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Feast of the Expulsion

Abstract: Some historical perspective on the Feast of the Expulsion.

At St. Francis (SF), December 31 is the Feast of the Expulsion (observed this year on Sunday December 30), commemorating the expulsion of St. Francis and First United from the ELCA roster of congregations on December 31, 1995. The date of the expulsion was set by a 7-5 majority vote of a 1990 ELCA Discipline Committee that heard the case of the ELCA against the two congregations that had ordained Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart, and Jeff Johnson in January, 1990.
The expulsion followed a five-year suspension of the congregations' ELCA membership during which time the Discipline Committee had hoped the ELCA would change its policies barring non-celibate LGBT pastors from serving in the ministry.
Here's an excerpt from "Personal Reflections on the Trial - Six Months Later", a paper by Pr. Jim Delange delivered January 24, 1991:
I believe that one day our Lutheran institutions will ordain gay and lesbian people and honor their relationships of love and commitment. One day an openly gay or lesbian pastor will be on the cover of The Lutheran with the headline "Gay and Christian" and there will be a featured article congratulating ourselves on how we are making great steps toward being in mission to all people. But that will happen only after the Episcopalians, the Methodists, and the Presbyterians and probably a few others have done it. And, Lutherans won't do it until after the U.S. Supreme Court hands down some major decisions banning discrimination of gay and lesbian people by the military, business, and the schools - which is already happening. It won't happen in the Lutheran Church until after most major cities have passed domestic partner legislation enabling gay couples to register their relationships...
It took the Lutheran church centuries and the horror of the Holocaust to acknowledge our participation in discrimination against Jews. Prior to that, the plight of the Jews was defended biblically: "Let his blood be on us and on our children." (Mt. 27:25) It was 40 years after women had the right to vote in our nation before they won the right to vote in our church institutions. We defended that with the bible too, "Let women keep silence in churches for it is not permitted for them to speak." (1 Cor. 13:34) For 300 years the Lutheran Church in this country joined others in institutional discrimination against African-Americans, keeping them out of our white seminaries and denying them ordination. In the 1890's, the old Norwegian synod adopted a resolution saying that slavery was supported by the Scriptures. That was 25 years after the Civil War was over. What message were they sending? And to whom? In the 1920's the United Lutheran Church in America passed resolutions calling for justice for negroes, but supporting the separate but equal notion, stating fears of interracial marriage. "Each after his own kind" was the biblical cry. Twenty-five years ago, the letters to the editor in The Lutheran, The Lutheran Standard, and the Lutheran Witness were filled with invectives against the civil rights marches and Martin Luther King, regularly branding him as a communist.

Or in the words Mr. Keillor put in Zeus' mouth: You need heart, but you're Lutherans, and you go along with things. We know this from history.

(Vol. II, ix December 28, 2007 )

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