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Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Faculty Issues Statement Regarding Yankee Stadium Controversy

The Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, faculty has issued a statement regarding the events of Sept. 23, 2001, when Rev. David Benke, president of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Atlantic District, participated in “A Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium in New York. Following this event and the controversy which surrounded it, the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, faculty determined that it would only issue a statement regarding the issue after it could engage in direct, face-to-face discussions with President Benke and others involved. The Seminary’s faculty was aware that a previously scheduled Feb. 28-March 1 meeting of the Synod’s Council of Presidents (COP – the presidents of the Synod’s 35 districts, including Pres. Benke), and the faculties of the Synod’s two seminaries would provide such an opportunity.

Following the Feb. 28-March 1 meeting, the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, faculty issued the following statement:

The faculty of Concordia Seminary determined to wait until after the Joint Faculties/COP meeting of February 28-March 1 to respond to current concerns over the “Yankee Stadium” event so that direct and fraternal discussions might first take place with the parties involved. Although such helpful and collegial conversations did occur, two factors now prevent any lengthy statement.

First, actions related to the event are currently under the synodical process of adjudication. Second, virtually all of the discussion at the Joint Faculties/COP meeting concerning this matter took place in executive session.

The faculty of Concordia Seminary regrets the consequences of these developments, but it respects the confidentiality they demand. Nevertheless, this faculty intends to continue and expand its study of issues pertaining to the church, state, worship and pastoral practice, which it sincerely hopes will be of benefit to the entire Synod as it retains our confessional commitment to renounce “unionism and syncretism of every description…” (LCMS Constitution, Article VI).

As but one means of fostering such study and dialogue, the topic for our annual Theological Symposium (Sept. 24-25, 2002) has already been announced as, “In _______ We Trust: The Public Ministry in the Public Realm.”

The Seminary faculty statement reflects action taken by the LCMS Board of Directors urging that all publicity being given the Yankee Stadium appearance and related matters cease. Noting that these matters are currently in Synod’s adjudication process, the Board further indicated that, “the constant publicity given to this matter only undermines the heart and center of the Synod’s conflict resolution process, as well as the orderly application of Bylaws 2.21 through 2.29.”

“I have received numerous expressions of appreciation for the way our faculty has responded to these matters,” commented Dr. John F. Johnson, president of Concordia Seminary. “At the same time, we are very much aware of the opportunity that now exists to study and discuss unionism, syncretism and related issues. Our pastors are confronted with requests to participate in a variety of events in an increasingly complex world. Concordia Seminary will exercise leadership in addressing the issues involved as pastors seek to render God-pleasing decisions regarding their participation in these events. Our Theological Symposium in September is just one example of this leadership.”

The 13th Annual Theological Symposium will take place Sept. 24-25 on the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, campus and will feature plenary presentations titled, “American Religion and Biblical Christianity,” “Confessing Christ in a Pluralistic Culture” and “Ministering in the Midst of Civic Crises.” Many small-group sessions will allow opportunity for discussion and a study of related topics and issues.

For more information, contact Seminary Relations, Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105; 314.505.7370; semrelations@csl.edu. Additional information regarding the Symposium may be obtained by contacting Dr. John Oberdeck, 314.505.7105; ce@csl.edu.