Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Synod Suspends Newmarket Congregation

Shrimp here, with the latest on Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church of Newmarket, Ontario. You might recall this as the Toronto-area congregation that called Lionel Ketola, a man "married" to another man, as the first ELM rostered pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Eastern Synod Bishop Michael Pryse has since the original announcement of the call made clear that, while the standards prohibiting the ordination of practicing homosexuals should be changed to allow this, he will nonetheless enforce those standards. (See here, here, and here for background.)

Now comes this letter posted on Holy Cross' web site from Bishop Pryse:
Dear Pastor Dawn and friends,

At its November 13-15, 2008 meeting, the Eastern Synod Council received and took action on the recommendations of the Investigative Committee appointed on September 30, 2008 as per ELCIC Administrative Bylaws, Part II, Sections 2 and 6. Specifically, this committee was asked to investigate and bring recommendations in response to actions taken by your congregation which are contrary to the constitutional requirement that congregations "assure that only those on the roster of this church serve it in a pastoral capacity."

The ruling of the Synod Council is as follows:
  1. That Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Newmarket be suspended as per the following terms:

    • the loss of delegate status at all conference, synodical and national conventions of the
      ELCIC, and

    • the loss of lay and clergy eligibility for election to all governing bodies of the ELCIC.

  2. That this suspension not preclude the members of Holy Cross from fully participating in the programmatic and worship life of this church.

  3. That this suspension remains in place for the duration of Mr. Lionel Ketola’s call to Holy Cross, Newmarket, or until such time as Mr. Ketola’s call to Holy Cross is approved through the candidacy process of the ELCIC.
Should you wish, you may appeal this decision to the ELCIC Court of Adjudication within thirty days of receipt of this communication.

As we have interacted over the several months which have brought us to this present moment, it has been my persistent hope and desire that we would continue to be in relationship, regardless of the important decisions we have made. This is a commitment that I continue to take very seriously, as indeed does the Eastern Synod Council.

While clear in their resolve to act responsibly in accordance with our church’s governing documents, the Synod Council experienced no joy in making this decision. Indeed, it is this Council’s expressed desire to responsibly work toward changing policies that preclude the full participation of all God’s people in our ecclesial life.

Please know that this communication is accompanied by my prayers and very best wishes, as well as those of the Eastern Synod Council. May God continue to grant us generous gifts of patience, wisdom and mutual forbearance in our shared life.

Your brother in Christ,


Bishop Michael J. Pryse
Holy Cross has kindly linked some of the reactions -- thus far Pastor Dawn Hutchings' Sunday sermon, comments from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and Lutherans Concerned/North America, and a press report -- here.

Shrimp notes that this punishment does not include any threat to expel the congregation. It is public discipline of a congregation, though, something that (so far as we know) no longer happens in any ELCA synod.

Shrimp out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Man, that is cold. You think clergy man-on-man action is just fine, but you have to enforce rules you don't agree with.

The good ship ELCA...

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