On August 8, 2006, Bishop Ronald Warren of the Southeastern Synod filed formal charges with the ELCA against Pastor Schmeling because of his committed relationship with Rev. Darin Easler. Currently, the ELCA has a policy that excludes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in relationships from the ordained ministry. The congregation stands in solidarity with Pastor Schmeling. The hearing began on January 19th and concluded around noon on Tuesday, January 23rd. The hearing committee remained to make their deliberations. On Wednesday, February 7th the committee's decision was communicated to Pastor Schmeling. Links to the committee's decision may be found below.
On March 8, 2007 Pastor Schmeling appealed the decision of the Disciplinary Committee. (Click here to read the press release.) On March 29, 2007 Bishop Warren filed a cross-appeal with the Committee on Appeals. (Click here to read a summary.)
The Committee on Appeals announced its decision on July 2, 2007. Unfortunately, the Committee on Appeals affirmed the Disciplinary Committee's decision that Pastor Schmeling should be removed from the roster of the ELCA because he has entered into a lifelong, loving partnership with another man. Links to documents relevant to this decision may be found below.
Bishop Warren announced on August 2, 2007 that he would take no further action regarding Pastor Schmeling's case and/or against St. John's.
We invite you to continue to pray for St. John’s and the entire ELCA. We give thanks for the amazing support that has been offered to us during these days of trial. Pastor Schmeling also wants you to know how deeply moved he has been by the outpouring of love and support. He feels held in the power of the Holy Spirit and gives thanks for the opportunity to serve the church with people across this country.
Documents Related to the Decision of the Committee on Appeals: July 2, 2007
Press Conference - July 5, 2007
Appeals by Pastor Bradley Schmeling
The Cross-Appeal by Bishop Ron Warren
The Decision by the Committee on Appeals
Sunday Worship: July 8, 2007
Summary of the Discipline Hearing Committee's Decision: February 8, 2007
During the hours that the trial was in session, members of St. John’s kept vigil in the sanctuary. Please click on the link below to see the over-1000 names of people who prayed with us during the trial.
Prayer at Time of Trial
St. John’s held special services on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday during the trial week. The services were based on a Holy Week sequence of worship around the cross. Thirteen satellite services were held across the country using liturgies that St. John’s developed.
Click here to download the liturgies for these three services. If you would like an editable version of these liturgies or if you would like a hard copy mailed to you, contact Connie Monson.
>Thursday, January 18, 7:00 p.m. Liturgy of Prayer and Footwashing; Preacher, Rev. Barbara Lundblad; ELCA pastor and Joe R. Engle Associate Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary, New York. (Picture from the concluding Blessing Rite and Laying on of Hands for Pastor Schmeling is to right.) Click here to read Pastor Lundblad's sermon.
>Friday, January 19 - Tuesday, January 22 Prayer Vigil (see above)
>Friday, January 19, 7:00 p.m. Prayers at the Cross
>Saturday, January 20, 8:00 p.m. A Special Concert for Justice featuring Don and Emily Saliers, and members of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Emily and Don Saliers are respected musicians who have jointly written a new book, A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice. Emily is one-half of the folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls and an out lesbian who has a “lover’s quarrel” with the church. Don is a church musician and professor of theology and worship at Emory University. He has interviewed people and found that hymns like “Amazing Grace” evoke “body memory” – the sound of a grandfather’s voice, the smell of a church supper, the beat of a mother’s heart.
>Sunday, January 21, 10:30 a.m. – Sunday Eucharist Celebration Preacher, Rev. Gladys Moore. Rev. Moore is assistant to the bishop in the New Jersey Synod - ELCA, where she serves as transformational ministries coordinator and faith-based community organizing liaison. Moore also serves 2/3 time as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran in Jersey City. Click here to read Pastor Moore's sermon.
>Sunday, January 21, 5:30 pm. –Evening Prayer
Letter from Pastor Schmeling to St. John's -- August 8, 2006
I met with Bishop Warren this morning, and he informed me that he has signed and sent formal charges to the secretary of the ELCA because of my partnered relationship with Darin. As you know, the ELCA still continues to exclude partnered gay clergy from the ordained ministry. We had hoped that the bishop might refrain from exercising discipline or that he might choose a form of discipline that didn’t remove me from the roster. We fought hard to make the case that my ministry here is consistent with all other expectations and requirements for the ordained clergy. Many of you have written wonderful letters to the bishop. Our council leaders were wonderful witnesses at the consultation panel. I am touched so deeply by your words of affirmation and support. You are such wonderful witnesses to the love of Christ.
So what happens next?
For the next many months, nothing will change. I am still a rostered pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America., and I am still the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church. The process of choosing a panel, making the arrangements and holding a trial will probably take several months. The initial steps involve choosing the members of the hearing committee who serve as the “jury.” The hearing must then be scheduled within sixty days. A verdict must be rendered fifteen days following the completion of the hearing. I’m still learning the details about the process and will share them with you as we proceed.
I left the bishop’s office this morning clear about the unconditional love of Christ, and I feel centered in God’s goodness. I’m going to pray to win at the disciplinary hearing. I think the policy of the church is wrong, and it needs to be changed. It’s frustrating that the church’s policy will lead to such an unnecessary expenditure of time, money, and energy. But, alas, change never comes without struggle. The formal hearing is another opportunity to make the case that my sexual orientation and my partnered status shouldn’t preclude me from serving the church.
In the meantime, I’m determined to be a good pastor for you and to be faithful to my call to serve as a minister of Word and Sacrament. We’re engaged in so much good ministry right now. It will be joy to continue our good work together.
There is much that I would like to tell you about all this. I hope you’ll be in church on Sunday so we can gather around Jesus’ table of grace and his graceful words of invitation to all God’s people. If you would like to hear more information or simply talk about your feelings, plan to stay for lunch and join the conversation. Whenever we get together to talk, the room is filled with grace and love. I look forward to that!
ELCA 2007 Churchwide Assembly
Pastor Schmeling and over twenty St. John's members attended the ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 6-11 at Navy Pier in Chicago to tell our story. On August 8th, Pastor Brad preached at the Goodsoil Service at the Assembly. Click here to read his sermon, based on Exodus 19:1-9.
Members of St. John's knit a large number of colorful scarves for use at the Churchwide Assembly (see picture above). Click here to see more images of these beautiful scarves.
In a Time of Trial (DVD)
In a Time of Trial: The Story of Pastor Bradley Schmeling and St. John's Lutheran Church is a DVD avaliable from Lutherans Concerned North America. As described on the LCNA site: In this illuminating and moving documentary, hear first-hand from Pastor Bradley, members of St. John’s, and participants in the trial, including former ELCA Presiding Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom and Professor David Fredrickson.
To order this DVD, click http://infox.lcna.org/ and follow the "Multimedia" link on the left-hand side of the page.
A weaving of artwork and prayer was constructed in the sanctuary of St. John’s Lutheran Church on the Friday that the trial began. The prayer strips were dedicated at the Thursday night liturgy. All of the prayer strips were incorporated into the prayer weaving and presented to the hearing committee on Saturday 20, 2007.
Letter from Pastor Brad to St. John's
8 February 2007
The Discipline Hearing Committee reached a decision, but before you read the summary, I want to remind you of the Prayer of the Day for this past Sunday, a prayer that stands as prayer for the week.
Most Holy God, the earth is filled with your glory,
and before you angels and saints stand in awe.
Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world,
and by your grace make us heralds
of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Light.
Pray this prayer as you read the summary of the committee’s decision. I think it speaks powerfully to the intent of the committee’s decision.
In some ways, I hoped to be finished with the process, but I now believe that the committee has given us an amazing opportunity to continue a conversation that will help our church more faithfully preach the gospel. There will be conversations to be had and projects to plan, but I am so thankful that we will get to do this work together. In many ways, nothing has changed. We can continue to do all the things that St. John’s does really well: care of the poor, welcome the stranger, and gather around the grace of God in Word and Sacrament.
There are already legislative teams working on synodical memorials to be presented at all 65 synod assemblies. If you would like to participate in that work, please contact email@example.com. The legal team will begin its work shortly to engage the judicial process in the church.
I couldn’t conclude without giving thanks for the hundreds of people who have prayed with us and have journey with us in the last many months. As the process continues, the saints at St. John’s stand in awe of the witness that is being spoken all around this church.
And I want to thank all of you for the kind words, the calls of support, the little presents, the hard work, the imagination, the creativity, and the spiritual power that you have given to me since we started this work. You are “heralds of Christ” in the deepest meaning of that phrase. Thank you!
Other ways to help
Following are a few other ideas of things you and your congregation can do:
>Talk about what is happening at St. John’s with your congregation, and discuss what it means to your church.
>Pray for those involved in the process — the hearing administrator, jurors, representatives of the parties, Bishop Warren, Pastor Schmeling, and St. John’s — that they may be guided by the Spirit.
>Ask yourself whether your church would be welcoming to gay and lesbian people, bisexual people, people of races and ethnicities that differ from your own, those who live with disabilities, cross-dressers, transgender people, homeless or impoverished people, those of different faith traditions, and those who speak in a foreign language. How many does your church welcome? Why so many; why so few? Ask your visitors what would make them feel welcome.
>If you want to contribute to the defense of Pastor Schmeling, please give to the Pastor Schmeling defense fund, “The policy is the problem,” which is a fund at St. John’s designated for this purpose. You may mail checks to St John's Lutheran Church, 1410 Ponce de Leon Ave, Atlanta, GA 30307, noting the name of the fund in the memo line. Any funds remaining after the trial ends will be donated to Goodsoil, www.goodsoil.org.
QuickTime video of Pastor Brad's sermon from February 11, 2007. (Will open in a separate window.)
|St. John’s Lutheran Church | 1410 Ponce de Leon Avenue, NE | Atlanta, Georgia 30307 | (404) 378-4243
A congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that invites freely, loves unconditionally, and serves with joy!