It could be that I’m losing my Google touch, but an intriguing religion story involving the Southern Baptist Convention seems to be drawing little media attention.
Unless you’re a consumer of Fox News, in fact, you may have missed this news:
A weekend of religious-themed observances at Washington National Cathedral marking the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks will include a Buddhist nun and an Imam, but not an evangelical Christian, leading the head of the Southern Baptist Convention to ask President Obama to reconsider attending the event.
“A Call to Compassion” will include an interfaith prayer vigil on Sept. 11th. It will feature the dean of the Cathedral, the Bishop of Washington, a rabbi, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician.
To see a complete lineup of the event, click here.
However, Southern Baptists, representing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, were not invited to participate – and neither were leaders from any evangelical Christian organization.
“It’s not surprising,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.”
(Christianity Today notes that the Rev. Billy Graham spoke at a National Cathedral service in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.)
The Fox story goes on to quote a Cathedral representative:
“The goal was to have interfaith representation,” he told Fox News Radio. “The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives.”
He said the Washington National Cathedral serves as the “spiritual home for the nation” and as such, he said that “diversity was first and foremost” a factor in the planning.
Later, there’s this:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fox News Radio the lineup was better suited for the United Nations than the United States.
“Three quarters of the American people identify as Christian and nearly a third of them are evangelical Christian,” Perkins said. “And yet, there is not a single evangelical on the program.”
The Daily Caller also picked up on the story:
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.
And evangelicals are crying foul.
Interestingly enough, both reports neglect to mention another major group apparently left off the program: Roman Catholics. The bishop mentioned in both pieces is the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, not Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.
In fact, Beliefnet seems to be confused about which bishop will attend:
The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., has scheduled “A Call to Compassion” interfaith prayer vigil on Sept. 11 — however not a single protestant or evangelical has been invited to participate.
Who was invited? A Roman Catholic bishop, a Jewish rabbi, Buddhist nun, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician.
Notably excluded are 16.6 million Southern Baptists, America’s largest protestant denomination. Completely left off the program was anybody represented by the National Association of Evangelicals: No Prebyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Wesleyans or Mennonites. Nobody from the Church of Christ or the Assemblies of God.
(Not to be totally disagreeable, but shouldn’t Protestant be uppercased? My dictionary defines the lowercase version as “a person who protests.” Hmmmmm…)
For reporters tackling this story — and it would be nice if a few more would — a call to the Roman Catholic archdiocese might be appropriate. Was the cardinal invited to participate? Does the Catholic church feel snubbed by not having any of its clergy on the program? Or perhaps an Episcopal bishop on the program would be seen by Catholics as having someone on the program? I’m no expert on interfaith relations or Catholic-Episcopal relations, but these seem like relevant questions to explore. (I realize that evangelicals are the ones making a fuss, but if another major group is in the same situation and not making a fuss, shouldn’t the media explain why?)
Meanwhile, a Fox announcer’s description of those invited to participate in the service as “all these really sort of fringe groups” is drawing some editorial commentary on the left.
This seems like a legitimate news story, not a Fox-only kind of story. Why so little coverage?