We asked the question, and even though
others have told me he would not answer or he would give the wrong answer, the
following reply from Atlantic District President David Benke is actually
better than the question that was sent to him. President Benke's reply is
reproduced in its entirety and further comments follow it.
Please print this response in its entirety.
Your question is "Is Jesus Christ the only Savior of the world, and
are all those who seek salvation in any other God than Jesus Christ eternally
lost." Without quibbling, the answer to the first half of the sentence is
"Yes." The second half of the sentence is less than satisfactory in
my opinion because for whatever reasons it does not reference the Triune God,
but only the second person of the Trinity. However, I am most comfortable
confessing and responding with a "Yes" - there is salvation in
"no other Name" than Jesus. Indeed, that is the meaning of my prayer
at Yankee Stadium.
The first "official" time I answered the question of the
exclusive claim of the Christian faith in the affirmative was at my
Confirmation in 1960. I then answered it in the affirmative at my ordination
in 1972. During all that time I was answering it in the affirmative each time
in worship or private devotion when I confessed my faith by speaking one of
the church's creeds. The creedal confession spoken by me and those around me
most often is the Nicene Creed. These creedal confessions evidence the
exclusive claims of the Christian faith, and I confess them daily in private
devotion and weekly in the Divine Service.
It needs to be stated that no one who knows me here "on the
ground" in New York or in most circles in the Missouri Synod would ask
the question you ask. It would be viewed as unnecessary, since I have spent my
ordained ministry in mission outreach to those of other religions or no faith,
presenting the exclusive claim of Christ in word and deed in New York for
nearly thirty years. I have baptized and confirmed people coming from Hindu,
Muslim and Jewish backgrounds. I am instructing two such families as a parish
pastor right now. Last year the Atlantic District, which I serve as President,
began more new ethnic missions than any other District in the LCMS. Two of
those mission starts were targeted to Muslims, two to Hindus, and one to those
of the Jewish religion. Our District motto is "Every Congregation is a
98% of the 1000 + letters and e-mails that I have received regarding my
prayer participation at Yankee Stadium have been positive. Those people all
understood that my prayer "in Jesus' precious Name" was a simple and
powerful witness to the exclusive Christian claim. Those 1000 + letters and
e-mails, plus a huge volume of voicemails and phone/personal conversations,
represent tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people, LCMS Lutherans, other
Christians and even some non-Christians. They did not and do not feel that my
prayer witness was weak, ineffectual, or subverted in any way. They understood
it to be highly appropriate and have been incredibly grateful that a witness
to Christ was made in my brief prayer.
Those who know me "on the ground" here in New York understood
that I was simply representing them - to "know Christ and make Him
known," in exactly the same way I have attempted to represent them as a
parish pastor and District President in New York for thirty years.
Anyone desirous of following the course of my thoughts in regards to the
prayer at Yankee Stadium can access the Atlantic District website,
www.ad-lcms.org, for articles and updates (a recent Advent "Letter to
Pastors and Leaders" has just been added), as well as a variety of
reports on the ministries and missions of the District and its activities
through Lutheran Disaster Relief. Given the pressures of time and energy on my
life right now in the ministries being carried on by all of us in New York,
I'm most comfortable for the time being directing you and your readership to
the website rather than engaging in further dialog with either you or them.
Thanks for the consideration.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
President, Atlantic District
Pastor, St. Peter's Lutheran Church
Some observations by Reclaim News:
We thank President Benke for his reply. As stated above, his answer was
better than the question. Benke's high regard for the Nicene Creed is the
purest confession of the Gospel. His mission emphasis with the proper
catechetical instruction is the lifeblood of the LCMS.
Benke's appeal to 98% positive responses for actions in Yankee Stadium
means his critics and many of the readers of Reclaim News are not
writing to him. The pastors' conferences of three LCMS Districts and the
Eastern Canadian District have all taken issue with his actions. A 99.999%
positive response is not enough. Correct doctrine and practice is only
determined by the truth of the Bible and then the Lutheran Confessions as the
correct interpretation of the Bible. If 99.999% disagree or agree is
irrelevant to the determination of the truth. John the Baptist stood alone
with Jesus Christ. Poling, and more important voting, only determine who
agrees with the truth of God's Word, they do not establish the truth.
While thanking God for President Benke's clear and unequivocal confession
of Christ as the only Savior, Benke's prayer offered in Yankee Stadium, in
this writer's opinion and the opinion of others, should have contained more of
what he writes above. Future releases will contain some of his critics'
opinion about his prayer.
However, Benke is to be applauded for being forthright on the issue and
recognizing his accountability to the entire Synod as a District President.
There are far too many LCMS church officials who wish to insolate themselves
from accountability to the lay people, who are the LCMS.
As an example, we have Doctor Waldo Werning who writes about the Voters'
Assembly of Redeemer Lutheran Church: "Dr. Waldo Werning will not be
tried in the 'kangaroo court' of Redeemer Lutheran Church Voters' Assembly . .
While the fanatics rage about "Church Growth" techniques and
their love for souls, the lay people are virtual dirt under their
administrative feet. Too many LCMS officials position their teaching and
practice above and beyond the judgment of the lay people. Now the CCM has
circled the wagons and claims for the first time in LCMS history, that the
doctrine of President Gerald Kieshnick cannot be questioned or judged by lay
people between Conventions. The CCM also knows full well the President gets to
pick all members of the Committee preparing a resolution to judge him at the
Convention. Such tactics must result in the continued loss of tens of
thousands of more disillusioned lay people who learn that protecting official
LCMS derrieres is more important than protecting lay people's souls.
Unlike so many others, in President Benke, we have a District President who
is willing to speak out, to be heard, and be accountable to the laity. For
this he is to be complimented and applauded! He is an extraordinary District
President because he is also a full-time parish pastor. The Synod would be
better served if all District Presidents would return to the parish.
We quote Luther from the following article written in 1523, Luther's
Works, Vol 39:
"THAT A CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLY OR CONGREGATION HAS THE RIGHT AND POWER TO
JUDGE ALL TEACHING AND TO CALL, APPOINT, AND DISMISS TEACHERS, ESTABLISHED AND
PROVEN BY SCRIPTURE" page 305
"Thus we conclude that wherever there is a Christian congregation in
possession of the gospel, it not only has the right and power but also the
duty-on pain of losing the salvation of its souls and in accordance with the
promise made to Christ in baptism-to avoid, to flee, to depose, and to
withdraw from the authority that our bishops, abbots, monasteries, religious
foundations, and the like are now exercising." Page 308
"For no one can deny that every Christian possesses the word of God
and is taught and anointed by God to be priest, as Christ says, John 6[:45],
'They shall all be taught by God,' and Psalm 45[:7], 'God has anointed you
with the oil of gladness on account of your fellows.' These fellows are the
Christians, Christ's brethren, who with him are consecrated priests, as Peter
says too, 1 Peter 2[:9], 'You are a royal priesthood so that you may declare
the virtue of him who called you into his marvelous light.'" Page 309