Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Restraint Not Enough (This Time).

Shrimp here. Get a load of this from Sunday's Bucks County (Penn.) Courier Times:
On a Sunday afternoon in October, the Rev. David Wagner made an announcement that rocked his congregation. But even the standing ovation he received and the groundswell of support from his flock wasn't enough to keep him at the pulpit from which he had preached for 10 years.

Wagner, now the former pastor of the Lutheran Church of God's Love in Newtown Township, said he's still reeling from the ordeal that began after he confessed that he was gay and had been living with a companion for five years.

His announcement came on the heels of a meeting with several individuals who said they had decided to leave God's Love to attend a more “Bible-oriented” fundamentalist church. They assured Wagner that their departure “had nothing to do” with his lifestyle.

Those words alarmed Wagner, especially after hearing that some church members were “investigating” the 59-year-old clergyman's private life. It was time to come out, he said.

The majority of his flock supported him, but what he called a core of opponents mounted a telephone campaign against him, trying to schedule a formal congregation meeting. That meeting would have required a two-thirds vote of support for Wagner to keep his job, he said.

Early on, officials at the Southeastern Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Norristown had decided not to bring disciplinary action against the pastor.
Ah, yes. Restraint.
“I believe I could have gotten the votes I needed to stay, but I felt the divisiveness that occurred was harmful to the church and that's when I decided to resign,” Wagner said.

Wagner left with dignity, but not quietly.

At his last service on Christmas Eve at God's Love, he introduced his partner, Tom Piccoli, 54, a medical physicist, along with Piccoli's former wife and other family members. Wagner's extended family received enthusiastic applause, he said.
Ah, yes. Dignity and restraint.

Read the rest of the article here. Further along, see how difficult it seems to be to describe the ELCA's policy:
Like many mainstream denominations, the Lutheran church in the United States is grappling with sexuality issues, including how to deal with homosexual clergy.

“Our current policy is that if a pastor or other rostered [lay] leader is homosexual, he or she is not expected to be in a relationship. It's the same policy as for heterosexual, not married, individuals,” said Bob Fisher. He's the communications director for the Norristown-based Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
So, is a gay pastor not expected to be in a relationship? Or is a gay pastor expected to not be in a relationship? Well, Shrimp learned long ago that synod "communications directors" aren't always very effective communicators. Especially when the Bishop is exercising restraint by not answering the phone.
In 2007, after considering several proposals on the issue, a national Lutheran assembly voted not to change church policy. At that time, the assembly encouraged regional bishops to use their discretion in situations like Wagner's.

The national church expects to tackle issues involving sexuality — including homosexuality — at its 2009 general assembly. Wagner said church leaders could agree to the status quo or ban homosexuals in relationships from the ministry.
Like we said, read it here. Shrimp salutes TitusOneNine for bringing this to our attention.

Meanwhile, don't forget this Saturday Jen Nagle grants the Minneapolis Synod the opportunity for restraint.

And now (like Pastor Wagner) Shrimp out!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well the interesting part of this story is that it really isn't about Wagner's homosexual relationship (although the media is painting it that way).

It appears he was forced out because of other issues. Sex behavior was only a last straw for some.

Interesting too that the Synodical officials didn't seem all that concerned about his homosexual lover.

This story actually says that restraint is active and working. If this man wasn't disliked for other reasons, he would have "come out" and there would have been no problem (except before God, to whom we must all give an accounting).

Thanks for the story!
Rob Buechler, Pastor
Trinity-Bergen Lutheran Church

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...