Monday, November 17, 2008

Holy Cross Lutheran in Newmarket Disciplined for Calling Openly Gay Minister

I just received this email from Lutherans Concerned/North America. It speaks for itself. I'll just say that everyone must work to stop the prejudice.

On November 15, 2008, Pastor Dawn Hutchings and the Congregational Council of Holy Cross Lutheran, Newmarket, Canada, were informed that the Bishop and Synod Council of the Eastern Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, had suspended the congregation for having called the Rev. Lionel Ketola to be Associate Pastor. The congregation was informed on Sunday the 16th. The synod clergy and the media were informed this afternoon.

Bishop Michael Pryse said in his letter that the congregation could not send delegates to conference, synod or national meetings, could not vote on any matters before such meetings, and could not have any of its members hold elective office within the ELCIC above the congregational level. The suspension is to remain in effect for as long as Lionel remains in his position or until the ELCIC changes its policy and recognizes Lionel's ordination and call to ministry. The congregation and its members, however, can continue to participate in the programmatic and worship life of the ELCIC.

Lionel was called by Holy Cross Lutheran as Associate Pastor and Ambassador of Reconciliation, ordained on that basis on May 16, 2008, and installed on May 18. These acts violated the policy of the ELCIC not to "ordain or recommend for call a self-proclaimed homosexual" in that Lionel is open and public about his sexual orientation. Lionel is married to Stephen, a marriage legal in Canada but not recognized by the ELCIC.

In his letter to the congregation, Bishop Pryse, widely known for his progressive thinking and support of LGBT issues, said that he wanted the strong relationship with Holy Cross to continue, that the Synod Council took no joy from the discipline decision it made, and that the Synod Council would continue to "responsibly work toward changing policies that preclude the full participation of all God's people in our ecclesial life."

In her letter to the congregation, Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned, lauded the congregation for having "courageously enacted the church as it should be in the present. You have taken a great risk for the sake of justice, for the sake of the Gospel. You have embraced Luther's freedom of the Christian. You have acted on your beliefs. The ultimate outcome is assured. Only the time is in question."

In the press release that has just gone out, Pastors Hutchings and Ketola and Emily were quoted as follows:
Pastor Dawn Hutchings, pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran, said, "While we all knew that such a judgment was possible, it still hurts. To be suspended by our church for doing what we have felt called to do for the sake of the Gospel, is painful. Our sadness is tempered by the knowledge that we have acted together as a congregation and together we will continue to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we respond to the Eastern Synod's failure to live up to its professed desire to be a church "In Mission for Others." We will do all that we can to encourage, help, and challenge our Bishop and Synod Council to live up to their "expressed desire to responsibly work toward changing policies that preclude the full participation of all God's people in our ecclesial life." As faithful members of the ELCIC we shall continue to work and pray for the day when all God's children enjoy the freedom of equal opportunity in God's holy church."

Pastor Lionel Ketola said, "It is especially difficult to hear of the suspension of this vibrant Lutheran congregation for their decision to call me, while just one day earlier hundreds of people had gathered with the city's mayor in nearby Oshawa, Ontario, in support of a lesbian couple who were the victims of anti-gay violence. We yearn for the day that our church's calls for justice for all are matched with deeds embodying a commitment to equality for all. Our church must become one of full inclusion of all in the life of the church, following the teachings of Christ. I, along with the people of Holy Cross, remain committed to working in partnership with our ELCIC to see this dream become a reality."
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said of this action, "Once again the authorities of the church have failed to demonstrate leadership, failed to follow the lead of the Christ and Holy Spirit, and, instead, have endorsed a policy of oppression and discrimination based on dusty prejudice and ignorance. Holy Cross has chosen to live life as Christ's church should. One day, and soon, the rest of the church will follow the example they have set - recognizing that LGBT people have always been part of the wondrous diversity of God's creation and Christ's redemption."

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA


Franklyn said...

One should take note that with the exception of the evengelicals most churches are not gaining new membership quickly enough to replace their losses. Could there be a message here?

Pete M said...

Of course, the message is that most people don't want a religion devoted to telling people how bad they are. Guilt only gets you so far.