Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on Tomorrow's "Ordination"

Shrimp here. As a public service, we highlight how Eastern Synod, ELCIC, officials are being portrayed by the media in response to the "extra-ordinary ordination" of Lionel Ketola, whose position as Associate Pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Newmarket, Ontario, (and who is being "deployed as an Ambassador of Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21) in the ELCIC") is being funded to a "major" extent by Evangelical Lutheran Ministries, an organization we wrote about on Friday.

In the National Post article Cap'n Bill linked in yesterday's entry, we observe a stern response by Eastern Synod Bishop Michael Pryse:
In a letter last month, Bishop Pryse warned Holy Cross it would face repercussions if it took part in the ceremony and went ahead with the hiring.

"I am fearful that your actions have the potential to do irreparable damage to the already fragile connecting fabric of our church," the letter said. "When I met with you earlier this year, I clearly detailed the processes I would be obliged to administer in response to this proposed action. Should the service on May 16 proceed as planned, I will have no choice but to initiate those processes, albeit with a deep and profound sadness."

Those consequences could include public censure, suspension or expulsion, he said Wednesday.
This despite the Bishop's expression that...
...he has met Mr. Ketola and thinks he would make a fine minister, but not now.

"I think the Church's current policy should change and I think many others are coming to the same conclusion," Bishop Pryse said. "But that's something we decide not as individuals but as a Church community."

He said he is not willing to sacrifice Church unity for the sake of one man or a single parish.

"I'm afraid [this ordination will be] a sign of people's worst fears for the Church and that our unity and commonality is no longer as important as it once was." He added that only a bishop can perform ordinations.
The local pastor and the ELCIC National Bishop are quoted, too.
Dawn Hutchings, the pastor of Holy Cross, believes Mr. Ketola is the ideal person to become the first openly gay Lutheran pastor.

Rev. Hutchings said she knows her parish will face consequences but she thinks going ahead with the ordination will be a benefit for the entire Church.

She said most people who are against gay ordination are opposed to it in theory. But she said it is harder to be against the idea when you work with someone like Mr. Ketola.

In fact, she wants Mr. Ketola to be an "ambassador" for gay ordination throughout the Church.

Susan Johnson, the National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, also would like to see gays ordained but she is against this ordination because it is a break with the Church as a whole.

Bishop Johnson said this is an odd situation for her because she remembers when women were not considered worthy to be ministers - so she knows what it is like to be on the outside. But she still feels that it is better that the Church come to a consensus before change takes place.
Again, read it all here.

That's the National Post. The Era-Banner is a thrice-weekly local paper for Newmarket, Ontario, published under the banner of the York Region Media Group, which at the moment has Mr. Ketola's "ordination" highlighted on its front page and reported on here.
A local Lutheran church is braving the consequences to ordinate an openly gay man as one of its own.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket has announced it will disobey the wishes of its order and go ahead with the ceremony to ordain Lionel Ketola, an openly gay married man, even though the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s policies forbid the ordination of “self-declared and practicing homosexuals.”

Holy Cross pastor Rev. Dawn Hutchings said she isn’t concerned about the consequences of ordaining Mr. Ketola as her associate pastor, because it’s just the right thing to do.

“This started in 2005 when our congregation offered a statement of welcome to gays and lesbians,” Ms Hutchings said. “The following year, Lionel came to us and asked about ordination and the internship to become ordained, which he did, and is now certified for call.”

In addition to serving as an associ ate pastor for Holy Cross, Mr. Ketola will also become an ambassador of reconciliation, Ms Hutchings said.

In essence, he’ll travel to other like-minded congregations to provide resources and assistance on how to better welcome gays and lesbians into the fold.

Still, that’s not a popular notion with everyone in the hierarchy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada denomination.
Shrimp takes note here that the "statement of welcome to gays and lesbians" led directly, and almost immediately, to the calling of a gay Associate Pastor. You might chew on that a bit the next time Lutherans Concerned approaches you about becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation, synod, or other Lutheran church-related organization. Then again, Holy Cross doesn't look like your grandfather's Lutheran church. More from York.
For its actions, the church could be subject to suspension, censure, admonission or exclusion from the denomination, Ms Hutchings said.

Furthermore, Ms Hutchings said she, herself, could face being removed from the church’s roster.

“Our Eastern Synod meets in July and we’ll be asking for them to urge our bishop not to apply disciplinary action,” she said.
Sound familiar?
“At the moment the bishop has sent some letters detailing some of the possibilities for us.”

Even so, Ms Hutchings said she does hold out some hope that she and the church will go unpunished for ordaining Mr. Ketola.

“The policy is that if you are practicing and open about your sexuality you can’t be ordained,” Mr. Ketola said. “It forces people to be silent about it.”

The bishop seems to approve of the church’s ends, but simply disagrees on the means, Ms Hutchings said.

“The bishop has expressed hope at changing some of the policies we’re going against, but he just doesn’t approve of our methods,” she said. “We’re faithfully disobeying the church.”

The Eastern Synod’s Bishop, Rev. Michael Pryse, said Holy Cross’ decision to go ahead and ordain Mr. Ketola represented a serious breach of the church’s accepted policies and practices.

The whole church, he said, is meant to decide who becomes ordained, not individual congregations.

“Our church doesn’t allow individual units in isolation to determine who gets ordained and who doesn’t,” he said.

“The whole church decides who represents us.”

As things are, Mr. Pryse said individuals such as Mr. Ketola are not eligible to become pastors in the church. It’s a simple matter of policy.

“The church has a policy that excludes self-proclaimed practicing homosexuals,” Mr. Pryse said.

“As a result Mr. Ketola cannot be eligible for ordination by the church.”

‘At the end of the day, I want to see homosexuals have the same rights in the church as heterosexuals, but I don’t think one single act will get us to that day any sooner; it might even put that day off.’

Ms Hutchings is quite correct in saying that the church may be subject to discipline, Mr. Pryse said. If the ordination goes ahead, the ELCIC would likely put together an investigations committee and then, based on that investigation, a disciplinary committee.

From there, the church could face anything from strongly worded objections, to a suspension or even being removed from the church entirely.

Mr. Pryse said such matters would not be up to him, but he hoped the most severe punishment would not be necessary.

“There would be no great urgency in doing this,” Mr. Pryse said.

“A lot of people are very passionate about this, so right away might not be the best time to make those kinds of decisions.”

Mr Pryse went on to state he sympathizes with the goals of Holy Cross and could understand their frustrations, however, he warned hasty actions may end up hindering, rather than helping, the cause in the long run.

“My great concern is about people in the moderate middle who are moving to positive effect towards progressive views on this matter and might not be very happy about a small group doing this on their own,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I want to see homosexuals have the same rights in the church as heterosexuals, but I don’t think one single act will get us to that day any sooner; it might even put that day off.”
So, the threat of strong discipline remains, though Bishop Pryse also does not want to be a bad guy, either.
Whatever happens, Ms Hutchings said the ordination ceremony will go on as planned on at the Trinity United Church located at 461 Park Ave. in Newmarket tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Ms Hutchings said she, along with colleagues from the Anglican Church, the United Church and from other congregations from across North America will then perform the ordination ceremony and let the consequences be, well, damned.

“In a Lutheran church, the power rests with the congregation, but they cede certain powers, in our denomination, to the gathered assembly of bishops who run the church in the interim,” she said.
Read it all here. And soon we'll find out if Bishop Pryse and company have a spine, or if "the various individual expressions of the church are intrinsically linked to one another" is, as it seems with gay clergy serving in ELCA congregations, just a bunch of noise.

Oh, since the last link is of Bishop's Pryse's, uh, threats to Holy Cross Lutheran, it is only fair to link their response. Nothing particularly extraordinary in it, but it reminds us that the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, founded in 1864 as a confessional alternative to S. S. Schmucker's Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, has a formal relationship with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Shrimp expects there's a lot of spinning in the graves of American Lutheran giants.

Shrimp out.


Rev. Megan M. Rohrer said...

Lionel's ordination was a great time. It was wonderful to see that the bishops who were speaking against the timing of the ordination still commented that they believed Lionel was a great minister. There question seemed to be more about "when" rather than "if."

Though this is probably not great news to most of the shellfish readers.

Pastor Megan Rohrer

Friedrich said...

Nice summary. Beyond just being an issue of sexual preference of a candidate to the ministry, the ordination sets an extremely dangerous precedent, if left unpunished. If we allow individual Churches to call whomever they please, citing credentials from organizations such as the ELM, then the ELCIC really has lost relevance. The rules that govern the Call Process really define the larger organizations. I believe that the only punishment that makes sense, is to exclude the congregation from the ELCIC until the 'rogue' pastor is removed. Any pastor that attended the 'ordination' in an official capacity should also be punished in a very clear way - because their presence could have lead people to believe that this ordination was actually legitimate.

Unfortunately, I don't think that Bishop Pryse will be motivated to admonish real discipline as can be seen", saying "Our dogged insistence on maintaining the status quo is hurting all of us and contributing to the furthering of unnecessary and hurtful divisions among us". If real discipline does not happen, the ELCIC as a whole will be the big looser.

Greetings in Christ,
Friedrich Brunzema

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