Abbreviation Alert: CBCR is an abbreviation of Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions, the ELCA's chief governing document. We didn't intend it, but many of this week's items are CBCR-related.
ELCA Defrocks Pr. Bradley Schmeling: The ELCA Committee on Appeals (COA) has ruled that Pr. Bradley Schmeling of St. John (Atlanta) be removed from the ELCA clergy roster effective July 2. This ruling overturns the earlier verdict of the Disciplinary Hearing Committee that had sought to delay Pr. Schmeling's removal pending action of the 2007 Churchwide Assembly in August.
The complete text of the COA ruling may be found at St. John's Trial Update Page.
Pr. Schmeling is the third ELCA pastor to be defrocked for living in a committed, same-sex partnership: Pr. Ross Merkel was defrocked in 1994 and Pr. Steve Sabin was defrocked in 1998.
According to the ELCA Office of the Secretary, ELCA communicant membership has declined by 348,000 or 6.7 percent since 1994 when the ELCA began defrocking pastors in same-sex partnerships.
Fit to Print: The Committee on Appeals action in the Schmeling case was posted on the Southeastern Synod's website on July 5 and announced at a press conference called by St. John (Atlanta) that same day.
After the news broke, the first press release issued by the ELCA News Service was titled "ELCA Names Rossing Physics Scholarship Recipients".
Among the recipients of the award are: Daniel Endean, Holland, Mich., a junior at St. Olaf College, and Kent Bodurtha, Eagan, Wis., a senior at Augsburg College, Minneapolis. The award of Jake Bennett, Lexington, Va., a senior at Roanoke College, Salem, Va., was renewed for the third consecutive year.
Among the first alternates were Brett Anderson, Plymouth, Minn., a senior at St. Olaf College, Reid Larson, Eagan, Minn., a junior at Augsburg College, and Andrea Schiefelbein, Fall Creek, Wis., a junior at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. They are all to be congratulated on this fine achievement, and we hope that their future accomplishments will be treated respectfully in the news media.
Later in the day when the ELCA News Service finally acknowledged Pr. Schmeling's removal from the roster, the press release included this explanatory paragraph:
"Decisions of the Committee on Appeals are not made public by the ELCA churchwide organization. According to the ELCA Constitution, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions, summaries of decisions are to be reported to the next ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the church's highest legislative authority, which will be here at Navy Pier Aug. 6-11. In this case, the decision of the Committee on Appeals was released July 5 by [Bishop] Warren and posted on the synod's Web site, and it was released at a July 5 news conference at St. John Lutheran Church, Atlanta, the congregation [Pr.] Schmeling has served since 2000."
The portion of CBCR to which the release refers is CBCR 20:61.A92k.
Proof Text, 1: From the Committee on Appeals decision regarding Pr. Schmeling:
"Policy documents of this church that are adopted in conformity with the processes and authority provided for in the CBCR come with a presumption of their constitutional validity... Additionally, individual provisions contained in the CBCR can not be read in isolation of each other; rather, the document must be read together as a whole. Moreover, policy documents of the ELCA that have been adopted in conformity with the processes specified in the CBCR must also be read in connection with the CBCR, such that the CBCR and these policy documents must not be considered in isolation but as a whole set of complimentary documents."
We certainly agree that CBCR should be taken "as a whole", though we think CBCR 4:01-02 ("Statement of Purpose") is too often neglected, especially CBCR 4:02f:
"Manifest the unity given to the people of God by living together in the love of Christ and by joining with other Christians in prayer and action to express and preserve the unity which the Spirit gives."
We have to wonder how prosecution of Pr. Bradly Schmeling, Pr. Steve Sabin, Pastor Ross Merkel or any of the other gay and lesbian pastors who have been hounded off the ELCA roster could possibly be reconciled with CBCR 4:01-02. Apparently the Commitee on Appeals felt it best to leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Proof Text, 2: Following the decision of the Committee on Appeals, Bishop Ron Warren issued a Pastoral Letter to comment on the decision to defrock Pr. Schmeling. In the letter, Bishop Warren notes that he will meet with the executive committee of St. John's (Atlanta) on August 2, "to pray together, listen and discuss options for the congregation and Bradley in the future." Sloth Never Looked So Good: If you're going to do nothing, you might as well do it in style. Tell the world you aren't afraid to sin boldy by slipping into the Official LutheranConfessions.com T-SHIRT! Be the Life of the Party:
This could be a good thing, though we wonder if Bishop Warren is fully aware of the pain that his prosecution of this case has caused, and while we try, like all good Lutherans, "to put the best construction on everything," we can't help but recall CBCR 9:23:
"In accord with constitutional provision 9.21.d. and bylaw 9.21.01. and without invoking the provisions of Chapter 20, a congregation that maintains as its pastor an ordained minister who has resigned or been removed from this church’s roster of ordained ministers or that calls as its pastor one who has not been approved for the roster of ordained ministers may be removed from the roster of congregations of this church by the Synod Council upon recommendation of the synodical bishop."
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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:
Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.
CBCR 9:23 was used in 2004 by Bishop Murray Finck and the Synod Council of the Pacifica Synod to strip Central City Lutheran Mission (CCLM) of its "congregation in development status" with the ELCA. CCLM had called Pr. Jenny Mason who is now rostered with the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP).
Coincidentally (or maybe not), it was Bishop Ron Warren who insisted in 2001 that Pr. Mason resign from the ELCA Roster.
Through a Glass Darkly: In June, Connecticut Episcopal bishop, Andrew D. Smith, defrocked the Rev. Donald L. Helmandollar of Trinity Episcopal Church in Bristol Connecticut and ordered the congregation's lay leaders "to vacate the property of Trinity Church, Bristol, and release every claim on the assets of this parish by July 8, 2007." The parishioners had objected to the Episcopal church's position regarding homosexuals in the clergy.
Much of the disagreement concerns the denomination's 2003 decision to name Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as the bishop of New Hampshire.
Dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church's acceptance of gay clergy, Trinity is one of several dozen Episcopal congregations that have joined more conservative Anglican groups overseas, including the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which reports to the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion.
After the congregation aligned with the Nigerian Communion, the Connecticut diocese removed Father Helmandollar as a priest, ordered him to leave the rectory and threatened dissident worshipers with eviction. The Convocation of Anglicans in North America continues to recognize Father Helmandollar as a priest in good standing.
Expecting the diocese to send a priest with a letter demanding access to the pulpit, Father Helmandollar delcared "Without a court order, they aren't getting it."
The congregation traces its roots to 1747, 38 years before the first generalconvention of the Episcopal Church in the United States and claims that its real estate and other property have always been held in the congregation's name.
Benedict XVI Eases Restrictions on Latin Mass: On July 7 in an apostolic letter titled Summorum Pontificum Pope Benedict XVI removed a rule requiring the local bishop's permission for priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. The Tridentine Mass is conducted in Latin, a language unfamiliar to most of the world's one billion Roman Catholics.
While acknowledging opposition to this change, Pope Benedict assured bishops that this decision would not lessen their authority or responsibility, and he expressed the hope that the change would neither divide the church not roll back the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (which authorized worship in local languages).
Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League condemned the change, citing as offensive the prayer (appointed for Good Friday) for the conversion of Jews.
The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, a French group that broke with the Vatican over the Latin Mass and other issues, hailed the decision.
Ask Pr. Sophie: Pr. Sophie Fortresson has graciously consented to answer questions from our readers and offer advice about matters ranging from theology to Lutheran etiquette. Send your question to email@example.com.
Dear Pr. Sophie, I think my dog is gay, and I am concerned about taking him with on the confirmation camping trip because it might send the wrong message to the class. I mean I really love this dog even though he's gay but if the church won't welcome gay people, I am pretty sure they won't be too happy about my gay dog either. What should I do? Also, my mom's pastor preached a sermon a couple of weeks ago that I think was about gay people and the church, and he used the word "abomination" a lot- now my mom won't go to church any more - should I worry about this? ~ E.M., Vermont
Dear E.M., Well, my dear, that certainly is a load of woe, but you have done the right thing in asking Pr. Sophie. I must confess right away that Pr. Sophie is a cat person and might not be the best source of advice about your gay dog. On the other hand, what is seminary training all about if not empathy?
So: Pr. Sophie thinks that in most cases, it's just fine to take a gay dog on the confirmation camping trip, especially since you are so fond of the dog. Pr. Sophie does recommend caution, however: does your gay dog have any disagreeable habits (flatulence, for example) that might reflect poorly on other gay dogs? Pr. Sophie would think twice before taking a farting gay dog on a confirmation trip. That might actually be an abomination, especially if your confirmation class is predisposed to believe that all gay dogs are flatulent.
And, of course, the same thing applies to your mother's pastor: Pr. Sophie thinks he must be a closet farter to go on at such great length about abomination. You and your mother must judge for yourselves whether you have the patience to help this pastor work through his homophobia by coming to terms with his flatulence. If that is not your calling, do not worry: there are many fine pastors out there who are not afflicted with chronic flatulence.
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