From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutherans Develop Unified Response to September Tragedies

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Thu, 27 Dec 2001 15:31:06 -0600


December 27, 2001


     NEW YORK (ELCA) -- Members and leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)
continue to develop and deepen their relationship here through a single,
unified response to the destruction of the World Trade Center.  The
September 11 terrorist attacks in New York resulted in the deaths of
more than 3,000 people and injured scores more.
     The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, was among a group
of Lutheran church leaders who visited the World Trade Center site and
met with ELCA pastors and members here Dec. 14-17.  Among those with him
were John Gilbert, president and chief executive officer of Aid
Association for Lutherans (AAL), and Bruce Nicholson, president and
chief executive officer of Lutheran Brotherhood (LB).  AAL and LB are
fraternal benefits organizations; AAL is headquartered in Appleton,
Wis., and LB is headquartered in Minneapolis.
     One purpose of the trip was to express appreciation to those
working to provide services to people affected by the tragedies, Hanson
said at a reception at the Interchurch Center Dec. 15.
     A few days earlier, the ELCA Church Council, through its executive
committee, adopted a resolution expressing gratitude for the
"compassionate response" of the church to all of the terrorist attacks,
and appreciation for the "courageous efforts" of rescue personnel.
     "I'm not sure we will be able to measure the impact of the
sustained witness you have made to the presence of the living and
redeeming God, and the degree to which you have embodied the crucified
and risen Christ for this city and the world," Hanson told New York
leaders.  Hanson noted the Rev. David H. Benke, president of the LCMS
Atlantic District, and the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the ELCA
Metropolitan New York Synod, have worked together in "solidarity."
     To respond to significant material, counseling and respite needs
here, members of both churches have responded through Lutheran Disaster
Response (LDR), a joint ministry of the ELCA and LCMS.  Members have
also responded through AAL, LB and other groups responding to the
     Lutherans have designated significant funds for September 11
disaster response. More than $5 million has been contributed by members
to the ELCA; some $3 million has been given by members to the LCMS; and
$8.7 million has been given to AAL and LB.  In addition, AAL and LB each
contributed $1 million of their corporate funds to the response. Other
funds have been made available by Lutherans through many other agencies.
     Most of the funds are being channeled through LDR to fund specific
projects to meet a variety of human needs.  The responses are aimed at
counseling, help for students in Lutheran schools who lost parents in
the attacks; individual emergency assistance; respite care for clergy;
training for trauma response; a camp for children affected by the
attacks; and interfaith initiatives.
     Proposals for funding are being reviewed on a timely basis, said
John J. Scibilia, local director for Lutheran Disaster Response, New
York.  "We want to do our very best to be good stewards of those funds,"
he said.
     "Comfort and renew" is the theme of the LDR effort in New York,
Scibilia said.  Collaboration with a variety of other groups is
important, he said. "We are together with the Muslim community and with
the Jewish community," Scibilia said.  "We work on all of these issues
together with the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and with government
     The opportunity to respond to human needs from the tragedy has
galvanized the relationship of New York-area LCMS and ELCA leaders and
members in new ways.
     "It has been three incredibly intense months, but we truly believe
that God gave us this gift of a Lutheran community which is united at
'Ground Zero' and which really is a bridge to the wider, public and
interfaith communities as well," Bouman said in an interview.    Support
from Lutherans and others from throughout the world has made the
aftermath of the tragedy bearable, he said.  The experience has
emphasized that the church is the "body of Christ," Bouman said.
     "We know it.  We feel it.  We see it.  And, we thank you,"  Bouman
said, directing his comments to the church.
     Supporting each other and responding together is why the ELCA-LCMS
disaster response relationship is important, Benke said in an interview.
     "We are now linked -- and we've never been this close before and
never been united in this way before -- to provide assistance as well as
to be on the ground in action as God's baptized," he said.
     "We're just Lutherans here," Benke said, emphasizing that
denominational labels are not that important in responding to the New
York disaster.  LDR is viewed as a positive force among Protestant and
Christian relief agencies, he said.  Lutherans are serving anyone who
needs help, especially people who have no access to people and agencies
who can assist them, and children in the 180 Lutheran schools here.
      Forty-seven children in New York-area Lutheran schools lost
parents or caregivers Sept. 11 in the World Trade Center.  Some children
need scholarship help to remain in school, and assistance is being
provided, said Marlene Lund, executive director, Lutheran Schools
Association, New York.
     "I am proud and privileged to be a Lutheran at this time," Benke
said.  "(We are) tremendously proud and appreciative of the assistance
we have received from God's people around the country and around the
world.  God bless those who have come to our aid.  Our prayers are with
them as well."
     Benke's efforts to reach out to others in the aftermath of Sept.
11 have not gone unnoticed by a few LCMS pastors, who say his actions
violated church policy.  Five pastors formally charged Benke with
syncretism -- worship with non-Christians -- for his role in "A Prayer
for America" at New York's Yankee Stadium Sept. 23, the LCMS News
Service reported.  The Rev. Gerald B. Kieschnick, LCMS president, is to
investigate the charges.
     Kieschnick himself  recently faced similar charges brought by two
LCMS pastors. They said he violated church policy by supporting Benke's
action and by worshiping Sept. 19 in New York with the former ELCA
presiding bishop, the Rev. H. George Anderson.  The LCMS Commission on
Constitutional Matters ruled that Kieschnick is accountable only to the
LCMS convention -- a ruling that, in effect, cleared him of the charges.
-- -- --
     A video news story on Bishop Hanson's visit to New York can be
found at on the Web.

     Photographs from the visit can be found at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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