Author Topic: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation  (Read 101521 times)

Terry W Culler

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #30 on: December 26, 2011, 10:10:44 AM »
Far be it for me to say nay to anyone wanting to leave the ELCA or any other denomination for that matter.  But where there are rules that you have agreed to, those are the rules you play by.  Obviously this church did not have a consensus, lacking that it had a power struggle.  My suggestion is that the 56% who voted to leave do so.  No church body should undertake any kind of major activity with just a bare majority in agreement--that turns the Body of Christ into some sort of club or political organization.  From the little I can see here, it is a very sad situation.
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James_Gale

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #31 on: December 26, 2011, 10:47:42 AM »
Language and the use of it is a funny thing.
The letter states (emphasis added):  Because of a technicality that requires a congregation to reach a two-thirds majority to extract themselves from the ELCA, the council abided by its congregation's wishes and joined LCMC, even though it could not leave the ELCA.

I note:
That "technicality" is not some minor quibble about an interpretation of anything, but a clearly stated, forcefully-worded provision of the congregation's constitution. And if the congregation is to stay in the ELCA, the Synod has declared that it may not join any other church body. But the council majority (and not the 2/3rds majority required) decided to do so anyway. Seems to me that is the "technicality," which must be questioned.
But doing so from afar is risky.


I agree that the word "technicality" was ill chosen.


However, whether a congregation can legally affiliate with multiple church bodies depends on the provisions of congregation's governing documents and whether they were followed. The synod has no role to play in this internal, congregational matter. I don't think that we know enough here to give any opinions on whether the congregation acted in accord with its own governing documents when it joined  LCMC.


If in fact dual affiliation is against synod's rules -- a debateable proposition -- the synod's recourse is to bring a discipline action against the congregation. The synod's sole options in a disciplinary action are to censure, admonish, suspend, or expel the congregation, which in all cases would keep its property.


I don't know what the synod is trying to accomplish here. It lacks the credibility with one side to play an effective mediating role. The synod and bishop probably would be best served by backing out of this internal, congregational matter and state publicly that the synod's leaders are praying for all involved as they work through this matter.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2011, 10:56:09 AM by James_Gale »

Erma S. Wolf

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #32 on: December 26, 2011, 11:10:47 AM »
   Biased accounts help neither side in presenting their "side" of the story.  The whole thing sounds like a complete, unholy mess.  The only sure thing is that the rancor stirred up by all of this, including but not limited to the lawsuit, will endure long after all the current antagonists have passed on to their eternal reward.  Lord, have mercy.

I'm sorry, but anyone who expects human beings to not have some sort of "bias" about things that affect them personally is due for disappointment. Given how many times you've revealed your emotional reactions to events with the church, how can you condemn as unhelpful people expressing their stories as they see them, clouded and colored by their emotions?

I fully expect human beings to have biases regarding things that touch them personally, and I do not disparage the people in this situation for having emotional reactions to events in their church. 

Once a journalism major, always a journalism major.  When writing what appeared to me to be a news account of the events in these congregations, one is expected to set aside one's personal bias, according to the ethics of journalism.  (This is a goal one aspires to, even though journalists seldom attain it completely and perfectly.)  Now, if this account was a personal opinion piece, bias is expected, even required.  But this article was not clearly labeled as such.  Perhaps I am misunderstanding the operating principle of Examiner.com, in which case I should not have approached this with the idea that I would gain knowledge about the facts of the case, rather than the writer's opinion regarding the interior motives of the synod bishop and the people in the newly formed congregation, presented as "facts."

I was looking for information about the facts, not another opinion piece.  It seems that finding the facts in this matter is, as in many congregational conflicts, nearly impossible to obtain.  More's the pity, from my point of view (personal, indeed biased, but not intended to be overly-emotional). 
« Last Edit: December 26, 2011, 11:14:45 AM by Erma S. Wolf »

George Erdner

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #33 on: December 26, 2011, 12:28:07 PM »
I was looking for information about the facts, not another opinion piece.  It seems that finding the facts in this matter is, as in many congregational conflicts, nearly impossible to obtain.  More's the pity, from my point of view (personal, indeed biased, but not intended to be overly-emotional).

Outsiders will never learn the facts. Matters such as this are always conducted in an air of confidentiality.
 
There are some facts (and other things) one can easily learn.
 
Fact: The church in question had over 2,500 members.
Fact: The total attendance at the meeting where the side voting to change affiliation got 54% had fewer than 20% of the congregation attending. In other words, over 80% of the baptized members didn't care one way or the other, or at least they didn't care enough to show up for the meeting.
Fact: Swartling has the authority to interpret the ELCA's rules & regulations.
Factoid/opinion: Swartling's "interpretation" that dual-affiliations are forbidden is something he made up out of whole cloth, because it's not in the ELCA's rules & regulations.
 
If you were a journalism major (as I was), then you also know that one can slant an article by simply omitting some facts selectively. And, you'll know that newspapers tend to follow the principle "All the news that fits, we print". A reporter can turn in a perfectly balanced piece, written in inverted pyramid, and discover that when the editor trimmed it to fit, enough facts were deleted to destroy objectivity.
 
And, if you were a journalism major, you should have learned that "objectivity" was really nothing more than a circulation gimmick William Pulitzer used against William Randolph Hearst around the turn of the last century. It has always been more of a theoretical ideal than something any publication actually practiced.

Dan Fienen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #34 on: December 26, 2011, 12:48:10 PM »
Fact: One way disparage the other party in a disputation is to state an opinion, especially a cynical opinion widely expressed in the profession, as fact that anyone who is trained in the profession should "know."  Therefore, since the disputant did not assume that "fact" their training must be deficient.

If you were a journalism major (as I was), then you also know that one can slant an article by simply omitting some facts selectively. And, you'll know that newspapers tend to follow the principle "All the news that fits, we print". A reporter can turn in a perfectly balanced piece, written in inverted pyramid, and discover that when the editor trimmed it to fit, enough facts were deleted to destroy objectivity.
 
And, if you were a journalism major, you should have learned that "objectivity" was really nothing more than a circulation gimmick William Pulitzer used against William Randolph Hearst around the turn of the last century. It has always been more of a theoretical ideal than something any publication actually practiced.

As Pr. Wolf admits, objectivity is a goal and an ideal, not always or even ever perfectly achieved.  But whether or not it was originally a ploy, it is, in my non-journalistic background, understanding still a goal, especially by readers who look to news for information not merely opinion.

Selectively omitting facts is one way of slanting an article.  Another is to ascribe motives to the principals that the reporter assumes they have but does not know they have, nor have been told by the principals that they have.  I could say that you wrote what you did out of dislike for Pr. Wolf and in an attempt to discredit her, but that would be a conclusion on my part, not a fact that I observed or was told by you.  That also would not be a slant introduced by an editor in the process of trimming my piece to fit.

Still another way to slant an article not normally introduced by the editor (natural enemy of reporters and writers everywhere) is to state opinion as fact.  This also was done in the article in question.  Fine for an opinion piece, but questionable in an article that is presented as reportage. 

Perfect objectivity is an elusive ideal.  But should not reporters strive for that ideal?  If indeed had journalistic aspirations, you have a very cynical view of the profession.

Dan
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Coach-Rev

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #35 on: December 26, 2011, 01:41:01 PM »
Bias or not, what I find fascinating is that no one here seems to want to address the chain of events recorded in the article, which are indeed factual.  And lest Charles begin another rant of "well, we really don't know all the facts/don't know from the source/don't know ????"  I am personally acquainted with this congregation on a number of levels. 

And I still stand by my assertion earlier in this thread that what "Amazing Grace" and the NWS/W has done is nothing short of pagan behavior.

Evangel

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #36 on: December 26, 2011, 01:56:56 PM »
I agree on the obvious bias (that's why I mentioned it in my last post) of both the Examiner article and the reports from the people at Grace (the one who wrote the brief summary and the congregation president who wrote the letters to the congregation), but there are some simple facts that can be gleaned from these letters.

1) The congregation was summoned to appear before the consultation committee.
2) They did so with legal council as their spokesperson.
3) They presented a prepared statement.
4) The consultation committee responded with a letter which states (summarized):
     a) You can't dual roster in the ELCA.
     b) Restore people who left the congregation to voting member status {my note, if people were unfairly removed from voting status they should be restored ... if they left and joined another congregation they should not}.
     c) ELCA supporters there are full voting members.
     d) LCMC supporters should be made associate members (removed from voting member status).

The consultation committee cites C8.02c (regarding voting members) but does not fully cite the section d which follows it regarding associate members.

Quote
d. Associate members are persons holding membership in other [Lutheran] [Christian] congregations who wish to retain such membership but desire to participate in the life and mission of this congregation, or persons who wish to retain a relationship with this congregation while being members of other congregations. They have all the privileges and duties of membership except voting rights and eligibility for elected offices or membership on the Congregation Council of this congregation.

According to the constitution is is the responsibility of the congregation council to provide for the review the membership roster.  It doesn't seem like a stretch for the council to move people who have been active in organizing and attending a competing local congregation (the SAWC called Amazing Grace) from voting member to either associate member or to remove them from the membership roles.

It does seem like a stretch for the consultation committee to make their 4th point.
Mark Schimmel, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church, LCMC
Priddy, TX
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ACXXIII, "Your majesty will graciously take into account the fact that, in these last times of which the Scriptures prophesy, the world is growing worse and men are becoming weaker and more infirm."

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #37 on: December 26, 2011, 02:43:04 PM »
An irony I see in the congregational council believes dual membership for the congregation is OK -- they can be ELCA and LCMC; but they will not accept dual membership for people -- unilaterally (as I read the reports) removed the folks attending the mission congregation from active/voting membership to associate/non-voting membership status.
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Erdner

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #38 on: December 26, 2011, 03:45:46 PM »
According to the constitution is is the responsibility of the congregation council to provide for the review the membership roster.  It doesn't seem like a stretch for the council to move people who have been active in organizing and attending a competing local congregation (the SAWC called Amazing Grace) from voting member to either associate member or to remove them from the membership roles.

It does seem like a stretch for the consultation committee to make their 4th point.

I think that illustrates the difference between a human being's relationship to his congregation as "membership", while a congregation's relationship with a denomination is an "affiliation". Membership is one thing, affiliation is a different thing. The two aren't exactly the same, so the two can't really be identically compared.
 

Coach-Rev

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #39 on: December 26, 2011, 04:28:28 PM »
I find it laughable that a bunch of disgruntled members, who A:  left the congregation and started a new congregation, and B:  with the aid of the sitting bishop, would sue their former congregation to have their membership restored.

Like I said:  pagan behavior, which is not wholly unexpected from my former synod to the north.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #40 on: December 26, 2011, 04:34:46 PM »
According to the constitution is is the responsibility of the congregation council to provide for the review the membership roster.  It doesn't seem like a stretch for the council to move people who have been active in organizing and attending a competing local congregation (the SAWC called Amazing Grace) from voting member to either associate member or to remove them from the membership roles.

It does seem like a stretch for the consultation committee to make their 4th point.

I think that illustrates the difference between a human being's relationship to his congregation as "membership", while a congregation's relationship with a denomination is an "affiliation". Membership is one thing, affiliation is a different thing. The two aren't exactly the same, so the two can't really be identically compared.


The Model Constitution does use "membership" to describe a congregation's relationship to the ELCA (see chapters 6 & 7).
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #41 on: December 26, 2011, 04:37:11 PM »
I find it laughable that a bunch of disgruntled members, who A:  left the congregation and started a new congregation, and B:  with the aid of the sitting bishop, would sue their former congregation to have their membership restored.

Like I said:  pagan behavior, which is not wholly unexpected from my former synod to the north.


Any less "pagan" than the congregation who, ignoring the rules of the ELCA, decided to join the LCMC? and remove from voting membership those people who opposed that decision?
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Erdner

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #42 on: December 26, 2011, 04:58:50 PM »
Another thing regarding church councils determining who is and isn't a member. I'm aware of the stipulation that a member can be removed from voting status without cause if they go an entire year without communing and making an offering. But are there other grounds, such as if a person performs an action that is the equivalent of sending a letter of resignation? If one becomes a member of a different ELCA church, doesn't that automatically end one's membership in a previous ELCA church? Whenever I joined a new ELCA congregation, the congregation I joined handled the paperwork to have my letter of membership moved. Isn't it against the rules to be a voting member at more than one ELCA congregation at a time? Isn't that why the status of "associate member" exists?
 
So, if this tiny little minority of the one congregation joins the new congregation in town, shouldn't being converted to associate members at their former congregation be automatic?
 

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #43 on: December 26, 2011, 06:50:48 PM »
Another thing regarding church councils determining who is and isn't a member. I'm aware of the stipulation that a member can be removed from voting status without cause if they go an entire year without communing and making an offering. But are there other grounds, such as if a person performs an action that is the equivalent of sending a letter of resignation? If one becomes a member of a different ELCA church, doesn't that automatically end one's membership in a previous ELCA church? Whenever I joined a new ELCA congregation, the congregation I joined handled the paperwork to have my letter of membership moved. Isn't it against the rules to be a voting member at more than one ELCA congregation at a time? Isn't that why the status of "associate member" exists?
 
So, if this tiny little minority of the one congregation joins the new congregation in town, shouldn't being converted to associate members at their former congregation be automatic?


*C8.05. Membership in this congregation shall be terminated by any of the following:
a. death;
b. resignation;
c. transfer or release;
d. disciplinary action by the Congregation Council; or
e. removal from the roll due to inactivity as defined in the bylaws.
  Such persons who have been removed from the roll of members shall remain persons for whom the Church has a continuing pastoral concern.


Since there are no model bylaws, they can vary, but typical bylaws allow the council to remove a member for inactivity after two years of no communion or contribution of record (usually after being contacted about their inactivity). I have never seen bylaws that gave the council the authority to move someone from (active & voting) member to associate (non-voting) member. Every associate member I've had, was placed in that category at their request.


I'm not saying that filing the lawsuit is necessarily right, but there were also questionable acts by all parties.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2011, 06:52:30 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #44 on: December 26, 2011, 06:59:00 PM »
Isn't it against the rules to be a voting member at more than one ELCA congregation at a time? Isn't that why the status of "associate member" exists?


If the congregation accepts the premise that one cannot be a voting member of two different congregations -- they recognize that dual membership is not permitted in the ELCA. While they want that for themselves; they didn't want it for the opposition.

Quote
So, if this tiny little minority of the one congregation joins the new congregation in town, shouldn't being converted to associate members at their former congregation be automatic?


I have never had a council move someone from the active membership to associate membership. When we discover that they have joined another congregation, they are simply removed from membership. (Although properly, such removal should take place  after the member has fulfilled the requirements for inactivity as defined in the bylaws.) I've known people who were active in another congregation and sent in a small offering to the congregation where they were members just to keep their names on membership roles. (I don't agree with that position, but I've seen it done.)
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]