Friday, May 28, 2010

Last Chance to Register for LJR

Inside of us, we both know you belong with LC/NA. You're part of our work, the thing that keeps us going. If that assembly starts and you're not with us, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

That's right, friends... you've only got a short opportunity left to make the best decision of your summer and register for Let Justice Roll. Registration is $285 and will give you access to some of the nation's preeminent speakers on religion and human sexuality as well as over a dozen workshops. It will give you a spot at the party of the year, our Saturday Evening Celebration at Central Lutheran Church and the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Registration ends June 1st... and just remember, we'll always have Minneapolis.

Here's lookin' at you, kid!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Florida Has Censure Lifted

Bishop Edward Benoway of the Florida-Bahamas Synod has lifted the public censure from Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Fort Lauderdale. The censure was placed on the congregation in 2002 for having called the Rev. Bill Knott to be its pastor. At the time of his call and installation, he was no longer on the clergy roster of the ELCA, having removed himself earlier because he was living in a committed, same-gender relationship.

The censure has been in place since that time. The lifting of the censure is a direct result of the action taken by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly that allows congregations, who so wish, to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.

Bishop Benoway stated in the official release from the synod concerning the censure that he believed that the congregation had been following its conscience and convictions.

Writing to the leaders of the congregation, the bishop said he was joyful at removing the censure and thereby renewing the full participation by the members of the congregation in the life of the synod. He spoke of his gratitude for the generous support of the ministry of the synod and the ELCA that congregation had maintained despite being under censure. In response to the actions of some, withholding benevolence, the congregation has voted to increase its benevolence as it was able.

The return of the congregation to full status within the synod is seen in the fact that, subsequent to the lifting of the censure, a member of Abiding Savior was elected at synod assembly to serve on synod council.

Bill Knott's reinstatement application to the clergy roster will be in accordance the procedures laid out by the decisions of the ELCA Church Council in April for synods to follow. There is an ongoing dialog on that subject. Bill said that he is looking forward to reinstatement.

We are pleased at this, yet another welcome event following the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

We are grateful for the witness and steadfastness of Abiding Savior and for the ministry of Bill Knott.

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA

Sierra Pacific Synod Approves 8 LGBT Pastors

Yet another confirmation of the wonderful changes occurring in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was seen yesterday as the council of the Sierra Pacific Synod met to approve the reinstatement and reception of eight LGBT pastors: Rev. Paul Brenner, Rev. Jeff Johnson, Rev. Ross Merkel, Rev. Craig Minich, Rev. Dawn Roginski, Rev. Megan Rohrer, Rev. Steve Sabin, and Rev. Sharon Stalkfleet. Plans are underway for a service of reception, reinstatement and reconciliation to be held within the Sierra Pacific Synod later this summer.

Although all of these ministers are currently or were previously on the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), each has a unique story to tell about how previous discriminatory policies separated her or him from the official roster of the ELCA. Some were actively serving on the ELCA roster but were later removed; these pastors will return to the roster via the ELCA process referred to as "reinstatement." Others were dropped from the ELCA's candidacy program, finishing their process of discernment, preparation, and credentialing through ELM; they will enter the ELCA roster through a rite of reception. One will be received from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Lutherans Concerned/North America celebrates with these eight ministers, with ELM, and with the Sierra Pacific Synod as we look forward together to a church that more fully recognizes and affirms Christ's call to all those who have been set apart for Word and Sacrament ministry. We look forward to our mutual work in reconciling our church's policies and practices. While we recognize that there is still much work to be done to achieve the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, we rejoice in the great progress that has been made. As Rev. Jeff Johnson said,

"Twenty years ago when I was ordained, we could dimly imagine that Lutherans would one day fully recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and celebrate our relationships and marriages. This day is dawning in our church. I'm very thankful for all who have helped to carry this struggle forward and for our church which has finally opened up to the new and exciting future God has in store for us!"

See ELM's full report at

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA

Monday, May 10, 2010

ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod Takes First Steps Toward Return of St. Francis and First United congregations

More signs of the working of grace in this time of celebration of resurrection: The Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA met in assembly this weekend passed the following:


BE IT RESOLVED, that the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly affirm that the mission and witness of this synod and of the whole ELCA would best be served by making it possible for these two congregations to participate fully in the life of the synod and the ELCA and resume the status they had prior to their removal; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly direct the Synod Council and Bishop to take the steps necessary to allow First United Lutheran Church or St. Francis Lutheran Church, should either of them desire, to be recognized and received as ELCA congregations, with their status as former members of predecessor church bodies unchanged.
Both St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church were dismissed from the ELCA in 1995 at the end of a 5-year suspension. Their offenses: St. Francis had called Pastors Phyllis Zillhart and Ruth Frost and First United had called Pastor Jeff Johnson, all openly gay and refusing to comply with the policy that precluded them from serving unless they foreswore being in a committed, lifelong, same-gender covenanted relationship. The refusal of the congregations to reverse their decisions resulted in their dismissal.

Dialog between the congregations and the synod has been going on since the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly last August. Neither of these churches joined any other Lutheran body in the intervening years, nor are they new congregations. This action by the synod assembly, characterized in the discussion prior to enactment as beginning the reconciliation, is an important step in establishing the way forward. Subsequent steps will be laid out by the synod, to which the two congregations will then respond following discernment on their part of the appropriate and separate actions they wish to take.

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA

Friday, May 7, 2010

Censure Lifted at University Lutheran Chapel

From our friends at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries:
In another step for the ELCA toward becoming a welcoming and inclusive church, Bp. Mark Holmerud (left), Bishop of the ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod, ended his report to the synod at today's assembly with the news that he was lifting the censure of University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, CA. The Chapel was placed under censure in 2000, after calling Rev. Jeff Johnson (ELM Roster).
To this this we say Hooray and Thanks be to God! Go here for the full story.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

ELCA Reinstates Bradley Schmeling and Darin Easler, an Openly Gay Minister Couple in a Committed Relationship

A visible sign of the wondrous changes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the reinstatement of Pastor Bradley Schmeling and Pastor Darin Easler to the roster of ministers of the ELCA. Both had been removed from that roster for being in a committed, same-gender relationship.

As a committed, same-gender clergy couple they will serve openly on the roster of ELCA ministers under the now-revised policy. The new policy is the result of the decisions of the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly directing the removal of the barriers to service in the church by ministers in committed, lifelong, same-gender relationships. That new policy was implemented by the actions of the ELCA Church Council in early April 2010.

Schmeling was on the roster of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA at St. John''s Lutheran Church in Atlanta. In 2006, he told his previous bishop that he had found his partner for life. That bishop filed ecclesiastical charges for violation of the-then policy that required celibacy of gay ministers. Famously, at the end of the 2007 trial, the Discipline Hearing Committee''s ruling said that they found nothing wrong with his ministry or commitment to the work of the church, that they would hold him up as exemplary, and that they thought the policy was wrong and ought to be changed. But, they said that, obedient to the law, he was to be removed from the roster.

Schmeling's congregation, which had thrown a celebratory party when first told about his commitment to Darin Easler, informed the bishop they were keeping him as their pastor, as they have done for the last three years. No formal charges were filed against the congregation. However, from that time, the ELCA officially considered the pulpit at St. John''s to be vacant. But, no more. Pastor Schmeling's ministry will be officially recognized by his reinstatement to the roster.

Darin Easler was on the roster of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA, successfully came out to the congregation he had served for five years in Zumbrota, Minnesota, but because of the previous policy, chose to leave his call in 2003. He was later dropped from the clergy roster solely because of his committed relationship with Schmeling. Subsequently, he received ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ, who welcomes gay ministers in committed relationships. His ministry in Atlanta is as a chaplain and grief counselor to patients and families in hospice care.

Pastor Bradley Schmeling says, "One of the stones of injustice has been rolled away from the door, and Christ now lives more fully in the life of the church. The old policy, a dead end for so many for so long, has fallen in the face of Easter's gracious power. It's been striking how deliberately and how clearly the church has moved forward to make the assembly's witness a reality. These are exciting days to be part of the church, and I'm looking forward to years ahead in ministry both with the church I love and with the partner that God has given me. To be on the roster together makes Isaiah's vision of an everlasting place within God's house a wonderful, living reality in our lives."

Easler said of the reinstatement, "Today is a day of hope, not only for those of us in the LGBT community who can return to our church family and to the ELCA clergy roster, but for all those, young and old alike, who can now imagine a future in the church, and truly experience the church as a place of full welcome and unconditional love."

Laura Crawley, Congregational President of St. John''s Lutheran Church, said, "St. John's has seen history turn many corners in its 140-plus years as a Lutheran congregation in Atlanta. With the change in ELCA policy that enables Bradley and Darin to return to the ELCA roster of ordained ministry, we rejoice that we've been a part of righting one of the wrongs of history."

"The larger church continues to struggle with this issue. Many people are saddened by the policy change and worry for the future of the Lutheran church. I hope they'll come to St. John's to worship with us one Sunday, so we can welcome them and make them feel at home again in their church.

"The St. John's congregation never doubted Bradley's and Darin's calls to ministry. We're honored by their ministry gifts and by the example of their loving, committed relationship. We're so glad the ELCA is welcoming them home!"

Ross Murray, Interim Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said, "We celebrate that Bradley is the first pastor to be reinstated to the ELCA roster and that Darin is being restored to the ELCA roster, both under the new policy. And, we celebrate that they are able to serve openly in the ELCA as a same-gender clergy couple. Our continued prayer is that they will be the first of many people who are able to come out and serve the church with honesty and integrity. Such a day calls for celebration, not only in Atlanta, but by all who value full participation and the continued spread of Christ''s message.

Murray continued, "We look forward to celebrating with every pastor and lay leader who is being received or reinstated onto the ELCA clergy roster, every person who is able to be more honest about his or her personal life because of this policy change, and every congregation who is freed to call the leader with the gifts that will suit them best. There is still much work to be done to achieve full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church."

Pastors Bradley Schmeling and Darin Easler and the congregation of St. John''s Lutheran Church will jointly celebrate the reinstatements at a congregational event to be scheduled for mid-June.

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA