(From Dean Kallenbach)
Below is the address Grace-Eau Claire president Anne Carter delivered to the congregation Sunday morning.
Friday afternoon both Pastor Nestingen and Pastor Irgens were informed by letter that Bishop Duane Pederson has removed them from the ELCA roster of clergy. Their removal is effective March 22, 2013. He reasons that both pastors have engaged in schismatic activity by allowing Grace Lutheran Church to dually affiliate with the LCMC. He also claims that they have defied the Synod Council's decision and the civil courts. He does not claim that our pastors have preached falsely or told untruths. I will not take the time here and now to dignify those letters with much more of response. Pastor Irgens will follow my comments with some of his own. I encourage anyone to ask questions of the pastors or Council especially at our Tuesday night meeting.
(Pastor Irgens spoke of his responsibility to his call to the congregation of Grace Lutheran Church. Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession explains how he is bound to this church as we are to him. God placed him among us and until the congregation rescinds his call, he will serve as our pastor. Pastor Nestingen and Pastor Irgens will remain in their positions and the congregation of Grace Lutheran Church will support their ministry among us. Jesus Christ is head of the church. We will honor Him.)
Bishop Duane Pederson removed both pastors stating that he has the authority to do so. I take this opportunity to remind you of some of the other things that Bishop Pederson has said.
In a letter to churches in the NW Synod dated December 1, 2011:
“ELCA bishops have very limited authority; primary authority resides in congregations, especially regarding matters of employment and property. Congregations call pastors; pastors do not work for the bishop. Congregations own church property; the synod does not. This means that Lutheran bishops cannot intervene in the way that bishops from other denominations can, and most disputes in congregations are settled within the local community without the involvement of the bishop or the synod.”
From an article in the Eau Claire Leader Telegram dated March 18, 2013 regarding Grace:
“The synod and denomination will encourage and support efforts of healing and reconciliation.”
His comments raise some questions: What kind of a man says one thing and so obviously does the complete opposite? How does this action support healing and reconciliation? How is this encouragement when it appears to be an attempt to silence ordained ministers of Christ during Holy Week? How can a Christian leader deny the preaching of Christ crucified and Christ risen to a Christian church at Easter?
Now I know that when many of us hear these things we cringe, our hearts clutch and our stomachs churn. We don’t like to be in the middle of controversy. We would like church to be peaceful and calm and quiet. We don’t want conflict. But we have the right to ask questions and expect civil discourse with church leadership. Our inquiries should not be met repeatedly with insult. The church is not a private club where only a few have the rights and privileges of membership. But I must remind you of the words of Paul to the Phillippians: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.”
On that first Palm Sunday people lined the roadway and sang praises to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. The institutional church of that day told Jesus to instruct the people to be quiet. Jesus told them that if the people were silent the rocks of the ground would break forth in praise. I pray God that the members of Grace will never be silent but will sing the praises of Jesus loudly and boldly. May we, with the saints of old and the saints to come, joyously proclaim:
Hosannah in the highest!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!!
Don’t be afraid. Don’t lose faith. With God nothing is impossible.
Easter is coming!!!
Anne Carter 3.24.13
(From Dean Kallenbach)
This note was forwarded yesterday to members of her congregation by Grace Lutheran-Eau Claire president Anne Carter. Please continue to keep Grace and its pastors in your prayers....
NEW DEVELOPMENT UPDATE
March 22, 2013
This afternoon both Pastor Nestingen and Pastor Irgens were informed by letter that they have been removed from the ELCA roster of clergy. Their removal is effective March 22, 2013. Bishop Duane Pederson removed both pastors. He reasons that both pastors have engaged in schismatic activity by allowing Grace Lutheran Church to dually affiliate with the LCMC. He also claims that they have defied the Synod Council's decision and the civil courts.
Bishop Pederson's actions do not meet the criteria for removal of pastors as outlined in the constitution of the NW Synod of Wisconsin.
Grace has been dually affiliated for almost two years. Bishop Pederson has been presiding bishop during that time. This fall he announced that he would not seek re-election and instead will be leaving March 31 for a new position.
No response has been determined at this time. 'But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
'But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.' Jude 17-21
Thank you for your continued prayers for Grace Lutheran Church.
The following is a letter from both the council president and senior pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Marion, Iowa. (elca.org lists St. Mark's average attendance at 961)
March 27, 2012
There is on body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6
Dear Partners of St. Mark’s,
As we continue our Lenten journey, we give thanks to God for calling us to the cross and into a deeper relationship with Christ, and for continuing opportunities for faithful service to Him. St. Mark’s church council last updated you in late November regarding denominational issues. That update followed the council’s resolution to dual roster with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Since then, we have continued conversations with our synod bishop, Michael Burk, in regard to our relationship with the ELCA.
In response to the council’s November resolution, Bishop Burk has placed St. Mark’s under censure and admonishment. Our council has continued conversations with the synod to fully understand what this means. The first indication of any change in procedures was that the synod office would not provide assistance to us in the pastoral call process. Our call committee, however, is continuing its work and has several excellent ELCA pastoral candidates with whom it is moving forward in conversations that may ultimately lead to a call. Each of the candidates is aware of our circumstances and is pleased to continue the interview process.
This past week we received word that Pastor Perry Fruhling has been removed from the ELCA clergy roster. While the ELCA actions are disappointing, we anticipated that there could be some ramifications to our council resolution. Pastor Perry was called and will continue to serve St. Mark’s congregation for years to come. Arrangements have been made to ensure continuity of his healthcare benefits and pension. Since Pastor Perry was called according to our constitution as an ELCA pastor, we have simply extended the provisions of that call going forward.
What follows remains in the hands of our local bishop and the Southeastern Iowa Synod Council. In our communication with the bishop, we have made it clear that we desire to continue our current relationship with the ELCA as a dual-rostered church. We continue as a congregation to generously support numerous faithful ELCA ministries.
Our application to affiliate with the LCMC has been accepted, and we remain committed to being part of a Lutheran church body. Regardless of any ELCA actions, St. Mark’s continues as a Lutheran church and ownership of our building remains firmly with our congregation. Our building addition gives St. Mark’s the unique ability to reach out to the community and continue to serve others. Our recent Christmas Eve services and Ash Wednesday service had record numbers of people attending. As a congregation of faithful servants to God’s Word, we will continue to grow.
We encourage you to pray for the ELCA, the LCMC and for all members of St. Mark’s as we move forward in serving Christ. As always, please call or email email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
Yours in Christ,
Church Council President
Pastor Perry Fruhling
ELCA Bishops be warned. If you seek to remove pastors who disagree with the direction of the denomination, you will lose. That is what happened in Greenfield, Indiana, recently.
It all began with St. James Lutheran Church’s pastor, Larry Gember. The spiritual leader of the congregation, recommended that they vote to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (The St. James Church Council also recommend that they leave.) Pastor Gember outlined his thoughts in a letter to the congregation a few weeks before the church’s scheduled November 21, 2010, vote.
In the letter, Pastor Gember outlined troubling issues he saw within the ELCA. He mentioned his concern over the ELCA’s system of decision making and his theological concerns over what was happening in the ELCA, among other things. Near the close of Pastor Gember's letter he said, “I would like to be part of a church body that has relative peace and is joyfully focused on the basics of mission and evangelism. I see those things in both LCMC and the NALC. Therefore I urge you to vote 'yes' to the Council’s recommendation.” (read Pastor Gember’s letter here)
On November 21, the majority of the congregation at St. James Lutheran Church voted to leave the ELCA. Unfortunately the majority was 6% shy of the 67% needed. (87 members voted to leave the ELCA, 54 members voted to stay) (see here, under the “newsletter” link)
Less than a month after the November 21 vote, ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod Bishop William O. Gafkjen requested that Pastor Gember resign as an ordained minister in the ELCA. Bishop Gafkjen said he made this request because he did not want someone who is not committed to the ELCA and who, he claimed, is working to undermine the denomination, to be a pastor in the ELCA. (read Bishop Gafkjen’s letter and St. James Lutheran’s response here)
The request by Bishop Gafkjen is very troubling. It tells me that some, maybe most, of the leadership in the ELCA want to eliminate pastors who disagree with the direction the ELCA is taking. Exposing the ELCA has reported on other attempts by ELCA bishops to silence, blackball and remove pastors from the ELCA roster because the pastors would not go along with the ELCA and compromise their historic Christian and Lutheran understandings of God’s Word. (see here and here for examples)
It is evident that the ELCA desires to silence and remove the orthodox voice, which is the historic, worldwide understanding of Scripture. Peter, John, Luke, Paul and Jesus Himself would have been asked or forced to leave the ELCA based on their understanding of God’s Word and for the stand they took toward those who distort Scripture.
Pastor Gember has declined Bishop Gafkjen’s request to resign. On January 2, 2011, in a great show of support for Pastor Gember and Scripture, St. James Lutheran held another vote to leave the ELCA, which passed 172 to 50.
Jesus said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Matthew 10:14. That is what St. James Lutheran Church is doing, shaking off the dust. We all should do the same.
Friday, November 5 an article by globegazette.com stated two Clear Lake, Iowa ELCA pastors at Zion Lutheran Church have been suspended by Bishop Steven L. Ullestad of the Northeastern Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). (read here)
In a weekly publication, Zmail, from Zion Lutheran, they address this issue:
“About a month ago the Bishop wrote a letter to our pastors declaring that Zion was a "schismatic" congregation and that ELCA policy did not allow ELCA pastors to serve such congregations. He threatened two alternatives for our pastors. They could either resign their calls to Zion or they would be removed from the ELCA clergy roster (that is, they would be kicked out of the ELCA).
The pastors responded to this letter observing that the ELCA had taken no official action to declare what was "schismatic" and so Zion could hardly be branded with such a designation. In addition there is no consistent policy in regard to "schismatic" congregations in the ELCA. The synods have different policies that they follow both in regard to congregations and pastors. Thus the Bishop was acting on his own individual opinion not a comprehensive ELCA policy.
Through all of this no action has been taken to our knowledge (we have not been informed of any action) in regard to Zion's status as a congregation in the ELCA. Therefore the pastors declared that they had been duly called to serve Zion and had faithfully done so for many years and intended to continue in that service. They would not resign their calls to Zion. In addition, they would not remove their names from the ELCA clergy roster as long as Zion remained on the ELCA roster of congregations (Again, there has been no change in Zion's roster status with the ELCA to our knowledge).
Last week the Bishop sent letters to our pastors informing them that since they did not resign their calls to Zion they were removed from the ELCA clergy roster (i.e., they had been kicked out of the ELCA) because they continued to serve a "schismatic" congregation. This sets up the absurd situation that our pastors have been kicked out of the ELCA for serving a congregation that is still on the ELCA roster of congregations. The absurdity is further compounded by the fact that from the view point of the ELCA, Zion is now without pastors, but no ELCA pastor supposedly could ever take a call here.
Ironically, this means that Zion is a part of the Northeastern Iowa Synod which our Bishop serves, and so he is obligated to also serve Zion. But since he has declared Zion a "schismatic" congregation his continued service to Zion means that his name should be removed from the ELCA clergy roster for precisely the same reasons he removed Pastor Hess and Pastor Yarian.
All of this is an illustration of the ridiculous machinations that are going on within the ELCA. Bishops and national officers are making up policies on the fly to suit their own personal agendas. These policies reflect no official action by the ELCA, and are internally inconsistent. It is one more example of the sad state of the ELCA.
These actions in no way affect the status of our pastors in regard to neither Zion, nor their calls to serve here and before God. Our pastors will be applying for rostered status with LCMC and will continue the faithful ministry they have carried out here at Zion for many years.” (see here)
Zion Lutheran Church has a vote scheduled Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 6 p.m. (CST) to decide whether the church should leave the ELCA. Btw, this isn't the first "issue" Bishop Ullestad has had with a pastor who disagreed with the ELCA - see "Is the ELCA Trying to Silence Pastors' 'Bound Conscience?'"
This March, Rev. Jason Cooper of Emanuel Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Strawberry Point, Iowa, gave a sermon on the topic of sexual immorality using scripture from the lectionary on 1 Corinthians 10. (read here and listen here)
Toward the end of the service, a former church council president approached the microphone and voiced his disagreement with the message and claimed that Rev. Cooper had violated his "Letter of Call" for stating that the ELCA's new policies oppose God's directive in Scripture. (listen here - the last minute of the service)
This incident led to a meeting between Rev. Cooper, Northeast Iowa Synod Bishop Steven L. Ullestad and Assistant to the Bishop Mark Anderson. Rev. Cooper explained that during the meeting Bishop Ullestad informed him that if the former church council president followed through with his claim against the pastor, Bishop Ullestad "would rule against me, that I had, in fact, violated my Letter of Call. The only two things he specified, that I recall, was that I was a little too Catholic in my understanding of the . . . reason for sex. The second thing was that he said I couldn't say that the ELCA had violated the will of God."
At a second meeting, Rev. Cooper said that Bishop Ullestad told him "You don't understand. You could be in really serious trouble." Rev. Cooper replied, "Do what you have to do . . . I stand by what I said."
Rev. Cooper went on to say that during the meeting there "really was a feeling that either I recant or I was done, at least from the synod's perspective."
To set the context, Rev. Cooper had been the pastor at Emanuel Lutheran for 6 years, and it was his first call. The year prior to this incident, Rev. Cooper submitted his papers with the ELCA seeking a specific call, to which the bishop's office encouraged him to consider two or three other calls as well. But Rev. Cooper did not feel God was calling him to any of those positions at the time.
In February of this year, Rev. Cooper again submitted his papers seeking a new call. As of the first week of September, 2010, he has not received any profiles from any of the four ELCA synods to which he submitted his name, and none of the synods have talked with him.
According to Rev. Cooper, "When I asked the Bishop (Ullestad) flat out, 'Am I blacklisted?' He said, 'Well, congregations don't want pastors who cause problems.'"
So let's look at Rev. Cooper's record. Over the last 6 years, Emanuel Lutheran has met their expenses every year. Their benevolence has been at least 10% to 20%. They have seen an increase in worship attendance every year and received 40 new members in 2009, all in a town with a population of just over a 1000 people.
The only "problems" that Rev. Cooper can be accused of causing are that he took a public stand against the denomination's homosexuality policies and clearly stated that the ELCA is elevating their own view over the authority of Scripture. Rev. Cooper believes this is why the ELCA has refused to work with him as he seeks to find a new call.
Based on Rev. Cooper's testimony, it seems clear that the denomination wants to deny pastors the freedom to express publicly their "bound conscience," if it does not line up with the ELCA's decisions. It can further be understood that pastors are not to preach or teach anything other than what the ELCA social statement says.
With that in mind, pastors should remember that their responsibility is to faithfully live out his or her calling and the vows taken at ordination, most especially to teach and preach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, the creeds and confessions. We all are ultimately responsible to God and God alone.
It is wrong for the ELCA or any denomination to prohibit or discourage pastors from teaching from the Word of God. It appears that the ELCA is trying to silence orthodox pastors, which should cause all of us to question the ELCA's motives and actions.
(Rev. Jason Cooper resigned from the ELCA, Sept. 2010)