Great news from the Florida-Bahamas Synod. In a letter to Abiding Savior Lutheran Church (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), Bishop Edward R. Benoway announced that he has lifted the censure and public admonition placed on the congregation. See below for the report from the synod. See here for the full text of the Bishop Benoway's letter to the congregation.
We congratulate Abiding Savior and Pastor Bill Knott (pictured) and thank them for their continuing ministry, witness, and faithful service.
TAMPA--Bishop Edward R. Benoway of the Florida-Bahamas Synod today announced the lifting of a public censure that was placed in February of 2002 on Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, 1900 SW 35th Avenue in Ft. Lauderdale. That censure was placed in response to the church’s calling and installing of Bill Knott as their pastor even though he was no longer on the clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
At the time of the censure, Bishop Benoway noted that he realized the congregation was acting according to their consciences and convictions during a time that the ELCA was engaged in conversation and study of sexuality and rostering matters. Knott was living in a committed, same-gender relationship and had voluntarily removed himself from ELCA clergy roster prior to 2002.
The censure was lifted as a result of action taken at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly “to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” Abiding Savior is a congregation that supports those in such relationships and welcomes all to participate fully in the life and ministry of the congregation.
“It is my great joy to be removing this censure and renewing the welcome of members of this congregation to full participation in all aspects of our life together in the Florida-Bahamas Synod,” wrote Bishop Benoway to leaders at Abiding Savior. He went on to express his gratitude for the congregation’s patience and continuing partnership over the past eight years as “we have studied the Scriptures, discussed matters of sexuality, and debated countless resolutions on the floors of synod assemblies and churchwide assemblies.”
“You have participated in the life of the synod through your presence at synod assemblies and conference gatherings, and you have supported the ministries of the whole Church,” wrote Bishop Benoway, pointing out that this congregation remained generous in their giving of mission support for synodical and churchwide ministries.
“You remained always a witness to this church of what you believe is right and consistent with our Lord’s teaching,” he said. “In prayer and discernment, we have together sought the will of God in these matters.”
As a result of further decisions made at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA is also seeking ways for persons in publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church. “In the very near future,” Bishop Benoway wrote, “I anticipate being able to share with Bill Knott the process that he and I may follow” to pursue his reinstatement to the clergy roster of the ELCA.
Bishop Benoway concluded by giving thanks for the partnership that this congregation shares with the Florida-Bahamas Synod and the ELCA.
Abiding Savior was one of two congregations censured at the same time in 2002 for calling pastors not on the ELCA clergy roster. The other was Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Key West, which voted to close as a congregation in 2009 as a result of diminished membership.
By the Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel (Florida-Bahamas Synod)