Missouri Synod’s Benke keeps going and going

Remember when the Rev. David Benke of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod got suspended by his denomination from taking part in an interfaith memorial service at Yankee Stadium after 9/11?

It was one of the biggest — and to many people, baffling — religion stories of 2002.

At the time, a letter from a superior to Benke said: “Joining in prayer with pagan clerics in Yankee Stadium was an offense both to God and to all Christians.”

The suspension was eventually lifted and Benke continued on as president of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which basically covers eastern New York state and has its headquarters in Bronxville.

I mention this because Benke was just elected to a seventh term as president (a bishop-like position).

Benke, 63, has been president since 1991, making him one of this region’s senior religious leaders. He is a good-humored and well-liked fellow among his clergy and with clergy from other denominations.

He also serves as pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and School in Brooklyn.

In his remarks at the district’s 57th convention, he said: “Where do I get my energy? Long-time residents and denizens of Cypress Hills who have known me know for over 35 years often say, ‘You know you always look the same.’ And my response is invariably, ‘Good grief! I must have really looked old when I was young.’ ”

He then continued: “The secret to my spiritual energy is my baptism. And yours.”

But Benke has to update his letter on the Atlantic District webpage.

The headline? “Rain, rain go away.”

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.