The Washington National Cathedral finds itself embroiled in controversy over a special service it is hosting this upcoming weekend to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
President Obama will be on hand for the Cathedral’s “Call to Compassion,” as will a bishop, a rabbi, a Tibetan lama, a Buddhist nun, representatives of the Hindu and Jain faiths, an imam and an Islamic musician. However, the guest list does not include a representative of the evangelical community.
“There are an estimated 70 to 80 million evangelical Christians in this nation,” Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, told The Christian Post. “We are important members of almost all communities. Some of us died on 9/11. It is outrageous that we were excluded.”
Nance’s remarks were echoed by Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“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,” he told The Daily Caller. “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?”
Land added, “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.”
Richard Weinberg, the Cathedral’s director of communications, could not be reached for comment. However, according to Fox News, Weinberg maintained 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,” he said. “And we 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.”
The Cathedral’s exclusion of evangelicals is “not surprising,” Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, told GetReligion.org.
“There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals,” he said. “I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.”
Considering that so many Americans identify with the evangelical Christian faith, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, thinks it that a national event would not allow a representative from the community. He told Fox News Radio that 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.”
About 16 million citizens identify themselves as Southern Baptists. Yet there will be no official there to represent America’s largest protestant denomination on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Cathedral announced on Thursday that it will be moving some of its 9/11 events to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – including Sunday's ceremony featuring President Obama – due to a crane collapsing on the grounds Wednesday.