Valparaiso University caught in Missouri Synod Sept. 11 dispute

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2002

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) -- The president and pastor at Valparaiso University could be defrocked by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod over an interfaith event that marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

President Alan Harre and Pastor Joseph Cunningham are clergy in the 2.6 million-member Missouri Synod, which forbids interfaith worship. Indiana District President Timothy Sims is investigating a complaint filed against them and said he would report within several weeks.

A Valparaiso spokesman said the university's Sept. 11 event, which included Jews and Muslims, was not a worship service. It was billed as a ''community gathering.''

Church sanctions would not directly affect the men's university posts, since the school has Synod ties but is not financially supported by it.

In June, the Rev. David Benke, Missouri Synod district president in New York City, was suspended for participating in a post-Sept. 11 memorial service. He was supported by the denomination's national president, the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick. The case is pending.

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