Author Topic: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation  (Read 101428 times)

Wayne Kofink

  • ALPB Forum Member
  • **
  • Posts: 98
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #60 on: December 27, 2011, 10:05:31 AM »

Also, what constitutional provision allowed the leadership of Grace Lutheran to "re-adjust the status of those who left to 'associate members'"?  (And, btw, the provision for "associate members" was not "created by the Bishops of the ELCA.")  I have always thought that if one learns (reliably) that a member of the congregation has joined another congregation, that the council could remove that person from the list of church members.  Or can one have dual membership in more than one congregation of the ELCA at one time?  And how was it determined that the 70 who left Grace Lutheran had "no intention of returning"?  Was anyone told this explicitly, or was this yet another (of many, it seems) assumption?
 

About 15 years ago I raised the issue with then ELCA Secretary Lowel Almen of a person holding full membership in more than one ELCA congregation. He replied that it is not prohibited under the Model Constitution for Congregations. If a person joins an ELCA congregation without transferring membership that person becomes a members of two congregations with all rights and privileges of membership at both. That is a problem that has never been fixed constitutionally.

The only way I can see that a congregation council can “adjust” membership status is by disciplinary action or by declaring someone inactive. Both of those processes are spelled out in the Constitution for Congregations. I can’t see any way for a council to make people associate members except by their own request.

Charles_Austin

  • Guest
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #61 on: December 27, 2011, 10:26:23 AM »
Erma writes:
Some in the ELCA have said that congregations vote to dual affiliate with LCMC only so that they get kicked out of the ELCA because of their insistance on being dually affiliated.  And some have accused LCMC of encouraging this as a tactic to "get around" a failure to get a 2/3 majority to vote to leave the ELCA.  I'm not saying that is true; but actions such as this would muddy the water at best, build distrust and resentment at worst.
 
I comment:
Yes, indeed. Wise words. It need not be complicated at all. To me (and I often like complications) it seems very simple.
1. If a congregation wants to leave the ELCA, there is a regular process by which they can leave. We have heard heard of many congregations that have done that.
2. If the vote to leave fails, it fails. Period. Stop. End of story. Those who don't like the result might end up leaving the congregation.
3. If the vote to leave gets the 2/3rds majority, there are still some things to consider, but there are stipulated ways of doing so. And those in the 1/3rd might end up leaving that congregation.
4. It seems to me that any other "tactic" - dual affiliation, repeated "first votes," weepy talk about the 50 percent (but not the two-thirds) majority, - whether by those who want to leave or those who want to stay, breeds distrust and does no good.
It's just not that complicated.

George Erdner

  • Guest
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #62 on: December 27, 2011, 10:33:29 AM »
I still notice that no one is picking up on the fact that the congregation has over 2,500 baptised members, and fewer than one out of every five even showed up for the meeting to vote! Can anyone state with certainty that the opinions expressed after the vote by the 4 out of 5 who didn't show up might not have had some impact on what happened next? Might not the fallout from outcome of the vote have shaken those who didn't show up out of their apathy, leading to the beginning of a broader consensus?
 
After all, the real results of the vote were around 10% for changing affiliation, 10% against, and 80% OK with either decision.

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 45545
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #63 on: December 27, 2011, 11:12:39 AM »
From the report from a member:

This spring I shared with you the struggles of Grace Lutheran Church of Eau Claire as it voted 56-44% to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and join Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).  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.

There has been discussions about whether or not any other business could be conducted at the special meeting called to terminate a congregation's membership in the ELCA. The way this report reads, it sounds like there was one resolution that included both leaving the ELCA and joining LCMC. In the reports where congregations have accomplished both these acts, they were often (if not required to be) done at two three separate congregational meetings (since leaving requires two meetings).

There has arisen at least one case at a CWA that if part of a resolution requires 2/3 majority, e.g., changing the constitution, then it takes 2/3 majority to approve the whole resolution. If, the two acts (leaving and joining) were part of one resolution and it failed to receive 2/3 majority, the entire resolution was defeated. It then becomes a type of straw poll of those voting, upon which the council acted to join LCMC -- but, from the report, it doesn't seems to have come from passing a resolution by the congregation. (I'm not saying that what the council did was right or wrong, but as I read the report, it does not seem that there was a separate resolution approved by the congregation to affiliate with LCMC.

In line with what George has been saying, I would rather see such an important vote as terminating one's relationship from the ELCA to require a majority vote of the voting members of a congregation (not just those present). If voting members stay home, they are casting a "no" vote. This eliminates the fact that 10% of the membership can make decisions for the whole congregation. (Assuming a quorum of 15% and 2/3 would be 10%.)
« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 01:13:54 AM 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

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 45545
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #64 on: December 27, 2011, 11:16:27 AM »
I still notice that no one is picking up on the fact that the congregation has over 2,500 baptised members, and fewer than one out of every five even showed up for the meeting to vote! Can anyone state with certainty that the opinions expressed after the vote by the 4 out of 5 who didn't show up might not have had some impact on what happened next? Might not the fallout from outcome of the vote have shaken those who didn't show up out of their apathy, leading to the beginning of a broader consensus?
 
After all, the real results of the vote were around 10% for changing affiliation, 10% against, and 80% OK with either decision.


I think that it's generally true that the folks who want to change are more likely to show up and vote. Those who are content with the status quo, don't have the same degree motivation. At the same time, how many of those 80% could even tell a stranger what the letters ELCA stand for.
"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]

James_Gale

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 4117
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #65 on: December 27, 2011, 11:46:02 AM »
Erma writes:
Some in the ELCA have said that congregations vote to dual affiliate with LCMC only so that they get kicked out of the ELCA because of their insistance on being dually affiliated.  And some have accused LCMC of encouraging this as a tactic to "get around" a failure to get a 2/3 majority to vote to leave the ELCA.  I'm not saying that is true; but actions such as this would muddy the water at best, build distrust and resentment at worst.
 
I comment:
Yes, indeed. Wise words. It need not be complicated at all. To me (and I often like complications) it seems very simple.
1. If a congregation wants to leave the ELCA, there is a regular process by which they can leave. We have heard heard of many congregations that have done that.
2. If the vote to leave fails, it fails. Period. Stop. End of story. Those who don't like the result might end up leaving the congregation.
3. If the vote to leave gets the 2/3rds majority, there are still some things to consider, but there are stipulated ways of doing so. And those in the 1/3rd might end up leaving that congregation.
4. It seems to me that any other "tactic" - dual affiliation, repeated "first votes," weepy talk about the 50 percent (but not the two-thirds) majority, - whether by those who want to leave or those who want to stay, breeds distrust and does no good.
It's just not that complicated.


While this might be what you view as best, and it might be the wisest approach for many congregations, the ELCA structure allows for other scenarios.


First, whether or not a congregation may join more than one church body is determined by that congregation acting in accord with its own governing documents. I haven't seen the congregation's constitution. Nor do I know whether the congregation's leaders and members followed it. In all events, no bishop or secretary is empowered to do anything more regarding this internal matter than to try to mediate.


Second, the ELCA may determine whether its congregations may belong to multiple church bodies. Secretary Swartling has ruled that they may not?  The effect of this ruling is less clear than it might be because it is at odds with the clearly stated policy followed by the ELCA before the election of Mr. Swartling. Are secretaries free to overturn the practices of their predecessors?  If the constitution was deemed by the former secretary as permitting dual rostering of congregations, if many in the church relied on this consensus view, and if the constitution never was amended to alter the consensus, can the secretary, acting alone, effectively amend the ELCA constitution?


Even if the answer to this question is yes, the ELCA as a body has no jurisdiction over a congregation that is a member of multiple church bodies. The ELCA has delegated to synods the authority to discipline congregations that violate the ELCA constitution. The options open to the synod are limited. The harshest penalty is expulsion from the ELCA. No disciplinary measures require a congregation to forfeit any property.


Any party pursuing any of it's rights may act in a manner that others may consider to be unchristian. I suspect, but don't know, that this has happened on both sides of the Wisconsin dispute at some points.   


I suggest that we pray for those on both sides. But the process that you lay out is not what they will follow. And indeed, they are not bound to in the real world of the ELCA's interdependent (not hierarchical) structure.

Chuck

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 511
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #66 on: December 27, 2011, 01:11:18 PM »
You are correct - the required percentage to join LCMC was simple majority (as opposed to 2/3), which passed congregational vote.  It was not a unilateral action by the council.

That assertion does not seem to fit the facts of the article...

"However, two days after the vote, the council voted to also affiliate with the LCMC..." [emphasis added]
Chuck Ruthroff

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. —George Bernard Shaw

George Erdner

  • Guest
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #67 on: December 27, 2011, 01:37:47 PM »
There are still some points that people seem reluctant to address.
 
In prior threads, it has been noted that the courts are very reluctant to address any issue having to do with any sort of theological issues, but the courts will rule on strictly procedural issues based on regarding constitutions and bylaws as contracts. The courts won't rule on theological matters. In this case, there is no theology involved in determining if Swartling's imaginative interpretations of the ELCA's governing documents are consistent with the actual letter of the documents and with the ELCA's prior practices/precedents. Therefore, my best guess (and it's purely a guess) is that there is a good chance that the courts will rule that Swartling's novel interpretation of dual rostering is questionable. I would also guess (and this is purely a guess as well) that they'll rule that the only action that the ELCA can take as punishment for a congregation being dual rostered is what it says in the constitution and bylaws -- expulsion with the expelled congregation retaining its property.
 
I also note the usual automatic responses to pray for all involved. I can't argue with that advice, but I was taught that when we pray, we should be specific. So, I would specifically urge those praying for the people involved to pray that the outcome will be that those whose basic position is correct will prevail in judgement over those whose basic position is incorrect. I'd also pray that everyone on both sides is given the strength to be charitable winners and gracious losers when the final decision is reached.
 
And finally, in light of the other threads running about forgiveness of sins, penance, and purgatory, while it is true that some individuals on both sides have done things that were wrong, those actions shouldn't change the fundamental issue of one side being right and the other being wrong. If people on the right side err in their pursuit of justice, that shouldn't negate the rightness of their position. And if people on the wrong side err in their pursuit of justice, that shouldn't affect the wrongness of their position. It's really easy to cluck ones tongue and say, "Tsk, tsk" about the behaviour of others. Too easy, perhaps. But aside from making the person passing that judgement on both sides feel good about passing judgement, do such statements of the blatantly obvious really benefit any discussion about actual issues?

Coach-Rev

  • Guest
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #68 on: December 27, 2011, 03:47:53 PM »
You are correct - the required percentage to join LCMC was simple majority (as opposed to 2/3), which passed congregational vote.  It was not a unilateral action by the council.

That assertion does not seem to fit the facts of the article...

"However, two days after the vote, the council voted to also affiliate with the LCMC..." [emphasis added]

The information is from first hand conversation with the pastors there, NOT from an article in the paper.  I am well familiar with the situation there, and there was indeed a congregational vote to join LCMC at the same time they voted (and failed to pass) the termination with the ELCA.  the latter required 2/3 majority.  The former was a simple majority, which passed easily.  The council was only affirming what the congregation had already passed.

What is also largely being ignored is the bishop's complicity in sending in ringers to derail the constitutional process at Grace, his subsequent aid in developing another congregation just down the street for the minority who wished to remain ELCA, and his support and involvement in the current lawsuit.

Charles_Austin

  • Guest
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #69 on: December 27, 2011, 11:38:29 PM »
Just to note that the "problem" is not unique to the ELCA, an Assemblies of God congregation in New Jersey is locked into a battle with the denomination, which has determined that the congregation is too small and unstable to continue and has - as the denomination's and congregation's procedures apparently allow - taken over the property.
 
No  one has yet addressed what seems to me to be the oddity (idiocy?) of a congregation joining a group formed to be in opposition to the ELCA, yet still pretending to want to be a part of the ELCA. "Dual affiliation," it would seem to me, would compromise the witness and integrity of the congregation. "Oh," says an inquirer, "you're ELCA?"
"No," says the outreach committee member, "we're really not."
Or, "well, yes, we are, but we don't pay any attention to it."
Who would want to join an organization with a three-card-monte shuffle scam going on?

Timotheus Verinus

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 2340
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #70 on: December 28, 2011, 12:35:07 AM »
....
No  one has yet addressed what seems to me to be the oddity (idiocy?) of a congregation...

Actually a lot of us have addressed the oddity(idiocy?) of making s decision like CWA '09, when everyone knew it would breed train wrecks like this. That decision was pretty much, "yeah we know but full speed ahead, and we'll wait through all the train wrecks .... if you are going to make an omelet and all ... " And we should not expect some "broken eggs?" Don't blame the eggs. Talk to the cook.

As addressed two years ago, pray for all, it will be ugly.

TV
TAALC Pastor

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 45545
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #71 on: December 28, 2011, 01:20:35 AM »
The information is from first hand conversation with the pastors there, NOT from an article in the paper.  I am well familiar with the situation there, and there was indeed a congregational vote to join LCMC at the same time they voted (and failed to pass) the termination with the ELCA.  the latter required 2/3 majority.  The former was a simple majority, which passed easily.  The council was only affirming what the congregation had already passed.


What is not clear is whether there were two separate resolutions (which received the same number of votes?) or a single resolution that contained two parts: leaving the ELCA and joining the LCMC. If there was one resolution that lack of a 2/3 majority means that it didn't pass.

Quote
What is also largely being ignored is the bishop's complicity in sending in ringers to derail the constitutional process at Grace, his subsequent aid in developing another congregation just down the street for the minority who wished to remain ELCA, and his support and involvement in the current lawsuit.


Bishops make mistakes.
"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]

Team Hesse

  • Guest
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #72 on: December 28, 2011, 07:36:18 AM »
Who would want to join an organization with a three-card-monte shuffle scam going on?

Who indeed?......bound conscience and all.....

Lou

Coach-Rev

  • Guest
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #73 on: December 28, 2011, 07:48:33 AM »
Just to note that the "problem" is not unique to the ELCA, an Assemblies of God congregation in New Jersey is locked into a battle with the denomination, which has determined that the congregation is too small and unstable to continue and has - as the denomination's and congregation's procedures apparently allow - taken over the property.
 
No  one has yet addressed what seems to me to be the oddity (idiocy?) of a congregation joining a group formed to be in opposition to the ELCA, yet still pretending to want to be a part of the ELCA. "Dual affiliation," it would seem to me, would compromise the witness and integrity of the congregation. "Oh," says an inquirer, "you're ELCA?"
"No," says the outreach committee member, "we're really not."
Or, "well, yes, we are, but we don't pay any attention to it."
Who would want to join an organization with a three-card-monte shuffle scam going on?

Ah, yes.  More respect for the bound conscience from the ELCA's resident mouthpiece. 
one church:  "we are opposed to the CWA 2009 actions."
ELCA:  "that's great.  We 'respect' your bound conscience on the matter, as long as it conforms to ours."
church:  "We've affiliated with a more conservative group that identifies where we are at as a result."
ELCA:  "Like we said...   OH, and by the way, any such other group is false, deceptive, is trying to scam you, and so on."

Seems someone has, yet again, shown his true feelings WRT other Lutheran groups.  I find it funny that he can be so critical of others who level the slightest hint of criticism at the ELCA, and then in his next breath, refer to another denomination (recall, he claims he never, NEVER disparages OTHER denominations) as a "organization with a three-card-monte shuffle scam."

DCharlton

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 7224
    • View Profile
Re: Estranged members sue ELCA-LCMC congregation
« Reply #74 on: December 28, 2011, 10:29:20 AM »
Just to note that the "problem" is not unique to the ELCA, an Assemblies of God congregation in New Jersey is locked into a battle with the denomination, which has determined that the congregation is too small and unstable to continue and has - as the denomination's and congregation's procedures apparently allow - taken over the property.
 
No  one has yet addressed what seems to me to be the oddity (idiocy?) of a congregation joining a group formed to be in opposition to the ELCA, yet still pretending to want to be a part of the ELCA. "Dual affiliation," it would seem to me, would compromise the witness and integrity of the congregation. "Oh," says an inquirer, "you're ELCA?"
"No," says the outreach committee member, "we're really not."
Or, "well, yes, we are, but we don't pay any attention to it."
Who would want to join an organization with a three-card-monte shuffle scam going on?

As you note, Charles, these kinds of things don't only happen in the ELCA.  And within the ELCA, they don't just happen among "traditionalists".

A pre-2009 inquirer asks, "Does your church ordain partnered gays and lesbians."
"No," responds the pastor.
"What about what I read in the paper?"
"No, it is against our V&E."
"Does that mean that those churches and pastors were disciplined?"
"Yes, or course.  We expect all people to abide by our policies."
"What about the church in ------, that has not been disciplined?"
"That's between them and their bishop."
"What about the bishop who says he will not enforce the guidlines."
"How dare you disparage our bishops!  They all act with the utmost integrity.  Go find an LCMS congregation you intolerant fundamentalist homophobe."
« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 10:33:24 AM by DCharlton »
David Charlton  

Was Algul Siento a divinity school?