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Minister’s Suspension Over 9/11 Service Lifted

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod announced yesterday that it has dismissed all charges against a high-ranking pastor who had been suspended for praying with “pagans” in an interfaith service at New York’s Yankee Stadium after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Rev. David Benke, 57, said the dispute was “a lesson in how absolutism, no matter where it comes from, ends up hurting people.”

After eight months under suspension, Benke returned to work yesterday afternoon as president — the equivalent of a bishop in the Missouri Synod — of the Atlantic District. The Missouri Synod has 2.6 million members and is the ninth-largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Benke’s troubles began after he appeared with Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Christian speakers in “A Prayer for America,” the interfaith service co-hosted by Oprah Winfrey and James Earl Jones on Sept. 23, 2001.

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