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Bishopspeak, Texas Dialect
Abstract: Texas-Louisana Gulf Coast Synod bishop comments on extraordinary ordination.
As the July 26 ordination extra ordinem of Ms. Lura Groen at Grace Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas approaches, Bishop Michael Rinehart (pictured) of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod offered a commentary on the ordination in a June 13 email message to synod leaders.
Bishop Rinehart writes:
Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,
Some of you have been calling because you may have received an invitation to the "ordination" of Lura Groen at Grace, Houston.
We find those quotation marks around the word ordination hard to accept, though perhaps they should be a badge of honor among Lutheran clergy. No doubt some Roman Catholic bishop in the 16th century invoked a similar device to trivialize the consecration of the first Lutheran pastors.
The bishop continues: Orientation is not the issue here, as Lura is not partnered. Rostering is the issue.
With all due respect to the bishop, rostering and orientation are not so easily separated: rostering is an issue precisely because the ELCA only requires celibacy of gay and lesbian clergy.
The bishop also writes: There may be challenges with regards to her health benefits and pension. She would be treated as a lay employee, and therefore not eligible for housing allowance.
For purposes of ELCA benefits, yes, Pr. Groen will be regarded as a lay employee, but eligibility for housing allowance is an IRS matter outside the ELCA's control. The official IRS publication on the matter is Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers. The ELCA has produced a helpful summary of the IRS housing allowance rules.
Bishop Rinehart again: Accepting this call could jeopardize a future application to be on the ELCA clergy roster.
We have no comment.
To be quite honest, availability for press interviews just prior to the event and preferred seating for the press left me and others with the feeling of a publicity stunt.
Though, of course, there is an outside possibility that an extraordinary ordination might in fact be newsworthy.