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