Evangelicals excluded from Washington National Cathedral’s 9/11 commemoration
Another day, another religious sensitivity concern, as the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks inches ever closer.
While New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to exclude all religion from his city’s remembrance ceremonies, in our nation’s capital the Washington National Cathedral commemoration’s organizers have decided to exclude evangelical Christianity.
The Cathedral’s “A Call to Compassion” on September 11 will include a bishop, a rabbi, a Tibetan lama, a Buddhist nun, representatives of the Hindu and Jain faiths, an imam and an Islamic musician. Noticeably absent from the invitation list and “secular service” — at which President Obama will be speaking — is a leader to represent the evangelical community. (RELATED: Petition underway to get 9/11 first responders invited to tenth anniversary ceremony)
And evangelicals are crying foul.
“The idea that you would exclude a representative of at least 35 percent of the population that identifies with evangelical Christianity is difficult to comprehend, much less to defend,” Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention told TheDC. “Perhaps what is even more difficult to comprehend is the Cathedral describing President Obama’s event as a ‘secular service.’ If it’s a secular service, why is it being held in a cathedral?”
“Many evangelicals and other people of faith are rightly offended at this attempt to marginalize religious faith in this way as we commemorate the memory of this very painful event in American history,” Land added.
Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling on Obama to cancel his appearance entirely.
“I think it would send a very strong and very positive signal to the left wing extremists in our country that the president ought not show up,” Page told Fox News Radio.
Concerned Women for America president and CEO Penny Nance voiced her outrage as well.
“There are an estimated 70 to 80 million evangelical Christians in this nation,” Nance told TheDC. “We are important members of almost all communities. Some of us died on 9/11. It is outrageous that we were excluded.”
Richard Weinberg, the Cathedral’s director of communications, told Fox that “diversity was first and foremost” in the event’s planning considerations.
“We certainly aim to appeal to as many in the country as possible,” Weinberg said, “and feel that our events are not any one slice that could ever represent the entire country — but that we are doing our best commemorate the events as it fits with our mission.”
Christianity Today Editor-in-Chief David Neff explained that participants whom the National Cathedral did select indicate something about how the Episcopal Church — or at least that branch of the Episcopal Church that calls the Cathedral home — views religion.
“[T]he lineup of faith representatives is more or less what I would expect from the Episcopal bishop of Washington, John Chane. He represents a wing of the Episcopal Church in which evangelical faith is nearly invisible, despite its prominent place on the American landscape,” Neff wrote TheDC in an email.
“The service would certainly be far more representative of that American faith landscape if someone like National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson, or a prominent evangelical pastor-writer like Rick Warren or Max Lucado, were to participate, but perhaps being truly representative of the American people is not Bishop Chane’s goal,” Neff added.
Matt Philbin of the Culture and Media Institute added that, on the bright-side, at least this commemoration will acknowledge religion.
“I suppose we should be thankful that there’s some kind of faith representation at all,” Philbin wrote in an email. “Mayor Bloomberg in NY has sanitized that ceremony of any religion. At the same time, they make it clear that they care only about a certain liberal-approved ‘diversity’ that doesn’t include strong traditional conservative Christianity.