9/11 prayer events: Where were the evangelicals?

New York City, USA - Could it be that evangelicals were "snubbed" when no clergy were invited to the New York City official 9/11 memorial event?

Does it bother you that a rainbow of religious traditions -- but no conservative evangelical voices -- were invited to speak at the Washington National Cathedral's Sunday morning vigil?

Mollie Hemingway at the critique site Get Religion wondered why Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims but no Southern Baptists or pastors from the Lutheran Missouri Synod or the more traditionalist wing of Presbyterians were on the Cathedral program.

Other commentators thought the Episcopal Cathedral's clergy stood for the nation's scores of Christian denomination, just as the rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform synagogue, stood for a dozen branches of Jewish tradition and so on.

Others argue some evangelicals didn't join the lineup at the microphones because they don't want to blend in to the scene.

After all, these are denominations that assiduously avoid sharing worship services with religions that disagree on core doctrines or fail to expressly insist that salvation is only through Jesus.

As Hemingway, a traditionalist Lutheran herself, points out:

We avoid civil religion and syncretistic worship. (Syncretism is a big word for mixing religions.)

Rev. Franklin Graham, who now leads his father's Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, stood outside the Washington National Cathedral in 2001. While his father spoke inside, Franklin served as a comentator with TV crews.

As this 10th anniversary neared, he wrote in Charisma News about how the sacrifice of innocent lives on that tragic date and thousands of service men and women in the subsequent wars is nothing compared to the "the debt each and every person owes to the Lord Jesus Christ for dying for our sins."

There's no call in Graham's column for brotherhood, forgiveness, mercy or interfaith understanding -- the themes of the services at Catholic Masses and interfaith services in Washington and around the country. His focus is always the same:

... Tell as many people as we can how they can be saved before it is eternally too late."

The daily devotion at BillyGraham.org for today concludes with a prayer: "Lord Jesus, Lamb of God, in adoration I thank You for the love that made You willing to suffer and die on the cross for my sin."

Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of the USA's fifth largest Protestant congregation, is holding his own 9/11 memorial prayer services in Southern California as his rebuttal to the clergy-free New York event.

Saddleback, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, has nine satellite locations in addition to its main campus in Lake Forest. All will hold special services, he wrote on his blog,

...to remember the hope we have in Christ despite the violence that was brought upon our country.

In 2001, clergy of the New York region held an interfaith prayer service in Yankee Stadium where Oprah Winfrey, famed for her spiritual cheerleading, served as the non-denominational host.

But in the aftermath, the head of the 2.6-million member Lutheran Church Missouri Synod's Atlantic Division, Pastor David Benke, was suspended. A higher officer of the national denomination in a letter that said,

Joining in prayer with pagan clerics in Yankee Stadium was an offense both to God and to all Christians."

Benke's suspension was later overturned by a denominational appeals panel. He still leads the district and the text of his 2001 prayer, for God to "un-bind, un-fear, un-scorch, un-sear our souls... in Jesus' name" is on the website.

In the end, on Sunday, there was an evangelical voice, albeit a mainline Protestant voice, at Ground Zero. President Obama recited Psalm 46.