Interfaith Services Raise Questions for Clergy Members

November 24, 2001

Source: The Washington Post

On November 24, 2001, The Washington Post reported that "the events of Sept. 11 prompted an unprecedented number of interfaith services nationwide, featuring leaders of different religions praying for peace and remembering the more than 4,100 terrorist attack victims. But some religious leaders have questioned the appropriateness of their clergy participating in such gatherings...'The basic question is: Does my participation enhance my witness of Jesus Christ or obscure it?' said the Rev. Karl K. Schmidt, pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Alexandria. 'It's a judgment call,' Schmidt said. An interfaith event is inappropriate, he said, if it 'gives the impression that various religions are equally valid and equally true.' But if it conveys that 'various religions share a common concern for people in the midst of tragedy' ...then he believes it's appropriate...The Rev. Clark Lobenstine, founder and executive director of the 23-year-old Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, interfaith work, there's a sense that "we are all worshiping the same God," said Lobenstine, a Presbyterian minister whose organization includes Bahais, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Mormons, Protestants and Catholics ...People have different faith histories and traditions but 'similar experiences through which we can grow and deepen in our understanding of God,' Lobenstine said."