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Progressive Christians join controversy over excluding clergy at 9/11 event
Progressive Christians are criticizing both New York Michael Bloomberg and his conservative critics.
September 7th, 2011
02:15 PM ET

Progressive Christians join controversy over excluding clergy at 9/11 event

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN

(CNN) - A handful of progressive Christian leaders are joining the mostly conservative chorus of religious leaders who are criticizing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for excluding clergy from this weekend’s 9/11 commemoration event at ground zero.

But there’s a twist.

In addition to criticizing Bloomberg, progressive religious leaders are also taking aim at prominent conservatives who’ve blasted Bloomberg in recent days, alleging that those critics are stoking division at a time that calls for national unity.

The group is planning a press conference near ground zero on Friday to stress that “religion should not be excluded from 9/11 remembrances” but to also “urge unity, not division, on 9/11,” according to a Tuesday press release.

The Friday press conference, which will overlook ground zero, will feature Jim Wallis, who leads the evangelical social justice group Sojourners; the Rev. Floyd Flake, a prominent New York pastor and former Democratic congressman; and Geoff Tunnicliffe, who heads the World Evangelical Alliance.

“Mayor Bloomberg made an understandable but regrettable decision,” said Tim King, communications director for Sojourners, an evangelical Christian social justice group that is helping to plan the press conference.

“Religion, and religious leaders, have caused a lot of unnecessary conflict and controversy,” King wrote in an e-mail message. “But avoiding religion entirely does not get to the root of the problem.”

“The answer is better religion,” King continued. “And to those religious leaders who are stirring up a media controversy about this decision ... you are showing exactly why Mayor Bloomberg didn’t want you there in the first place.”

Since The Wall Street Journal first reported last month that the 10th anniversary September 11 anniversary event – which will be attended by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, among other leaders - will exclude clergy and formal prayers, conservative Christians have vented outrage.

“The clergy gag rule is being instituted to avoid ‘disagreements over which religious leaders participate.’ But since when has this been an issue?” wrote Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in recent e-mail message to supporters.

“Plenty of clergy, including an imam, spoke at an interfaith service at Yankee Stadium after the attacks, and they managed to pull it off without a problem,” he wrote. “Why would it be any different this time?”

Bloomberg’s office has defended the mayor's decision on clergy.

"The ceremony was designed in coordination with 9/11 families with a mixture of readings that are spiritual, historical and personal in nature," Evelyn Erskine, a Bloomberg spokeswoman, said in an e-mail to CNN in late August.

"It has been widely supported for the past 10 years and rather than have disagreements over which religious leaders participate we would like to keep the focus of our commemoration ceremony on the family members of those who died," she wrote.

There have been 10 ceremonies at ground zero in New York to pause and remember the events of 9/11, one six months after the attack and on September 11 each following year.

Spirituality and religion have been reserved for the moments of silence in those events.

In past ceremonies, four moments of silence were observed to mark when each tower was struck and when each tower fell.

For this year's ceremony, organizers added two additional moments of silence to recognize the strike on the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"This year's six moments of silence allow every individual a time for personal and religious introspection," Erskine said.

Throughout the city there will be other prayer events leading up to September 11.

–CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 9/11 • Christianity

soundoff (861 Responses)
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  2. Bernice

    If the apostle Paul were rainedg our papers and watching our news he would no doubt speak up and remind us what to do. He may even re-use words he first wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy: I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2.1-3)I'm thankful we live in a land that gives each citizen a vote.I'm even more thankful God hears the requests, prayers and intercessions of each citizen of Heaven. That He knows what's best. That He has the power to intervene when He chooses, and when he chooses not to He has ample supplies of perseverance and grace for His children. It certainly appears we are going to have ample opportunity to pray for our land in the next term. I wonder who will be more effective believers in praying, or non-believers in governing.When men work men work.When men pray God works. (Oswald Chambers)

    April 2, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  3. jeremy

    God does not hate the LGBTQ community! New film shows how LGBTQ community has suffered from faith-crippling myth of AIDS' origin – Check it out! THE AFRICAN CAMPAIGN

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    January 19, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  4. Ayatolah

    Those people beheaded in the video,sorry for them...just a simple advice..Never go to the country where Muslim are so many..you might be the next person to be beheaded....

    October 14, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  5. evil islam

    FACT= Islam says death to infidels.Who are infidels? We are they do not believe in islam.Sounds like a hate group..
    FACT= Islam Does NOT give women equal rights.Si why do they worship a religion that treats them so bad.
    FACT= Mohammad married a 9 year old = PERVERT.And you worship a pervert. Aisha was six or seven years old when she was engaged to Muhammad and nine when the marriage took place.Aisha stayed in her parents' home for several years until she joined Muhammad and the marriage was consummated.she was nine years old at the time.
    FACT = Followers of Islam are animals.slaughtered American contractor Nick Berg. Sitting in a chair, Berg made the following statement: “My name is Nick Berg, my father’s name is Michael, my mother’s name is Susan,” the man said on the video. “I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in … Philadelphia.”The video then changes to a scene of masked men, with Berg sitting in front of them. After reading a statement, the masked men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – “God is great.” They then held the head out before the camera.THIS IS THE REAL FACES OF ISLAM.barenakedislam.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/american-nick-bergs-beheading-warning-graphic-images/
    FACT= Muslims do not care about the life of the innocent.
    In this case, just as it has happened so many times before, it seems that the executioners used a dull knife again. These guys really left the man take the imminent death with all of its worst. The knife wielding masked man slowly cut through the neck of the victim as if to take in the joy of causing slow and painful death. He cut through man’s trachea and esophagus which detached victim’s mouth from the rest of the body, yet he’s still making desperate attempts to scream and all the noise is coming out of his neck. It’s brutal.
    As carotid arteries got cut, the blood started gushing out in volume you have never seen before. The massive blood loss along with horrific sound this beheaded man lets out make this easily the most brutal beheading video you will have ever seen. Also notice how just before the beheading starts, the camera focuses on victims bruised arms. That man was heavily beaten prior to his painful execution. He was given a choice to say his last words – it’s in a language I don’t understand (possibly a Middle Eastern tongue) but you can tell the man has already gone through hell on Earth and knows the worst is yet to come. He likely wished for a quick death so he’s done with it, unfortunately for him, he was not granted that wish. Brutal video.I don’t want to sound mundane with warnings, but WARNING on this one. Extremely brutal video. Very bloody. You have never seen this much blood ejected out of man’s body before. Knife executioners used to behead this man was likely really dull which you can tell by what it took to cut through the soft tissues of the neck. The video then jumps to the footage of decapitated head laying atop man’s dead body – which I’m assuming is because cutting through his spine took them forever, so they got rid of that so they’re not ridiculed for being complete amateurs. Once again – this video will hunt you for years, even if you’ve seen previous beheadings and took it like a champ. This one is worse. The sound is extremely painful and the amount of blood lost is beyond comprehension. You can’t even believe heart can pump so much blood with each beat. Watch at your on risk, you’ll have to deal with it yourself if you opt to go for it. I’m not kidding, it’s the worst beheading video ever!
    It appears as though the name of beheaded man was Jasus Musel. The beheading was carried out by MUSLIMS.See a pattern??
    Watch muslims in the name of islam.Not 100 years ago but in modern day.Islam is evil and everyone who follows it becomes evil.Let the videos speak. http://www.bestgore.com/beheading/worst-beheading-video-ever-horrific-sound-massive-blood-loss/
    outsidethebeltway.com/web_site_american_hostage_killed_in_iraq/--
    The video, on an Islamist site, identified the hostage as Eugene Armstrong and showed a masked man sawing his head off with a knife.
    watch NICK BERG get beheaded in the name of ISLAM then we can talk if you can watch the entire video.That is evil.Islam is evil.Here is a time line of muslim bombers.See the pattern???
    http://barenakedislam.wordpres...
    http://creepingsharia.wordpres...
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    September 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Kris

      You are an idiot. Anyone who can sit and purposely watch someone die in such a fashion is sick sick sick. You are no better than the man who did the deed. You give these maniacs too much credit by describing it in such detail...good going!

      October 1, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • Iqbal Khan

      Go ask Yvonne Ridley, listen and watch!
      check out http://www.911Bible.com

      October 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  6. walkerny

    A 'progressive Christian' is an atheist without the balls to actually be one. They believe NOT in morality, just the same secular left agenda, indistinguishable from DNC talking points.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • themadjewess

      I agree, 100% Walker.
      It is an attempt to REWRITE Christian scripture, same way "Conservative" synagogues love to castrate the Torah and Tanakh.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  7. Samuel

    What exactly IS a "progressive" Christian? Is it the same as a "left-handed" (no pun intended!) Christian? Or perhaps a "blonde" Christian? The bottom line is that true Christians all share the same beliefs regardless of their party affiliation or hair color! The differentiation comes in how Christians put their beliefs into action. Are their words and deeds a reflection of Jesus Christ....or....are they a reflection of the sinful world?

    September 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.