year or so ago participated in a religious service with non-Christian clergy, but later made appropriate amends for having breached the rules of the LC-MS. The matter was peacefully resolved by the then synodical president Alvin Barry.

Subsequent to the tragedies of 11 September 2001, Atlantic District President David Benke participated in a memorial service, which I believe was held at Yankee Stadium for those who lost there lives in the tragic events of that day. Again, probably because he shared the same emotions and patriotic feelings held by most Americans, he participated in what some ultra-conservative members of LC-MS considered to be a "religious" service. This time, he offered what some called a "Luke warm Christian prayer" and became the subject of criticism of the same ultra-conservative members who many believe where "out to get him" after the first unfortunate event.

Lutherans believe that it should be made clear that prayers are addressed "to the one true God - the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Benke obviously chose to be a bit more ecumenical that was pleasing to those who believe that LC-MS Pastors should not even participate in religious services where even other Christian clergy take an active role. A formal complaint was filed against president Benke within church channels and those who supported his participation in the memorial service apparently organized to resist any sanctions being levied by church authorities against him. They wanted all of the proceedings to be "public" and nothing kept "behind closed doors."

Meanwhile, Synod Secretary Raymond Hartwig has issued a plea to those who are parties to the dispute "to be faithful to the process," which includes restrictions on their giving publicity to issues in the matter.

The Board of Directors Feb. 1 ordered an immediate halt to distribution of any information -- including by the Synod president or by the Synod's ≥Reporter≤ newspaper -- concerning the Benke case. The CCM has ruled, however, that the Board cannot restrict the ecclesiastical power of the Synod president or the bylaw-mandated duties of the Board for Communication Services.

The CCM ruling came in response to questions submitted to it by Dr. Martin Schramm, chairman of the Board for Communication Services (BCS). That board is responsible for the Synod's two official periodicals,the "Reporter" and "The Lutheran Witness," as well as LC-MS News.

After the order was issued by the directors, Schramm said that Reporter staff members take great care to present accurate information that also is fair to those involved. He said that he feared the Board's order halting information through official channels would contribute to misinformation and rumor.

The full CCM opinion, which is part of the minutes for the June 10-11 meeting, is available online at http://www.lcms.org/ccm/

Hartwig said that he is "concerned" about publicity that the Benke case is receiving. "Until a dispute case is finally decided, parties in the case are to refrain from bringing to the attention of the public detailed information regarding the disputed matter, the status of proceedings, or opinions regarding who is right or wrong," Hartwig said. "Compliance is extremely important for the sake of the parties and the process involved and for the sake of the Synod, so that due process is honored and so that fellow Christians are treated fairly, justly and in Christian love." The June 10 CCM ruling reiterated the prohibition against parties to a dispute giving publicity to issues in the matter.

It seems to me that if Beneke is in trouble with the synodical authorities and his "case" is being conducted in a Christian manner, the call as to whether or not the matters should be shared with the "public" should be his to make. If things are on the up-and-up in the proceedings, those adjudicating the matter should have nothing to hide, and hence no need for a "gag-order." If on the other hand anyone in the ecclesiastical channels is engaging in hanky-panky one could see why he or they rather not risk exposure. I don't believe Benke has requested the matter be handled in private..

At a time when our Roman Catholic Christian friends are experiencing tragedies in their denomination, it seems that the act of Benke participating in a peaceful memorial service and perhaps not addressing his prayer to the liking of some seems a bit trivial. As a card carrying professed-to-be conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Christian, I believe the matter perhaps could be handled in a more discrete manner. If Rev. David Benke would simply state to the church "authorities" that in the emotion of the moment he perhaps did not make clear that his prayer was addressed to the Triune God as it should have been, and that he regrets that his actions may have offended anyone for any reason, he is sorry, the matter should then be closed. If Benke had opened his prayer "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" or closed it in similar manner, only a right-wing religious zealot would be expected to have any grievance..

I admonish those who are considering removing David Benke from his office to consider several questions. First, do we as Lutheran Christians want the world to ever think we are not and were not sorry for the gigantic loss of lives in the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and as Americans morn for those families who were directly effected? Personally, I think not! Second, it might be appropriate to recall what another David in another time did to a belligerent giant..

Finally, for those who might be inclined to take a hard-line legalistic approach in dealing with Beneke, consider this....under the same set of circumstances WHAT WOULD JESUS HAVE DONE?

VansOpinion
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