Following and attached is a report made by Grace Lutheran Church-Eau Claire president Anne Carter to the congregation there regarding the latest course happenings in their lawsuit.
This past Wednesday morning a hearing was held at the Polk County Courthouse in Balsam Lake with Judge Molly GaleWyrick. In attendance were Jay Heit, attorney for Grace Lutheran Church; Drew Ryberg, attorney for Amazing Grace; Tom Guelzow, attorney for the NW Synod of Wisconsin, who is also representing Bishop Duane Pederson in his divorce proceedings; Dan Herber of the Twin Cities, attorney for the ELCA. Ryan Steffes, attorney for Grace Lutheran Foundation, also attended. Forty-two members of Grace drove up for the hearing. One member of Amazing Grace was present. The hearing began at 10:00 and ran for about an hour.
The hearing was called to render a decision on a motion filed by Tom Guelzow against Jay Heit. He asked for sanctions against Mr. Heit for what he claimed was a frivolous lawsuit against the NW Synod. Mr. Guelzow spoke of his concern for the ethics and morality of the legal system as the reason for his filing for sanctions. Mr. Heit defended our lawsuit based upon our need to get answers on the procedures that were followed. The motion for sanction was denied.
Judge GaleWyrick took the opportunity to answer other motions that were pending with the court. Both the ELCA and the NW Synod had filed Judgments on the Pleadings. These were motions asking the court to dismiss our countersuit. They claimed ecclesiastical immunity. Their motions were granted. Reading from a prepared statement, Judge GaleWyrick expressed her opinion that our countersuit was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. She was determined that we had no right to involve those other two parties and bring a discussion of theology into the courtroom. She refused to accept the argument that our constitution is intertwined with theology and that procedure and theology cannot be separated. She refused to accept the argument that we are either all in this lawsuit or we are all out.
Even though Amazing Grace has asked the court to impose a decision of the NW Synod onto this church, she has insisted that we do not have the right to examine that decision making process. We had sent an interrogatory to the NW Synod. We wanted to know in particular:
- Why did Bishop Pederson not recuse himself from the adjudication process when he expressed obvious bias against this church in synod-wide communications?
- Why were we never given the rules or procedures of the adjudication process?
- Why were we cut off after only 10 minutes of giving our defense at the Consultation Committee hearing?
- Why were our defense documents shredded and not shared with the Synod Council?
- Why were we never informed that the Synod Council was meeting to discuss this adjudication?
- Why were we not allowed representation at that Synod Council meeting?
- Bishop Mark Hanson was in town that weekend. Did he play a part in the Synod Council’s decision against this church?
With her decision, Judge GaleWyrick claims that we do not have the right to those answers. She expressed offense that we would have brought the constitutional contract into discussion. In January she told us that the court had jurisdiction because this matter was one of contractual procedure. Our defense was then based upon our constitutional contract. Wednesday she claimed that we had misunderstood her. She will only discuss article 15.11 of our constitution. In an editorial aside, she called upon the name of God and declared that we were, in effect, self-righteous zealots.
In the end, she announced that this was only about who has control of the property and the assets of Grace Lutheran Church. That claim is certainly proven by the nature of this lawsuit and the interrogatory that was sent to us. Amazing Grace wants the building and the trust funds and the security access codes. That’s all it’s about to them. If that is all that is to us, if it’s just about money, then we are just like them- shallow, self-absorbed and simple minded. But I know that it is about much more than that for all of us here. Almost two years ago, nearly 60 percent of Grace members voted to leave the ELCA for bigger, more profound reasons.
We all know that if you toss a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump out quickly to save his life. But if you put a frog into a pot of cold water and then turn the burner on to low, the frog will become acclimated to the rising temperature and not be aware of the growing danger. He will be boiled alive. The ELCA has been slowly changing, and it is becoming dangerous.
- Mark Hanson is the presiding bishop of the ELCA. He has stated that the Bible is outdated and needs to be refreshed to meet the needs of today’s culture.
- Professors at Luther Seminary are now teaching future pastors that the resurrection of Jesus never happened. It is a metaphor to represent new life.
- A local ELCA pastor has told me that I am very naïve to possibly believe that anything in the Old Testament is true.
- ELCA churches across the country now declare that salvation does not come through faith in Jesus Christ but through discovery of the wisdom within us as we embrace the goddess Sophia.
- Feminist classes in ELCA seminaries explain how there could not have been a real man named Jesus who died because of our sins because there is no man who could ever possess that kind of sacrificial love.
We have chosen to reject those teachings. We have chosen to keep Jesus at the center of our faith and our worship. I daresay, we have chosen to remain a Christian church. But in making such a choice, the powers of evil have risen against us. They want us to doubt and despair and forget where true power lies.
This lawsuit is outrageous. But we are not the only ones experiencing a lawsuit. There are currently 5 legal battles across the country where the ELCA is trying to take church property. We know that the Lord works in mysterious ways and He has chosen us to accomplish His will. I believe He wants us to raise the alarm that the water is getting hot! He did not choose us because we are better than anybody else or have more integrity or honor. The Lord knows that we are a sinful people. The difference is that we also know that we are sinners, that we are in need of forgiveness and that we have found it in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We don’t want to refresh God’s Word; we want God’s Word to refresh us!
On this celebration of Christ the King Sunday, we boldly and joyfully proclaim that Jesus is our King. He is our Lord. He is our Savior. He is our Hope. And He will not fail us.
To Him alone be all glory.
25 November 2012