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?'"
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
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